“You must go to Balos Beach” the man told us. A friend’s blog also told us the same thing. “To Balos, you must go early. No party party tonight as you get up tomorrow very early, at 7:00, get pastry, and drive there.” Our hotelier explained to us as he was making marks on a local tourist map that was totally not to scale, and largely useless. So, on the insistence of our hotelier, and by recommendation of our friend, we decided that our second full day in Crete would be spent partly on Balos Beach.
Getting to Balos Beach isn’t just a drive, oh no, that would be too easy. But let me start at the beginning. We did get up, but weren’t on the road until more like 7:30. We stopped for pastry, as ordered, and Paul devoured some sticky sugary thing while I took down a green tea like I do every morning. Breakfast pastry is still something I don’t understand. But I hate fun, and sugar, so I’m basically un-american, and not who pastry is for anyway.
We headed up the coast of Crete, per the directions of our map, the map from our hotelier, and a bit of googling. We pulled off the main highway onto a more regional road, and drove through a small town. Following that small town we turned off onto an even smaller and narrower road, and off that road, an even smaller road/path that made it’s way along the base of a mountain and to the entrance to a state park. We paid to enter, and as we drove along, we wondered, “would our little car make it?” The road was treacherous for two reasons, the first being the rocks it was paved with, and the second being the fact that it was barely wide enough for our small rental, much less oncoming cars. You could not drive fast on this road. You could barely drive on this road! I have to hand it to our little Citroen rental though, it managed to make it up the mountain, and in second gear because we couldn’t go any faster than that for fear of blowing tires or bouncing off the side of the mountain, or both.
The sea stretches beautifully to your right as your artfully steer your way along the winding road. Flocks of goats dot the mountainsides, and the only vegetation that seems to grow is thyme. There is thyme everywhere, and nothing else. These goats seem to stay alive, but I think thyme is all they get to eat because I saw nothing else growing.
We had been in the car nearly two hours, and had passed several very decent beaches on the way, and still, had not reached our destination. No, we were on a road that was barely fit for the goats that dotted it, and I wasn’t sure we were ever going to see this damned Balos Beach. “Are you sure this is going to be worth it?” I asked aloud. “Do we even have a spare tire for this car?” I was skeptical. Finally, a gathering of cars emerged and we parked. We were early, which was great, because it wasn’t crowded yet. But we still couldn’t see the beach. We put together our backpack, grabbed our water, and started to hike. Yes, you heard that right, hike. We had just driven nearly two hours, 40 minutes of them on a road that was not built for beasts much less cars, and now we had to walk? This beach had better be worth it I thought to myself.
It is about another 25-30 minutes hike down to the beach. We had just driven up the mountain, only to have to hike back down it again. So off we went. The air was hot, dusty, and the dirt was a redding clay color. There wasn’t much of anything growing as we picked our way down a well-worn path to the famous Balos Beach.
Finally, we reached the edge and got our first glimpse of the beach. Oh, my, gosh.
What a view right? WRONG. It get’s better! And we still weren’t done hiking yet.
As you can see from the photos above, we still were on the mountain, and hadn’t actually made it to the beach. I swallowed my gripes from earlier that morning, and absolutely couldn’t wait to get down to the beach. As we hiked down the rocky mountain eventually turned into soft sand. We ditched our shoes and carried them and walked onto this magnificent beach. Oh my goodness I cannot tell you, the view, the water, and sand, it was absolutely marvelous. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. The best part though, honestly, the chairs. There were chairs! Even on such a remote beach, there were chairs and umbrellas for rent for, you guessed it, 5 euros. There are some things that Europe just has figured out.
We settled into two chairs, and got comfortable. We spent a gorgeous morning and early afternoon at Balos, and learned that the man who had insisted that we go to Balos was right, “you must get there early”. Around 1:00, the tour boats come, and unload hundreds of passengers who are also there to enjoy the beach for the day. We were fortunate to have had a couple of hours of the beach largely to ourselves, and a few other early risers.
The water was cool, the sand was soft, and we had chairs and our Kindles. Speaking of Kindle, if you own a 3G Kindle, you get service on Balos. I finished a book, and I was able to download another, right there by the water. I truly am a 21st century traveler.
What a magnificent place Balos Beach is. If you ever find yourself in Crete, make the time to drive and then hike to Balos. You will not regret it. If you’re less adventurous, or out of shape, you can take a tour boat.