Your Insanely Helpful Guide to Balos Beach Crete! (Plus Great Insider’s Tips)

sea, beach, sand, Crete

The incredible image of Balos Beach and Lagoon is one of Crete’s most famous sights. A unique turquoise sea and white sand make it a dreamy spot on the island.

Despite being rather difficult to access, Balos tends to be overcrowded To enjoy your day trip to Balos Beach, this guide will tell you when to go, how to get there, and much more.

If you’ve checked my Insider’s Guide to Elafonisi, you already know that these are thorough guides you can trust. They are written by a local and tell you more than a few secrets. So, are you ready? Let’s explore one of Crete’s most wonderful beaches.

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Balos Beach

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Many times described as one of the best beaches in the world, Balos Beach and Lagoon is located in the regional unit of Chania, West Crete.

Its main characteristics include the impressive color of the sea, the white-pinkish sand, and the virgin landscape surrounding the area. All these features give Balos an exotic feel.

The lagoon is formed by the proximity between the Gramvousa peninsula and Cape Tigani, a big square mass of land located right in front of Balos Beach.

🏖️ Please, help us protect the beaches in Crete. Respect the environment and don’t leave any trash behind.

Map of Balos Beach and Lagoon

balos beach

Before you Go: Basic Information About Balos Beach

Regional unit: Chania
Location: Northwestern tip of Crete
Latitude: N 35.522026 | Longitude: E 23.610849

Distances to Balos from Crete’s Main Cities

  • From Agios Nikolaos: 248 km, 3 h 50 m
  • From Heraklion: 190 km, 3 h 20 m
  • From Rethymno: 114 km, 2 h 15 m
  • From Chania: 52 km, 1 h 15 m
balos beach
Balos Beach and Lagoon.

Public transport: Public buses from Chania to Kissamos-Balos were operative until two years ago. At the time of writing this post (2024), no service was available. From Chania, you can only travel by public bus until Kissamos.

From Kissamos, you can either reach the port of Kavonisi (2.5 km from the city center) and take the cruise, hire a taxi, or look for a tour operator covering the route from Kissamos to Balos.

>> STAY CLOSER TO BALOS: To easily visit Balos, it makes sense to stay in nearby Falasarna. I’ve written a guide to the best places to stay in Falasarna for you to check before your visit.

Balos, Falasarna or Elafonisi, Which One to Visit?

balos beach
The beach, Cape Tigani, and the island of Imeri Gramvousa.

These 3 beaches are in the same regional unit (Chania) and are considered among the top 5 beaches of Crete. They are heavenly spots, and choosing one over the other is hard. As usual, it all depends on the type of holiday you prefer.

If you’re lazy and don’t enjoy walking or hiking, you might consider other options instead of Balos.

A visit to Balos Beach and Lagoon also requires some hiking, at least 20 minutes (though usually more). The walk can be exhausting, especially on the way back since you’ll be climbing up a rather steep hill.

>> Driving to Balos? You might enjoy reading about Driving and car rental in Crete.

Also, consider that carrying a cooler, an umbrella, and beach toys in the heat of summer might be too much. If you suffer from vertigo or cliffs are not your piece of cake, you’ll be more relaxed in Falasarna. Even the breathtaking road to Elafonisi doesn’t imply driving on a dirt road.

If crowds are not for you, Falassarna might be the solution. Despite being very popular among tourists, the beach is so wide that you can easily find an isolated spot to spend the day.

>> Not sure where to go? Check the Elafonisi and Falassarna guides to get a better idea. If you believe a quieter beach might be better for you, try checking the beaches of the Akrotiri Peninsula, in Chania, or all the other beaches located in Western Crete.

How to Reach Balos

balos beach
Road to Balos Beach.

Balos Beach is located on the Gramvousa Peninsula, a place with difficult access, and yet, every year, thousands of tourists venture on this road to visit this spectacular beach.

Two are the popular ways to get there, driving or by boat. However, you can also go to Balos in many other ways. Here, I will tell you about all the options available at the time of writing.

Road to Balos

balos beach
Driving to Balos.

To get to Balos, you have to drive past the city of Kissamos and the port of Kavonisi. After about 1.5 km after the port, make a right turn right towards the village of Kaliviani.

You’ll be on a narrow road that passes through the village, in front of the local church and some hotels.

balos beach
Signpost to Kalyviani and Balos.

Let’s start by discussing the dirt road that begins after the village of Kaliviani (or Kalyviani).

balos beach
Entrance ticket to Balos Gramvousa Peninsula.

