Balos is worth visiting, even if only for a day. There are a few different ways that you can get to Balos. You can go on foot, by vehicle or ferry. We ended up doing all three
Hiking to Balos
Because our car rental insurance didn’t cover incidents that might happen when driving on sand roads, we decided to hike to Balos from the Kissamou Ferry Port where parking is free. To try and get ahead of the heat of the day, we got an early start and parked at the port at 7:30.
We took a few wrong turns at the start of our walk but found our way to Balos Canteen and the sand road leading to Balos after about 5km. From here it’s about another 10km to the Balos parking area. Once you arrive there, you’ll come to a stairway that leads down the cliff to the lagoon. The hike is not really sheltered or shaded in any way (you’ll be walking in full sun) but there is a sea breeze and plenty of good views. You’ll probably meet a few goats along the way too.
If you get tired of walking, you can hitch a lift through. There are plenty of tourists and most of them will have their back seats free. A Russian couple who couldn’t speak any English pulled over for us and took us through to the parking area after we’d walked some of the way and had already started melting in the heat.
There is another way to get to Balos by foot, and that is from the road near Ancient Phalasarna.
Driving to Balos
This is the quickest option and a good one too. Make sure that your rental car hire company will cover your off-road outing first. If not, you could rent a quad bike as an alternative. The road is quite good at the start but deteriorates a towards the parking lot.
A local told us that the main reason why car trips to Balos aren’t covered by insurance isn’t the road. It’s the fact that the parking area becomes full and flows into the road. The dangerous overtaking alongside the cliff is what they don’t particularly like. Because we got to Balos at about 10:00, we didn’t really have a chance to see how crowded the road actually gets.
Note that at the start of the sand road that leads to Balos, cars pay an entrance fee of about €2. We didn’t need to pay anything since we entered on foot.
Catching the Ferry to Balos
After a lovely day at Balos, we caught a one-way ticket back to Kissamos Port with the ferry for €13 per person. We bought the ferry on the boat with cash (I don’t think the card machine worked for some reason). The evening ferries head back at 16:30 and 18:30. About 29 minutes before the end of the trip, they announced Happy Hour. I am not sure if that happens on every trip, but it might be worth waiting for.
The full trip from the port to Balos and back is €27 per person, and can be organised via the cruise company website. It’s worth mentioning that on the way to Balos the boat also stops at Gavamousa Bay. I think the ferry departs from the port at about 10:00 and arrives at Balos around 14:00.
Things to See
Once at Balos you will definitely want to wade through the lagoon. From the mountain (parking lot) side you will be able to see a cave. Apparently women and children hid in there during the Greek War of Independence and were all slaughtered by the Turks. In memory, a tiny chapel has been set up on the slopes. The chapel is easy to walk to, but the cave was a little more tricky to reach.
It seems like caves are a favourite hang out for billy goats. They’re not always very friendly and are attracted by food, so be careful. We tried to reach the cave but had to abandon the plan and swiftly escape when we encountered a mean billy goat on a cliff. A hat was lost in the process.
There are some trees at the far end of the beach (south side) that offer some shade. And if you get thirsty, there is a little cafe that sells beers, sandwiches, water and ice creams.
We visited Balos at the end of September and it was still really warm. It was quite windy though. For a few days, we waited for the wind in the area to die down. We were surprised and a little disappointed to find that the wind was pumping at the beach even though it was calm around the port. Finding shelter can be tricky at Balos Lagoon. Hiding behind a rock is probably your best bet because the area is quite exposed.