The Stunning Gramvousa Balos Beach and Lagoon

 Balos Lagoon and Beach - the Natural Wonder in Heavenly Colors 

If you're looking for a natural wonder to visit in Crete, Balos Beach is certainly worth the trip. With its pastel colors and breathtaking landscape, it will enchant you from the moment you arrive.

 Balos Beach has recently gained increasing recognition as one of the most stunning beaches in Europe and the world. Situated in the extreme west of the island, 54 kilometers northwest of Chania and 17 kilometers from Kissamos, this beach boasts a unique blend of beauty and ecological significance.

 The sandy shore and lagoon at Balos Beach are formed between the Gramvousa Peninsula and Cape Tigani, on the westernmost tip of Crete. Pink sand made from crushed shells makes the beach unique. At the convergence of the Ionian Sea, the Libyan Sea, and the Aegean Sea, Balos Bay unfolds a variety of shades of enchanting blue, earning it the metaphorical nickname "Kiss of the Three Seas". The entire Gramvousa Peninsula is part of the Natura 2000 project, which is the largest network of protected areas in the European natural heritage. 

 Balos Beach was once a well-kept secret known only to locals but now stands as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete. Visitors to the area can appreciate its natural beauty, as it is the most photographed beach in Crete and one of the top 10 of anyone's preferences. Despite its isolated location and difficult route, thousands of visitors flock to this breathtaking gem during the summer months to sunbathe in its pristine beauty. 

 With its sparkling turquoise waters gently lapping against the soft pinkish-white sand and the Tigani Cape glistening in the sunny sky, Balos Beach has become an iconic image of Crete's magnificent seashore. 

 While the journey to Balos may consume an entire day of your vacation, it is well worth the time investment. There are only two ways to reach Balos: the ferry from Kissamos or an off-road drive through the Gramvousa reserve. The most popular and highly recommended option is a day trip by ferry, which includes a stop at the historic Venetian fortress on Imeri Gramvousa islet, followed by a few hours of leisure time at Balos Beach. Book your tour online or through local providers to experience the magic of Balos Beach for yourself!

Another way to get there is by car. You'll need to take a dusty road that starts from the village of Kaliviani and runs along Cape Gramvousa. Although the road is challenging, it's definitely worth it as you get to enjoy an unforgettable view of the entire bay. Once you reach the parking lot, you'll have to descend for around 20 minutes to get to the beach. We recommend wearing sports shoes, bringing sun protection and enough water. Alternatively, you can opt for a private boat tour, Jeep safari/ATV, or hiking/cycling through the Gramvousa Reserve.


  •  Bring all the essential beach items with you including sun protection accessories, creams, water, and picnic cutlery. 
  • Be responsible and please help keep the beach clean by avoiding littering or leaving toys in the sand.
  • The best time to visit Balos Beach is during the shoulder months of May-June or September-October to avoid the crowds and enjoy the great weather.
  • If you're driving, keep in mind that the rainy weather can make the rough road through Gamvousa reserve difficult to navigate. Check the weather beforehand and plan accordingly.
  • If you choose alternative ways to get there, particularly during the peak season, it is recommended to arrive early in the morning, before the ferry arrives.

 Regardless of how you get to Balos Beach, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view and a unique experience. Whether you choose an organized trip or prefer to plan your visit by yourself, be prepared and enjoy your time on this amazing beach!

 Discover below helpful and fascinating information about Balos Beach that will enhance your enjoyment of this experience:

  1. Beach Facilities and Activities
  2. Landscape and Nature
  3. Attractions in the Area
  4. Alternatives to Balos Beach
  5. How to Get to Balos Beach
    • Ferry cruise from Kissamos
    • Private boat tour
    • By car/taxi to Balos
    • Jeep safari
    • Hiking and mountain biking

1. Beach Facilities and Activities

 Balos is one of the most stunning and remote beaches in the world, renowned for its raw and unspoiled beauty. This area boasts a beautiful shallow water lagoon, perfect for swimming and relaxing, and beyond the lagoon, visitors can swim and snorkel and dive in the deeper waters, where waves crash upon the shore. 

While it's a popular destination for a day trip, its tourist facilities are fairly limited. There is an organized section of sunbeds and umbrellas available, but during peak season these are typically claimed by early birds well ahead of the arrival of the first high-capacity ferry from Kissamos. Visitors can also rent umbrellas from the ferry they're on for just 4 Euros (plus a 5 Euro deposit). 

