The quaint seaside town of Paleochora lies on the southwest coast of Crete. Set on a charming peninsula, it was built on the ruins of what was once the ancient Dorian city of Kalamydi. With 11 km of coastline bordering the Libyan Sea, Paleochora has much to offer to its visitors in terms of the diversity of its coastline, from well organized beaches to small sheltered anchorages. This small town in Crete has managed to win the hearts of thousands of visitors, who keep returning to this special place over and over again. For those planning a holiday to Paleochora Crete, here is everything you need to know.
Where is Paleochora?
Situated approximately 70 kilometres from the town of Chania and a 90-minute drive from Chania International Airport (CHQ) — the journey to Paleochora takes you through some breathtaking seascapes and rugged mountain heights.
It’s unique location, tucked between the two gulfs, the Eastern and the Western protects it from the high seasonal winds. Paleochora enjoys a smooth climate all year round making it an ideal destination to visit both in the summer and winter. (Check out our guide on Best Time of Year To Visit Crete).
The History of Paleochora
Following thousands of years of geological changes the plain of Paleochora rose above sea level and became a fertile land. The peak of the hill which was once an island became the focal point of Paleochora’s history — where in 1282 the fortress of Palaiochora (known as the Celino Kastelli, until the late 19th century) was constructed during the Venetian domination by the duke of Crete, Marino Gradonico. The name Paleochora derives from two words palio meaning old and Chora which is city in Greek — as the town was built on the remains of an ancient city.
Following several defeats, a few centuries later in 1539 the fortress was destroyed by the famous pirate Barbarossa, tales of whom you will frequently hear on Crete. Towards the end of the 17th century the fortress was left abandoned until the late 19th century when the harbour established commercial relations with Chania. During the pre-war times the town greatly flourished because of the sea transport lines which linked it directly with the port of Piraeus.
After the period of Greek Civil War (1946 – 1949), Paleochora flourished as an agricultural destination as greenhouse production of tomatoes and cucumbers was established in Koundoura, just 5km outside of Paleochora.
From 1970s onwards the town became popular among hippies and continued to grow as a tourist destination over the years.
The Beaches of Paleochora
The coastline which runs from the village Anydri towards the village of Kountoura is dotted with countless sandy and pebbly beaches which are ideal for any type of swimmers. Numerous beaches fall under the Blue Flag category. Most of the beaches in Paleochora are nudist friendly. Below is the list of the best beaches of Paleochora:
Gialiskari or Dialiskari: Located at a close distance from the village of Anydri, these have been voted as some of the most stunning beaches of West Crete. A cluster of several smaller adjacent beaches — the Gialiskari are located at the exit of Anydri Gorge (east of Paleochora).
The beaches have small pebbles and deep waters, the sea is usually calm, little crowds, there are organized facilities such as umbrellas, showers.
To get here follow the dirt road, reaching here with a car is recommended — otherwise you will have to walk for 4 km to the beach.
- Karavopetra Coves: a complex of coves which begin at 1.5 km west of Paleochora and extend all the way to Cape Grammenos (2.5 km west). Here you will find gorgeous crystal clear waters and beautiful pebbles. A great place for snorkelling among the spectacular rocky bed. Recommended beaches to visit: Kalamia, Psilos Volakas, Trohalou, Karavopetra (known for the large stone rock resembling a ship found in the middle of the beach) and Plakaki. It is advisable to explore these beaches by car.
- Pahia Ammos: Located on the west side of Paleochora this is the central beach of the town featuring organised facilities and water sports equipment. A 500 meter stretch of sand and shallow waters, make it an ideal beach for families with kids. The beach gets affected by westerly or southerly winds, in which case the waves are quite high and not ideal for children. The western part of the beaches is highly preferred by the nudists.
- Grammeno beaches:5km east of Paleochora, the peninsula of Grammenos is set on the exit of Pelekaniotis River. The peninsula consists of three individual beaches (Alonaki, Votsalo or Gialos) have fine and coarse pebbles, clear blue waters and have been awarded with a Blue Flag. The two of the beaches are organised and offer sunbeds and umbrellas. There is also a camping site nearby with several tavernas along the coast.
- Keratides beach: Located 1 km west of Paleochora this beach is ideal for nature lovers. Featuring larger pebbles and stones the beach is less crowded. Features a camping site and is a popular area for campers. This beach is also easily accessible by foot.
What to See and Do in Paleochora
Paleochora is a modern town featuring numerous shops, cafes and local tavernas as well as coffee-bars which remain open until early hours. It is a paradise for all types of holiday seekers: from adventure lovers, to night-owls as well as families seeking for a relaxing holiday in Crete.
Explore the Castel Selino
Visit the famous Cretan Fortress built by the Venetians to protect themselves from the many rebels who once dominated the area. The fortress which was almost square in shape was equipped with two towers, ruins of which are visible until this day. The name Selino which translates as celery from Greek was presumably given due to the abundant growth of the plant in the area. The province was later given the same name and is still used today.
Hiking in Paleochora
Paleochora is blessed with both coastal and mountainous activities. For those who wish to spend time away from the beach, can also discover the area on foot by following one of the numerous hidden paths which lead to charming villages, passing through the rich olive groves that dot its spectacular rugged landscape. Hiking enthusiasts might enjoy the most walked route in the area — the E4 path which leads from Sougia passing through Lissos all the way to Paleochora. It is 16 kilometres long, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be walked either way. For the most popular route you can hop on a ferry that takes you to Sougia in the morning and make your way back to Paleochora.
Visit the Paleochora Waterfalls
The landscape surrounding the waterfalls changes throughout the seasons. If you visit the Paleochora Waterfalls during the summer, you can also enjoy a refreshing swim under the cascade. In winter after the heavy rainfall makes the whole scene more dramatic. There are four rivers which flow into the sea close to Paleochora — the Pelakaniotikos (Koundoura), Kakodikianos, Azoghirianos and Dhichalomata. If you visit the landscape during the winter you will see waterfalls in each of the four areas — some do dry up after May.
Discover the beauty of Pelekaniotis Gorge
One of the hidden gems of the Selino region in South of Chania, the Pelekaniotis Gorge through which the Pelekaniotis River with the most water, flows. Home to dozens of birds — the Pelekaniotis Gorge is blessed with spectacular steep canyon cliffs and lush green vegetation. Along the way you will come across an impressive chapel of Agios Mamas with well preserved frescoes. The existence of the church is unknown even to the locals.
Horse riding in Paleochora
Discover the wonders of Paleochora on a horse back. Select one of the three designed routes which offer scenic tours of the villages, charming alleyways, gorges, mountains as well as the historical Castello which offers staggering views of the Libyan Sea and the Paleochora peninsula.
How to get to Paleochora
The easiest way to get to Paleochora is by renting a car at the Chania airport. You can take advantage of our online offers and pre-book your car prior to your arrival. Why is it best to work with a local car hire company? We give you all the answers here. Th drive to Paleochora will take you approximately 90-minutes.
The cheapest option would be to take a bus. You can check out the timetable and the frequency of the buses heading to Paleochora here. If you do however plan on exploring Crete, then renting a car is highly recommended.
Have you visited Paleochora Crete? What did you like best about this famous coastal town of Chania?