Balos Bay Beach in the Crete Greece Travel Guide

Balos Bay Beach And Gramvousa Island, Crete

Crete is one of my favorite islands in Greece. It’s home to Knossos Palace from the ancient Minoan culture which dates back to around the 20th century BC, the stunning hike down Samaria Gorge in the snow-capped Lefki Ori Mountain range, the lovely cities of Chania and Rethymno, and so much more. It’s also home to some absolutely amazing beaches. In fact, some say Crete has the best sandy beaches in all of Greece, which I have to agree to! Balos Bay Beach, also known as Balos Bay Lagoon, is one of those amazing beaches. It’s stunning!

This post covers Balos Bay Beach, how to get here, and what to expect. It also covers Gramvousa island, which is very close and often combined with Balos Bay Beach when taking a ferry or boat tour.

About Balos Bay Beach

Balos Bay Beach, or Balos Bay Lagoon, sits on a remote part of Crete on its northwestern tip. The land forms a bay here, with pristine white sand and crystal-clear water that varies from pale turquoise to deep blue. Being remote, there’s minimal development which makes the views even more breathtaking!

Stunning Balos bay Beach
Balos Bay Beach

It sits next to a cliff on the edge of the island which makes an excellent viewpoint above it. To get to the beach you either need to hike down the switchbacks from the top or take a boat. Its remoteness, however, is part of its beauty.

In some areas the water is really shallow, and thus warm, making it perfect for families or visiting in the cooler shoulder months. There’s also deeper areas for swimming or snorkeling as you go into the deeper blue waters of the Mediterranean.

There are sunbeds and umbrellas for rent on the beach, as well as a small snack shop and restroom facility. As this beach is mostly nature at its finest, it’s best to bring your own snacks and water though.

If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the sunbeds in the strip of beach between the edge of the island and the promontory. You can also see the boat I arrived on to the right side of the photo.

Balos Bay Beach in the Crete Greece Travel Guide
Breathtaking Balos Bay

How To Get To Balos Bay Beach

There are two main ways to get to Balos Bay Beach. You can self-drive or take a ferry or boat. There are pros and cons to each.

Self Drive

Self-driving offers the most freedom as far as timing and length of stay at the beach. The downside to driving is that you miss the beauty of the beach arriving via boat and miss the stop at Gramvousa Island that the boats stop at (more on this below).

Balos Bay is about an hour and a half drive west of Chania and two hours west of Rethymno. If you’re set on visiting Balos Bay Beach more than once on your trip, you can also stay in Kissamos, which is about a 40-minute drive away. Kissamos is also where the port is for the ferries to Balos Bay Beach.

I did not drive here, but have read that the last 30 minutes or so of the drive is on dirt roads. If you plan to rent a car, talk to your rental agency in advance to make sure your vehicle is equipped to drive here safely.

Parking for Balos Bay is at the top of the cliff near the viewpoint. The walk down to the beach takes about 30-minutes down the switchbacks.

Going down is not too difficult, but remember that you need to hike back up to get back to your car! As the path is rocky, it’s best to wear good walking shoes.

Stunning view of Balos bay on a day trip
Panoramic View Of Balos Bay

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EU citizens and citizens of the USA do not need an International Drivers Permit (IDP). You just need your drivers license to rent a car. Verify with your rental car company in advance if you are coming from a different country and are not sure if you need one.

The minimum age to rent a car in Crete is 21, with 12 months driving experience required.

Boat

Another great option is to arrive at Balos Bay by boat from Kissamos Port. This is super easy if you choose to stay in Kissamos, but you can also drive here, arrange transportation here, or take the public bus. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Chania and an hour and a half from Rethymno.

The advantage of arriving by boat is that the boats also stop at Gramvousa island to see Gramvousa Fortress along the way (see below). This stop, and the hike up to the fortress is beautiful. Plus, it’s lovely to arrive at Balos by boat and see it from that perspective. When you dock, you can hike up to the viewpoint near the parking area to see the stunning postcard view, which is your fort view if you drive.

The downside to taking the boat is that you follow a set schedule and you usually arrive in the middle of the day, which is the busiest time at Balos Bay.

The boat leaves the port daily at 10:40 AM. If you purchase your tickets online, in advance, they are 30€ (as of December 2023). See the Blue Daily Cruise schedule for for more details. The return ferry is at 17:00. You can also book this boat from Kissamos to Gramvousa and Balos Bay from Get Your Guide.

The boat trip includes a one hour ride from Kissamos Port to Gramvousa island, two, hours at Gramvousa to swim and or hike, two and a half hours at Balos Bay Beach to swim and or hike, and an hour ride back to the port.

Getting to Kissamos Port

To get to Kissamos Port, you can book this transportation, which offers pick up from many hotels in Chania and brings you to the. This transportation offers pick up from Rethymno.

Read the details of each option above as they are all slightly different and have different prices. It’s also best to book in advance in peak season. If you have any questions, you can contact me below.

View Of Balos Bay From The Boat

Gramvousa Island (The Beautiful Bonus)

Stopping at Gramvousa island prior to Balos is a great addition to the trip. This is an uninhabited island with the ruins of a Venetian castle/fortress from the 16th century which you can see at the top of the mountain in the photo below.