 The sea here is very shallow and warm and it is the ideal place for a swim for very small kids. Given its status as a nature reserve, you won't find equipment for water sports or activities at Balos, although visitors can rent floating mattresses in the shape of giant swans or "pedalo flamingo" hydro bikes near the sunbed area. 

 If you're planning on spending the day, it's a good idea to bring snacks from your hotel or pack them for the road, as food options are fairly limited. Cafes and snack bars near the beach also rent out sunbeds and umbrellas, and public restrooms are nearby. From mid-April to the end of October, a kiosk at the parking lot further up the beach sells water and snacks.

 2. Landscape and Nature

 The Gramvousa Peninsula is a fascinating and secluded strip of land with arid, mountainous terrain, featuring Mount Geroskinos (standing at 762m) as its centerpiece. The area has a rich ecosystem that is home to over 400 different plant species and 100 bird species, many of which are indigenous to the region. As one of the most important protected areas in the eastern Mediterranean, within the European Natura 2000 project, it truly stands out as a gem of the region.

 Balos lagoon, the shallow bay with crystal clear turquoise waters is separated from the sea by a narrow strip of white sand dunes  (isthmus) that stretches from the seashore to the Cape Tigani. Its unique beauty is further accentuated by the exotic wildlife that inhabits it. Cape Tigani is a small flat rock formation (”tigani” is the Greek word for ”pan”) and can be visited on a pleasant walk through the warm and shallow water. Visitors can also explore two uninhabited islets: Imeri Gramvousa, an attractive tourist spot that is typically included in Balos boat tours, and Agria, a rocky and inaccessible patch of land.

 Three seas with different mineral compositions and salinity meet in the Balos Gulf area - the Ionian Sea, the Libyan Sea and the Aegean Sea - painting the landscape in a palette of paradisiacal hues, from exotic white, turquoise, jade green and crystal to deep blue

 Balos is one of the few "pink beaches" in Crete, with the unique color created by a microorganism called Benthic foraminifera. As this species of mollusk attaches itself to rocks and reefs or settles on the seabed, it transforms into bright pink sand that graces the shore. Mount Geroskinos is covered in thyme and wild oregano bushes, dwarf cacti, old olive trees, and countless species of wildflowers. Among these floral species is Anthemis glaberrima, a type of chamomile that exclusively grows in the area. The region is characterized by the presence of Posidonia oceanica, also called "Neptune's Grass or Poseidon's Grass, a seagrass species known as a crucial "lung of the Mediterranean, which welcomes a diverse range of aquatic life.

 The Gramvousa peninsula is home to rare birds like Audouin's gull and Eleonora's Falcon, a predator with an impressive wingspan of approximately 1 meter that can't be missed as it soars over the mountains. Nearby islands have cavernous rocks where a variety of cormorant species make their nests. Scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts can explore the diverse marine life around Balos and Gramvousa, such as the Mediterranean species of yellow-bellied cod called groupers, octopuses, mullets, lionfish, shrimps, and rich, colorful coral reefs. The area is a sanctuary for the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus and the endangered species of turtle, Caretta caretta, both protected species that can also be seen at CretAquarium. 

 Each year, thousands of tourists flock to this stunning beach. However, despite its idyllic reputation, Balos Beach has some downsides. During the peak of the season, overcrowding can be an issue. Additionally, the lagoon's shallow waters and muddy bottom can facilitate the growth of microorganisms that sometimes cause an unpleasant odor. In some cases, plastic waste or unwanted tar may also be brought ashore by the sea currents, as locals warn.

3. Attractions in the Area

 There are many interesting attractions to explore in the area. Among them is Tigani Island, which borders the lagoon to the northwest and can be visited on a shallow water walk. In the northern part, you will discover a historical cave (such as the caves of Milatos, Melidoni, Krionerida, and Xotikospilios) where women and children were massacred during the campaign of the Ottoman army in 1825 against the local Christians. While it's a place of sad memory, a memorial service for the victims is held every year, 8 weeks after Easter Sunday, at the nearby church of Agios Giorgos on All Saints' Day, Agion Panton. Another site worth visiting is the ruins of the Roman city of Agneio at Cape Korykon, where there is a temple dedicated to the god Apollo. 

