Balos Beach – All you need to know [boat, tour, map and weather]
Both Balos Beach and Balos Lagoon are absolutely uniquely amazing and this is something you may already know.
In this guide, you will find all the practical information to organise your day trip, either joining a tour or driving yourself.
Everything you need to know about the boat, the road, the maps and so much more.
But now let’s get into it and remember to leave a comment if you need more information
You can read also
- Top-rated places to visit in Crete [including some hidden gems]
- Where to stay in Crete (best areas and worst areas)
- Best itineraries of Crete, from 3 days to a 2 weeks stay (with maps and daily plans)
- The Samaria Gorge Hike – All you need to know
- Spinalonga Tour – the island, the beach, the boat trip, a map and all you need to know for this trip
- Elafonisi Beach – The practical Guide
Balos Beach and Lagoon – In a nutshell
Balos Beach: Balos Beach is a small sand isthmus that connects Crete mainland to the Tigani Island. South of the beach is the shallow turquoise lagoon, on the north side, you have instead a lovely blue bay, still quite shallow and ideal for small kids too. There are a few organised sunbeds and beach umbrellas but they tend to be booked out by 10-10:30am or even earlier. The beach is around 10-15 minutes walk from the jetty and 25 minutes from the parking on top of the mountain behind (see the map below for a better view).
Balos Lagoon: Absolutely stunning, especially when you see it from the top of the mountain, just below the parking area. A small part of the beach on the east side of the lagoon is organised with a few sunbeds and beach umbrellas.
Gramvousa Island: It is visited as part of the boat tour (see map below) on the way to or on the way back from Balos Beach. It’s not accessible otherwise. The small beach has crystal clear water, absolutely gorgeous, however, access is a bit challenging over slippery rocks. You have the option also to hike up to the fascinating Venetian fortress on top of the hill (access is 1 Euro). From there you have a 360 degrees view up to Balos Beach. If you are into snorkelling and you have your gear then you should check out the shipwreck off the beach
Boat: It departs from the Kissamos Pier, around 3km from the small town of Kissamos (more on it later). On board you can find food and drinks at a reasonable price and quality too. The boats can get quite full, especially in July and August, but it’s somehow expected considering the popularity of Balos Beach. The biggest difference between getting a boat trip and driving yourself is that in the second case you can spend as much time as you want at the beach, the whole day if you want. With the boat, you will visit also Gramvousa Island (2 hours stay) and the time in Balos is limited to usually 3 hours. The boat is a better option if you want more variation.
Boat times: They depart three times a day, at around 10:20am, 10:40 and 12:30. Try to be there at least 20-30minutes before to pick up the tickets. They are back between 5:30pm and 7:30pm
Road: you can easily google it based on where you stay. The last 8km into the peninsula are on a challenging dirt road. There is also a 1Euro/person Park Entrance ticket to pay at the station. The road is mostly unsealed, with potholes and rocks around. There are a few sections in cement (it was a common material used in Greece many years ago). You will end up most probably behind other vehicles as everyone drives very carefully. I suggest you check the contract if you have a rented car. Usually, cars are not allowed to drive off-road and quite often the agencies write on the contract “(No Balos)”. Basically you are on your own without any insurance.
Car Parking: right on top of the Balos Lagoon, around 25 minutes walking from to Balos Beach. I suggest taking with you gym shoes as the steep descend with flip flops may be challenging in a few points. In July and August, the parking gets full very quickly and cars start parking along the road. Get there before 10am to secure a spot.
Tour length: the whole bus+boat tour takes around 11-12 hours, much more from the Heraklion/Hersonissos area. The time on the boat is 45 minutes to Gramvousa Island, 20 minutes from there to Balos Beach and around one hour back to the Kissamos pier.
Where to eat in Balos Beach: There is a Beach Bar but the selection of food is very very limited in both quality and quantity. The best is to bring your own. The boats offer food on board and they are honestly a better option than the beach bar.
Weather: most of the summer is sunny, warm and beautiful in Crete. You can’t get it wrong if you travel there between June and September. It’s rear to see waves on the beachside, impossible in the lagoon. There is however the wind that can spoil your day. It rarely becomes annoying, however, sometimes the westerly wind makes it through stronger than usual and suddenly you can feel the sandblast. I would personally recommend having a check to this website 2-3 days prior to your trip. If the wind goes over 15-20 knots (~30-40kmh) or there are wind gusts at 25-30 knots (~50-60kmh) then I would probably cancel or postpone the trip (cancellation is usually free of charge up to 24hrs prior to the start of the experience). Try instead to plan a day trip to another destination in Crete (see my post on the best places to visit in Crete, with a few hidden gems)
Families and kids: the boat trip is good fun with 2 stops and different places to explore. Kids will love it. Driving there with kids is fine too, however, keep in mind the steep descend to the beach and the hike back to the parking area later in the day.