First and foremost, this infamous road is not as bad as reviews claim! I took the cruise to Balos twice, but it became my favorite way to go once I tried driving.

Booth to pay to enter Balos
Booth for payment before accessing the road to Balos.
Road to Balos, Crete.
Not all of the road is actually dirt.

You do not need an exceptional off-road vehicle if you drive carefully and pay enough attention to the road.

There are a few narrow spots along the way, but they’re not so narrow, nor they are so many. You’ll usually find enough space for two (sometimes even three) cars. There are areas where you can easily maneuver and turn back as well.

balos beach
The road is not that narrow.

The road gets narrower close to the parking entrance, but that’s because when the parking area is full, people leave their cars on the road itself. You can avoid this by arriving very early or later in the afternoon. Besides, if you decide to return at that point, you can still access the parking lot to turn back.

Second, the real reason driving this 8 km can take you so long is not the size of the road but its conditions, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

balos beach
Balos Beach.

Most tourists drive a rental car to avoid damage to the tires (not normally covered by insurance). However, most car rental companies will warn you that your car won’t be insured if you take the road to Balos. Tourists don’t care much because everyone goes to Balos with a rental car!

The same goes for the locals driving their cars…. who wants a broken suspension? That’s the main reason why the trip tends to feel long. It’s a slow drive.

balos beach
Goat in our car.

This brings me to the third consideration: the road to Balos is not—or not always—actual dirt. It combines big stones, dirt, and ancient cement (concrete, not asphalt).

The track is in a pitiful condition and produces a lot of dust. There are also big potholes you want to avoid or drive through slowly.

balos beach
Gorgeous views on the road to Balos.

As you can see, those are the real reasons that make the trip long and shaky. And then, there are the goats; they might slow you down a bit more, but the goats are fun… and friendly!

Hike Down to Balos Beach

Kid walking to Balos
Horses Balos beach.

Once you’ve left the car in the parking area, you must hike towards the beach for 20 to 30 minutes and go down about 850 steps.

The first part of the walk is pretty easy, while the last is irregular and riskier. I’ve seen people fall—nothing serious, but be careful, especially on your way back.

As you follow the path down to the beach, you’re surrounded by the landscape of the Cretan mountains, maquis, and reddish soil. After walking for a while, you’ll descend towards the lagoon and step on high rocky steps. The first sight of the beach will leave you in awe.

The same hike will take you back to the car park, however, it is usually more exhausting since this time you’ll be climbing up.

balos beach
balos beach

Take all the time you need, carry abundant water, and don’t be ashamed to stop to catch your breath… or the last sight of the lagoon.

Many people choose to ride a donkey or a horse up and down. We don’t support this practice, but you have that option if you wish. It’s better to carry your flip-flops in a bag and walk in comfortable shoes.

balos beach
The beautiful beach and lagoon views make the hike to Balos worth it.

A pair of tennis or hiking sandals would be enough. Make sure you have enough water with you both ways. You can stock up on water for the way back at the beach bar.

Remember, the last hundred meters of your hike down to the beach are steep and on very soft sand. I understand you might want to run to the sea… don’t stumble!

How to Get from Heraklion to Balos

balos beach
Heraklion – Balos Beach road. Google Maps.

After years of living in Crete and many trips on the island, I advocate seeing Crete one place at a time. Slow travel on Crete can be a rewarding experience.

We have always enjoyed stopping in different cities and changing accommodations every 2-3 days. That being said, if you’re wondering whether reaching Balos from a remote location is worth the effort, yes, it is!

Traveling to Balos is always worth it. However, driving the long route of Heraklion-Balos as a day trip can be very tiring. For that reason, booking an organized tour like this one with transfers included is a better idea.

Some readers have asked me if this trip is possible by taxi from Heraklion… I guess it is if you’re ok with spending a lot of money!

The best solution in such a case is to set aside a few days and make a few stops to see other areas.

You can plan a stop to visit the Old Town of Rethymno or Rethymno’s beaches. Take a second break near Lake Kournas, in Georgioupoli, or Chania.

Adding at least one night stop in the middle of the road is always better.

>> Click here for more information and to check the latest prices for an organized day trip from Heraklion to Balos Beach.

How to Get From Rethymno to Balos

balos beach
Rethymnon – Balos Beach Road. Google Maps.

Rethymno is not as far from Balos as Agios Nikolaos or Heraklion. However, if you intend to make your Rethymno-Balos a day trip, you must get up early to avoid the crowds.

Likewise, if you’re traveling back to Rethymno on the same day, you might want to get back on the road early to avoid the dirt road in the dark and the traffic.

