Within easy reach of the Big Blue Villa are gorgeous beaches, beautiful monasteries, historic locales, charming hamlets with quaint and cozy taverns and breathtaking views of the magnificent White Mountains, the enchanting Mediterranean and, of course, the jewel in the crown of Crete: The Old Town of Chania.
The nearby village of Kounoupidiana, which also plays host to the Technical University of Crete, is approximately 15 minutes by car from the Big Blue Villa. It features well-stocked supermarkets, local tavernas, grocery shops, cafeterias and all manner of other stores.
While large sections of the Akrotiri coast are cliffs, there are still several beautiful beaches: Stavros, the filming location for the iconic Zorba movie, Kalathas, Marathi, Tersanas and Seitan Limania. The Big Blue Villa is situated very near to the beaches of Macherida, Stavros, Tersanas and Kalathas. These beaches are all generally well-protected by bays and remain unaffected by sea winds and the northern summer winds. Clean and well-maintained, these beaches have received official awards from the European Blue Flag each year.
The picturesque Macherida Beach is located on the Akrotiri peninsula's northwest side, only 14 kilometers (approximately 9 miles) from Chania. It is a hidden rocky cove, accessed by the sea or by foot after a brief walk. Macherida is the closest beach to the Big Blue Villa. It is an ideal cozy little beach, featuring turquoise waters and white sands. Macherida is not organised, so the closest amenities are located on Tersanas beach, which is around one half mile away. Close to this beach is the Macherida biotope, a habitat for numerous different species of wild animal that has the appearance of a crater with brackish white water gushing out.
The small and cozy sandy Tersanas Beach is only a few further meters down. Tersanas is the ideal choice for families who have young children thanks to the calm and shallow turquoise waters, the numerous shady spots beneath the huge tamarisk trees, the facilities (showers, sunbeds, umbrellas, etc.) and the compact size. For those family days on the beach that leave perfect lasting memories, nothing is more important than the safety and happiness of children. For parents, there is a little beach bar right on the water for relaxing with snacks and cold drinks without worrying about losing track of the kids. On some weekends, particularly during the month of August, the beach becomes a little busy due to its popularity among families.
Stavros Beach, Limanaki (little port), was once the stage for the creation of the famous 1960s film 'Zorba the Greek'. Now it is one of the favorite destinations for both visitors and locals. It is also the third nearest beach to the Big Blue Villa. The water at Stavros remains perfectly calm throughout the entire summer, and the thin, golden sand is a magnet for families who have young children. It is an ideal place to enjoy endless carefree days of playing, building castles and splashing around, while the parents get to swim in turquoise waters and soak up the sun. The enchanting scenery is complemented by the picturesque mountain background of Limanaki beach. Stavros beach is around 17km (approx. 10.5 miles) to the northeast of Chania in Crete located on the Akrotiri peninsula, and is easy to access with a car. Limanaki beach features umbrellas and sunbeds, with numerous delightful dining spots nearby, and if the children still are not worn out from playing on the beach, there is a playground nearby as well.
Kalathas Beach lies on the Akrotiri Peninsula's west side, around 10km (approx. 6 miles) to the east of Chania and about 5 km (3 miles) from the Big Blue Villa. This beautiful beach features fine gold sands and shallow turquoise waters that are ideal for children to splash around in. The beach features parasols, sun beds and dining facilities. The beach itself is long and wide, which means that you will never feel overcrowded. However, the months of July and August can get a bit busy. There are two additional secluded coves, one on the west and the other to the east of the main beach, which stay quiet throughout most of the year. Aside from the fine gold sands, the most distinctive characteristic of this beach is the small island just to its opposite that can be reached safely and easily by swimming. In addition, there are numerous tamarisk and palm trees next to the beach that offer generous amounts of valuable shade during the hot summer months.
