When you say Greece, people will automatically identify Santorini as the ONLY island paradise to go to. Thanks to travel books, I chanced upon two other paradises that are also worth visiting—Gramvousa and Balos Lagoon in Crete.
Located 42 kilometers west of Chania, one can go here via daily cruises from Kissamos port. From May to October, ferries leave at Kissamos port at around 10:15AM and return to the port at 6PM. From mid-June until mid-September, there are also ferries departing at 12:40PM.
To get to Kissamos port from Chania, you may take the bus or get transfers from tour groups. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket office at the port (arrive 30 minutes early to get good seats).
The cruise from port to Gramvousa takes around 45 minutes. You may opt to sit inside the airconditioned part of the ferry if you want to eat (the bar offers traditional Greek and international dishes) or if you feel like savoring the wind and enjoying the breathtaking views, you may relax outside.
The ferry stops at Gramvousa for about two hours. This beautiful view will greet you.
Be sure to wear good shoes because the best thing to do here is to hike to the top of the island to see Imeri Gramvousa. The 20-minute climb is an easy hike but be careful with some loose rocks. Pause once in a while to enjoy the view and observe the unique flora in Gramvousa. There are 400 species of plants in Gramvousa and 26 of these are endemic in Crete.
At the top of the island, the remains of a Venetian fort are still evident. This castle was built in 1584 by Venetians to protect Crete from Turkish invasion. It is said that this fort was one of the last unconquered bastions and was the first Cretan area to be freed from the Turks in 1825.
The panoramic view from here is breathtaking! It’s very hard to resist selfies and panoramas here ;-)
Visitors may also swim here during summer but with only two hours to spare, it’s best to just get a tan and enjoy the view from the beach.
From Gramvousa, the boat trip will only take 20 minutes to reach Balos Lagoon.
Balos, listed as one of the best beaches in the world, is a famous summer destination because of its turquoise blue waters, fine sand, and impressive cliffs surrounding the beach.
I wish I took more photos but as soon as I arrived in this island, the waters magnetized the tropical island girl in me :-)
Warning on tropical islanders, Mediterranean waters is very different from warm Asian waters. Even on a hot day in May, the waters could be freezing. It took a long time for my body to adjust before I could finally take a dip.
Once you’re in the water though, it’s so hard to go back to the shore. Unfortunately, the cruise will only let you to stay in this paradise for three hours ;-(
WHAT TO BRING: towel (there is shower in the ferry if you want to freshen up), sarong, sunblock, drinks and food if you want to save money from the ferry bar (affordable but value can be more than the usual)
I hope to be back in this paradise soon! ;-)
Tickets from Kissamos port cost 27 euros for adults while tickets from tour groups in Chania are around 39 euros for adults (includes bus transfers). You may contact Gramvousa Balos Cruises at +30 28220-24344. Balos Travel offers transfers from Chania.
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