Or you can join a Rethymnon-Balos day trip with a transfer and avoid getting on the road after a long day on the beach. Remember that the same highway also takes tourists to Falasarna and the famous beaches of Elafonisi and Paleochora.

balos beach
Cars outside the parking lot and on the road are a standard view in the high season.

An early departure will reduce your time on the beach. You might also have to leave before the beautiful sunset on the west coast. Otherwise, book a stay nearby (in Kaliviani or Kissamos) and leave early the next day.

Let’s say that the Rethymno-Balos route is a doable day trip. Just be aware you might feel limited… and very tired at the end of the day!

>> Click here for more information and to check the latest prices for a day trip from Rethymnon to Balos.

How to Get From Chania to Balos

Chania - Balos map
Chania – Balos Road. Google Maps.

It’s fairly easy to reach Balos from Chania, a significant departure point for visiting the western coast. I recommend staying in Chania instead of Kissamos because Chania offers more things to do during your holiday.

There are many other beautiful beaches in the region besides Balos, such as Stavros or Kalathas in the north and Paleochora or Sougia in the south. However, Kissamos is still a great place to stay for those who want a relaxing holiday.

How to Get From Kissamos to Balos

Kissamos - Balos map
Kissamos – Balos Road. Google Maps.

Staying in Kissamos is a great way to save on driving time and make the most of a day in Balos. Once you depart from Kissamos, you quickly reach the village of Kaliviani, and from there, you keep driving to the Gramvousa peninsula.

Other good places to stay close to Balos include Falasarna, Drapanias, and Kolymbari if you want to stay by the sea. Otherwise, if you prefer a quiet, inland town, the village of Platanos is a good place to stay.

>> Click here for more information and to check the latest prices for the Balos cruise departing from the port of Kissamos.

How to Reach Balos if You Don’t Want to Drive

Balos Boat Trip

balos beach
The view from the port on Imeri Gramvousa Island.

Another popular way to get to Balos is on a Day Cruise. This trip was never my favorite, and I’ll explain why below, but it was an acceptable experience, and it can be a valid way to go to Balos and to visit Imeri Gramvousa, too.

Cons of a Balos Cruise

  • First, if you think you will spend the whole day on the beach, do reconsider. You won’t. The actual time you’ll be on Balos Beach varies from 2 to 3 hours.
  • You’ll spend another 2 hours in Gramvousa, and a lot of time sailing. A lot!
  • The boat tends to get very crowded.
  • Therefore, embarking and disembarking about 1500 people (or more) implies a waste of time. Besides, by the time you make it to Balos, hardly any spots are left on the beach.
  • Snacks, lunch, and drinks are sold on board, but prices are high.
  • Conclusion: if you don’t like crowds or quickly get seasick, don’t enjoy the smell of boat fuel, or hate schedules, don’t go to Balos with the daily cruise.
Boats and beach bar in Balos, Crete.
Sea of Crete.

Pros of a Balos Cruise

  • You don’t have to drive, and that’s the main positive point. Therefore, it’s a great solution if you don’t want to rent a car or drive on a dirt road for whatever reason.
  • You don’t have to think of packing a lunch or worrying about getting lost.
  • All you need to do is to be at the port of Kissamos on time to get the ticket or – better – buy the ticket online beforehand. You can also rent an umbrella from them.
balos beach
Gramvousa.

You will see the Kastelli bay and visit the Imeri Gramvousa island. In a way, a day cruise to Balos is more than just going to the beach.

The trip is a good compromise, and the prices are relatively reasonable. In my personal experience, the cruise was not bad, but if I could choose, I would prefer to drive to Balos.

Details About the Day Cruise to Balos

balos beach
The fortress in Imeri Gramvousa.

The cruise to Balos officially includes a stop on the island of Imeri Gramvousa. A small beach close to the disembarking point and an old shipwreck just off the coast are some of the things you will see.

The beach gets crowded when your boat arrives. Many visitors walk to a more secluded beach near the chapel of Agioi Apostoloi for a swim.

balos beach
Reaching Imeri Gramvousa Island.

You can hike to the highest point of Imeri Gramvousa (137 meters) to explore the ancient Venetian castle, built in 1579.

Together with the castles of Spinalonga and Souda, Gramvousa played an essential role during the Venetian resistance against the Ottomans.

Imeri Gramvousa castle.
People visiting the castle of Imeri Gramvousa.

The steep hike to the castle takes about 25 minutes. But it repays with stunning views. If you plan to hike, leave the flip-flops for later and wear comfortable shoes.

