Paleohora lies 75 kilometres to the south of Chania city and is the base of Pelekanos municipality in Selino region. It has 2000 permanent residents and many more visitors in the summer.
A special feature of the wider area between Anidri and Koudoura is the diversity of the coast. The wide variety of sandy and pebble beaches will surely satisfy even the most demanding visitors. Every year the beaches are awarded a Blue Flag. The sea has always played the most important part in the development of the area.
While in Paleohora one can enjoy daily trips to Sougia, Elafonisi and Sfakia either by car of by daily ferries. A short and economical cruise like that gives visitors the opportunity to observe the landscape diversity of the southwest coast of Crete. Travelling by car, they can enjoy the mountainous part of the area while passing through magnificent olive groves and picturesque small villages typical of Selino region.
Visitors will also have an ideal chance to take short walks along the coast or up the mountain and those who really like hiking can follow the international E4 mountain trail.
Apart from these natural beauties, Paleohora offers a wide range of shops,
café–bars and restaurants suitable for every taste. From early in the afternoon, cars are not allowed to enter the centre of the town or the beach, so it is convenient for both residents and tourists to walk around the area.
Cafes and bars remain open till early in the morning so nightlife never ends.
A vast amount of visitors from all over Europe and Greece choose Paleohora for their summer vacations.
Paleohora is a small coastal town in the southwest of Chania prefecture, in Selino region. The settlements belonging to the wider area of Paleohora are: Anidri, Azogires, Asfendiles, Ahladiakes, Platanes, Prodromi, Kalamos, Vlithias, Spaniakos, Vasilaki and Agia Triada.
Paleohora’s special natural feature is its being built on a small peninsula between two bays: the east and the west. The mountains around it protect it from the strong north winds known as meltemia. Although these mountains are not imposingly high (300 m) they are really spectacular and enchance the natural beauty of the area. What visitors like the most in the beginning is this magnificent mountainous scenery full of aromatic bushes and plants. As visitors reach Paleohora, this rare and quite wild landscape is followed by a gorgeous flat piece of land.
The west bay is characterized by a nice artificial harbour in the area of Tigani and a naval beacon is placed on an islet to guide ships through their way to Gibraltar or the Suez Canal. Next to that, there is the area of Pahia Ammos which is the most important spot of Paleohora. Every summer, thousands of tourists visit this golden sandy beach which has been awarded a Blue Flag. Its great size and the fine hot sand are what every visitor would dream of. People in bathing suits, with beautiful bodies or not and of all ages and nationalities, either rest under the shade of colourful umbrellas or enjoy the sea and the sun. During noon, when the sun is too hot, you can enjoy a cold drink under the shade of native armirikia trees along the beach.
The east bay is so different from the west one that they look as if they were miles away from each other. It’s a typical Greek landscape with pebbles and rocks. It faces the White Mountains which separate Selino from Sfakia region. There is also a wharf in this bay where ferries leave for Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro, Hora Sfakion, Gavdos and Elafonisi.
Visitors can enjoy short pleasant cruises in comfortable ferries sailing along the southwest coast of Crete. Taking a special trip like that, one will be marvelled at the natural beauty and the diversity of this breathtaking scenery.
On the east bay there are bare steep rocks in different shapes, caves and small pieces of land with unspoiled sand, only accessible to birds, fishermen and the Cretan wild goat.
Huge rocks jutting out into the sea form another small barren peninsula which faces Paleohora to the southwest and makes it seem completely different. An old Venetian castle was built there, which we are going to talk about later.
As far as climate is concerned, Paleohora is an ideal place to stay, in contrast to other coastal areas of southern Crete. Visitors always talk enthusiastically about this truly blessed place.
Rarely can someone find such a mild climate and beautiful beaches. All year round weather conditions are superb. It’s always so warm that people are almost unaware of the word ‘cold’. It’s an ideal place to stay, not only in summer but in winter, too.
From May till October the weather is warm and the temperature is higher than it is in the countries of Northern Europe in July and August.
Winter is also mild and pleasant. There is an annual average rainfall of about 400 to 450 mm. The average temperature is 19.5°C. The maximum is 41.5°C and the minimum is 6-7°C.
More specifically, the average temperature is: 14.5°C in January, 13°C in February, 14°C in March, 17°C in April, 19°C in May, 23°C in June, 26.5°C in July, 27°C in August, 24.6°C in September, 21°C in October, 18.5°C in November and 19°C in December.
The average temperature of Paleohora is a bit higher than that of the French Riviera which is the most touristically developed area of the Mediterranean Sea.
So Apollo, the god of light and the sun, who according to Greek Mythology was the loyal lover of the beautiful ‘Bride’ living in the southern Crete, was right never to abandon her even in the coldest days of winter. That is why Paleohora is called “The bride of the Libyan sea” and “The land of the sun”.
Due to the dryness of the air, with average moisture of 15%, the atmosphere is clear and the sky is blue and bright. There are 44 cloudy days per year while in Athens there are 57. All year round, the sea temperature is so high that people can enjoy their swim even in winter.
