Planning to visit west Crete and looking for things to do in Kissamos? You’re at the right place! The small town of Kissamos, also known as Kissamos-Kastelli is a must-go destination in Crete if you’re taking the ferry to Balos Beach. Balos’ daily cruises depart from Kavousi, the small port of Kissamos. Other than these day-trippers, the area is ideal for a tranquil holiday. It’s not super crowded, there are a few good beaches as well as interesting attractions that you might want to check out… Read on and discover what to do in Kissamos!
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What to Do in Kissamos, Crete
If you’re enjoying your vacation in the tranquil coastal town of Kissamos, chances are that you will be spending time relaxing, going to the beach, and eating delicious local food… not much more. However, there are a few places you can check in the nearby area, these are the ones I suggest you explore.
Places to See in Kissamos
Archaeological Museum of Kissamos
Probably the most important place to visit in Kissamos is its Archaeological Museum, it is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the ruins of Ancient Phalassarna, an important excavated site near Falasarna Beach. You can easily visit both the museum and the site on the same day since both places are located not more than a few kilometers away from each other.
Before entering the museum take a look at the facade of the building, a fantastic Venetian-Turkish building with a facade made of stone and an arched entrance, and two staircases over the portico. The building is an important monument also known as the headquarters of the town (Dikitirio).
The exhibition portrays the history of the district with collections spanning from the Prehistoric period through Early Christianity. Even if you are not fond of museums, this one is easy to visit and appreciate, reasonably didactic for children, and it’s is also quite small, you can probably see the best of it in under an hour.
The ground floor presents artifacts belonging to different cities of Crete (Polyrrhenia, Ancient Phalassarna, Drapanias), while the upper floor is devoted to the city of Kissamos, with objects dating mostly from the Roman period, overshadowed by the Minoan era.
The most beautiful thing to check out is some unique mosaic floors are belonging to important urban villas. The biggest of them depicts a magnificent allegory of Dionysus, but there is also a smaller one, incredibly well-preserved that features a unique combination of the four seasons with three female figures representing Summer, Winter, and Spring.
Finally, there is a fantastic collection of coins and jewelry which stands as an impressive snapshot of the economic importance of the area.
Details about the Archaeological Museum of Kissamos
Location: Stratigou Tzanakaki Square, steps from the center of Kissamos
Opening hours: Daily from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm – Closed on Tuesdays.
Entrance ticket: €2 (reduced ticket: €1)
Note that there is also a shared ticket that also includes access to the New Archaeological Museum of Chania, the Byzantine Collection of Chania, the Archaeological Museum of Kisssamos, and the Archaeological Site of Aptera. This ticket is valid for 3 days and it costs €6 (reduced: €3)
Agios Ioannis Church
This beautiful and small church is situated a little out of Kissamos and it was built in proximity of a cave. Known as Agios Ioannis (or Saint John), you will find the small sanctuary on the west side of Kissamos, following the road that leads to the port.
The building is covered in white stones and it has two modest bell towers and a low, but very distinctive, red-tiled dome. The gorgeous church has been built right inside next to the rocks, right inside a cave, also known as Agios Ioannis Cave.
It is possible to visit the church to check the different small wood icons. The church features black and white tiled floors, while the most beautiful feature is the impressive walls of the rock right behind the altar. The lit candles right next to the rock create a beautiful and mystic atmosphere.
Once you have visited the church, you can also access the opposite part of the cave (the entrance is well marked and it has a small gate with flower pots), here you will find very unique icons made in cut-out wood and painted in bright colors and gold.
It is easy to get to the area by car and there is enough parking space. If you want, you can also walk along the low tunnel that leads to a small and solitary beach.
This ancient Dorian settlement was founded back in the seventh century BC in the area known as Cape Koutri, in the Gramvousa Peninsula. The place stands about 18 km from Kissamos, right next to Falasarna Beach.
The city-state of Phalassarna was a major trading and naval center controlling the sea routes towards northern Africa and Italy. The thriving community was ruled by laws and a political system while it was an important commercial and economic center with a founding basis on sea navigation.