 For photography enthusiasts, a 20 mins short hike up Mount Geroskino to the Trail Viewpoint (observation point) from the beach is a must-do. It provides a breathtaking view of the area, but be cautious as the trail can be challenging, especially in the heat, and it's important to wear appropriate shoes and bring water and sun protection.

If you take the ferry tour, you will not skip the islet of Imeri Gramvousa, which is about a 15-minute before the destination Balos. Here, you can find a small exotic beach, the Agioi Apostoloi church, and the wreck of a commercial ship that was wrecked near the shore in 1968. At the highest point of the islet stands a Venetian fortress built in 1579, which takes 25 minutes of a steep walk up from the wharf, but rewards you with gorgeous views. We recommend you wear comfortable shoes and leave the flip-flops for later when you disembark in Balos.

4. Alternatives to Balos Beach: Elafonisi and Falassarna Beaches

 If you're looking for an alternative to Balos Beach in Crete, there are two great options to consider: Falasarna and Elafonissi beaches. These beaches are perfect for tourists who want a more accessible experience than the effort required to reach Balos.

 Falasarna Beach is located in a bay on the northwest coast of Crete, about 59 km from Chania. The beach is known for its long stretch of golden sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, making it a great location for swimming and sunbathing. Falasarna is also famous for its stunning sunsets and the waves that form on windy days, attracting windsurfers

 Elafonissi Beach, located in the southwest corner of Crete about 76 km from Chania, features bright pink sand and clear, shallow waters. It is part of a protected nature reserve, making it a popular spot for ecotourism. One of the main attractions of the area is a small island located just a few meters from the shore, which can be accessed on foot during low tide. As it can get crowded during peak season, it is recommended to arrive early.

 Both Falasarna and Elafonissi Beach are easily accessible by car, with ample parking spaces available. There are also several restaurants, cafes, and tourist attractions located nearby, making these beaches an ideal spot for a day trip or a relaxing stay in their vicinity.

5. How to Get to Balos Beach

 If you're planning on taking an excursion to Balos, we recommend buying your trip through a well-known tour operator or a local agency with points of sale in all the resorts. Tour operators often host information meetings between their sales representatives and tourists, where vouchers for optional activities and excursions are offered for sale. Travel during these trips is organized, with modern coaches and accompanying guides following the national road E90 up to Kissamos, where you'll board a ferry to Balos.

 If you prefer to explore the island and reach Balos with a rental car, be sure to reserve your car in advance, especially during peak season in July and August. Keep in mind that rental cars can normally only travel off-road with additional insurance, and most rental companies exclude coverage for the bumpy 8 km of road in the Gramvousa reserve leading to Balos, which means you'll be traveling at your own risk. Alternatively, you could take the ferry from Kissamos where you can find a free parking lot near the port or you can park in the nearby streets.

 Regular public buses only run as far as Chania bus station and from there, it's necessary to take a local bus to Kissamos (or Kastelli). On the KTEL website you can find information about public bus routes, schedules, fares and online reservations. Select Kampos Kissamos station as your destination to get a bus to within a few hundred meters from the port.

 Whether you travel by bus, coach, or rental car, at the port of Kissamos, you will meet other tourists from Crete, either individuals or in organized groups who are eager to reach the famous and much-required Balos beach. We hope that this information is helpful for planning your excursion to one of Europe's most beautiful beaches. Don't forget to enjoy the scenic beauty on the way there!

a. Ferry cruise from Kissamos
b. Private boat tour
c. By car or taxi 
d. Jeep safari
e. Hiking and mountain biking

a.  Ferry cruise from Kissamos

 The main way to get to Balos Beach and Lagoon is by ferry cruise departing from the port of Kavonisi, located 2.5 km west of the town of Kissamos. Kavonisi is the westernmost port in Crete and connects the island with the Peloponnese by sea. Although the port has an important commercial role, exporting tens of thousands of tons of olive oil and wine annually, it also caters to tourists, with around 25,000 visitors annually, including those on cruise ships. 

During the tourist season (May to October), daily tours are available, departing from Kissamos and following a route that passes breathtaking sights such as the wild shores of the Gramvousa peninsula, and geological traces of a massive earthquake that occurred in 365 AD, which shifted the ground by 6-9 meters. The tours are mainly operated by Cretan Daily Cruises, using high-capacity ferries such as the "Gramvousa" (1,900 passengers), "Spirit of Athos" (650 passengers), "Gramvousa Express" (450 passengers), and "Balos" (300 passengers). It's worth noting that during the peak season (July and August), these vessels tend to fill up quickly. 