What to bring with you: it’s going to be sunny and possibly hot. I highly suggest sun cream, hat, lycra t-shirt for kids (and maybe for adults too) and water for the day, besides some food as the bar has only a few sandwiches that typically are sold out by 1:30-2pm. Wear some proper shoes (training shoes are ok) if you need to walk up to the parking. It can be steep and possibly dangerous with flip flops.
Balos tips: Try to get the first boat from the pier of Kissamos at 10:20am (or the earliest possible tour leaving from the town where you are staying). You will have fewer people around, but you will not be alone. Bring your food and drinks. As I already said, the beach bar has a very limited selection. There are a couple of bar/restaurants at the Kissamos pier but I would count on them only for a latte/cappuccino. Buy the food from a place close to your hotel. If you are driving then stop by Iroon42 or this bakery in Kissamos. Bring some cash to pay 1 Euro/person Park Entrance Fee and for the Beach Bar too.
Balos Tour from Chania: The Platano Tour is a great option from Chania. The booking fee does not include the boat ticket, as in all the tour, however, you can buy it on the bus and skip the queue at the pier. You will take the first boat at 10:20am and in 45 minutes you will be in Gramvousa Island for a couple of hours, swimming and sunbathing at the beach (or hiking up to the Venetian Castle). Next stop (20 minutes) is the Balos Lagoon where you will have a 3 hours free time. Food and drinks are available on the boat (better option than the Beach Bar in Balos Beach).
From Rethymno: The Rethymno Tour is very similar to the one from Chania, except it visits first Balos Beach and than Gramvousa Island.
From Heraklion: it is going to be a very long day with a very early start. Cretan Spirit is one of the most popular tours leaving from Heraklion and the Hersonissos area. The trip is very similar to the one from Chania.
If you are not too keen on the 4-5 hours drive from Hersonissos/Heraklion then you should consider the day trip to Chrissi Island, much closer and so amazing too.
Balos Beach by car: this is another way to visit the Balos Lagoon. Keep in mind that the road is unsealed in the last 7-8km. There are a few sections in cement, the typical old Greek way to build roads, but besides that expect a dirt road with rocks and potholes here and there. The road can be narrow in a few points but overall doable. The drive on the gravel road lasts around 30 minutes and you will end up at the parking on top of Balos Beach. From there you will need to walk down 20-25 minutes to the lagoon. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is that the rented cars are typically not allowed to go off-road and if something happens you will be in trouble. Parking can be also a pain if you arrive late in the morning. The great benefit is that you can spend as much time at the beach as you want and you will be flexible with other stops, besides not arriving at Balos beach with everybody else on the boat. Make it very early and you can enjoy Balos with just a few other people, a great experience. I usually hire my vehicles with the best prices on the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a comparative website and it never let me down.
Drive yourself to the Kissamos Pier: if driving the car on that dirt road is making you already nervous then you may consider driving your rented car to the Kissamos Pier and catch the first boat at 10:20am. This is a much quicker option than the bus tour. I suggest however to buy the boat tickets in advance, especially if you are travelling in the peak months of July and August. Parking is available at no extra charge.
By KTEL public bus from Chania: this is another option although much slower as the busses stop in most of the villages and towns along the route. You can check the KTEL website for the timetable. Look for the destination Kampos Kissamos, a few hundred meters from the pier where the boat docks.
Kissamos stay: Kissamos is a nice little town, still unspoilt from the mass tourism and so close to the pier where the boats depart for Balos beach, just 2.5km away. There is a nice shallow beach called Mavros Molos, a few hotels and some restaurants and tavernas. It’s more about having a quiet time and experiencing the local life passing by. Even the sunbeds and beach umbrella are free of charge, provided you buy something from the bar/restaurants (like a frappe coffee for example, or just water). Recommended accommodations are Revekka Rooms (low budget), Maria Beach Hotel (mid-budget) or Emmanouela’s Apts (AirBnb style, with sofa beds for kids)
Suggested Hotels in Chania: Kasteli Studios & Apartments (low budget), Casa Delfino Hotel (mid-budget), Semeli Studios (next to the beach, families).
Suggested Hotels in Rethymno: Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort (exclusive), the Palazzino di Corina (lovely place) or Leo Hotel (in a 1450 century house)
You can find more suggestion on where to stay in Crete here
1 thought on “Balos Beach – the best and the worst of a tour (and how avoid that)”
Presented in a way that makes weeding out and planning highlights so much easier! Mom and I will follow your suggestions for a one week itin. Many thanks!