As time went by, Phalasarna became an important naval power, and the city was protected with fortified walls and military buildings.
The city’s main feature was an impressive closed harbor carved out of a lagoon, surrounded by quays and defensive towers, featuring a channel that connected the port to the sea, making it particularly safe.
The city of Phalasarna flourished during the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., the area had been inhabited since the early Minoan period but it prospered and flourished thanks to its ideal position and a direct connection with the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Among the activities that helped the economic rise of Phalasarna were piracy and warfare.
The inhabitants were known for being fierce warriors and military leaders. All this came to an end when the Romans invaded and destroyed the city in 69 B.C.
However, the real reason for the decline of Ancien Phalasarna was a very destructive earthquake that took place back in 365 A.D. Its most important result implied the elevation of the west coast of Crete by about 6,6 meters, thus making the port receed from the coast.
You can also download the Ancient Phalasarna App before the visit to learn much much more… check this out:
(only available for iOS)
With this free app, you can move around the archaeological site with your iPhone or iPad and explore the current ruins and remains and compare with their real-time 3D reconstructions.
The entrance is free (donations are accepted). In summer (from April to October), the site is open from 8.30 am to 7 pm. In winter (from November to March), Ancient Phalasarna is open from 8 am to 3 pm (bear in mind that on Mondays, the opening hours are from 12 pm to 7 pm).
Known locally as Polirrinia and also as Polyrrhenia, this fortified ancient city was an important Hellenistic center in Crete, engaged in permanent fights with the ancient naval settlement of Phalasarna.
It was also a rival of Kydonia (today Chania) and the city of Knossos. Many coins minted by Polyrrenia and Ancien Phalasarna can now be seen in the coin exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Kissamos.
Most of Polyrrinia’s surrounding fortification walls are still standing as well as the ruins of a Byzantine fort on top of the acropolis, where it’s also possible to see the rest of an early Christian basilica.
When checking out the area, you can visit an ancient temple dating from the 4th century BC, probably dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. The most impressive ruins in Polyrrinia are the Roman towers, the aqueduct tunnels, and cisterns that were used to collect rain water which then was distributed to public fountains.
The open-air, archaeological site of Polyrrenia is about 8 km inland from Kissamos and it can be accessed for free. You can reach Polyrrenia also with the local bus from Kissamos.
Other Places to Visit near Kissamos
Balos Beach and Lagoon
One of the most visited places on the island, the magnificent Balos Beach and Lagoon, is a short drive from Kissamos. tourists venture on this road to visit this spectacular beach. Two are the popular ways to get there, driving or by boat.
Read everything there is to know about Balos in this Balos Beach and Lagoon guide.
You can drive from Kissamos (bound to the west) until the small village of Kaliviani and from there, you just need to keep driving to the Gramvousa peninsula until you reach the parking spot and then start hiking down to the beach.
Alternatively, you can get to Balos by boat, which departs from Kavousi, a small port about 10 minutes from the center of Kissamos. When you choose to visit Balos that way, you will also sail to Imeri Gramvousa island and discover the gorgeous vistas of the area.
Kissamos Port to Balos Beach
You can book your Balos Day Cruise at the port and online, which is probably better in summer when tickets sell fast.
Falasarna Beach is made of different beaches located along a wide bay that you can choose according to the kind of place you enjoy the most. It is located about 20 minutes west of Kissamos and it is easy to visit by car.
The small village has a relaxing atmosphere, there are just a few studios and small family-run hotels, a couple of taverns, and not much more. It’s an ideal destination for water sports or to just simply enjoy time by the sea.
On the northern part f the Bay of Falasarna, you will find the Small Beach or Petalida, which is about 400 km long and the most secluded of all the beaches in the bay, with rocky formations on the fine sand beach, this spot is popular among campers and naturists.
Pachia Ammos or Falasarna Big Beach is a beautiful long golden sand beach with organized facilities, including lounges and umbrellas, several beach bars, and sports. There is a free parking area above the beach.