Crete's White Mountains or 'Lefka Ori'
The White Mountains of Crete are undeniably spectacular, and create an alpine backdrop for the amazing beaches of Chania. That said, their most valuable characteristic is their role as a natural reservoir that provides water through the extended dry periods on the island. The steady flow from these mountains to the fruit orchards and olive groves during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months is what creates the copious greenery of the Chania region. The White Mountains' highest summit is Pachnes, which is 2,453 m (8,048 ft.) above sea level, but there are over 30 other summits that reach higher than 2,000 m (6,500 ft.). The Lefka Ori also features around 50 gorges, the most famous of which is the Samaria Gorge. The southern and central part of the Lefka Ori lie above 1,800 m (6,000 ft.), and resemble an exotic "moonscape". It is technically known as a high desert, which happens to be unique in all of the northern hemisphere. The Lefka Ori are the home of both of the caves in Greece that reach deeper than one half mile.
The Akrotiri region where the Big Blue Villa is situated is rich in beautiful monasteries that are open to visitors. The Gouverneto Monastery was built on a plateau at 260m (800ft.). It is among the oldest of all the monasteries in Crete, dating to the 15th Century. The Katholiko Monastery is situated 3km (1.8 miles) from the Gouverneto Monastery, and is thought to be the oldest of all the Cretan monasteries, dating somewhere between the 6th and 10th Centuries. The Holy Trinity, Agia Triada or Tzagarolon Monastery was built during the 16th century, and was named after the founders: Laurentius and Jeremiah Giagarolo, who were two brothers of a noble family from Venice.
Caves & Rock Formations
In addition to the beautiful monasteries and delightful beaches, the Akrotiri region features a number of caves and numerous fascinating formations of rock that are just begging to be explored. In the area of Stavros and Lera, there lies an ancient mountain cave that has been in use since the Neolithic Era. Evidence suggests that the cave was a sanctuary from the end of the Bronze Age to the Classical Greek Era. Arkalospilio is situated 3km (1.8 miles) from the Gouverneto Monastery. The Aherospilio Cave and Agios Loannis are close to the Katholiko Monastery. At the Arkoudospilios Cave (The Virgin Mary Arkoudiotissa or the Cave of the Bear), near the Gouverneto Monastery in Akrotiri, there is a unique stalagmite that resembles a bear, a reservoir of holy water and a little church that is dedicated to the Ypapanti, all of which are worth the trip to see. Local legends suggest that the Virgin Mary (to whom there is a chapel dedicated inside the cave) turned the bear into stone after it was caught drinking the water that belonged to the monks. Archaeologists suggest that the cave served as a shrine to Artemis during antiquity, who could transform in to the shape of a bear.
Chania Old Town
Last, but far from the least, the Big Blue Villa is situated around 15km (9.3 miles) from Chania, which is the regional capital and an ideal destination all-year-round. While a lot of travelers think that the city hibernates after the busy Summer months, it stays bustling in an atmospheric way. Chania is located in the west of the island, and is among the most character-filled and picturesque of all the cities in Crete. It lies along the island's north coast, around 70 km (44 miles) to the west of Rethymnon and 145 km (90 miles) to the west of Heraklion.
Despite suffering heavy bombing during the Second World War, the Old Town of Chania is still considered the most beautiful of all the urban districts of Crete. The little streets form an enchanting labyrinth and create a unique atmosphere. These streets lead down to the impressive Venetian Harbour, with its defining Lighthouse, which is Chania's long-standing emblem.
There are numerous restored Venetian townhouses that have been converted into upscale hotels that are filled with character, while numerous partially-restored Venetian buildings now house lavish bars and sophisticated restaurants. This combination creates a magical atmosphere during the nighttime, when the sky is filled with stars. The city is known to be colourful, lively and cosmopolitan during the Summer months, and romantic, nostalgic and cozy in the winter.
Chania Old Town is also vibrant during daytime, yet small enough to be explored within a day or two. Walking through its ancient narrow streets, you can easily lose track of the time. Its historical feel is treasured and cared for. Chania's old town still accommodates locals on top of all the visitors, and it is rejuvenated and renovated every year. The large number of cafes, shops, restaurants and tavernas is a big draw for the vibrant centre, yet it manages to blend together the locals, nearby villagers, overseas travelers and students, traders and Athenian businessmen. There exists a healthy vibe that becomes increasingly apparent during the afternoon, when the local families and visitors take their strolls along the harbour to share in the same amazing sea breeze and breathtaking views. Chania manages to keep history alive for people to live through each and every day.