Gramvousa Island: The Wild Side of Crete

If you’re planning a trip to Crete, Gramvousa Island is a must-see destination. Located just off the coast of the island, Gramvousa is a small islet with a rich history and stunning natural beauty. The island is home to a Venetian fortress that dates back to the 16th century, as well as the remains of buildings used by Cretan insurgents during the Greek War of Independence.

Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or beach enthusiast, Gramvousa Island has something for everyone. With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, it’s no wonder that this small islet has become one of Crete’s top tourist attractions.

Geographical Location

Gramvousa Island is located on the northwestern tip of Crete, near the Balos Lagoon Beach, and it is often referred to as “Pirate Island.” The island is made up of two islets, the “wild” (Agria) one and the “tame” (Imeri) one. The “tame” one is the one that you can visit, and it is located roughly 56 km northwest of Chania city or just 20 km northwest of Kissamos town.

The island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, and it offers breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. The island’s location makes it an ideal destination for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. The island’s isolation also means that it is an excellent place to observe wildlife, including birds, lizards, and other small animals.

Historical Significance

Gramvousa Island holds great significance in Crete’s history. It was a strategic location for various civilizations throughout the centuries.

Venetian Era

During the Venetian era, Gramvousa Island was a crucial location for the Venetian navy. The Venetians built a fortress on the island to protect their ships from pirates and other threats. The fortress was built in the 16th century and is still standing today. Visitors can explore the fortress and see the remains of the Venetian buildings.

Ottoman Occupation

During the Ottoman occupation, Gramvousa Island became a refuge for Cretan insurgents who were fighting against the Ottomans. The insurgents used the island as a base to launch attacks on the Ottoman navy. Visitors can see the remains of the Ottoman buildings on the island.

Natural Environment

Gramvousa Island is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, which makes it an ideal destination for nature lovers. The island’s rugged terrain and lack of human habitation have helped preserve its natural environment. You can find over 400 species of plants on the island, including wildflowers, herbs, and shrubs. Some of the most common plant species on the island include thyme, oregano, and sage.

The island is also home to a variety of bird species, including the Eleonora’s falcon, the Audouin’s gull, and the European shag. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a rare bird species, such as the Bonelli’s eagle or the griffon vulture. Additionally, the island’s rocky coastline is home to a variety of reptiles, including lizards and snakes.

Tourist Attractions

Gramvousa Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete, Greece. The island is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and historical landmarks.

Imeri Gramvousa

Imeri Gramvousa, meaning “tame” Gramvousa, is the main island of the Gramvousa archipelago. It is located about 56 km northwest of Chania city and is easily accessible by boat from Kissamos town. The island is home to the famous Gramvousa Fortress, which was built by the Venetians in the 16th century. The fortress offers panoramic views of the island and the surrounding sea, making it a popular spot for tourists.

Shipwreck of Demetrios II

The Shipwreck of Demetrios II is located on the west coast of Gramvousa Island. The ship was a cargo vessel that sank in the 1980s, and its remains can still be seen today. The shipwreck has become a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, as it is home to many species of marine life.

How to Get There

To reach Gramvousa Island, you need to take a boat from the port of Kissamos. You can either take a ferry or a tour boat. The trip is often combined with a visit to Balos nearby.

It is recommended to arrive at the port at least 30 minutes before departure to purchase your ticket and find your boat. It is also recommended to bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, as there is no shade on the island.

Check our boat trip to Balos & Gramvousa.

Best Time to Visit

If you’re planning a trip to Gramvousa Island, the best time to visit is during the summer season, which is from mid-May to late September. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, and the sea is calm and clear, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices.

If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, you can also consider visiting Gramvousa Island during the shoulder seasons, which are April to mid-May and late September to October. During these times, the weather is still pleasant, and you can enjoy the island’s beauty without the crowds. However, keep in mind that the sea might be a bit colder, and some facilities might be closed.

Safety Tips

When visiting Gramvousa Island, it’s essential to take some safety precautions to ensure a fun and safe experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear appropriate footwear: The terrain on Gramvousa Island can be rocky and uneven. Make sure to wear comfortable and sturdy shoes with good grip to avoid slipping or tripping.
  • Protect yourself from the sun: The sun can be intense on the island, especially during the summer months. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn and heatstroke.
  • Stay hydrated: Bring enough water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. It’s important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, especially if you’re hiking or exploring the island.
  • Follow the rules: Gramvousa Island is a protected area under the Natura 2000 program. Make sure to follow the rules and regulations to preserve the island’s unique ecosystem. Do not disturb the wildlife or remove any plants or rocks.
  • Watch out for the sea: The sea around Gramvousa Island can be rough, especially in the afternoon. Be cautious when swimming or snorkeling and keep an eye on the weather conditions.


You’ve now learned about the beauty and history of Gramvousa Island in Crete. With its turquoise waters, stunning beaches, and Venetian fort, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular tourist destination. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the area is protected under the Natura 2000 program, so make sure to respect the environment and follow any regulations.

And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

Our website uses cookies to provide you the best experience!