The atmosphere of the island is enhanced by the legend of a hidden pirate treasure, a secret that excited kids about the visit. Count on spending about two hours on the island.

Shipwreck in front of Gramvousa.
Shipwreck in front of Gramvousa.

The next stop is Balos Beach and Lagoon, where you will have 2-3 hours to swim and explore. If you intend to take the famous photo of the peninsula and the beach from above, you need to hike up and down the mountain for about 45 minutes. Take that into account!

Booking your Balos Cruise

balos beach

We booked our Daily Cruise at the office in Kissamos the day before on two occasions and did it online again. However, many people buy the tickets at the port on the day of the tour, especially in less busy months. The best way to book this tour is to do it online to avoid issues.

General Information about the Balos Cruise

Kavonisi port in Kissamos, Crete.
Kavonisi port.
  • Departure: From the port of Kissamos, Kavonisi.
  • Fleet: “Gramvousa,” “Gramvousa Express, ” “Balos,” “Spirit of Athos,” etc.
  • Schedule: Daily departures from April or May until October, weather permitting.
The fleet that reaches Balos daily.
The fleet that reaches Balos daily.
  • Hours: Departure 10.20, 10.40, 10.55, 12.30 – Return to Kavonisi 17.45, 18.00, 19.30. The 12.30 departure is available from June to September.
    Two companies handle the cruise. Many more departure hours are available in summer, with up to 6 to 8 boats operating the route.
  • Prices: €30 adult fee, €15 child fee (2-12 y/o), free for kids under 2.
balos beach
  • Extras: Meals are not included. Some companies sell a ticket that includes a meal for an extra €10; that way, the ticket is €39 per adult and €24 for kids.
  • Bookings: Online, at the ticket office in Kissamos, or at the port (depending on availability).
  • Credit Cards: Accepted.
balos beach
Waiting in line to board.
  • Car park at Kavonisi port: Free.
  • Municipal fee: The Municipality of Kissamos collects 1 euro from every visitor over 13.
    You will pay the fee to the boat operator before boarding (cash only).
  • REMEMBER: You must be at the port one hour before departure (at least).
balos beach
Sailing to Balos.

If you prefer not to purchase the ticket online and instead do it at the port, I recommend you confirm this information and check for timetables and the latest prices before reaching the port of Kissamos.

In that case, aim to arrive early because tickets sell fast in the high season. Therefore, I always recommend booking one or two days in advance. You can use this link to book at no extra cost to you.

balos beach
Walking from the boat to the beach.

There are other alternatives to visiting Balos Beach and Lagoon. Let’s now see which are some of the lesser-known ways to get there:

Safari to Balos Beach

balos beach
Safari to Balos.

Safaris have become a popular way to discover many off-the-beaten-track areas of Crete.

I wouldn’t necessarily define Balos as a place with such characteristics, it’s not isolated nor unfrequented, it’s only more complex to access than other areas.

In any case, these adventurous trips are exciting and super fun, and despite being a bit more expensive than the traditional boat trip, it will undoubtedly be more private than traveling with other thousand souls (6 or 8 is the usual number of seats these excursions include). Besides, since it’s a private or semi-private trip, you can agree on stops and other preferences with the drivers as you go.

balos beach
The road to Balos can sometimes have this kind of traffic!

There are also quad safaris (maybe too dusty for my taste) or rib-boat safaris, certainly faster than a cruise boat.

These tours may sometimes include an extra stop for lunch. Always check before booking if that’s included in the price or if you will be in charge of the bill once the meal is over. You can check the following tour operator prices and consider their low-cost Balos tour.

Private Boat to Balos Beach

balos beach
(Courtesy: Private boat tours to Balos)

You must walk along the Old Port of Chania to see how many boats offer boat trips to Balos.

These trips can be private or semi-private, varying from sailing boats to middle-range transportation to more exclusive luxury yachts and cruises.

It’s a good idea to visit the port after 9 p.m. when all the boats are back from Balos to negotiate a price directly with the crew.

You can also go to Balos on a private boat. This Balos and Gramvousa Private Sailing Trip can look expensive, but it offers a meal onboard and lets you choose how long you want to stay at each stop.

Besides, it accommodates about 9 passengers, so splitting the fee among your group members will make it more affordable.

And trust me, it’s totally worth it! Click here for more information

Private Transfer to Balos

balos beach
Road to Balos.

Private transfers are a good compromise if you prefer not to drive to Balos, although prices tend to be higher. Transfers also take care of your pick-up and drop-off.