You can hike up to the ruins to explore and admire the view.

Gramvousa island stop on a trip to Balos Bay Beach
Gramvousa Island

Or you can swim in the bay (below).

View from Gramvousa on day trip Balos bay Beach
Gramvousa Bay
Gramvousa Bay

History of Gramvousa’s Fortress

The fortress was built during Venetian rule for protection against the Ottomans, although was eventually lost to them.

Gramvousa fortress on day trip Balos bay
Gramvousa Island Fortress

Greece’s Brief History of Pirating

The Cretans gained Gramvousa back, however, they supposedly had to resort to pirating for survival on the small island. When Britain heard about this, they gave Gramvousa back to the Ottomans. It later officially became Greek again after the Greek War of Independence.

View from Gramvousa island day trip Balos bay
View of Balos Bay from Gramvousa
Gramvousa ruins on day trip Balos bay
Church Ruins at the Top of Gramvousa

Where To Stay On Crete

Chania and Rethymno both make excellent cities to use as a base when exploring Crete. I stayed in both and found each to be lovely for different reasons. Chania felt a little more upscale to me, and is closer to the day trip sites of Samaria Gorge, Balos Bay, and Elafonisi Island, while Rethymno offered more old world charm. Rethymno is also closer to Knossos Palace if that is in your plans. Although I liked them both, if I had to pick one, I would pick Chania for its location.

I’ve noted several options below in each city that get good reviews, look charming, and are within walking distance of the port and main sites. I also added a few choices for Kissamos if you prefer to stay there.

Accommodation In Chania

Budget

  • Cocoon City Hostel is where I stayed in Chania. Close to Mitropoleos square. A little removed from the Old Venetian Harbor, it’s a 10-minute walk away. It’s also a 5-minute walk to the central bus station. There’s a shared kitchen and I found the staff to be very polite and helpful. They offer dorms and private rooms with a shared bath. 

Affordable 

  • Located a short walk to the Old Venetian Harbor, Agave Suites offers cozy suites with balconies. It’s also close to Koum Kapi and Nea Chora Beach.

Moderate

  • Emeli Suites is located a short walk to the Old Venetian Harbor. It’s also a 3-minute walk from Koum Kapi Beach, and 1.2 miles from Nea Chora Beach. The units offer a terrace or balcony with a city view and has a unit with a jacuzzi.

Splurge

  • Located on the edge of the Old Venetian Harbor, Riviera Suites is a 5-star hotel offering suites with amazing sea views. It’s close to Koum Kapi and Nea Chora Beach and gets great reviews for location, view, and staff.
  • Located east of the Old Venetian Harbor, a few steps from Nea Chora Beach, the Chania Flair Deluxe Boutique Hotel – Adults Only provides accommodations with a shared lounge and a terrace, a fitness center, restaurant, and bar, as well as a sauna and a hot tub. 
  • Set on the Old Venetian Harbor with views of the port and lighthouse, Domus Renier Boutique Hotel – Historic Hotels Worldwide is in a renovated historic mansion where Reniers, one of Venice’s leading noble families, once lived. Some suites offer sea views and jacuzzis. 

Accommodation In Rethymno

Budget

  • Studio Lefaki, centrally located in the old city of Rethymno, offers self-catered studios with kitchenettes that open out to a communal terrace 

Affordable

  • Archontissa House in the Old Town, located a 14-minute walk from Rethymno Beach, gets very high reviews. Each charming unit has a terrace with city views, and a kitchen.  

Moderate

  • AC Homes Alice is a traditionally built split-level home with stone walls and beam ceilings offers self-catering accommodations in Old Town Rethymno. There is also a hot tub on the rooftop terrace overlooking the town.

Splurge

  • Anne Apartment, is a 14-minute walk from the Rethymno Beach, at the Venetian Port of Rethimno. It offers 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and balcony with views of the port. 

Accommodation in Kissamos

Budget

  • Joanna’s Loft is a budget 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a balcony with ocean views that gets great reviews. It’s within walking distance of Mavros Molos Beach and less than 2 miles from Kissamos Port.

Affordable

  • Blue Horizon is a 3-bedroom luxury apartment with a fully equipped kitchen and a terrace with sea views. Mavros Molos Beach is a 10-minute walk away and Kissamos port is 2.2 miles away.

Want More Of Greece?

Greece is amazing. I’ve visited several times and there’s still so much to see! On top of the historical and cultural mainland, there’s over 200 inhabited islands in Greece.

The following are a few of my favorite places along with some stories from Greece.

Mainland Greece

Corfu Island

Crete Island

Oceanside of Elafonisi island on a day trip to
Elafonisi Island, Crete

Ios Island

Kefalonia

Milos Island

Naxos Island

Paros Island

Santorini Island

Zakynthos Island

Other

For an overview of all the best places in Greece, as well as how to get around, safety, tips, and more, see my Greece Travel Guide.

Santorini at dusk Travel Guide
Santorini

Safe Travels!

Julie

Want to learn more about me? See my About Me page to understand why I love traveling so much and my philosophies on travel.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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