Gramvousa Peninsula and Island: An interesting, unusual place in Northwest Crete you should discover yourself
Gramvousa is the name of the long peninsula on the northwest edge of Crete. It is also the name of the small island near the peninsula.
Gramvousa Island is also called “Iremi Gramvousa” or “Tame Gramvousa”, in contrast with another nearby island that is called “Agria Gramvousa”, or “Wild Gramvousa”, because of its rugged terrain and steep rocky coastline.
Both the peninsula and the island of Gramvousa are remote places. They feel like they are not part of a big, popular island like Crete, but part of a small, secluded island.
The wild charm of Gramvousa Peninsula
Gramvousa Peninsula, like its eastern counterpart, Rodopou Peninsula, is more easily accessible by boat. If you want to make the trip to the edge of the peninsula by vehicle, make sure it is a 4×4 vehicle, and keep in mind that the road is not in good condition. However, limited accessibility is one of the reasons that Gramvousa is still a place of great natural beauty, which hasn’t been exploited by mass tourism.
Near the edge of Gramvousa Peninsula and on its west side across Gramvousa Island, we find the beach of Balos. Balos is in reality a tropical lagoon, and one of the most unique beaches in Greece. The best way to get there is by boat, but keep in mind that there are not many trees in the area, so you should protect yourself from the sun, and have water with you.
Apart from the famous Balos beach, Gramvousa Peninsula is also known for its impressive rocky terrain, and its very interesting wild flowers.
During the boat trip around Gramvousa Peninsula, there are some interesting sights: a small church and some picturesque caves like the known cave of Tersanas.
Gramvousa Island – the island with the famous Venetian castle
Gramvousa Island is known for its Venetian castle. You can get there by boat from the port of Kissamos village. The trip takes about an hour.
Realizing its strategic location, the Venetians fortified Gramvousa Island in 1580. Some years later, however, it was destroyed by an accidental explosion in its powder store. The castle was rebuilt in 1630.
Gramvousa castle, situated in an altitude of 137 metres, was one of the better fortified castles in Crete. It was one of the few castles that remained under Venetian rule after the occupation of Crete by the Ottomans.
During the uprising of the Cretans against the Ottomans, Gramvousa Island played an important, albeit odd role. The Cretan revolutionists managed to occupy the castle in 1825. Gramvousa was in fact the first part of Crete to be liberated from the Ottoman Empire. The island became a refuge for thousands of Cretan revolutionists and their families.
The Ottomans tried unsuccessfully to reoccupy the castle, and they besieged the island for years. The isolated Cretans on the island resorted to piracy, in order to survive. These pirate attacks caused trouble to the naval trade in the southeaster Mediterranean Sea, causing the reaction of the Greek government, which sent the known Greek politician Alexandros Mavrokordatos in charge of a small fleet of British and French ships to encounter the pirates. The operation was successful and all the pirate ships were destroyed. After the operation, the castle of Gramvousa came under British control.
One of the things hard to forget in the castle of Gramvousa, however, doesn’t have to do with its history: It is the amazing view to the sea and to the nearby Gramvousa Peninsula. For many visitors, it is considered one of the most spectacular views you can find in Crete Island.
Gramvousa Peninsula is one of the most remote parts of Crete, and has managed to preserve its nature and its uniqueness. The peninsula, together with the nearby picturesque Gramvousa Island, forms a travel experience of unusual beauty that will be long remembered.