Bay of Balos in Crete, How to get there by car

Balos Lagoon in Crete – the meeting point of the three seas

If you are going to Greece to the island of Crete, be sure to visit the confluence of three seas – the Bay of Balos, without it acquaintance with the beauty of Crete will be incomplete. Bay of Balos attracts tourists with the clearest beaches of the unique lagoon, pristine nature and postcard views, worthy of the cover of National Geographic. We’ve gathered for you all the information you need to visit this paradise.

Bay of Balos.

Where is the Bay

The location of this unique lagoon in Greece is on the island of Crete. Balos Bay lies on the west coast of the narrow, blade-like peninsula of Gramvousa, stretching northwards from the western tip of Crete. The closest settlements are the village of Kaliviani and the town of Kissamos, on the bay of the same name on the northwest coast of the island. The distance to the nearest large town of Chania is around 50km.

Bay features

On the west bay of Balos is bordered by Tigani. It is a rocky ridge, the top of which is about 120 m high. At the entrance of the bay is an uninhabited rocky island Imeri Gramvousa. These natural barriers protect the bay from winds and storm waves, the sea here is mostly calm.

The shore and the bottom of the bay are covered with white sand

The shore and the bottom of the bay are covered in white sand with small particles of shells, giving the beach a pinkish color. The water in the bay strikes with a wealth of colors, replacing each other. Here you can count up to 17 different shades of blue and green, making the lagoon Balos in the photo looks very picturesque. This is one of the most beautiful places not only of Crete, but of the whole Greece.

Such an unusual color of the water is due to the fact that near the bay is the boundary of the three seas: the Aegean, Libyan and Ionian. The waters of different temperature and chemical composition, mixing together, reflect the blue of the sky in different ways, creating a unique game of colors of the water surface.

But the main feature that makes this beach unique is the lagoon of Balos, which is located in the coastal part of the bay. Cape Tigani in Crete, which separates the bay, is connected with the peninsula by two sandy spits. Between the two spits a shallow lagoon is formed, a unique natural pool, protected from the elements. There is a channel in one of the spits that connects the lagoon to the sea at high tide.

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Balos lagoon in Crete

Due to shallow depth, the transparent water of the lagoon warms up well, and natural isolation from sea waves ensures constant calm in its area. This combined with pure white sand beach makes the lagoon an ideal place for bathing children. Adults can have lots of fun on the beach at this natural pool and if you want, you can find deep places for swimming.

Rest in the lagoon

To preserve the natural uniqueness and purity of the bay of Balos, she was given the status of reserve. The entire surrounding area, including beaches, is under the protection of environmental organizations, so the beach infrastructure is very modest.

Balos beach in Crete

The beach of Balos in Crete offers only the rental of sun loungers and umbrellas, which are scarce at times of tourist influx. There is no natural shade on the beach, so it is advisable to bring an umbrella. There is only one small café at the beach, near the parking lot, to which you have to walk uphill for at least 2 km.

Balos beach does not offer any entertainment, but they are not needed. They come here to enjoy bathing in the warm azure waters of the lagoon, to capture in the memory and in photos of pristine beauty of exotic nature. This is the best vacation for relaxation and peace.

Swimming at Balos beach

Lovers of excursions in the bay is also something to do. You can walk around the Cape Tigani and see the chapel of St. Nicholas. Climbing to the upper observation deck, you can admire the picturesque panorama of the bay from a bird’s-eye view and take great pictures.

The Venetian Fortress

On Imeri Gramvousa island, tourists have the chance to see an old Venetian fortress as well as ruins of buildings erected in the 18th and 19th centuries by Cretan pirates and rebels against the Turkish invaders.

How to get there by sea

Port Kisamos

The port of Kissamos is the starting point for the ferry to Balos Bay, located 3.5 km from the homonymous settlement. Even closer to the port is the village of Trahilos (0,5 km), so if you want to get to the port on your own, buy a ticket to Trahilos. From Chania you can get to Trahilos by bus, travel time is about 1 hour and the ticket price is around €6-7.

If you plan to get to Trahilos on your own, you’ll have to take into consideration that the boats sail only during the season and only in the morning, starting at 10 o’clock. Tickets start at €27 and take approximately one hour. The boat trip usually includes a tour of the island Imeri Gramvousa.

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Balos Lagoon Excursion

The best way to visit the lagoon Balos in Crete, Greece, is to book a trip with a tour operator. The trip includes:

  • Transportation by bus from the hotel to the port of Kisamos;
  • Voyage to Balos;
  • sightseeing program;
  • beach vacation;
  • Return by sea to the port of Kisamos;
  • Bus transfer to your hotel.

This excursion usually lasts a full day. The cost will depend on the location of your stay, tour operator rates, and the tour program. The minimum price is from € 50. In Cyprus towns, too far from Kisamos (Heraklion and beyond) such excursions are not offered.

You can rent a boat

For wealthy people, you can rent a boat and go to the bay of Balos (Greece), without reference to the timetable of sea voyages. The cost of renting a boat from € 150. For lovers of privacy is a great opportunity to visit the bay before the arrival of tourists who arrive by boat. Among the disadvantages of the trip by sea is the lack of spectacular views of the bay, which opens when approaching it from the mountain. But once you arrive at the beach, you can climb up to the observation deck of Cape Tigani and catch up.

How to get there by land

The way to Balos Lagoon on Crete by land, as well as by sea, starts from the town of Kissamos or from the neighboring village of Trahilos. If you go out of season or in the afternoon, the overland trip is the only way to get to the lagoon, apart from the expensive boat rental. The road to the bay goes through the small village of Kaliviani.

