This world famous, dreamy and beautiful sandy beach, lagoon, and islets are a premium destination in Crete.
Where is Balos, Gramvousa located?
This gorgeous lagoon and beach is located on the northwestern corner of Crete, at the tip of the westernmost peninsula called Gramvousa. The islets of Agria (“Wild”) Gramvousa and Imeri (“Tame”) Gramvousa are just off the coast of the peninsula. It is a wild and remote location.
How to Get to Balos Gramvousa
This wonderfully remote location is not safe to reach by car. The dirt road is in fact is rough that no car rental companies on the island can let their cars go to Balos. But that does not matter at all – because the most fun way to reach Balos by far is by boat. Boat cruises leave daily early in the morning from the charming port of Kissamos.
Kissamos is a very short drive from the Chania International Ioannis Daskalogiannis Airport. There is a rental center directly at the airport so you can be on the road just as soon as you land. If you arrive by ferry to Souda Bay, a car can be brought to meet you. Kissamos is 50 minutes from the airport by car, and just 40 minutes from Souda. You can leave your car in Kissamos, where it will be waiting for you to explore by driving through this fantastic region of Crete.
If you would like to go by KTEL bus service, there are several departures daily from the Ktel station in Chania town.For more information, please check here.
The History of Balos, Gramvousa
This wild part of Crete seems entirely pristine and untouched. The peninsula was called Korykus or Kimaros in the Ancient World. There was once a small city here called Corycus, referred to by Ptolemy and the remains of this city were still visible to a traveler from Florence in the 15th century. There are still the remains of a small Roman town Agnio, at the tip of the cape.
The most interesting ruins are on the islet of Imeri Gramvousa. Here, the Venetians built a fort in the late 15th century, in order to defend the island from invasions by the Ottomans. Even when Crete was surrendered to the Ottomans in the treaty of 1669, this fortress – along with the fortresses of Spinalonga and Souda. They protected Venetian trade routes. The fortress was then captured in 1825 by Cretans dressed as Turks during the War of Independence.They held the fortress, but did not manage to spread to the western region of Crete. Isolated, they turned to piracy. The organized island of pirates and their families had a school, and a church Panagia i Kleftrina – dedicated to the wives of the Klephts – in this case, the pirates. In 1828, the pirate ships were destroyed, and the island was controlled by the British.
What to See and Do Near Balos, Gramvousa
Of course, you will want to start with Balos itself. This is not only one of the loveliest beaches in the world, it is also an important natural habitat, with rare flora and fauna protected as part of the Natura 200 network. Among the marvelous creatures here are the Eleonorafalcon, and cormorants, who nest here in the caves. This is also a habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle- better known as the beloved Caretta-Caretta, as well as the Mediterranean Monk Seal. The vegetation is also splendid, with a rare variety of daisy endemic to Greece and Crete.
Many boat tours to Balos include a stop at imeri Gramvousa for swimming and exploring the ruins of the Venetian fortress.
Kissamos is a lovely modern port town that is tourist friendly but by no means overrun.This part of the island attracts lots of Ecotourism and nature tourism. Here, you’ll find lots of excellent local cuisine in simple tavernas and generally a sense of participating in the everyday life of the Cretans.
Gorgeous Beaches Near Balos, Gramvousa
Besides the fabulous Balos, there are also other very famous beaches in this area. Falassarna, located at the western base of Cape Gramvousa, is 17 kilometers from Kissamos. This is not one but actually 5 beaches in a row.The tow central ones are the most popular, but you can walk to more remote locations. Famous as it is, there is plenty of beach to go around at Falassarna. The central beach is a fully serviced beach, but the more remote beaches are more wild- bring what you need with you. Like Balos, this is an area of protected natural beauty.
Elafonissi – also in the protected Natura 2000 network – is a lagoon, island, and beach. It is famous for its pink sands and the color of the water in its jewel-like lagoon. The island of high dunes of silky white sands is covered in beautiful wildflowers and rare plant species. Although extremely popular in recent years, this preserve is large enough that you can find solitude if you are up to a hike through the gorgeous dunes. This beach offers something for everyone. The protected and shallow waters of the lagoon are wonderful for families, while this part of the coast is known for its winds- windsurfers love the beach on the seaside. Elafonissi is an hour’s drive from Kissamos.
Activities Around Balos, Gramvousa
With such stunning beaches, it would be easy to forget to come inland at all. But you would really be missing out: Western Crete is famous for its fantastic gorges.
One of the most famous gorges in the world (yes- both world-famous beaches and world-famous gorges!) is Samaria. This 16 kilometer hike is truly a life experience, descending from Xyloskala 1230 meters to Agia Roumeli on the coat of the Libyan sea. This glorious hike takes you through varied terrain, with a dramatic narrow canyon towards the end of the hike. This is an all day adventure – for the town of Agia Roumeli is only accessible by boat.
For a lighter, but also very beautiful hike, you can enjoy the Imbros gorge. This dramatic gorge is narrow and steep sided, but not terribly strenuous. The whole of the gorge is 8 kilometers, descending 600 meters. It is also a pilgrimage for some – descendents of WWII Allied soldiers, especially from New Zealand and Australia – come here to remember their ancestors- it was through this gorge that they hiked to leave the island for Egypt.
Cultural Excursions Around Balos Gramvousa
The beach of Falassarna is also an archaeological site. At the north end of the beaches are the ruins of the ancient Greco-roman city of Falassarna – the fortified city of Koutri. The site is open limited hours (check here for more information please).
While you are at Elafonissi, you can visit the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa, just 5 km away. The monastery, which was built 35 meters high up on rocks with an astounding view, was built in the 17th century. The name means “Golden Step” (“Chryso” means “gold” and “Skalitissa” derives from the word for “Step”). As it is so high on a rick, you need to climb many stairs- legend says that one of these is gold, but only the most devout will be able to see it.
Exploring Western Crete by Car
This wild western edge of Crete is not only full of spectacular destinations and activities, but also full of beautiful drives – it is a wonderful region to explore by car.