Top spring experiences in Chania (part 1)

Photo by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay
Photo by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

From exploring ancient monasteries to enjoying the icons crowd-free, enjoy a diverse and unforgettable off-season Cretan getaway with our handpicked suggestions about the top spring experiences in Chania.

The air in Chania, Crete’s second-largest city, carries the earthy fragrance of sun-drenched cobblestones and the sweet aroma of fresh figs. And this is just one of its myriad of charms. While its exotic beaches are its primary draw, Chania boasts over a dozen museums, art galleries, a vibrant theatrical scene, several cinemas, characterful markets and even a lush botanical garden, ensuring there’s always something to do besides basking in the sun. With its ancient harbour district and modern amenities, Chania is an ideal base for those looking to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of culture, nature, leisure and gastronomy that western Crete has to offer – no matter the time of the year. 

Though the season doesn’t really start until mid-April, the weather in Chania becomes pleasant from March: Spring is lovely here, with every day bringing a few extra degrees, a little less rain, a little more sunshine and myriads of blossoms. Average March temperatures hover around 16°C in the daytime and a cooler 11°C at night. Respectively, April’s average high temperature is a still refreshing 18.8°C with an average low of 12.2°C. Towards May, the climate becomes even sunnier and warmer – and just perfect for a range of exciting activities – in and out of the water. 

The good news is Chania isn’t one of these tourist destinations that shut down in the off-season. With a permanent population of 55.000 inhabitants, the city remains very much alive and kicking throughout the year – albeit still without the hordes in springtime. You can find numerous restaurants, bars and cafes in the Old Town, though most beachside spots are yet to open. Prices tend to be nicer also in the shoulder season – but most importantly you’ll have the icons all to yourself. 

Sounds tempting? If you’re thinking of visiting Crete in March, April or May, here are our suggestions for the top spring experiences in Chania.

Top spring experiences in Chania

Visit Chania’s Monasteries

Immerse yourselves in the region’s great spiritual and cultural legacy with a visit to the iconic monasteries of Gouverneto and Agia Triada – both located in the Akrotiri peninsula, about 10 km from Chania Old Town.

Dating back to 1537, Gouverneto is one of Crete’s oldest monasteries. Resembling a Venetian fortress with notable Renaissance and Baroque influences, the structure houses a small museum showcasing ecclesiastical artefacts and woodcrafts. Venture outside to the north, where a paved footpath leads into the Avlaki Gorge, descending to sea level. After a 20-minute walk, you’ll encounter the renowned Αrkoudospilios (Bear Cave), surrounded by the legend of a petrified bear within. Continue your exploration to discover Katholiko Monastery and the church of St John the Hermit. Often referred to as Cretan Kapadokya, this area was a significant centre of asceticism in the 11th century. Follow the hermits’ steps for another 10-20 minutes, leading you to Katholiko Bay – a narrow rocky fjord with mesmerising blue-green waters. This secluded bay was historically used by monks and raiding pirates as a docking port for accessing Katholiko Monastery from the sea. Savour the stunning rocky scenery before retracing your steps back to Gouverneto.

Continue your exploration with a visit to the 17th Century Patriarchal Monastery of Agia Triada Zangarolon. A prime ecclesiastical centre during the Venetian Empire’s decline in Crete, this monastery significantly influenced the island’s history and education. With Renaissance architectural flair, Zangarolon is not only postcard-worthy but also one of Crete’s wealthiest and most enterprising monasteries. Monks have embraced the present by producing and distributing organic olive oil, wine, honey, vinegar, and high-quality olive oil soap. Nestled amid expansive vineyards, Agia Triada-Zangarolon was among the pioneers in producing wine from Romeiko grapes long before it gained popularity. Once overlooked, Romeiko is now a star in Crete’s burgeoning wine scene – and you are welcome to have a tasting experience on-site.

Visit Balos

Situated at the tip of Crete’s westernmost peninsula, Balos is one of Chania’s most iconic beaches with majestic rock formations, pristine pinkish-white sands, and crystal-clear, light blue waters reminiscent of the Caribbean. As photogenic as they get, Balos is – alas – swarmed by tourists in the busy season. Opt for a more serene – and most memorable – experience by timing your visit in March, April or even May. The easiest way to reach Balos is by boat. Cruises depart from Kissamos port, approximately 40 km west of Chania – while most itineraries include a stop at the tiny uninhabited island of Gramvousa, steeped in a rich and fascinating history. Here, a Venetian castle offers panoramic views, inviting visitors to embark on a rewarding hike, and nearby, a shipwreck beckons exploration.

Hike Europe’s Grand Canyon

According to legend, the earth-shattering force of Zeus’ thunderbolt created what is often referred to as “Europe’s Grand Canyon.” This claim is not unique to Samaria Gorge – yet this 18 km-long river gorge, nestled amidst the towering White Mountains of West Crete, is undeniably one of the mightiest and most dramatic on the continent.

Originating from the rocky crests of the island at an elevation of 1,230 metres, the Samaria Gorge extends its breathtaking path down to the charming village of Agia Roumeli on the shores of the Libyan Sea. The descent, spanning 5-6 hours, demands careful navigation, but the journey unfolds amidst abundant natural beauty.

Opt to cross it in springtime – with significantly fewer tourists and pleasant cooler weather.

As you traverse the gorge, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an explosion of colours and scents: Cypress, pine, maple, and oak trees define the scenery – and are complemented by peonies, sage, chamomile, and wild herbs which flourish in the nooks and crannies of the cliffs, releasing their fragrances with every gentle breeze. Keep an eye out for the iconic Cretan wild goats – though the elusive Kri-Kri species tends to be shy and reclusive. If luck is on your side, you may even catch a glimpse of some of the rarest birds on the planet, including the majestic golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), and the lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus). If you’re into history, note that Samaria Gorge was a hiding spot for Allied troops and resistance fighters during World War II. Along the route, you’ll encounter remnants of deserted WW2 shelters, Byzantine temples, Christian chapels, and Venetian fortresses. Offering a fascinating blend of natural and historical wonders, hiking Samaria is undeniably one of the top Chania experiences in March.

Did you like our feature about the top spring experiences in Chania? Stay tuned to our Oscar Suites & Village blog for more local insights and tips on what to see and do on the amazing island of Crete!

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