West of Kissamos stretches the impressive Gramvoussa peninsula. This uninhabited peninsula with the wild beauty, formed by huge rocks, is covered with thyme, origanum bushes and wild flowers. 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. West of this tongue are two small rocky islets. The one north of the promontory is Agria (Wild) Gramvoussa, and south of it to the west is Imeri (Gentle) Gramvoussa. Agria Gramvoussa is a rocky, wild and unhospitable place rising up steeply from the sea. Imeri Gramvoussa is milder and it has a nice beach and a harbour.
Due to its strategic location, Gramvoussa was fortified by the Venetians, who built a castle on the top of a steep rock at an altitude of 137 m, the highest top of Imeri Gramvoussa. The construction of the castle started in 1579 and ended in 1582. It is surrounded by a wall of 272m where the abrupt rock does not offer any natural fortification. It has a roughly triangular shape and each side is 1km in length. 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.
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. Gramvoussa 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. Gramvoussa 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 Gramvoussa in 1828.Today, Gramvoussa’s high walls are preserved, half ruined but awesome. The panoramic view, its majesty and the legend of the pirate's hidden treasure, will tempt you to visit it. The walk takes approximately 20 minutes. After your walk to the castle you can swim at the beach with the blue waters and the fine sand, next to the small church of Agii Apostoli.On the North West side of the peninsula, opposite to the islands of Gramvoussa is the wonderful lagoon of Balos, located between the two creeks of the Tigani cape. The sand here is pinkish – white with thousands of broken and intact seashells. The waters are shallow and very warm especially during the summer. For some people, this is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece.
There are no other facilities apart from a small cafe for a cold frappe coffee and drinks. Access is possible by boat from Kastelli and only by a 4×4 car, as well as by motorbikes, as the approximately 10 kilometers road, not asphalted and in bad condition, makes it difficult for vehicles. Even then, you will not avoid walking, since you have to leave your vehicle some 15 minutes before arriving to the beach and then follow the path on foot. Finally, if you choose to take your conventional car, you should be prepared for an approximately 3 hours walking from Kalyviani.
Had you chosen the walking way to reach the beach, you will be well rewarded by the breathtaking view of the rocky coastline of the east side of the peninsula and the lagoon. But if you choose to take the boat you will notice an impressive geological phenomenon: land elevation by six to nine meters above sea level – it is obvious by the change of the colour of the rocks. The west of Crete is rising out of the sea while the east is sinking for the last 2000 years.