If you travel in a group, you can share costs to make the transfer cheaper. This service usually does not have a fixed price. The farther from Balos the transfer begins, the higher the price will be.

Best Balos Tours

  • The most exclusive: Balos and Gramvousa Private Sailing Trip
    With this tour, you can visit the famous Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa Island, avoid the crowds on the ferry and enjoy a private cruise with your friends, and spend a day sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and hiking to the top of the Venetian fortress. And finally, Enjoy a Cretan meal on board with wine, beer, and soft drinks.
  • The fastest sailing option: Balos and Gramvousa Private Cruise
    Departing from Kissamos Port, you will first visit Balos Lagoon (arriving early allows you to avoid encountering hundreds of tourists from other cruises) and then go to the historic Gramvousa Island. The skipper will take you on an adventurous or relaxed ride (according to your preferences) and provide drinks and snacks on the way. 
balos beach
Daily cruise vs. private boats.
  • The popular daily cruise: Boat Cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa
    A full-day boat cruise from the Kissamos Port will visit Venetian Castle on Gramvousa Island and then swim in the clear waters of Balos Lagoon.
  • Road safari: Balos Lagoon & Falasarna Private 4WD Road Trip
    Private road trip with a local guide. Get picked up from your accommodation in the Chania area and visit the peninsula of Gramvousa. Drive on the coastal dirt road and then enjoy Falasarna Beach.

  • Balos path-adventure: Balos-Gramvousa Path Adventure Hike
    Walking is the best way to enjoy nature in Crete. Go hiking along an old path that connects Balos Lagoon to the Gramvousa Peninsula, hike and swim, and enjoy the company of an expert local guide.
balos beach
Private cruises to Balos.
  • Balos for Groups: Balos and Gramvousa Private RIB Cruise
    Ideal for a group of friends to split the price and enjoy a long day swimming at the pristine beaches of Gramvousa and Balos and handling your schedule.

>> Check out more tours, transfers from other regions, and unique experiences in Balos.

Hiking to Balos

balos beach
Path to Balos

Hiking from Kaliviani

Those keen on hiking and outdoor adventures can get to Balos walking (and even cycling) from the village of Kaliviani. However, the car traffic is heavy in summer, and you might swallow an undesired amount of dust from the road.

If you are going for this experience, remember to bring enough water for an 8 km hike. In summer, wear a hat and lots of sunscreen protection. During the walk, you’ll encounter goats and will be able to enjoy the magnificent landscape.

Vulture, Balos
balos beach

Keep your eyes on the ground for eventual rocks and terrain irregularities, but don’t forget to look up occasionally. You will undoubtedly spot some of the local vultures up in the sky.

One place worth a stop is the chapel of Agia Irini, a somewhat isolated little church on the edge of the cliff that overlooks the bay of Kissamos.

Hiking from Falasarna – Avoid it!

This alternative road is only for those who enjoy extreme adventures. The hike from Falasarna to Balos goes along the rugged western coast of the Gramvousa peninsula, with cliffs plummetting right into the sea.

It’s a very dangerous trail; the whole hike can last up to 8 hours. You should not venture on this path without the required resources, excellent hiking shoes, hiking poles, and plenty of water.

My instinct advises you to avoid the experience altogether unless you’re a very experienced hiker.
On the other hand, both locals and experts recommend facing this adventure only in groups and never as solo travelers.

Hiking to Cape Vouxa

Signpost Balos beach
Cape Vouxa, Balos

Cape Vouxa is the extreme tip of the Gramvousa Peninsula, and it’s possible to reach the area after a 1-2 hour walk along the eastern coast of the cape.

It’s not a dangerous trail, but it’s long and on irregular terrain, which can be tiring in the heat of the Cretan summer.

The path also starts in the parking area. Where the hike to the beach begins, there’s a second signpost with information about the path to Cape Vouxa. The trail is never too crowded, and it’s well-marked.

Upon arrival, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the channel that stands between the peninsula and the island of Agria Gramvousa.

The Landscape

Exotic beach, sand, water
The beautiful landscape in Balos.

The impressive shallow turquoise lagoon and the pristine sand beach have made Balos one of the must-visit places on Crete.

During sunset, the area feels abandoned once every ship is gone. It’s the most beautiful moment on the beach.

The Bay of Balos is one of the best-known pictures of Crete that you can find online, it has been published, posted, and shared so many times that it has become one of the most popular and overcrowded touristic spots on the island.

balos beach
Balos.