It’s easy to avoid the crowds in Falasarna because the beach is really big. Therefore, despite being the area extremely popular among tourists during the whole season, you can always find a secluded place to stay.
The bay of Chania and the bay of Kissamos are divided by the impressive Rodopou Peninsula, one of the less inhabited places in Crete and hosting some unique, solitary beaches. It is divided into the southern area, closer to the National Road, where most people live.
There are paved roads up to the small village and beach of Afrata and from here, the only way to get to the northern portion of the peninsula is by boat or driving a dirt road. The main village at the base of the cape is Kolymbari.
The north of the Peninsula is completely secluded, there are just a few shepherds and no inhabited centers. The most beautiful place to check in the area is the fantastic beach of Menies, with pristine turquoise waters and soft sand. There is also a famous Roman sanctuary and some solitary chapels
Gorges Near Kissamos
Known as Sirikari or Polyrrinia Gorge, this ravine is located about 6 km from Kissamos, it runs between the small village of Sirikari and the ancient settlement of Polyrrinia.
The walk is not complex, and quite short (about 6 km), featuring a gorgeous landscape made of chestnuts (one of the most common trees in the area) and plane trees. It is possible to hike the gorge and the trail takes about 3 hours.
One of the most impressive gorges in West Crete is Topolia, about 11 km from Kissamos (a 20-minute drive). The gorge runs along the road leading to Elafonisi via the small town of Elos, a village better known for its unique chestnut forest.
The gorge starts near the village of Stroules, about 450 meters a.s.l., to finishes in the village of Topolia, where the rock walls are high and very steep. This place is home to several wild birds, such as vultures and eagles. The canyon is crossed by the river Tyflos.
Its whole length is 3 km, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to hike, and there’s water until Spring.
Beaches in the Gulf of Kissamos
This is the easternmost beach on the gulf of Kissamos, about 30 km from Chania and 6 km from the town of Kissamos.It is a popular beach among those staying at the local camping in the area (you can read more about camping in Crete here).
Nopigia is a small village at the western base of Cape Rodopou, the local village features a sandy beach with shallow waters and there are organized facilities. As you reach the next village towards the west, Drapanias, the beach becomes pebblier with a few rocks on the coast.
Located about 5 km east of Kissamos, the beach is full of pocks and pebbles and not very wide. There are a few hotels in the area that provide the possibility of renting beach umbrellas. The beach area is about 2-km long, but not very wide. The sea here is shallow but tends to be wavy due to the northern winds. In the area, there are also a few bars and tavernas, as well as two different camping sites.
Right next to Drapanias and still moving west towards the town of Kissamos, Korfalonas is a village and beach with sand and pebbles and shallow waters, sharing the same characteristics as Drapanias, with some windy days during the season.
There are a few facilities in this tranquil beach for those who want to rent an umbrella and loungers. There are also a few hotels and restaurants in the area too.
Livadia is a popular beach in Kissamos, right next to Korfalonas Beach. It is a long stretch of shore that begins right next to Korfalonas and extends for about 2 km, to end by the stadium of Kissamos. Like all the beaches along the Gulf of Kisssamos features coarse sand and pebbles while the northern winds are a common occurrence.
There are not many organized structures or turirst facilities, just a few beach bars and tavernas that offer umbrellas for rent.
Telonio is a popular beach in the area as it is less than one kilometer from the center of Kissamos village. The shore runs from the end of Livadia Beach until the main pedestrian street in the town.
The beach features a busy seaside promenade with restaurants and cafés. The shore combines sand and pebbles, it is shallow but also windy, therefore the sea is not often calm.
Being the most important and popular beach in Kissamos does not necessarily mean that the place is overcrowded. On the contrary, Mavros Molos is a popular but quiet shore right next to the center of Kissamos with all the necessary organized structures for a whole day in the area.
The long bay is the main beach of Kissamos. It has vast areas of fine sand and shallow water, two traits that make it perfect for families with kids. The beach is close to dozens of bars and restaurants, while it is also easy to find affordable accommodation.
