Our hotel is located in Kissamos. Kastelli Kissamos is the capital of Kissamos province, 36km west of Chania city. It has about 5.000 permanent residents who are mainly occupied with agriculture, fishing and tourism.
Kastelli Kissamos, as it is built in an area of big strategic importance through the centuries, is of great interest regarding history, too. The area has been continuously inhabited by the ancient Minoan years, and flourished for many centuries later, in both the era of the Romans and the Venetian era.
From the Roman period the beautiful Roman Baths of Kastelli Kissamos have been left. The archaeological interest of this town is so big, that a specialized Archaeological Museum of Kissamos has been created, which we suggest you visit. We also suggest to visit the known Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, which was founded in 1905 and in which there is a weaving workshop.
However, from all the old civilizations that have resided in the area through history, the Venetians were the ones that left the most visible marks. They built a big castle in the town, the tall walls of which were surrounding the whole settlement during those years. From this castle, the “castello” as it was called by the Venetians, originates the first word of the name of the town: Kastelli Kissamos. Today, in some parts of the town, you can see scattered many remnants of the Venetian Fortifications, which date back to the era of the Venetian heyday (16th century).
Gramvoussa islet and the wonderful Balos beach
Indisputably the most interesting excursion by boat, from the port of Kastelli Kissamos, is the one to the Gramvoussa islet and to the wonderful and unique Balos beach.
Gramvoussa islet is located near the edge of the homonymous peninsula of Gramvoussa. The view from this islet in one of the more distant parts of Crete is simply outstanding.
On Gramvoussa islet there are the remnants of one of the better fortified Venetian castles in Crete. The castle, which was built in the 16th century AD, was one of the few places in the island that remained under Venetian rule after the occupation of Crete by the Ottoman Empire.
The especial Balos beach is located on the northwest part of the peninsula of Gramvoussa, literally across Gramvoussa islet on its southeast. Balos beach is a real, unique tropical lagoon and beach in northwest Crete.
The lagoon and the beach of Balos have white and pink sand, from the countless shells of the area. The water in the lagoon is warm and calm. Even if you go further away from the lagoon, to Balos beach, the sea remains calm, as Gramvousa islet protects the bay of Balos from the occasional strong winds.
The lagoon and the beach of Balos form a complex ecosystem, which is unique in the Mediterranean Sea. Something you should take under account is that there are no trees in the area, so you should have the appropriate clothes, water and sunscreen with you in order to protect yourself from the sun.
The excursion to the wonderful Gramvoussa islet and to the unique Balos beach is for many visitors the experience of a lifetime. If you like intense experiences and exploration during your holidays, an excursion to Gramvousa and Balos will be totally satisfying and will get you in touch with the other, less known side of Crete, which only few can experience.
Falassarna: Possibly the most beautiful beach in northwest Crete and a place of historical interest
In Falassarna you will find, according to many visitors, the most beautiful beach in northwest Crete and one of the best beaches in Greece.
Falassarna are located at the northwest edge of the island, and are in a distance of about 10 kilometers from Kastelli Kissamos and Elena Beach hotel.
The magnificent beach in Falassarna has a wide strip of white, fine sand, and crystal clear water. Behind the long beach there are impressive high mountains. The landscape in the area is truly amazing.
Essentially the beach in Falassarna is not one, but three. The first beach, on the south, is called Pachia Ammos and is organized, having sun beds and parasols.
The second beach is the natural extension of the first beach to the north. This is the main beach in Falassarna, and here you can also find a mini market, and a café-bar by the sea serving light meals. This beach also has sun beds and parasols.
The third beach in Falassarna, and the northest one, is located after the rocky part of the coast, next to the end of the paved road that goes along the beach. Although this is the beach with the more difficult access, it is at the same time the most picturesque, too. By the beach you will find a very good tavern and a nice café-bar, with magnificent view to the bay of Falassarna.
As the beach in Falassarna is located at the west coast of Crete, we recommend, if this is possible, to stay there until the sunset. The sunset in Falassarna, with the sun “diving” in the magnificent waters of Crete, and the sky being lit by the intense orange-purple color of the sunset, is a sight by itself.
The sea in Falassarna is also wonderful. The water is crystal clear and cool, even in the hottest days of summer, and the depth of the sea is ideal for both the experienced swimmers and the kids.