The lagoon is usually shallow, very clear, and warm. However, some black spots are on the sand and in the water near the shore. When I asked, locals told me that the black stains were from coal tar (they’re very slippery indeed).

Some people have described them as organic material that remains in the lagoon (and sometimes gets smelly).

balos beach
Balos.

When it’s windy, a combination of algae and the endemic sea species known as Neptune grass gathers on the sea bottom.

Cape Tigani

Beach, sea plants, boat
The beach and Cape Tigani.

Once on the beach, you can wade to the Tigani Peninsula and visit the small chapel of Agios Giorgos and a giant cave nearby. This cave has a tragic story dating back to the Ottoman invasion.

During this period, many women and children sought refuge from the invaders in the cave, but they were found and killed by the Turks.

balos beach
The church faces the small harbor of Balos.

You can also hike to the top of the formation in Tigani; it’s a relatively easy walk. If you’re into photography, this is a great place for panoramic and unusual shots of Balos Lagoon.

The Nature in Balos

balos beach
Thyme bushes, Balos Beach.

The protected biotope Balos-Gramvousa includes more than 400 different plants and shrubs, some of which are endemic to the island. The Anthemis glaberrima is one species that only grows in the area.

In the shallow waters, Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanic) shelters different varieties of marine life. Snorkeling is an excellent way to discover this habitat.

There are plenty of birds, such as the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).

Balos is another of Crete’s refuges for the Caretta Caretta turtle and the Mediterranean seal Monachus Monachus.

balos beach
Balos with the kids (who are no longer kids!)

Facilities on Balos Beach

balos beach
In case you have to go…

From mid-April until the end of October, a canteen sells water and snacks at the parking spot. There’s also a small bar on the beach.

Food options are limited and sell fast, so lunch packing is a good idea. You can rent umbrellas and sunbeds, hire boats, and use public toilets.

Sports and Activities

balos beach
Balos.

Unless you book a tour to Balos on a private luxury yacht, including jet skis or other amenities, no water sports facilities are available on the beach. Just a few pedal boats with water slides.

Where to Eat Near Balos Beach

balos beach
Kaliviani restaurants are on the village’s main road.

There’s just a tiny beach bar trying to serve all the visitors to the area. Options are restricted, and prices are what they are when there’s just one bar available. The best thing you can do is to bring all you need to spend the day. Include fruit and a lot of water, and have your picnic!

Another option is to buy a few sandwiches in one of the many bakery shops in Kissamos and bring fruit from home. On your way back, stop for an early dinner in Kaliviani village. My favorite place there is Aragathos.

Spend the Night Near Balos

Check this section if you want to spend the night in the nearby area…

Balos Beach Hotels

Kaliviani Hotel, Balos Crete
One of the best hotels closest to Balos (Courtesy of Kaliviani Traditional Hotel).

There are only a few places to stay near Balos, most hotels are far from the beach. For that reason, most people choose to stay in Chania and visit Balos on a day trip.

Others prefer to stay in Kissamos or Falasarna. Both towns are convenient and have plenty of accommodation options.

  • Kaliviani Traditional Hotel: This is a traditional guest house located at the tip of Cape Gramvoussa, in the traditional village Kaliviani, almost where the road for Balos begins. It offers basic accommodation with views of the bay of Kissamos Gulf.
    The hotel is 9 km from Balos Beach and 4 km from Kissamos.
    And if you’re getting ready to hike, they serve a traditional homemade breakfast that will fill you with the needed energy for the long walk!
    Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
  • Seaside Villa Balos – The villa is located in Kissamos, only meters from the local beaches along Kissamos Bay (such as Trachilos Beach and Viglia Beach).
    This is a big villa that has been recently renewed. Great for a family with kids and larger groups, it has three bedrooms, a seating and dining area, a patio with sea views, and a fully-equipped kitchen. Seaside Villa Balos is 1.9 km from the port of Kissamos.
    Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.

Camping in Balos Beach

balos beach
Balos Beach.

Greek laws forbid camping in areas other than officially designated camping sites. We do not encourage breaking the law in Greece or anywhere else! However, for the sake of precision, it’s fair to report that camping outdoors in Crete is a reality.

There are several beaches on the island (we’ve discussed the case of Kedrodasos here) where people spend the night illegally.

Remember that if you choose to stay overnight and want to avoid a fine, the only way to do so is with just a sleeping bag. If, during a police control, you’re sleeping overnight on the beach but do not have a tent, you won’t be fined.

It’s vital to know that if you camp in Balos, you should not leave traces behind you, collect your waste, even if organic, and not damage any species. Lighting a fire is also forbidden.

