Falasarna Beach and Balos Lagoon ranked among TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice top 25 Best Beaches in the World 2023. Falasarna Beach occupies 20th place behind Nungwi Beach (Zanzibar Island, Tanzania), and the Balos Lagoon ranks last after Magens Bay (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands).
TripAdvisor awards Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best only to a handful of listings based on reviews and opinions from its community over a 12-month period. TripAdvisor states, “fewer than 1% of 8 million listings are awarded Best of the Best, signifying the highest level of excellence in travel.”
Falasarna Beach: Pristine Sands and Ancient History
Falasarna Beach – named for the ancient port Phalasarna (Φαλάσαρνα) – is in a bay at the west end of Crete, some 60 kilometers from Chania town and 17 kilometers west of Kissamos. The Greco-Roman city of Phalasarna ruins are at the beach’s northern end.
The Dorians founded Ancient Phalasarna in the 8th century BC, and the city became a maritime power. It has imposing fortifications and a closed harbor connected to the sea through two artificial channels. Excavations in 1986 revealed the ruins of a prosperous city with public roads, baths, an altar, warehouses, and more. Visitors to Falasarna Beach can see the ancient site and its standing ruins, most noteworthy, the fortifications of the old harbor with its imposing towers and bastions.
The spectacular, well-organized beach offers excellent relaxing opportunities, watersports, and dining options. It has fine white sand and turquoise water, with rocky seabed in places – especially in the ancient ruins and Livadi areas. Wear water shoes for safety.
Popular watersports here are surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, and diving. There are also volleyball courts on the beach. Falasarna can be a romantic spot if you come to see the sunset, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful on Crete.
Balos Lagoon: Exotic Landscapes and Breathtaking Sunsets
One of Crete’s most spectacular beaches, Balos is hard to reach, yet still popular, especially in high season (July and August). There are three ways to reach the lagoon;
- Hiking from Kaliviani through Gramvousa and the Platyskinos Range. The hike will take three hours, and you must prepare to face the terrain and the sun: wear appropriate trekking shoes, a field hat, and sunscreen. Bring sufficient water along, as there are no water sources along the way. On this route, you can visit the Chapel of Saint George and a cavern in Tigani, and the Roman town of Agnio with the temple of Apollo north of Balos.
- Driving or riding a bike (or quad bike) on the dirt road from Kaliviani to the parking area in the Gramvousa Reserve. From the parking lot, you must descend one kilometer on foot to the beach. The ascent back to the parking will be strenuous because of the inclination of the slope.
- By ferry or boat cruise from Kissamos, which will give you a chance to see the shores of the Gramvousa Peninsula from the sea and swim at the Imeri Gramvousa islet. With some luck, your cruise to the Balos Lagoon will become a dolphin-watching experience.
The Balos Lagoon is one of the most photographed destinations on Crete due to its spectacular landscapes and seascapes. The area is a Natura 2000 protected reserve, with rare species of flora: “shrubby perennial Sarcopoterium spinosum, Coridothymus capitatus, Callicotome villosa, Cistus creticus and Ballota pseudodictamnus, as well as by dwarf forms (creeping) of Pistacia lentiscus and Ceratonia siliqua.” You will also observe Eleonora falcons, shags, and cormorants. The area is home to the protected monk seal and the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta Caretta).
You must pay a small fee to enter the beach: the funds go to the protection of the nature reserve.
On the beach, the sand is pink and fine, and the water is shallow and very clean, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. You will find some umbrellas and sunbeds for hire, but you better come prepared with a beach blanket because if you don’t arrive early morning, you may not find any rentals available. Showers, restrooms, a small changing cabin, and a kiosk selling refreshments are also available.
Be careful when swimming in the open sea: there are no lifeguards on duty, and the seabed has some sharp rocks in many places, as steep mountains surround the lagoon. For safety, remain in the lagoon.
Balos Lagoon offers mesmerizing sea views at sunset, especially overlooking Cape Tigani, Pondikonisi Islet, and the Imeri Gramvousa and Agria Gramvousa islands under the amber skies.