Gramvousa & Balos

Gramvousa & Balos - the pirates' island & the lagoon

The uninhabited peninsula of Gramvousa offers the visitor the wild beauty of the huge rocks, bushes and wild flowers that cover it.

It is located on the northwest corner of Crete where the west coast of the gulf of Kissamos projects northwards and forms a promontory that the ancients named Korykos Akran.

Gramvousa Balos Map

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West of this tongue are two small rocky islets. The one north of the promontory is Agria Gramvousa, and south of it to the west is Imeri Gramvousa.

Due to its strategic location, Gramvousa was fortified by the Venetians, who built a castle on the top of a steep rock at an altitude of 137 m. The construction of the castle started in 1579 and ended in 1582. It was destroyed in 1588, however, when thunder struck on the powder store. The castle was rebuilt in 1630. It was one of the three castles to remain under Venetian dominion after the Turkish occupation of Crete; the other two were those of Sitia and Spinalonga.

View from the fortGramvousa seaChurch on the fortLeaving gramvousa

Even though the castle was impregnable, during the Venetian-Turkish war the head of the garrison, an Italian commandant, was bribed by the Turks and gave over the castle in 1691. He spent the rest of his life in Istanbul under the name of Captain Gramvousa.

Gramvousa played an important and decisive role during the Greek uprising against the Turks. After many attempts the castle was finally occupied by the Cretan revolutionaries in 1825, when a team of Cretans disguised as Turks entered the castle. Gramvousa was the first part of Crete to be liberated from the Turks. The rocky island became a shelter for over 3000 people, and a base of operations for the revolution teams.

But it also became a base for pirates who plundered every ship that passed the seas around the island, so with the agreement of the Greek Government an English-French garrison took over the island of Gramvousa in 1828.

Today, Gramvousa’s high walls are preserved, half ruined but awesome. There are two possible ways to get there: one is the dirt track, which is hardly passable in places, and goes almost all the way to Balos beach. A path from the end of the road reaches the beach. The other alternative is to go by boat from the port of Kisamos, Kasteli.

Balos - Opposite the island of Gramvousa is the wonderful beach of Balos. East of Kissamos and north of the beautiful village of Kaliviani, stretches the impressive Gramvousa peninsula. The peninsula is formed by steep rocks and is covered with thyme, oregano bushes and wild flowers.

On the northwest side of the peninsula and opposite the island of Gramvousa is the wonderful lagoon of Balos.

BalosView to gramvousaNarrow watersSalt'n shells

Video Gramvousa Balos Crete

The beach is covered with fine white sand and is located between the two creeks of the Tigani cape. The same white sand covers the bottom of the sea and grants its emerald colour. In front of the beach is the picturesque island of Gramvousa and on the back is the Geroskinos Mountain (altitude 762 m).

The road from Kaliviani is a well paved dirt road, with amazing view to the steep rocky seaside of the east side of the peninsula.

The road ends 1-2 km before the beach, and the visitor can follow a pave road to Balos. North of Balos, at the Korykon cape are the ruins of the small Roman city of Agnion, with a temple of the God Apollo.