Hotel Pandora Suites in the old port of Chania has a bit of a nostalgic feeling, a sort of slightly old-fashioned Mediterranean atmosphere, in a nice way. Lots of marble; light and bright high-ceilinged bedrooms; some antique furniture… The building is an elegant 19th century neoclassical townhouse that overlooks the Venetian port. You enter the reception area, a striking space that has one wall entirely covered with a colourful abstract fresco, from a charming little courtyard shaded by an enormous lemon tree. There are twelve rooms and suites – tall ceilings, pristine white walls, brass beds, marble tables, antiques and white curtains give them a fresh and airy, yet intimate atmosphere. Several have beautiful views over the old Venetian harbour (and two of those have a large private veranda); others look out over the courtyard. Everybody has access to the roof terrace from where you enjoy sweeping views over the sea, the harbour and the old town of Chania. The hotel doesn’t provide full services: breakfast is served in the morning and during the day there is someone at the reception, but at night you just get the key to enter the building.
The location of Pandora Suites is superb; the rooms are charming and it is really nice to have breakfast on the panoramic roof terrace. The hotel has undeniable charm and if you are looking for accommodation with character, you won’t be disappointed.
The rooms facing the port can be noisy, when a nearby nightclub turns up the volume. Double glazing helps, but in the summer it a pity to have to sleep with the windows closed. (The rooms with courtyard view - I stayed in one of these - are perfectly quiet.)
En-suite bathroom (bath or shower)
The suites have a kitchette
Breakfast is served on the roof terrace (or in your room) between 9 and 10.30 am. It is not a huge buffet or that sort of thing. Little bread buns, perfectly boiled eggs, cheese, jams, fruits, fresh orange juice and home-baked cake are brought to your table.
There is no restaurant at the hotel, but you will find a wide choice of places to eat in the old town of Chania. I would avoid the waterfront restaurants in the main port (the food might be fine, but they are all way too touristy too my taste), but I found some cute places in the back streets, and I also had a nice meal near the old Venetian shipyards (the Great Arsenals) where the restaurants and fish tavernas have a bit more of a local feel.
Even though I would not suggest a long stay in the town of Chania if you travel with young children, the old part of town is a wonderful place to explore with kids. Most of the alleyways in the old city are car-free and thus safe to walk around with your youngest ones. Teenagers with some interest in history and culture, or (more likely) shopping and nightlife, will certainly enjoy staying in Chania. Hotel Suites Pandora is definitely family-friendly. Some suites are suitable for families with two children and a crib/cot for a baby can be asked for as well. The little kitchenettes are handy if you want to prepare some simple food for your little ones.
The Old Town
Enjoy the lively old town and Venetian port. Start maybe with a visit to the Hassan Pascha Mosque which regularly features art exhibition and craft fairs. Visit also the Maritime Museum of Crete and the Archaeological Museum of Chania. Stroll along the pedestrian alleyways and shop for cloths, beach accessories, handmade jewelry, arts and crafts. Stop for a drink by the water, and enjoy traditional Cretan food in the small restaurants in the backstreets.
There are several sandy beaches (with sun beds and umbrellas) at walking distance from the hotel (a 20-minute walk), so you can actually combine your stay in town with beach holidays. To explore some of the best beaches in Greece (truly!), rent a car, pack a picnic (plus plenty of water and sunscreen) and drive to Balos NW of Kissamos (a bit over one hour by car) and Elafonissi on the SE coast (count over 1.5 hour for the drive), and if you continue three more km, the less popular (but beautiful too) beaches of Kedrodasos and Agios Ioannis. If you travel with kids, take them to Lake Kournas (less than an hour’s drive), rent a water pedalo and swim in beautifully clear waters with turtles and (harmless!) water snakes.
Get on a boat
Sign up for a one-day sailing trip or mini cruise from the Venetian harbour. The best way to get to some beautiful and quiet spots for swimming and snorkelling. It is also possible to take sailing lessons.
Go scuba diving for the day. There are several certified scuba diving schools in Chania. For water (and several other) sports, head for Agia Marina, 10 km east. You can go on a boat trip (with stops for swimming and snorkelling), or rent a small motorboat to explore the coast by yourself. And then there is surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle, and parasailing. In the village there also is a place that rents bicycles, and, if you are an experienced in mountain biker, you can go on organised biking tours. In the village of Deres (40 minutes by car) there’s a horse-riding centre with easy tours for beginners and faster ones for experienced riders.
Walking and hiking
Crete is a walkers’ paradise, with beautiful trails through hills, olive groves, nature and mountains. Decent shoes, a hat, sunscreen and water are all you need for a leisurely walk through the hills, but if you go hiking in the mountains make sure you go fully prepared. The Samaria Gorge is Crete’s most popular walk. It is a 16 km hike from the entrance at Xyloskalo to Agia Roumeli on the south. Unless you are a well-trained hiker, it is best to go with a guide. There are many other gorges as well, which are quieter and generally less demanding. The Agia Irini Gorge and the gorge of Imbros (both about 8 km) are good alternatives. The gorge of Aradena (7.5 km) is very beautiful, but as it has some tricky bits and it is not a great choice for inexperienced walkers or the fainthearted.
Drive towards the foothills of the White Mountains to the village of Fournes (30 minutes) to visit the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete. It is hard to imagine there used to be olive groves in this very same place; they were destroyed by wildfires in 2004. A local family took the initiative create a botanical park with a huge variety of indigenous fruit trees, herbal gardens, flowers and tropical plants. Walk the 2 km trail and spot beautiful birds and butterflies.
Hotel Pandora Suites is situated in a narrow (dead-end) street in the old Venetian harbour of Chania, overlooking the water and only a one-minute walk from the central square and the lively pedestrian streets of the old town. It is a quiet location, but the rooms and suites on the sea-facing side of the building often get noise from a nearly nightclub.
There are several ways to get to the island of Crete. There are international airports at Heraklion and at Chania, and ferries from Piraeus arrive at Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos further east. If you stay in Chania, try to get a direct ferry or flight to Chania, as you will avoid the 130 km drive from Heraklion (for which you should count about two hours). The easiest way to get to the hotel is by taxi (and let the driver figure out how to get there!), and in any case, if you just stay for a few days in town, you won’t need a car. If you do arrive by car, follow signs for the centre and the old town of Chania (Venetian harbour) which should take you to the central Sindrivani Square. As you arrive at the square, turn right into Kanevaro Street and take the first left at Lithinon Street. You can drive up to the hotel to unload, but parking in front of the hotel is not always easy.
We had 3 rooms. Charming place, clean, and great location. We wish we had more time.