From the outside, Hotel Alcanea looks just like any other historical house in the Venetian port of Chania: rather small, somewhat tall, definitely pretty. The three storey-high façade deceivingly suggests it’s just a house, but behind it hides a maze of stairs, corridors, hidden corners and rooms. The house dates from the 17th century and after a refurbishment that left all the old charm of the building fully intact, it has become one of the best boutique hotels in Chania. At the entry level of Alcanea you will find a high-ceilinged café where a rich breakfast, snacks and drinks are served. Rooms are from the first floor and up (no elevator) and vary from small and cosy to spacious and elegant. Furniture is mostly modern romantic in style, and is well in tone with the original features of the house, such as plank floors, painted wood ceilings and an old oven in one of the rooms. A few of the rooms look out over the port and can be noisy if you sleep with open windows, but there are several rooms on the backside that are quiet and some of these still have a great view over the sea and the Egyptian lighthouse.
Staying in a historic hotel in the Venetian port of Chania is by always special, but this is one of the rare hotels where (in some of the rooms) you can have a sea view and not have the noise from the terraces by the water.
As each room is different, make sure you book the right one for you. A few get some noise from nearby terraces (but they have the best views); some are rather small (but they are cozy and good value); one has a courtyard view (and is charming and the most quiet).
3 standard double rooms
2 superior doubles with a private terrace
1 superior room for up to three persons
2 superior rooms for up to four persons.
There are two rooms that can be booked together to accommodate a family of five.
Breakfast is served until a pleasantly late hour (midday or even later…) in the café or on the terrace. I was there on a particularly hot day, and while I was offered omelets, various types of bread, a cheese platter, sandwiches, pies, yoghurt with honey and fresh fruit, I settled for that yoghurt with fruits plus a fresh juice, and it was just perfect. There’s no restaurant at the hotel but of course there are plenty of places to eat nearby. I personally tend to avoid the more touristy restaurants by the water and look for more intimate places to eat in the backstreets and near the old Venetian shipyards (the Great Arsenals) where the restaurants have a bit more of a local feel. I suggest you ask the hotel staff for recommendations.
Children are welcome at Hotel Alcanea, and some of the rooms can take one or two extra beds for children. There is one large double room with an extra single bed that can be booked together with a small double room to work as a unit for families of five. Cots/cribs are available on request.
The Old Town of Chania is a fun place to explore with kids. Cars are not allowed in most of the alleyways so it is safe to walk around with your youngest ones. Teenagers with a bit of interest in history and culture, or (more probable) shopping and nightlife, will definitely enjoy spending a couple of days in Chania.
Walk a quarter of an hour along the coastal road to sandy beaches (organised with sun beds and umbrellas) if you feel like swimming and lazing in the sun. But also, make day-trips to Elafonissi on the SE coast and to Balos NW of Kissamos. They are among the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Another stunning beach is closer: Seitan Limania (beyond the airport). It’s small and can get crowded in high season, so better go early morning. The goats’ trail to get to it is steep and tricky (wear solid shoes!), so it’s not for young kids or elderly. For a different kind of swim, fun especially with children, go to Lake Kournas (less than an hour’s drive), rent a water pedalo and swim with turtles and (absolutely harmless) water snakes.
The Old Town
Visit the Maritime Museum of Crete, right next door, and check out the Archaeological Museum of Chania. See what is going on in the Hassan Pascha Mosque at the other end of the port – it regularly features art exhibition and craft fairs. And of course, explore the pedestrian alleyways of the Old Town and shop for cloths, beach accessories, handmade jewelry, arts and crafts. Have drinks by the water, and have dinner in one of the smaller, less touristy, restaurants.
Drive half an hour to see the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete in the foothills of the White Mountains. A heavenly spot with a 2 km trail through Mediterranean fruit tree orchards and herbal & flower gardens (with indigenous, sub-tropical and tropical plants), alive with birds and butterflies.
Walking and hiking
Crete is a paradise for walking, with gorgeous trails through hills and mountains. If you hiking in the mountains, don’t underestimate the wilderness and make sure you go well prepared. The most beautiful hikes are through gorges – Crete has many – the 16 km hike through the Samaria Gorge is famous. It is best to sign up for an organised hike with a guide and transfers, so you don’t have to worry about anything (except for good hiking boots). Most other gorges less demanding to walk through (and quieter too). The Agia Irini Gorge (7.5 km from the village of Agia Irini to Sougia) and the gorge of Imbros (8 km from the village of Imbros to Komitades) are good alternatives to the sometimes crowded Samaria Gorge. The gorge of Aradena (7.5 km from the village of Aradena to Marmara) is also very beautiful, but it is more difficult and not suitable for inexperienced walkers.
Sailing and boat excursions
Trips start from the Venetian Port. Full-day sailing trips and mini cruises will take you to the best spots for swimming and snorkelling. There are also possibilities for sailing lessons.
Go scuba diving. There are several certified scuba diving centres nearby. Head for Agia Marina (10 km east) for water (and some other) sports. There’s surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, stand-up paddle, kayaking and parasailing. You can sign up for a boat trip (with swims and snorkelling), or rent a small motorboat to explore the coast on your own. There’s a shop renting bicycles, and, if you have experience in mountain biking, you can go on organised biking tours. In the village of Deres (40 minutes by car) there’s a horseback-riding centre that offers outings for beginners and tours for experienced riders.
Hotel Alcanea is situated in the historical port of Cania, close to the entrance of the Venetian Fortress of Firkas at the far northeast end of the port. The building is at the end of a narrow pedestrian street, right next to the Nautical Museum and just 30 meters from the sea. You won’t hear much traffic, just motorbikes and the occasional delivery car on the quay in the morning. (Cars are not allowed after 11h00.) But the port is always kind of lively; so I wouldn’t call it super quiet either.
There’s a sandy beach at 1 km from the hotel.
If you come with your own car, you will have to find your way to the parking at Plateia Talo, all the way at the end of Pireos (or Peiraios; it can be spelled differently on the street signs…) Street. Leave your car there, and continue on foot. It’s about 250 meters. (Call the hotel for assistance with your luggage if you have a lot.) Walk into Theotokopoulou Street and then take the third (narrow) street to the left; it is called Aggelou Street. You will find Hotel Alcanea at the end on your left.
If you come by taxi, ask the driver to drop you off at the end of Theotokopoulou Street and walk from there as explained above, unless you arrive before 11h00 in the morning, when taxis are allowed to drop you off at the entrance of the hotel.
If you arrive any other way, it’s easiest to walk to the Venetian Port of Chania, turn left at the waterfront and walk all the way to the end. Hotel Alcanea is right next to the nautical museum, a red building, impossible to miss.