Kissamos, Greece: A traditional Cretan village on a magnificent bay west of Chania city.
Kissamos, Greece, is a beautiful traditional village about 40 kilometers west of Chania city. The name of the village comes from the ancient city of Kissamos, which was built at the exact place of the village. Kissamos is also known as Kastelli, or as Kastelli Kissamou.
Kissamos is the larger village in the northwest part of Crete Island. It is known all over Greece for its fine agricultural products, many of which are organic. When in Kissamos, you have to taste the famous local olive oil and wine.
Kissamos is less developed than other destinations in Crete, mainly because of its distance from Chania city. But this may change in the future, because of the excellent national road that connects Chania city with Kissamos. Additionally, the local bus service from Chania city to Kissamos is very efficient and frequent.
Although it is a relatively remote destination in Crete, Kissamos, mainly due to its big size and population, has everything to offer its visitors, from super markets and pharmacies, to select taverns and fish taverns, cafés and confectioneries.
The magnificent bay of Kissamos
The bay of Kissamos is one of the most picturesque in Greece. It is formed by two large peninsulas, the peninsula of Rodopou to the east and the peninsula of Gramvousa to the west. These two peninsulas are the two characteristic “horns” on the northwest edge of Crete Island.
Both Rodopou and Gramvousa peninsulas are mostly uninhabited, with many of its villages close to Kissamos village. The best way to explore their wild beauty is by a 4×4 vehicle or a motorbike. In the northwest of Gramvousa peninsula lies the famous beach of Balos, the best beach near Kissamos, and one of the best in Greece.
The beach in Kissamos, although not as impressive as other beaches in the area like Balos and Falasarna, is fine, offering great view at the Kissamos bay. Near the beach, you can find stores and mini markets for your everyday needs.
Outside of Kissamos, and to the west, there is also a small fish harbor in a scenic location. About a kilometer after the fish harbor, there is the port of Kissamos. From here, you can take the boat to Balos beach, or the ferry to Kithira Island south of Peloponnese, Greece.
The long history of Kissamos, Greece
Ancient Kissamos was a centre of marine and commerce, and one of the ports of Polirinia, the leading city in the area in ancient times. Ancient Kissamos reached the height of its civilization in the Roman period.
During the Venetian era, and in order to protect the wealthy city of Kissamos, the Venetians built a fortress and raised big stone walls around the city, remnants of which can be found in the village. The Venetian fortress, the “Castelo” as it was called, is where “Kastelli”, the second name of Kissamos came from.
There is a small but interesting archaeological museum in Kissamos, housed in the old Venetian governor’s palace, where there are findings from the 5th century BC, up to recent historical periods. Don’t miss the Roman mosaics, which are real small masterpieces.
Kissamos has connected its name to two personalities that are well known all over Greece. The first is Manos Katrakis, who was born in Kissamos and was one of the best and most productive actors in Greek theater and cinema. The other is Bishop Irineos, who had the Episcopal Seat here, who, among other things, founded the Orthodox Academy of Crete and was one of the founders of ANEK ferry company, the biggest company of its kind in West Crete.
Finally, many cultural activities and feasts take place in Kissamos throughout the year. Among them are the Carnival feast in February or March, the wine festival in August and the Theocharakia athletic games in the summer. Very interesting are also the cultural activities in August, which celebrate the anniversary of the conquest of the Gramvousa Castle by the Greeks, during the Greek Independence War in 1825. Equally interesting is the cultural summer festival which takes place at the open theatre at Choni, about 5 kilometers east of Kissamos.
There are many remote, but also very interesting, places in Crete, which require time and good local information to discover. Kissamos, Greece, is surely one of them.