One of the flagship paintings associated with Crete is the characteristic frame of the Balos lagoon and the flat Tigani peninsula in the background. The picturesqueness of this place attracts crowds of delighted tourists every year, and the beach itself has been systematically ranked very high in world and European beach rankings for a long time.
White and sometimes pink sand and incredibly azure water always evoke unambiguous associations. A paradise beach, a paradise, a wonderful place are the most frequently used terms that always appear in the comments of readers when we publish photos of the Balos lagoon. This does not surprise us in any way. We have been to Balos many times, at different times of the year and day, and it always makes an impression on us.
The downside of the beach is its remote location on the northwestern tip of Crete. The approximate distances of Balos from the main cities of Crete can be found in the table we have prepared. The considerable distance between these places means in practice that only those tourists whose hotels are not further away than in the vicinity of Rethymno can think about a visit to this beach. Traveling here from around Heraklion means that you will spend most of the day in the car, leaving you too little time to relax.
The method of transport you choose to get to the lagoon is also important. Each of them has its own advantages but also disadvantages. Below we present our summary for each of them.
The most popular mode of transport is a full-day ferry trip from Kissamos. It is used by both organized tours and individual tourists. When choosing this way of travel, you need to adapt your daily schedule to the cruise times. From the end of April or the beginning of May to October, the ships sail to Balos every day at 10:20 (return 17:45), 10:40 (return 18:00). During the high tourist season in July and August there is an additional cruise at 12:30 (return 19:30). This year it will probably be similar, although there is no schedule for the summer months yet.
Tickets for the ferry can be purchased, among others, in the port of Kissamos. It is also possible on the day of travel before boarding the ship. In this case, however, you have to arrive early enough, because sometimes there are queues in front of the ticket offices. Unfortunately, you also need to know that if there is a lot of interest in a cruise on a given day, tickets may no longer be available. Therefore, if possible, it is worth making a reservation in advance. This can be done at the ticket offices in the port and at all local travel agencies cooperating with Cretan Daily Cruises. It is worth looking around for such an office in the town where you live. If you make such a reservation, you no longer have to worry about boarding, because the seat is packed. However, you have to remember to collect tickets at the port office that will entitle you to board the ship on the basis of the reservations issued by the booking office.
If you have access to the Internet on vacation, you can also make a reservation on the carrier's website: www.cretandailycruises.com Interestingly, this website also has a Polish language version.
In 2021, ticket prices are as follows:
When issuing tickets at the ticket office, an additional mandatory administration fee of € 1 is charged for each passenger over the age of 13 (payable in cash). The ticket price includes transport only. Any meals, drinks or lunch on board the ferry are charged extra.
If you have bought tickets earlier and unfortunately you have to cancel your trip, it is worth knowing that up to 7 days before the trip, you can return them at the point of sale and get 100% of the ticket price back. If this period is shorter (up to 3 days before the cruise), you will get back 80% of the ticket price. If you cancel your tickets or reservations up to 24 hours before your trip, you will only receive a 50% refund. If you cancel your cruise less than 24 hours before departure or fail to report on board, you will no longer receive any refund.
In the case of organized tours, the issue of booking a seat and purchasing tickets is the responsibility of the organizer. So is the transport to the port. Remember, however, that this is associated with a much higher cost of the trip.
Free parking is available for individual tourists traveling to the port of Kissamos by car.
In order to avoid overcrowding, ships have two routes. In the first option, they go first to Balos and then to Gramvousa. The second route follows the opposite direction.