Best Time to Visit Balos Beach, Crete

balos beach
My last visit to Balos was in June 2023.

Weather vs. Crowds: Best Time to Go to Balos

Balos is one of the must-visit places on Crete during the summer, it’s one of the island’s most popular beaches and one of the prettiest.

The best weather to sail and enjoy a beach day in Balos is from late May until the end of September. However, I believe Balos is also fascinating off-season. Without the crowds, there’s a unique atmosphere that’s worth experiencing.

Cloudy or stormy skies create a great visual contrast with the turquoise waters and the white sand. If you love photography or just quietness, you will enjoy Balos a lot more in the fall. However, there are no cruises off-season, and hiking is a must.

When Balos Gets Windy

Balos boasts a privileged position as it is often protected by the winds. However, it can occasionally be windy, mostly in late spring and early fall.

The wind won’t be blowing as much as it does in Falassarna or Elafonisi, but if it happens, there’s not much you can do.

One mild solution is to seek a protected location to spend the day, the best-repaired spots are close to the shore on the Tigani peninsula.

When Balos Gets Smelly

Balos is mostly a lagoon, there’s little (sometimes none) water exchange with the sea. Therefore it’s sometimes smelly close to the shore.

This is because organic material gathers on the spot. Because the lagoon is so shallow and has a muddy structure, the sea bottom allows the proliferation of microorganisms. That explains the rather unpleasant smell on some days and in some areas.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. Try leaving the lagoon and getting closer to the open sea. This can reduce the perception of unpleasant smells.

Best Places to See Near Balos Beach, Crete

When visiting Balos, don’t miss a stop at some of these landmarks…

Imeri Gramvousa Island

balos beach
Imeri Gramvousa island.

The island of Imeri Gramvousa has gained a place in Crete’s history because, together with the islands of Spinalonga and Souda (also known as Aptera island, at the entrance of the port of Souda), it was the last Venetian outpost when Crete fell in the hands of the Ottoman empire.

The castle was one of the first areas to be liberated from the Turks (while the rest of Crete was freed from the Ottomans in 1898, Gramvousa was already free as early as 1825).

The castle of Gramvousa is a wonderful example of fortified architecture. It’s located on the island’s highest point, dating back to the end of the 16th century. Remember that to visit the castle, you must hike your way up, so wear comfortable shoes.

Falasarna Beach

Falassarna beach
Falassarna

The beach of Falasarna is probably one of the top beaches on the island, and it’s quite close to Balos.
Those who put Balos on their Crete itinerary usually stay in Falassarna since there’s a good choice of accommodation.

Falassarna is a tiny settlement with a wide beach, directly facing the west, with excellent wind conditions for water sports.

Known in Crete as one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset, Falassarna is famous for its laid-back atmosphere and great tavernas. Read my guide to Falassarna with recommendations of things to do in the area.

Ancient Falasarna

balos beach
Ancient Falasarna.

If you’re staying in Falassarna or exploring the west of Crete, visit the Archaeological Site of Ancient Falasarna.

Once a major trading center and important harbor, the city saw its greatest splendor and expansion during the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. To reach Ancient Falassarna, follow the main road out of the modern Falassarna.

Just a few meters before the entrance to the site, it’s possible to spot the Throne of Falassarna, a stone structure with the shape of a chair that archaeologists believe was used as a podium to give public speeches.

Entrance: free
Summer hours: (April-October) – Tuesdays to Sundays: 8.30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Winter hours: (November-March) – Tuesdays to Sundays: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The site is closed on Mondays all year round.
You might also want to read about other archaeological sites in Crete

Sfinari Beach

Sifnari beach Crete - sunset hour
Sunset hour, Sifnari.

Sfinari is a quiet seaside village about 30 km from Kissamos and 14 km south of Falasarna. It’s a great place for a day trip or to stop when reaching the southern beach of Elafonisi.

The landscape is rather green, with mountains at the back of the beautiful beach. The shore is a mix of sand and pebbles, with several trees for shade. When it’s not windy, it’s good for swimming and snorkeling.

We’ve several times said that Falasarna is a very quiet place. However, it’s also true that many arrive from Chania during the summer, and it’s not odd for Falasarna to be crowded; this won’t be the case in Sfinari.

Sfinari beach in Crete at sunset
Sunset by the sea, Sfinari.

For a great meal, I strongly recommend a stop at Captain Fidias, right in front of the beach. Here, choose one of their fresh fish dishes.