Other private operators offer similar tours, with smaller capacity ferries and steamers, but these can get quite crowded as well. While on the ferry, you might even be lucky enough to spot some dolphins hanging out in the sea. The cruise to Balos includes a stop of approximately two hours on the island of Imeri Gramvousa, which can be reached within 50 minutes of boarding. After leaving the island, it's only another 15 minutes before reaching the breathtaking Balos Beach and Lagoon. Visitors can spend 2-3 hours exploring this beautiful area before heading back on the ferry.

 The Kissaamos-Balos ferry tour costs 27 Euros for adults and 13 Euros for children under 12 years old. In addition to this price, visitors over the age of 13 must pay a municipal eco-tax of 1 euro directly to the boat operator. Children under 2 years old ride for free. The ferry provides various amenities, including water, drinks, and food for purchase at the restaurant on the main deck. Beach accessories, like umbrellas, can also be rented for 5 Euros. Tickets can be reserved online, at the ticket office in Kissamos, or at the Kavonisi port, provided they are available. 

 During the high season, it is recommended that you reserve your tickets one or two days in advance and arrive at least an hour early for boarding. Departure times are 10:20 am, 10:40 am, and 12:30 pm, with return arrival at Kavonisi scheduled for 5:45 pm, 6:00 pm, and 7:30 pm. The 12:30 pm departure is available only during the months of June through September. Up-to-date details, including prices and online bookings, can be found on the Cretan Daily Cruises website via this link.

There is also a ferry from the port town of Falassarna to Balos, which ceases to operate around mid-October.

b. Private boat tour

 A good idea to go to Balos is to sail with a private boat, from Falasarna, Kissamos, or Chania. There is a multitude of local operators offering sailing or motor yachts, catamarans, jet boats or RIBs along the coast of Crete or to other islands. Especially for Balos, you will find boats for rent privately for families (1-4 people), for groups of friends (4-8 people) or semi-privately, "share" (yachts with a capacity of 8-22 people).

 Offers are varied, with boats priced for half-day or full-day trips, with or without a skipper, and with or without fuel included. Depending on the port of departure, the type and size of the boat, and the facilities offered - including the captain, the prices for the one-day cruise to Gramvousa and Balos vary, indicatively, between 45-125 Euro/person (or even more, for those with luxury services), and there are discounts for children. 

 The price includes snacks and drinks, and even a traditional Cretan lunch on board. You can also find a mini-menu with additional food and drinks, such as soft drinks, wine and local beer. From Chania, the cruise takes about an hour and a half each way, and from Kissamos or Falassarna, no more than half an hour.

 Apart from the stop at Gramvousa, you will also have the chance to visit other private beaches near the Balos lagoon and avoid crowds, especially in the high season. Once you arrive at your destination, you can enjoy a few hours of relaxation, or other independent activities - walking through the lagoon, photographing the landscape, visiting the island, snorkeling or diving. The advantage of the private boat option is that you can start your journey early in the morning, before the ferries with hundreds of tourists from Kavonisi arrive, so you can enjoy the view of Balos in peace and privacy.

 Reservations are required at least 2 days in advance and a 50% advance is usually charged. The companies that offer these services also collaborate with passenger transport companies and can, upon request, provide you with a transfer from other cities to the boarding point.

 A unique experience that has supporters among young people is the Jet Ski Safari, departing from Falassarna. The rental price for a jet ski with 2 occupants is 150 Euros for two hours. At 110 HP, the boats can develop high speeds, between 40-70 KMH, so adrenaline is an indispensable ingredient. Participants are equipped with life jackets and receive initial instruction and an accompanying crew who guide the group of jet skis through the rocks and waves to their destination and back. Drone or GoPro footage and photos are included in the price. Most of the tourists who used this option to get to Balos, (that's right, just a viewing of the lagoon), describe it as a thrilling adventure, an unforgettable experience.

c. By car or taxi to Balos

 If you plan to explore more of the island, it's best to reserve your rental car in advance, especially during high-demand months like July and August. Additionally, make sure you have Balos insurance covered by your contract to avoid any potential problems later on. 

