Palaiochora is a small town in Chania prefecture. Paleochora is located 77 km south of Chania, on the southwest coast of Crete and occupies a small peninsula 400m wide and 700m long. The town is set along 11 km of coastline bordering the Libyan Sea. It is the seat of the municipality of Kantanos–Selino and its population was 2213 in the 2001 census.
Palaiochora’s economy is based on tourism and agriculture (mainly tomatoes cultivated in glass houses and also olive oil). It is a relaxing holiday destination since the early 1970s when it was popular with hippies.
Palaiochora has crystal clear waters, well organised beaches, and beautiful isolated small anchorages. It is served by numerous hotels, restaurants, tavernas, cafés, and bars. Facilities in Palaiochora include bank branches, a post office, a central telephone office, a health centre, doctor’s offices, dentists, chemists, a police station, a coast guard and customs office, and many types of stores. Ferry boats connect Palaiochora with Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro, Chora Sfakion, and Gavdos.
Local attractions include the abundant wild flowers in the spring, the opportunity to see Venetian and Byzantine wall paintings in some of the local churches (those in Anidri and Voutas being particularly impressive), and a museum dedicated to the Acretans in the town itself. The nearby village of Azogires, 5 km away, contains a museum dedicated to the area as well as the, now empty, Monastery of the 99 Holy Fathers and what is claimed to be the largest Evergreen Plane Tree on the Island. In 2009 it is planned to open a number of signposted walking routes in the area and the town is on the European E4 Long Distance Footpath.
Palaiochora is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Kalamydi.
In 1278, the Venetian general Marino Gradenigo built a fort in the Palechora area, called the “Selino Kasteli”. The fort gave its name to the whole province, previously called “Orina”, which was then renamed “Selino”. The fort was destroyed in 1332 and it was rebuilt in 1334. Near the fort, the Venetians established a new settlement for workers and merchants called Vourgos. The pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa destroyed the fort in 1539, but later in 1595 Dolf revamped it. In 1645, the Turks conquered the town and modified the fort to suit their needs.
In 1834 an English traveler named Robert Pashley found the fort completely destroyed and the whole area without any inhabitants and with only a granary and one or two small buildings left. In 1866 the recolonization of Paleochora began.
In December 1866, during the Cretan uprising against the Ottoman Turks, the British gunboat HMS Assurance evacuated some 340 women and children from Paleochora, then known as Selino Castelli/Kastelli, and took them to Pireus for safety. This caused a major international incident since the Ottoman authorities accused the British of siding with the Cretan rebels. Russian gunboats followed suit, evacuating refugees from Loutro and Sougia, east of Paleochora.
During the Battle of Crete during World War II, the town was the scene of fighting between motorcycle-riding troops of the German 95th Reconnaissance Battalion and the Eighth Greek Regiment (Provisional) with elements of the Cretan Gendarmerie. The Germans built a number of gun emmplacements by the Venitian Fortessa and their remains are still present.
The general phase of urbanization that started in other parts of Greece in the 1960s, took place in the 1950s on the nearby island of Gavdos. During that period the islanders exchanged their land on Gavdos for ex-Turkish land on Crete, which had now become exchangeable through a state program. They created a community known as “Gavdiotika”, in the ‘old town’ section of Paleochora.