The island of Crete embodies perfectly what makes Greece such a beautiful and unique country! Although the island has a lot to offer to its visitors, Balos is surely the most famous and most photographed place in Crete. Balos has it all: some spectacular beaches, amazing flora, a rich history and archaeology, and of course – it takes care of your unforgettable experience with the iconic pictures of western Crete!
Balos is situated near the northwest tip of Crete, just 53 km northwest of Chania and 17km northwest of the town of Kissamos. Balos beach and lagoon is formed between the Cape Gramvousa and the small Cape Tigani and below the range of Platiskinos.
Many of Greece’s outstanding beaches with postcard landscape are situated off the path and are difficult to reach. Balos is one of them! It is not an easy thing to get to the amazing beaches with crystal clear waters, but it is worth the effort.
Balos Beach is famous for its turquoise waters, rugged cliffs, unspoiled white sand, wild nature and wonderful exotic scenery! Sometimes the sand has a lovely pinkish colour, because of the millions of crushed shells. This makes Balos a real paradise and the most Instagrammed place in Crete during the last couple of years.
The main disadvantage of Balos is the shallow and warm water with a muddy bottom which sometimes causes an unpleasant smell… This would be no problem if you are visiting the beach on a windy day 🙂
Balos Beach and Lagoons: How to Get There?
There are three ways to get to Balos: by car, by ferry, and by foot.
Hiking to Balos Beach:
Hiking is the most exciting way to reach the Bay. You can hike for about three hours from Kaliviani. The best time to walk is in the early morning before it gets too hot on the island. Do not forget sunglasses, a hat, sun cream, and of course water!
What you can see during the trekking tour is the rough, wild and dry landscape of Gramvousa and Platyskinos, and the small picturesque chapel of St. George in Tigani. In Tigani you could also visit the huge cave where many women with their children were killed during the Turkish massacres in 1825.
Another sightseeing is located to the north of Balos on the cape Korykos. You can visit the ruins of Agnion temple which was dedicated to God Apollo. Back in the day, Agnion was a small Roman town.
From here you can follow the 1 km-long path to Balos. It takes between 15 to 20 min walk down. Coming back is not that easy and it takes 5 to 10 minutes longer. Once you get down you can walk to the peninsula of Tigani. Sometimes you have to walk through water, sometimes not – this changes from season to season and also from flood to low tide.
Going by Car to Balos Beach:
Going by car is something you’ll never forget! I have seen a lot of bad roads during my travels. But neither Cuba nor Indonesia had such bad driving conditions as here in Crete! The road to Balos will stick in my mind as the worst I have ever experienced! The road is absolutely dirty and kind of dangerous, but also scenic and great for pictures.
The dirty off-road-like street starts from Kaliviani and runs along the Cape Gramvousa. From April to October, you should even pay 1 € per person for the use of that road (Really? Is that a road …?). This goes towards the maintenance of the area (but, as we can see, not for the maintenance of the road…). The road to Balos can be very busy in July and August, so drive slowly and close your windows to avoid the dust.
The drive takes about 20 to 30 minutes and after 8 km you will arrive at the parking area which is located just above the lagoon.
Once you have reached the parking area (whether by walking or driving) you can enjoy the stunning panoramic view over Balos and the island of the Imeri Gramvousa!
We visited this place on a blustery day, so it was very difficult to even take a photo! Despite the wind, it was a beautiful day, and everything looked like heaven!
The main pros of going to Balos by car are that you are independent of timetables! This means that you can avoid the crowds by going in the early morning. The cons of travelling by car are the chance of damaging your car on the extremely bumpy road, and that you will not be able to visit the island of Imeri Gramvousa.
Going by Ferry to Balos Beach:
The easiest way to get to Balos is by Ferry from Kissamos which costs between 30 to 35 €. If you don’t want to hike or are not keen on the fancy wild road, travelling by ferry is much easier and effortless!
Most of the ferries depart in Kissamos between 10:00 and 10:30 in the morning and reach the wild shores of Gramvousa within an hour. You will be able to enjoy the small island for about 2 hours. You can go swimming in the turquoise water or hike up the mountain in order to see the remains of the Gramvousa castle built by the Venetians in the 16th century.
From Gramvousa it takes another 20 minutes to get to Balos, where passengers get 3 hours of beach time. You can simply relax and watch as the amazing coastal scenery passes by. The ferries usually sail back to Kissamos at 16:30.
Best Time to Visit Balos Beach
The best time for visiting Balos Beach and the lagoons is between May and October. The ferries operate during the tourist season from April to October. Anyway, during the winter months, it would be much more convenient to visit Balos, as you probably will be the only person here. No tourists, no worries!
Some Other Interesting Facts about Balos Beach
History: The Tigani Peninsula, also known as Gramvousa Island, is home to a Venetian castle that was built to protect Crete from Turkish occupation.
Flora: The Tigani Peninsula and Balos region are protected biotopes. The region is home to more than 400 different plants.
Fauna: More than 95 bird species have been reported in the area, 20 of them are highly protected and 14 of them are even threatened species! Some of the more interesting animals are the Mediterranean Seal and the Caretta Caretta turtle. Of course – goats and donkeys are just everywhere to see!
Enjoy the day!