Road

The final stop in this case will be the parking lot above Balos, from which you have to walk another 2 km down to the beach. Near the parking lot is the only cafe on the territory of the reserve. You can reach the parking lot by renting a car or ordering a cab, but not every driver will agree to go there. Besides in the second case you are likely to come back on foot, and it is about 12 km down the hill. There is another option – to book an individual tour by car through a travel agency, which will cost a lot.

Signpost at the cafe

The road to Balos is not long – about 12 km, but it is unpaved and leads uphill, so the trip takes at least half an hour. The driver is required to be very careful, because if the rented car is damaged on the dirt road, it won’t be considered as an insurance case.

The ride from the beach back to the parking lot is uphill and locals often offer mules and donkeys for a lift starting at €2.

The prices on the page are for March 2019.

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Helpful tips

Don't forget your sunscreen

  1. If your goal is photos of beautiful views, you need to go up to the observation deck before 10 am. Later in the day, the position of the sun will not allow for high quality photos. Boats start running from 10.00, so you have to go to the bay of Balos (Crete) for photos by car or by renting a boat.
  2. When you go on holiday don’t forget the sunscreen, umbrella, drinks, hats, food and anything else you might need. You won’t be able to buy anything on the lagoon beach. Some of the food and drinks you can buy only at the café in the parking lot or at the boat buffet on the trip by sea.
  3. When planning a trip by car to Balos (Crete), it is recommended to rent an off-road vehicle, because there is a risk to damage the bottom of a normal car and to puncture the tires with sharp stones.
  4. On dirt road do not drive more than 15-20 km/hour, do not stay close to the rocks, there are many recent rocks with sharp edges. The width of the dirt track is wide enough for two cars to easily pass each other.
  5. The parking area above the bay is small and may be empty by midday, so it is advisable to arrive early in the morning to avoid leaving your car on the road.

Balos Bay is one of the amazing places of our planet, if you are lucky enough to vacation in western Crete, do not miss the opportunity to visit this exotic lagoon.

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Balos Bay: By Car or by Boat or by Bus?

The islands of Gramvousa and the lagoon of Balos are known throughout Greece: there is no other lagoon of such beauty in any part of Hellas. The bay attracts tourists from all over Europe, and everyone who is going to vacation in Crete, surely read about this place and most likely even planned to visit it. At least – looking for how to get to Balos on your own or with an organized tour.

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“The junction of the three seas” in Crete is the name by which the western tip of our island is known. The lagoon has received this name absolutely justifiably – here is indeed the confluence of the three seas: the Libyan, the Cretan and the Ionian. As for the color of the water in the bay, depending on the season and time of day there are 12 to 17 different shades of blue, blue and turquoise! However, it’s easy to lose count here – the beauty is mesmerizing.

View of Balos lagoon from Crete

The lagoon is far from the tourist areas, but true connoisseurs of natural beauty are not intimidated by the remoteness of this place. Amazing scenery, picturesque panoramas, quiet lagoon and a great beach attracts numerous tours, as well as independent travelers who try to get to the lagoon Balos even from the easternmost parts of the island and go on their own way literally three hundred kilometers! Well, it’s definitely worth it. For example, a few years ago one of our guests during this tour proposed to his girlfriend – right in the lagoon Balos (see the second photo below or his review of the trip):

Let’s take a closer look at both options for this trip and try to find the pros in each of them: would it be better to get to the Balos Lagoon on your own or go to this region with an organized group?

Baseline: Before going to the lagoon Balos

For example, we are vacationing alone practically in the center of Crete in the area of Heraklion. Our hotel is located in the resort of Hersonissos, a very popular place, so we will be interested in a trip from Hersonissos to the bay of Balos. There is a corresponding excursion from here, and you can also easily rent a car here. In both cases, we will travel along the entire north coast. Also, we learned how much it costs to tour the bay of Balos from the operator, and then finally convinced of the need to decide this issue independently.

The first and most important point: you can get to the Bay of Balos in at least two ways. The first is completely overland and can be done by rental car (you must be over 21 years old and have driving experience), quad bike or motorcycle. The second way is to go by sea from Kissamos town, from the port of which there are regular ships and ferries. How to get to Kissamos, everyone decides for himself: you can take a shuttle bus, or you can take a rental car. This point, we have covered in detail in the article about Gramvous.

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The Northern coast of Crete is nearly 350 kilometers long and the second important point is that the road can be very long. For example to get to Balos Bay from Hersonissos you will have to drive over 210 km and for those coming from Agios Nikolaos or Ierapetra the distance will be 250 and 280 km respectively! In other words, it is not close at all. Lucky for those who vacation in the west. So, from Rethymnon to Balos it is about 100km, and from Chania to the lagoon it is less than 50km. Let’s go!

We want to drive to Balos by ourselves: the whole way from and to

For the starting point to the lagoon, which we will have to reach anyway, we should take the town of Kastelli Kissamos. Here we have two options: either to leave the car in the port and drive to the lagoon by ferry or to continue by car.

Admittedly, if the rules are correct, there is only one way – the ferry. This is due to the fact that none of the rentals in Crete do not allow to drive a car to Balos, which is sometimes even written in bold letters in the contracts. The reason is simple: there is no road to the lagoon! Or rather, through the mountains to it leads long and very uneven dirt road, which in some places there are steep slopes and rises, tight turns, rocks and very sharp stones. It does not vary from year to year – the condition of the dirt road varies depending on the weather (e.g. whether there were rains and strong winds in winter, rockslides, etc.). The road leads to a conditional parking lot, from which the hiking trail starts downhill.

No insurance covers off-road driving.

Some tourists disregard the terms of the contract and insurance and find out how to get to Balos by car and boldly hit the road. If you’re lucky (and give a good wash of the car after the trip), then rent a car can hardly know that the car went to Balos, but what happens – the renter shall be fully financially responsible for damages. Let’s list the most common ones.

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