When I arrived at Ammos, a hotel close to Chania in Crete, I was briefly taken aback. Hotel Ammos is on the beach (nice!), but what I hadn’t realised was that the area is pretty built up, not my kind of spot. But from the moment I stepped into the fun stylish reception lounge of the hotel and I was welcomed in a genuinely friendly way, I knew I was in the right place. Everything about Hotel Ammos breathes easy-going stylishness and happiness. It first opened in the 1990s as a fairly standard hotel, but owner Nikos Tsepetis, who used to be a journalist, has made improvements step by step, and jazzed it up in a major remodelling in 2006. Uncluttered rooms and suites are comfortable and decorated in a fun way, and most have balconies or terraces with views over the sea. (Some have a side-view onto greenery.) Bathrooms are modern and spotless. The restaurant and lounge area is funky, arty and airy, and there are terraces, gardens and a pool to relax. And the beach is only a few steps away. Ammos is the kind of hotel that you would expect to attract a hip young crowd, but it’s actually especially popular among couples with young children. Your little ones will be happy to find a playroom and also piles of toys on the (sandy) beach, and they will love the food from the special kids’ menu.
I felt very relaxed and happy at Hotel Ammos. I loved the décor; Nikos and his staff were really friendly; and my early morning swim in a mirror-like sea followed by an amazing breakfast were both memorable.
The beach-front location is great, but the neighbouring hotels have little charm.
En-suite bathroom (shower)
Television (with DVD player on request)
Playroom for children
Outdoor swimming pool
Sun beds on the beach
Breakfast at Ammos Hotel is served from 8 am until midday. You can help yourself from a fantastic (and constantly replenished) spread with lots of local products, traditional pies, Cretan dakos, delicious sweets and loads of fresh fruits. I am normally not such a fan of buffet breakfasts, but I totally loved this one!
The restaurant of Ammos Hotel is open all day long and until late at night. The menu (and daily specials) features mostly Cretan and Greek dishes that are just a little different, and definitely better, than average. Dishes include kolokithokeftedes (zucchini balls), dolmades (stuffed wine leaves) and arni sto fourno (slow-oven-cooked lamb) and portokalopita the signature orange pie of Ammos Hotel. Nikos talked me into ordering the homemade pizza for lunch, which was excellent!
If you feel like going out at night in the town of Chania, do ask Nikos for his recommendations. He took me in the evening to a tiny place by the sea (no tourists there) where we had one of the best fish soups ever.
The beach is at your doorstep, so why not enjoy the magic of a pre-breakfast swim or a moonlight dip? Any time in between is good too, of course: there are sun beds, parasols (and sand toys), perfect for lazy days. If you don’t mind driving a bit, pack a picnic (plus plenty of water and sunscreen) and explore some of the most amazing beaches in Greece: Balos NW of Kissamos (a bit over an hour’s drive) and Elafonissi on the SE coast (count over 1.5 hour to get there – it’s worth it!), and if you drive on three more km, the lesser known beach of Kedrodasos. If you have kids, take them to Lake Kournas (less than an hour by car), hire a water pedalo and swim in crystal clear waters with turtles, (harmless!) water snakes and ducks.
The Old Town of Chania
Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Venetian Harbour of Chania; stroll along the pedestrian streets of the Old Town and shop for souvenirs, arts and crafts, and pop into the Hassan Pascha Mosque, now used for art exhibition and craft fairs. There are two good museums too: the Archaeological Museum of Chania and the Maritime Museum of Crete.
Walking and hiking
Crete is a hikers’ paradise, with beautiful trails through hills and mountains to explore. Don’t underestimate the wilderness, and if you go hiking in the mountains make sure you go well prepared. The Samaria Gorge is the most popular walk in western Crete. It’s 16 km from the entrance at Xyloskalo to Agia Roumeli on the south coast. Unless you are a well-trained (and fully prepared) walker, it is best to go with a guide. There are other gorges too, which are generally quieter and less demanding. 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. The gorge of Aradena (7.5 km from the village of Aradena to Marmara) is very beautiful, but not for inexperienced walkers or the fainthearted; it has some tricky bits.
Sports and action
Go to Agia Marina (6 km) for water (and a few other) sports. There’s surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, stand-up paddle, parasailing, kayaking, and yoga too. You can go on a boat trip with snorkelling, or rent a little motorboat for exploring the coast. There’s a place where you can rent bicycles, and, if you are a skilled mountain biker, you can sign up for organised biking tours. From the town of Chania, you can go on a one-day sailing cruise, and there are several scuba diving centres as well. In the village of Deres (30 minutes by car) there’s a horseback riding centre organising tours for beginners and for experienced riders.
Visit the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete near the village of Fournes (less than half an hour by car). A fairytale spot with Mediterranean fruit tree and herbal gardens, lots of flowers, birds and gorgeous butterflies.
Hotel Ammos is about 5 km from the centre of the town of Chania in Crete. The hotel is set right by the beach, in an area that is developed mainly for tourism. There is no cute village to stroll through, but if you rent a car for at least part of your stay you can also enjoy the traditional side of Crete. As soon as you move away from the coast, you will discover olive-tree covered hills, unspoilt villages, and, a little further, wild mountains and beautiful nature.
The hotel is at Glaros Beach (5 km from the centre of Hania), at the end of a dead-end lane off the coastal road (the old national road) between Chania and Kissamos. The hotel will email you detailed driving instructions after you make your booking.