Chania Geography

chania - the westernmost division of crete

The prefecture of Chania is the western most division of the island of Crete covering an area of 2376 square km and with a population of 150,387 residents (census 2001).

The prefecture of Rethymnon forms its eastern border while the warm waters of the Mediterranean, the Cretan Sea on the north and the Libyan Sea on the south, lap a remaining area of 350 square km of seashore on its three other sides.

The majestic White Mountain range or Madares with its dozens of peaks, the tallest of all being Pahnes (2454 metres), constitutes the backbone of the prefecture.

The range spans west to east and vanishes close to the prefecture of Rethymnon, having formed many plateaus such as Omalos (altitude 1080 metres) and Askifou (altitude 730 metres) and having been divided by wild gorges and ravines of exceptional beauty like that of Agia Irini, Samaria, Arathena, Imbros and many more along the way.

It generously allows a big fertile plain to unfold in the north, fertilizing it with its abundant water sources which transform into life-giving rivers, its biggest being Platanias (ancient Iardano) and Kiliaris.

The plains of Kisamos, Chania, Armeni and Georgioupolis end up in the densely populated and touristically developed beaches of the Cretan Sea.

The roughly chiselled shore is characterized by four long peninsulas that share the same names with the promontories of Gramvousa, Irene (Spatha), Akrotiri and Drepanos in between which the four large and accessible gulfs of Kisamos, Chania, Souda and Georgioupoli are formed, the second to last one harbouring the largest and safest port in Greece.

In contrast with the northern division, the White Mountain range suffocatingly crams the southern and western seashores into a narrow stretch of arable land with the exception of Paleochora in the west and the plain of Fragokastelo in the east.

This has resulted in the southern and western coast remaining sparsely populated and less touristically developed allowing their wild and unspoilt beauty to have remained intact. Besides, the five small inlets in the south, namely that of Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, and Chora Sfakion, and the three in the western coast, Livadi, Sfinari and Stomio are not accessible by large passenger ships.

The islands of the prefecture, that of Souda, of Agii Theodori or Theodorou in the gulf of Chania and Imeri and Agria Gramvousa at the edge of the promontory, which shares the same name, are small and uninhabited.

Gavdos is the exception since it is the only inhabited island of Crete not to mention the southernmost inhabited area of Europe.

It is located at a distance of 26 nautical miles from Chora Sfakion and 32 nautical miles from Paleochora.

The prefecture of Chania also boasts the only natural lake not only in the prefecture but in all of Crete, namely that of Kournas in Apokoronas, while a smaller artificial lake has been created in Agia of Kydonia for the irrigation of the plain of Chania.