Situated 13 km west of Chania city, nestled between Maleme and Platanias, lies the quaint coastal village of Gerani. The village is nestled in a lush valley filled with olive and citrus groves, which were once the primary source of income for the villagers. Today, tourism drives the economy of Gerani.
Stretching across 2.5 km, Gerani’s beach is known for its beautiful sand and crystal-clear water. The beach is equipped with numerous amenities such as umbrellas, showers, beach bars, water sports facilities, and lifeguards, making it an ideal destination for family vacations. Several tamarisk trees provide shade, and for those preferring less crowded spots, there are unorganized parts of the coast. However, visitors must tread carefully, as the sandy beach serves as a nesting ground for the Caretta caretta turtles from May to September.
The village of Gerani got its name from a simple water-pumping method used in the village. The method involved the use of a wooden fork and a horizontal piece of wood, with a rope tied at one end to a bucket and a counterweight at the other end.
Historically, Gerani is thought to be the site of ancient Kydonia, according to some scientists. It is also believed that the village once housed a temple dedicated to Goddess Vritomartis, the Cretan counterpart of Goddess Artemis.
The village witnessed a battle against the Turks in 1867, where the Cretan rebels emerged victorious. However, fearing retaliation, the locals asked the rebels to leave, leading to the Turks returning and causing havoc. Gerani also holds significance as the place where famed Cretan novelist John Kondilakis started his teaching career in 1885-1886. The school where he taught, located in Pano Gerani, still stands today.
Situated 18km west of Chania, Maleme forms part of the expansive beach that stretches from Kolimbari to the vicinity of Chania. This lengthy bay is adorned with stunning sandy and pebbly beaches, although they are exposed to frequent northerly winds. The beach at Maleme is sandy and the surrounding area is well developed, with all necessary amenities conveniently located near the beach. For those seeking a more secluded spot for a swim, the west end of the beach, adjacent to the old military airport, offers a quieter location.
The name Maleme is believed to derive from the word “Malama”, translating to gold, hinting at the possibility of a gold mine existing in ancient times, although this hasn’t been confirmed. In addition, a domed tomb from the late Minoan period has been discovered near Maleme. Despite having been looted, two cylindrical seals depicting running wild animals were found by archaeologists.
During World War II, Maleme held significant historical importance. It was home to the Allies’ military airport until it was seized by German forces. The Battle of Crete in 1941 saw German paratroopers descend upon Maleme to gain control of the airport. They were met with fierce resistance from local Cretans and Allied forces, leading to substantial casualties on the German side. With only rudimentary weapons at their disposal, the local Cretans dealt a significant blow to the German paratroopers, which drew praise for Cretan patriotism from Hitler himself. This marked the first time in the Second World War where German forces faced strong resistance from a local population. It was also the first large-scale airborne invasion in history, and the last of its kind. The German Cemetery, located on a hill near Maleme, is the final resting place for the 4500 German paratroopers who lost their lives. A monument dedicated to fallen RAF airmen can also be found near Maleme, close to the River Tavronitis bridge.
Platanias, a coastal hamlet situated 11km west of the city of Chania, has seen a significant surge in tourism in recent years, transforming it from a quaint village into a bustling suburb of Chania. Its close proximity to the city, coupled with its stunning beach and frequent bus services from Chania, have made it the most favoured beach near the city. The original village, nestled on a hillside, offers a breathtaking view of the sea and the islet of Thodorou.
The beach in Platanias is an attractive stretch of sandy shore dotted with hotels of varying class and standard tourist facilities. Beachgoers can avail of all the amenities typical of well-organized beaches, including beach bars, umbrellas, showers, snack bars, lifeguards, and water sports. On the eastern side of the local harbour, near Agia Marina, swimmers can enjoy several small, man-made coves. In the summer, the area’s nightclubs come alive, hosting thousands of both Greek and foreign party-goers who dance until daybreak.
Tavronitis beach, found 20km west of Chania, is situated on the western side of the historic Maleme airport, one kilometer north of the village of Tavronitis and is named after the Tavronitis river that flows nearby. This long, pebbly beach is just a segment of the expansive coastline that stretches from Kolimbari to Stalos, making it an ideal swimming spot, especially during calm weather as the northern coast of Crete often experiences waves. There are ample amenities nearby, including hotels, tavernas, restaurants, and a variety of tourist facilities.
The beach holds historical significance as it is near Maleme airport, the site of a significant resistance against the German forces in 1941, known as the Battle of Crete. This marked the first time in World War II where the local population fiercely resisted the German army, causing them heavy losses. Despite this, the Germans managed to gain control of a small area east of the Tavronitis river and the airport. Today, visitors can pay their respects at the German cemetery and other monuments dedicated to this historic event.
Agia Marina, a charming coastal town, lies just 9km west of the city of Chania. It’s one of Chania’s most sought-after holiday spots, boasting numerous hotels and a full range of tourist amenities. The town’s name is derived from the local Agia Marina church, which holds its festival on July 17th.
Agia Marina is renowned for its stunning chain of sandy beaches. To the west, near the Platania port, there are several small, man-made piers where swimming is possible. To the east, the beach extends to Stalos, offering a long stretch of sand. A variety of services are available along the seashore, typical of a well-appointed beach.
Around 1.5km south of the town, you’ll find the Nerospilia cave, home to spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. Unfortunately, public access is not permitted due to its location on private property. This cave was a place of worship during the Middle Minoan era. While in Agia Marina, don’t miss a visit to the local folklore museum.
Facing the beach of Agia Marina is the protected island of Thodorou, designated as a nature reserve. It’s a sanctuary for the endangered Cretan wild goats, relocated here from the White Mountains, near Samaria Gorge. While approaching the island is generally forbidden, limited boat tours are sometimes available with special permission from the Forest Service. The island’s small sandy beach in the tiny cove, which doubles as the harbour, offers wonderful views of Agia Marina.