Nestled 18km west of Chania, Maleme is a part of the stunningly beautiful bay that stretches from Kolimbari to Chania. This sandy beach is well-equipped with amenities and offers a more secluded area at its west end, near the old military airport. The source of its name is thought to be the ancient Greek word “Malama,” which translates to “gold,” as it is speculated to have once been a gold mine. Furthermore, a domed grave from the late Minoan period has been uncovered here.
Maleme is particularly well known for its important role in World War II; it was the site of the Allies’ military airport, which was occupied by German troops. In order to gain control, German paratroopers were dropped in Maleme during the Battle of Crete in 1941. The Cretan locals and allied forces fought bravely against the occupying German forces, even with just sticks, stones and knives, and, although they suffered great casualties, they inflicted a significant blow to the German army’s elite units. As a result, Hitler praised the courage of the Cretans. This was the first and last airborne invasion in history and the 4,500 German paratroopers killed during the battle are buried in the German Cemetery on the hill near Maleme. There is also a monument near the bridge of River Tavronitis dedicated to the fallen airmen of the Royal Air Force.