 To reach Balos, drive past the town of Kissamos, leaving the port of Kavonisi behind. After about 1.5 km, turn right towards the village of Kaliviani. Once you cross the village, you'll reach an access control point in the ecological reserve, where you'll need to pay an Eco fee of €1 and officially enter the coastal road of the Gramvousa Peninsula - the start of an unforgettable adventure! 

 Some enthusiastic off-roaders claim that this 8 km road is among the most spectacular coastal roads in the world, but it's quite challenging, with a bumpy, dusty dirt and gravel surface interspersed with old cement sections. Be prepared to drive cautiously at a low speed and potentially encounter a line of vehicles. Keep an eye out for friendly goats that may cross your path!

There are a few things to consider before making the trip. While the road to the beach is wide and has plenty of places to stop and take in the breathtaking scenery, it's not recommended for novice drivers or anyone who suffers from motion sickness, locomotor difficulties, or back pain. Pregnant women and overweight individuals may also want to avoid this route, as it can be quite challenging.

 When you arrive at the parking lot, which can fill up quickly during the peak season in July and August, be aware that the road becomes narrower due to cars parked on the side. To avoid the crowds, try to arrive before 10 am. From the car park, it's a 20-minute walk (2 km) to Balos beach. The final section of the walk is steeper, so it's recommended to wear sports shoes.

 Alternatively, if you're feeling adventurous, locals offer a "Donkey Taxi" service for a unique transportation experience. Just be sure to stop at the "Trail Viewpoint" for the best photo opportunity of the Balos Lagoon and Tigani Island in the background.

If you're coming from Kissamos, the 15 km journey can be traveled in around 40 minutes with 4X4 minibusses. The cost is approximately 20 EUR per person, with an additional 1 EUR entrance fee to the Gramvousa Reserve for passengers over 13 years old. Private Kissamos-Balos runs are available daily and regularly, but be sure to reconfirm the departure time with the driver for the return journey.

d. Jeep safari

 Explore the stunning surroundings of Kissamos with an exciting Jeep safari to Balos beach and the lagoon. Setting off at 9 am and concluding at 5 pm, this off-road adventure takes you through the dusty and bumpy roads of the Gramvousa peninsula, guided by experienced drivers. The 4x4 off-road vehicles come with three seats for tourists, making it a perfect trip for small groups.

 Begin your excursion by discovering the charming traditional Cretan village of Polyrinia, located 7 km south of Kisamos. Home to ancient ruins and a medieval Venetian fortress, Polyrinia offers a fascinating glimpse into the island's history. Travel north along the coast road, enjoying the breathtaking view of Kissamos Bay before relaxing and exploring the delightful Balos Lagoon. A picnic lunch is also provided, making for an unforgettable day amidst Crete's natural beauty.

If you prefer a more private option, semi-private day trips in 7-9 seater 4x4 off-road vehicles are available from Chania and surrounding areas. Priced at 125 euros for adults (85 euros for children between 6-12 years old), this all-inclusive package provides a great alternative for those seeking flexibility without having to worry about planning.

 While renting a scooter or Quad may seem like a tempting option, please note the increased risks involved given the difficult access road. 

e. Hiking and mountain biking

 If you love hiking and mountain biking, Balos Beach is worth exploring! There are two marked routes to Balos Beach, offering a challenge for experienced climbers. The first route starts from the village of Kaliviani, which is 4 km west of the port of Kissamos. The second route begins from the ancient city of Falassarna, located at the western base of the Gramvousa Peninsula. Both routes are around 9-10 km long and can be completed in about 3 hours, taking you through the rugged landscape of Gramvousa, crossing the ridge of Mount Platyskinos. The area is well-frequented by explorers and hikers alike, so you're likely to meet fellow backpackers or mountain bikers along the way.


 Balos Beach and Lagoon are undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking natural wonders that Crete has to offer. With its crystal clear turquoise waters, soft white-pinkish sand, and stunning views, Balos is a true paradise on earth that will leave you completely awe-struck. Whether you're lounging on the beach, swimming in the lagoon, or hiking along the rugged coastline, every moment spent at Balos is sure to be a memorable one. A visit to Balos is truly an experience like no other, and one that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

 If you're planning a trip to Crete, be sure to put Balos at the top of your list – you won't be disappointed!

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