Depending on the size of the ship, it either goes directly to the shore (larger) or moors at a certain distance from the lagoon (smaller), from where tourists are transported ashore by boats. You can enjoy sunbathing in a paradise setting for just over 2 hours, after which the ship departs. After an approximately 20-minute cruise, the ship sails to Gramvousa Island, where it stays for 2 hours. At this time, after disembarking, it is worth climbing 137 meters higher to see the ruins of the Venetian fortress. The path leading up is not very comfortable, so for this part of the trip it is worth taking more comfortable shoes with you. Although the approach in the heat is quite tiring, it is worth entering here, for example, for the spectacular views of the lagoon.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of such transport? Surely a plus is visiting Gramvousa and the opportunity to see the lagoon and the shoreline from the sea. These views are only available during the cruise. This trip is also positive in terms of travel comfort. Apart from the approach to the fortress, there are no other tiring points :) The downside is that you travel and sunbathe in crowds. Such trips are very crowded, so do not count on your piece of the beach and peace and quiet. While sailing by boat, you will not see the famous view of the Balos lagoon and the Tigani Peninsula, unless you decide to take the trail towards the parking lot instead of lazy sunbathing.
This is the second option to get to the Balos Lagoon. In terms of organization, it does not require a greater philosophy. It is enough to have a rental car and a bit of confidence in driving on Cretan roads. When entering the gravel at the checkpoint, only the administrative fee is charged for passengers over 13 years of age. in the amount of € 1 (as for the cruise).
When choosing this way, you have to take into account that the asphalt road ends behind the village of Kaliviani. The next 7-kilometer section of the route will require gravel. Unfortunately, this means that you will have to cover any damage to the car caused during such a trip at your own expense. In most cases, unfortunately, these are the insurance conditions that you buy when renting a car. And that's basically the biggest risk on this trip.
If you plan to choose this form of travel to Balos, you also need to take into account your skills as a manager. Although in our opinion this road is relatively easy now and should not cause difficulties, not every driver feels up to driving this route. In places it is bumpy and although the steepest section has been paved, some of the climbs may be formidable to "new" tourists visiting Crete. It is also worth taking into account the fact that this road does not have protective barriers installed in every place. Lack of security separating from the abyss can cause discomfort to less experienced drivers.
When coming here by car, you also have to remember that the target parking lot is quite small, so places on it run out relatively quickly. Those who arrive too late must leave the car along the road. The end of this "parking lot" can be even 1-1.5 km away. Therefore, it significantly extends the distance that will have to be covered on foot. Regular parking is more than a kilometer away from the Balos lagoon, so the further you park, the more road you will have to make.
The trail you are going to go is a bit hard, especially on the way back. The initial ascent up the sand is not very pleasant. Especially since high temperatures and strong sun suck water out quickly. This is basically the second minus of car access to Balos. However, it cannot be forgotten that it is also one of the biggest advantages. Following this path, you will have the opportunity to see this postcard, spectacular view of the lagoon and the Tigani Peninsula. This is something that the passengers of the ship will not see when approaching the lagoon from the sea.
Unfortunately, when choosing the option to travel to Balos by car, you must bear in mind that you will only see the island of Gramvousa from a distance.
The big advantage of access by car, in addition to the above-mentioned view of the lagoon, is that you can basically come here at any time of the day. If you choose morning or afternoon hours, you can count on avoiding the crowds both in the parking lot and on the beach.
In recent years, there was also a KTEL bus between Kaliviani and Balos, which also took you to a car park near Balos for a small fee. Unfortunately, this connection has been lost for some time.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that along the road in several places you can meet local Cretans who display their products here. For example, the nice Marcos from the photo below offers crayfish in various flavors (including crazy strawberry), honey, olives and natural creams.
Crete is an unusual place. There are over 300 beaches on approximately 1,000 kilometers of the island's coastline, with over a quarter of them receiving the Blue Flag award every year. From all these places we have chosen twenty most-known, popular and for some reason exceptional beaches. Some of these places are generally recognized hits, but some are our personal choice, beaches which for some reason we deemed worthy to be included on this list.
A lot of people who are going to Crete for the first time are asking us what to see. Limited time of stay and car rental as well as a finite amount of funds that you want to spend on sightseeing cause that among the many interesting places offered by the island you have to choose only the most important ones. So we decided to create our peculiar must-see, or list of places we like the most known and most popular among tourists.