The beach is well-organized. It has umbrellas and sunbeds for rent, although some trees by the beach can also offer natural shade for free! Snorkeling is a popular thing to do in the area.
I personally thing that this is the prettiest beach in the Bay of Kissamos. It is situated 3 km northwest of the village (about 38km from Chania). The 2-kilometer long shore features a semicircular bay with a few interesting caves, coarse sand with pebbles and crystal clear waters. There is not much organization, however it is a perfect destination for a relaxing time by the sea.
Where to Eat: Best Restaurants in Kissamos
Maria Beach Restaurant: The place is located right by the sea, on the beach of Mavros Molos, only steps from the center of Kissamos. The restaurant features fresh dishes of traditional Cretan and Greek cuisine and prices are affordable. The setting is incredibly romantic! The restaurant is vegetarian and vegan friendly too.
Stelios & Katina: This restaurant also in Mavros Molos is known for serving fresh fish and Mediterranean dishes. It is possible to go for a quick dish of souvlaki at midday or to enjoy a full meal intheevening as well.
Hotels in Kissamos
There is a wide range of hotels you can book in Kissamos, these are the ones I suggest you to check out.
Anemomili Village – The hotel is about 5 minutes from the beach in the area of Drapanias, only 15 minutes from the center of Kissamos and 35 km from the center of Chania. The studios and apartments are set around a large outdoor swimming pool with eco-cleaning system and a sun terrace. The rooms have a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a patio or a sea-view balcony.
The village also features a children’s playground, as well as a pool bar serving snacks and refreshing drinks. The property organizes fishing trips and excursions in the Gulf of Kissamos with a private speedboat upon request.
Clcik here for more information and the latest prices.
Kissamos Hotel – This hotel is less than 10 minutes from the beach. It features spacious rooms with views of the Gulf of Kissamos or the surrounding hillsides with olive trees and grapevines.
The hotel is only 200 meters from the center of Kissamos, conveniently close to the best spots to visit in west Crete, including Falasarna, Polyrinia, the fortress on the tiny island of Gramvoussa, Sfinari, Elafonisi and many other sites. Click here for more information and the latest prices.
Maria Beach Hotel – This place is only steps from sandy and organized beach and about 600 meters from the center of Kissamos Town. It boasts a traditional, beachfront restaurant with an unlimited sea-view terrace and self-catering accommodation with kitchen, dining area, and a balcony or patio.
Buffet breakfast is prepared each morning and can be enjoyed on the beach front terrace, offering panoramic views of Kissamos Bay. The modernly decorated restaurant and bar serves traditional Cretan cuisine and refreshing drinks. Free sunbeds and umbrellas are provided at the beach area.
Click here for more information and the latest prices.
You might also want to read: Best Hotels in Chania, Crete.
All in all, Kissamos is a great alternative if you want to stay near Chania, but not right in the center of town. The place offers also good access to three of the top beaches in Crete, it is fairly close both to Balos and Falassarna, and it’s also minutes from the road that takes you south to Elafonisi.
Are you planning to spend your holidays in Kissamos?
Let me know in the comments below!
You might also want to read these articles about Crete
– How Many Days in Crete? Discover How Much Time You *Really* Need on the Island! – A guide to learning how much time you need on Crete.
– Best Party Hotels in Malia, Crete – A guide to the best accommodation near the Malia Strip.
– 5 Days In Crete Itinerary – An itinerary to visit the best of Chania, Rethymnon, and Heraklion.
– Water Sports in Crete – A guide to the best sea activities.
– Where to Stay in Crete for History and Culture (Best Areas + Brief Hotel Guide) – Accommodation guide for those interested in cultural activities in Crete.
GET READY FOR CRETE!
– Use Ferryhopper and Skyscanner for the best ticket rates.
– Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.
– Compare car rental prices with Discover Cars.
– Check the best tours with GetYourGuide.
– Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.
– Pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or get my digital guide to Chania.
Pin this Guide for Later: Best Things to Do in Kissamos
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.