Balos Beach Crete is one of the best beaches in Crete, and for that matter, Greece, the Mediterranean, Europe and the world. You’ll see tours to Balos advertised at every travel agency between there and Crete capital Heraklion, and for once, the hype is absolutely justified. Balos Bay is absolutely breathtaking.
Visiting Balos is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Crete. Along with nearby Chania beaches at Falassarna and Elafonissi, it’s one of the highlights of any Crete holidays. It’s in a wild, remote area, and one of the best places in Crete to visit, hands down. It’s so spectacular that you may want to consider basing your decision on where to stay in Crete in allowing some time to get there.
So what do you need to do to get to Balos Beach Greece? How long do you need at this stunning Crete lagoon? Read on for everything you need to know about one of the best Crete travel experiences of all.
BALOS BEACH CRETE – IN A NUTSHELL
Balos beach and lagoon are located between mainland Crete and Cape Tigani
It is one of the best beaches in Europe, and indeed, one of the best beaches in the world
It’s in the far north-west of Crete island, an hour’s boat ride from the nearest port at Kissamos in Chania province
Many Balos cruises also visit Gramvousa Beach – another of the most stunning Crete beaches
The boat to Balos beach moors a five-minute walk from Balos lagoon and beach
The water in the lagoon area is mostly very shallow, ideal for kids to paddle and splash in
The seaward (north) side of the beach has the deeper water, with waves being swept towards the shore – it’s great water for swimming
If you want to get the best views of Balos beach, you need to climb the steep footpath up the mountain towards the car park – the classic high view over the sands and Cape Tigani is near the top of the walk
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BALOS, CRETE?
We were lucky to stay in Crete for several months, over the peak summer season into the October shoulder season and beyond.
During this time we made friends with numerous locals, all of whom said the same thing – avoid Balos in the July and August peak season. We were advised that it was far better to visit in October, when Balos lagoon beach would be far less crowded. We followed this advice, visiting in mid-October.
Even then, the Balos boat trip was pretty busy, with at least 300 passengers on board. Most of them made a beeline for the ‘main’ beach, with the sand facing the sea just after the narrow inlet to the lagoon. An isolated patch of paradise it was not.
The Balos ferry runs for six months of the year, from the beginning of May to the end of October. The water is usually too cold to swim in until late June, sometimes even early July. The Crete sea swimming season does, however, last until the end of October. On balance, this is the time we’d recommend visiting Balos beach as you can enjoy some time in the crystal-clear turquoise water without the full-blown summer crowds.
BALOS BEACH FACILITIES
As it’s a remote beach, facilities at Balos beach are fairly sparse.
There is a stock of sunbeds and umbrellas which would probably sell out during the high season. There is also the option of hiring an umbrella for 4 euros (plus a 5 euro deposit) from on board the ferry.
Otherwise, there is a small WC block on the mainland (east) side of the beach, a short walk up the hill.
You can also hire a huge swan or flamingo pedalo if you so wish – these are available on the busiest section of the beach, close to all the umbrellas and sun beds.
There are also a couple of small cafes and snack bars just above the beach on the mainland side.
BALOS TRAVEL – THE KISSAMOS TO BALOS FERRY
The boat to Balos beach departs from Kissamos each day during season. The ferry, Gramvousa, is operated by Cretan Daily Cruises.
It’s one of the best boat trips in Crete, taking you around a rugged peninsula into the open sea. On some days you stop at gorgeous Gramvousa Island for an hour or two, giving you time to see the amazing beach and the Venetian Gramvousa Castle. The journey to Gramvousa takes an hour.
After the Gramvousa stop, it’s a 15-minute trip across the water to the mooring for Balos Greece.
Most of the Balos tours booked around Crete use this boat – it has a 1200 passenger capacity. The tour guides even have a few tables to themselves!
The fares in 2019 were 27 euros for adults, and 13 euros for under-12s.
There is also a Falassarna to Balos ferry during the season. – this normally ends around mid-October.
GETTING TO BALOS BEACH BY CAR
The road to Balos Beach is a narrow dirt road that is meant to be used by four-wheel drive vehicles only. It’s a 12 km ride from Kissamos port to the Balos Beach parking area, which is high above the beach.
The Balos Beach road is also narrow in places and precarious, with a big drop into the sea and some stretches with no protection against this.
We didn’t opt to drive there, so didn’t use the road, preferring the Kissamos to Balos ferry instead.
However, we could see the road from the sea. We were surprised to see that most of the vehicles using the road were small hire cars. We looked extensively into car hire in Crete. And the terms were similar in many places: you’re not meant to go off road (onto dirt tracks like this). If you do your insurance may be void.
WALKING TO BALOS BEACH
You can also hike to Balos beach. There are two routes – one from Ancient Falassarna, 9 km (6 miles) to the south, and the other from Kalyviani, next to Kissamos harbour.
I haven’t attempted either, though had pencilled in a day to do the walk up from Falassarna. Locals described it to me as very difficult, and if I’m ever in the area again, I’ll be doing it, for sure. Both are around 9-10 km in length, with some hard, rocky terrain. You’d need to be well-prepared, with adequate water, food, sunscreen and mobile charge.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.