Port of Kissamos, Chania, Crete
Balos and Gramvousa practically define the popular image of Crete.
They star in photos and travel guides, with the Balos lagoon in particular appearing seemingly everywhere. Thousands travel by boat every year from Kissamos to experience these famous destinations up close.
The incredible Balos lagoon is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, with white sand and warm, turquoise waters surrounded by majestic wilderness.
The nearby Gramvousa island is a unique combination of nature and history, with a Venetian castle standing guard over the rocks and its beach, offering a magnificent view of the area.
Balos lagoon is at the Gramvousa peninsula, at Crete’s northwestern end, 56km from Chania and 17km from Kissamos.
It is essentially a small cove between the peninsula and the Tigani cape, beneath the Geroskinos mountain. The area is considered protected by Natura for its flora and fauna and is thus largely untouched by man.
Just the view of the place, from high above or down below, is impressive and it is easy to see why it is often ranked among the best beaches in the world. The white coast has taken fairytale shades of pink over the years thanks to shell shards, the turquoise waters bring to mind exotic and tropical destinations and the wild rocks rising around and above make for a unique contrast.
For those not content with just looking, the waters are calm, shallow and very warm, ideal for a dip. For the more adventurous and brave types, the sea becomes considerably deeper further for the rocks and is offered for swimming and diving.
Beyond the beach, the general area of Balos holds its little secrets, for those in the mood and with time.
At Tigani cape is the picturesque little church of All Saints and further north is a small cave, or rather a chasm. It served as a hiding spot for women and children in 1825, during persecutions of Christians, but was unfortunately discovered by the Turks who killed everyone they found there.
A stone slab marks the spot and a memorial service is held every year on All Saints’ Day.
At the Korikon cape near Balos are also the ruins of Agneio, a small Roman city, where in later years the small church of Agios Sostis was also built.
The islands of Wild and Tame Gramvousa are opposite the peninsula of the same name, two miles northwest of Balos.
Considered protected by Natura, they are both deserted, but Tame Gramvousa is particularly popular as a midway boat stop to Balos and for its own places of interest, which include a Venetian castle and a pretty beach with an old freight shipwreck.
Gramvousa used to be a strategic spot during Crete’s occupation by the Venetians, who built a fortress on the island in 1584 for that reason. However, the fortress saw very little action until 1692, when the Turks seized it.
In 1824, during the Greek Revolution, it was taken over by the Cretan resistance and used as a military base for attacks on the Cretan mainland. Due to food and resource shortages, however, the rebels eventually turned to piracy and Gramvousa became notorious in the Mediterranean as a pirate lair until it was invaded by troops in 1828.
The guard left in 1831 and the island has been deserted since then.
The castle survives today, namely its rainwater cisterns, its gunpowder magazine and parts of its walls, as well as the church of Madonna of Thieves, patron of the Cretan pirates.
At a height of 137m, the castle also offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding area, including the Balos lagoon and the nearby Antikythera.
Beyond the castle, the visitor to Gramvousa can also enjoy a swim at the island’s beach. As protected territory, the island has no infrastructure of any sort and the beach is not organized, but its blue waters are very clear and clean and call for a quick dip.
There is a small church dedicated to Saint George by the beach, but its most noticeable feature is the shipwreck of Dimitrios P., still rising out of the water.
The ship, which carried concrete, sought refuge in Gramvousa port in 1967, due to rough weather. However, one of the anchor chains were cut and the ship ran aground and was abandoned. Since then, it has been a local attraction and part of the island’s charm.
Balos and Gramvousa are typically accessed through daily, regular boat trips. The small ships sail from Kissamos, stop at the island for a short while and then continue to the lagoon.
For someone who wants to see everything the places have to offer, however, there might not be enough time, especially for Gramvousa where the boat only stays an hour, and the popularity of the trip often means big crowds.
Balos is also accessible from land, but it is not an easy journey. The only road in the area is a dirt one, narrow and with no protection at its edge, while the beach is 20 minutes away on foot from the car park and the uphill return trek can prove exhausting.
There is also the option of a three-hour walk from the village of Kalyviani, but that is something suggested only for the very tough and those who consider themselves big nature lovers.
Thus, for those who wish to fully enjoy the beauty of Balos and Gramvousa, without worrying about time, big crowds and hardships, the best way to do so is with a private cruise.
Aside from the comforts such an option offers, it also allows travelers to marvel at and appreciate the local attractions at their leisure and even allows access to places the quick, daily boat trips do not visit.
Balos and Gramvousa are rightfully considered among the most gorgeous places in Greece, destinations everyone should visit at least once.
There are few things that can compare to a private cruise in areas of such beauty and here at West Cruises we offer exactly that. The trip of a lifetime.