Balos Beach often makes the list for most beautiful beaches in the world. It is located in a remote area in western Crete. As you can see from the picture above, it is a visually stunning beach. To get to Balos Beach takes some athletic prowess or a lot of patience and good mobility. If you are visiting in the summer, it will be very crowded. There are three ways to get to Balos Beach. You can rent a car and drive to the parking lot on the cliff above the beach and hike the 1.5 mile trail down. You then have to hike back up at the end of your visit. You can hire a private boat from the port of Kissamos. These boats cost between $500-$1000 for a 4 to 6 hour trip for up to 6 passengers, some include transportation from Chania as well. You can take the ferry from Kissamos. If you include the transportation from Chania and the ferry ticket, it is about $75. The ferry ticket alone is about $30. Including the travel from Chania, it is a 10-12 hour day and you spend 2 hours at Balos Beach. The ferry does make a 90 minute stop at Gramvousa Island, once a pirate hideout on the north side of Balos Bay.
Capt K and I share a love of beaches and water, so visiting beaches is natural for us. We visited Crete in July, knowing that there would be crowds. We had done some research and knew that we did not want to drive to Balos Beach. As it turns out many rental car companies on Crete specifically state that the cars can not go out to Balos Beach. We decided to take the Balos Beach Tour from Chania that included transportation and ferry tickets. We were picked by a Van at our apartment about 8:30 am. We made at least 6 stops to pick up additional passengers. We were brought to a meeting point where we transferred to a larger motor coach. When the coach was full, we drove about an hour to reach the port of Kissamos. Our guide purchased our tickets for us, so we did not have to wait in the ticket line and we were able to enter the ferry quickly.
If you drive to the ferry terminal yourself, make sure you allow extra time for the ticket line. You can arrive early and grab a coffee at the taverna next to the ferry ticket office. There is plenty of free parking at the ferry terminal.
These are bow entrance ferries which can carry up to 1500 passengers. There are restrooms and showers on board. There is also a cafeteria style restaurant and a snack bar, breakfast and lunch as well as coffee, beer and wine, bottled water and soft drinks are available for purchase.
The ferry has outdoor covered seating and full sun seating, as well as a small section of indoor air conditioned seating.
I took this picture of the road to Balos Beach from the ferry. It does have a short guard rail along the ocean side edge. The road is unpaved and full of ruts and potholes.
This is a photo of Gramvousa island taken from the ferry. The wreck is reputed to be a pirate ship. On days when the seas are calm, you snorkel around the wreck.
This is the view of Balos Beach as the ferry lands. The water color is exceptionally beautiful.
The ferry lands on these rock formations. A wide, flat gangway is placed on the rocks. You walk across these uneven and sharp rocks and wade through Balos Bay to get the strip of rock and sand that is Balos Beach. You can also wade across the bay or walk along Balos Beach to get the the sandy and rock beach on the mainland. Because the Greek Islands were formed by the teutonic plates of Africa and Europe pressing against each other, their beaches tend to be very rocky.
My recommendation is that you bring a sturdy pair of water shoes to make the trek to the beach. Tennis shoes will get wet when you wade across the tidal pools and the bay. My favorites are Seekway Water Shoes you can find at my Amazon Store. Balos Beach is not wheel chair accessible and requires balance and agility to get across these rocks.
We brought a beach umbrella that was provided to us by our apartment host. You can rent a umbrella from the ferry for the day. It is 4 euro plus a 5 euro deposit that is returned to you when you return the umbrella to the ferry. The sand is only a few inches deep on Balos Beach so the umbrella needs to be set on the ground and secured with sand and rocks especially if it is windy.
I love bringing our Turkish Beach Towels when we travel. They are light weight and can be used as a beach blanket, a towel for drying off, and a bathing suit cover up when you leave the beach. Our Nylon Day Packs make it easy to carry everything and the sand does not stick to them. Both can be found on my Amazon store.
As you can see in the photo above, the beach was very crowded but the sand does have that beautiful coral pink tint.
Even with the crowds of people on a small strip of sand, I could see the beauty of this beach. The rising sheer rock face, along with the sparking aquamarine water, and the pink tinted sand comes together to create a strikingly beautiful beach. The water is crystal clear and refreshing. Floating out in the water, I could feel the magic of Balos Bay.
After two hours on Balos Beach and a quick traditional Cretan lunch on the moving Ferry, we disembarked at Gramvousa Island. At the top of Gramvousa Island is the ruins of a 15th Century Turkish Fort and in the bay is the remains of a 19th Century pirate ship.
It was our intent to snorkel around the Pirate Ship. Unfortunately the winds churned up some high surf. I did not feel comfortable snorkeling where the sea and the waves were pushing you into the rocky shore.
We settled for a walk around the lower island, which had some interesting vegetation on it. Most of the Ferry Passengers headed up the mountain to the Fort. It looked like a snake of humanity curling up the hill.
This view of Balos Bay from Gramvousa Island is one of my favorite pictures from our time on Crete. Had we done more research on Balos Bay and the Ferry/Bus Tour, we would have opted for visiting Elafonissi or Falasarna Beach on our own. It also confirmed that we were not Tour Bus people. We rented a car and explored the island for several days of our trip. Because rental cars are at a premium on Crete, we did take three wonderful small group tours that would have been challenging to do on our own. You will hear more about those tours in the coming weeks
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