Along the coast surrounding Paleohora, there are many different magnificent beaches of breathtaking beauty.
Looking at these beaches from above, you are amazed at the blue colour of the sea stretching away to the distant horizon. Especially in shallow waters, impressive iridescences make the colours of the sea bottom seem incredibly rich and vivid.
The golden sand, the colourful pebbles, the rocks and the beautiful little fish swimming calmly in the sea remind you of unique faraway places that haven’t been reached and altered by man yet.
‘The bride of the Libyan Sea’
Many years ago, the flat land of Paleohora was below the sea surface and the fortress hill was just an islet. So, after many geological changes, the sea bottom became fertile land.
On the southern edge of the peninsula and specifically on Kastela hill (today’s Fortetza) there had been a wall, domed buildings and an underground aqueduct before the 1897 revolution took place.
The Duke of Crete Marino Gradonico built the fortress of Paleohora in 1282 and named it Selino (that is how the whole region probably took its name).
Revolutionary Vardas Kallergis took the fortress in 1332 and killed Kastelano Ermolao Velenio, his guards and his family.
In 1539, Pirate Barbarossa destroyed the fortress which was rebuilt again in 1595.
The Turkish took it in 1653 but some years later they were forced to abandon it.
Since the Turkish left, Paleohora remained uninhabited until 1886 when it gradually became an important harbour connecting the region to Chania.
Polioudovardas, a well known warrior, as well as Kriaris, the chief of the region, who both fought against the Turkish occupation, came from Paleohora.
It is said that during the 1897 revolution, after the Turkish had slaughtered all non-combatant residents of Sarakina, they entered two houses in Paleohora where many Christian men, women and children were hiding, and slaughtered them all, too.
Before the war with the Germans, Paleohora had become a very prosperous region due to the fact that it was directly connected to Piraeus harbour. From 1940 to 1960 however, that prosperity declined.
On 1st September 1941, the Germans surrounded the whole region of Selino, arrested all resistance fighters and transferred them to Paleohora. Their unfair trial took place in the oil mill of the village and they were executed one by one in the cemetery yard. The executions lasted for 4 days and the people murdered were 29.
Paleochora after the war
Since 1960 Paleohora has seen a large increase in tourism and today it is a well known tourist destination all over the world. It has a nice street layout and marvelous beaches.
How Paleochora took its name
During Venetian occupation, Paleohora was called Selino Kasteli due to the Venetian fortress which had the same name. Selino region, which was previously called Orina, took its name from that fortress, too.
In 1834, Robert Pashley, an English traveler, visited the Venetian fortress and said that all he found were ruins and a deserted place.
There was only a warehouse where they kept the wheat brought from Chania. That wheat served the needs of Selino and Sfakia residents. During his visit on 27/04/1834, Robert Pashley noticed the ruins of an ancient city and said: ‘We left Selino Kasteli at about 9:15am and crossed a river located half a mile on the east. The ground along the river is full of broken ceramics, which indicate the existence of an ancient city.’
We also know that Paleohora residents found various coins while they were cultivating the land in the same area. Traveller de Feure Paul claims that Paleohora is built on the ancient ruins of Kalamidi city and that is how it acquired its name (paleo=old, hora=land). Plivios referred to 40 ancient cities in Crete and we are not sure yet which one this is.
There are many theories about this matter.
First theory: An unknown traveler in Crete claims in his book ‘Stadiasmoi’ that the ancient city of Kalamidi was on the west of Lissos and about 6 kilometres far from ‘Kriou Metopon’ and the mouth of Strados river today called Vlithianos.
Pashley is more specific and these are his exact words: ‘If we accepted that this was an ancient location, we could assume that Kalamidi was built here’.
Second theory: All these broken ceramics, the coins and the skeletons which were found about 500m on the northwest of Paleohora might belong to the residents of an old Venetian village (borgo) situated outside the fortress.
Studying the local history, we conclude that the exact location of ancient Kalamidi is disputable. Some claim that it is on the north of Agia Triada village in the area of Fournaki where carved graves and ancient walls have been found within a walking distance. However, if we examine the area carefully we will find out that the morphology of the ground, which makes it difficult to cultivate, as well as the lack of water in the area wouldn’t allow a city to be built there.
An elderly resident assured us that in the past that area was waterless and while he was cultivating his land he came across the remains of an old aqueduct at a quite low altitude. This shows us that people had tried to bring water to the area where the ancient city was once situated.
What is most believed is the theory of historians and travelers (Faure Paul, Dapper and Pashley) who said that Kalamidi was situated by the sea on the northwest of Paleohora near a flat riverside area. That is why we assume that ancient Kalamidi was once the harbour of Kantanos just as ancient Suia (Sougia) was the harbour of Eliros.
All the above verify the fact that Selino Kasteli was not an ancient city. The name Paleohora was given to the area in 1881 by its first residents because there was an old city very close to it.
The local residents of Paleohora are native Cretans, some of whom come from Sfakia and Gavdos.