Finding accommodation in Sfinari is possible if you’re looking to relax. Even more lonely than Falasarna. Camping is also possible in the village.

You can also visit the secluded nearby Platanakia, another beach south of Sfinari, to get there, you need to hike across Cape Korakas.

Platanakia is one of the beaches in my list of Best Nudist Beaches on Crete.

Bus schedules Chania – Sfinari
You can reach Sfinari following the coastal road from Falassarna, but buses depart from Chania with Ktel, the local bus company.
Routes Chania-Kastelli and Kastelli-Kampos have the following departure times:
11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm, 4.30 pm, 5.30 pm, 6:30 pm, 8 pm, 9.45.
The journey is about 50 minutes.
Learn more about bus travel in Crete.

Kissamos

Square, Crete
Kissamos Square.

Known by the names of Kissamos or Kissamos-Kastelli this seaside city has a life of its own. It’s about 43 km from Chania town and one of Crete’s main towns in the west. There are several beaches to choose from and many hotels and rooms to rent in Kissamos.

There are also bars, tavernas, restaurants, shops, and every facility you would expect in a medium-sized village. In Kissamos, you can visit the small fishing port, the main square, and the Archaeological Museum.

balos beach
Archaeological Museum of Kissamos.

The museum has objects from the ancient ruins of Falassarna and Polyrrenia. It’s hosted in a beautiful Venetian-Turkish mansion.

The whole area of Kissamos is famous for its olive groves and grapes. About 2.5 km west of Kissamos, the port of Kavonisi has daily departures for Balos and Gramvousa Island. Some boats link Chania with the Peloponnese, including Kalamata and the island of Kythera.

Polyrrenia

balos beach
Ruins and Acropolis of Polyrrinia on top of the hill.

Known locally as Polirrinia or Polyrrhenia, this fortified ancient city was an important Hellenistic center in Crete and engaged in permanent fights with the ancient naval settlement of Falassarna. It was also a rival of Kydonia (today Chania) and Knossos.

Many coins minted by Polyrrenia and Falasarna are exhibited in the Kissamos Archaeological Museum.

Most of Polyrrinea’s surrounding fortification walls are still standing and the Byzantine fortification on top of the acropolis, where it’s also possible to see the rest of an early Christian basilica.

balos beach
Polyrrinia.

You can visit churches from several historical periods and an ancient temple from the 4th century BC, probably dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis.

The most impressive remains are the Roman towers, aqueduct tunnels, and cisterns that were used to collect water and distribute it to public fountains.

The archaeological site of Polyrrenia is about 8 km inland from Kissamos, and it can be accessed for free. You can reach Polyrrenia with the local bus from Kissamos.

Beyond Crete: Kythera and Antikythera from Kissamos Port

balos beach
Kythera.

Even with so much to do and see in Crete, you can plan an addition to the itinerary by visiting these two islands.

Also known by the names of Kythira and Antikythira, they belong to the region of the Peloponnese, and the smallest of them, Antikythera, is located halfway between Crete and Kythera.

Antikythera can be seen from the coast of Balos on a clear day. The island has less than 20 inhabitants during winter and reaches a population of up to 500 in summer. 

>> Check this official schedule for information about the ferry from Kissamos to Kythera.

Kythira
Bay of Kythira.

And you? Have you ever been to Balos? Let me know in the comments below!

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More resources to enhance Your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Chania

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these hotels in the city:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Discover Cars is my favorite engine for finding a rental car on the island.
  • Finally, to book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

📌 Pin for Later!
A Local’s Guide to Balos Beach

Tips to visit the dreamy beach of Balos, Crete

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

8 thoughts on “Your Insanely Helpful Guide to Balos Beach Crete! (Plus Great Insider’s Tips)

  1. Ronny en Nancy says:

    Prachtige documentatie, wij zijn zelf heel fervente aanhangers van Kreta gaan jaarlijks minimum 2x en proberen iedere keer iets nieuws te ontdekken.
    Het zal ons zeker in staat stellen om onze kennis van dit prachtige eiland te vergroten.

    [automatically translated:
    Beautiful documentation, we ourselves are very ardent supporters of Crete go at least twice a year and try to discover something new every time.
    It will certainly enable us to increase our knowledge of this beautiful island.]

    • Gabi says:

      thanks a lot for writing here your opinion and for pinning this for future reference, I hope you can make it here and use this guide!

  2. Sujenne says:

    Wauw ! This is an amazing insiders guide! If something goes wrong after using this guide than I need to check myself ! Amazing. Putting this in my luggage next year May ! Thanks.

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