Something you should remember, though, in Falassarna, is to avoid swimming when there are strong westerly winds blowing. As the beach is on the west coast, when strong westerly winds blow, the sea has high waves, which make swimming difficult, and even dangerous, in extreme cases. Always notice the color of the flag that is raised by the lifeguard of the beach: if the flag is red, do not swim.
Falassarna, apart from one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, is at the same time an important historic site. Ancient Falassarna was one of the most important cities in the Minoan era. It was one of the two ports of Polyrinia, the most powerful city-state in the area (the other port of Polyrinia was Kissamos, at the exact location of present-day Kastelli Kissamos). Falassarna became so powerful, that at some point they declared their independence from the “mother” city-state of Polyrinia, which resulted to a protracted state of war between the two cities.
Falassarna was one of the richest cities in ancient Minoan Crete, mainly thanks to its large, safe harbor, which made the coastal city one of the biggest shipping and commercial centers in Crete.
The city flourished for several centuries, but it was finally destroyed by the Romans. The cause for the destruction of the city was that, apart from a big shipping hub in the area, ancient Falassarna was also a base for the pirates of that time, many of whom were also residents of the city.
After the destruction of ancient Falassarna, the Romans also destroyed the impressive harbor of the city. Today, it is strange to see that the remnants of this large ancient harbor are located on an elevated site, about 100 meters from the sea. The reason for this is a great earthquake that took place in the area in the 4th century AD, which elevated the west coast of Crete and Falassarna by about 8 meters.
Polyrinia: One of the more powerful city-states in Minoan Crete
Ancient Polyrinia was in Minoan Crete and for many centuries one of the most powerful city-states in Crete, which was famous for the military abilities of its army. We could say, without exaggeration, that Polyrinia was to ancient Crete what Sparta was to ancient mainland Greece.
Polyrinia is in a distance of a few kilometers from Kastelli Kissamos and Elena Beach hotel. The ancient city was founded in the archaic period by the Achaeans, and it was built in high altitude on top of a hill. The exact position of the city offers excellent view to the surrounding area, which at that period was very important for defense purposes.
The ancient city of Polyrinia had, according to many historians, the strongest fortification in Crete in its era. Today you can still see the remnants of these historic fortifications.
Although that, due to historical references, the main occupation of the residents of Polyrinia was initially the livestock, gradually the residents of the city-state became very well known for their martial virtues. Aggressive and warlike, the residents of Polyrinia constituted a continuous threat for every city-state and settlement in West Crete.
A striking feature of ancient Polyrinia was that, as its residents were both excellent warriors and competent merchants, Polyrinia was historically one of the first ancient cities that were systematically occupied with the construction and the trade of weapons. Thanks to this occupation, Polyrinia became very rich in the ancient years, and issued its own currency, something that only the richest city-states of the era could do.
A well known story among Crete historians is the one regarding the troubled relations between Polyrinia and ancient Kydonia, which was located near present-day Chania city. As the first was the most powerful city in West Crete, regarding its military, and the latter was the most powerful city in West Crete, regarding its economy and politics, there was constantly intense competition between them. Many times during the ancient years Polyrinia and Kydonia were involved in war, the main causes or causations of them being various territorial claims, the allocation of natural resources, and the growth of their sphere of influence.
During the Roman period, Polyrinia made a risky but clever strategically move, by forming an alliance with the Roman conquerors, something that for the first time in history gave to Polyrinia the political advantage from its eternal opponent, Kydonia. The city continued to flourish during the Roman era, while at that same period the two ports of Polyrinia, Kissamos and Falassarna, also flourished. Gradually, the residents of Polyrinia began to move from the city to the port of Kissamos, which finally became the biggest residential center in the area. Polyrinia was still inhabited, by a gradually declining population, until the Byzantine years, when it was finally abandoned by its last residents.
What has finally been left from Polyrinia, this very powerful ancient city, is its impressive fortification, which later was repaired and used for centuries by the Venetians, and which is today visible in many parts of this historic site. The present-day village of Polyrinia, which has been built next to the location of the homonymous historic ancient city, owes largely its existence to ancient Polyrinia: many remnants from the ancient city were used as raw material for the building of the houses and the buildings of the village.
Elafonissi and Chrysoskalitissa Monastery: One of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and one of the most important religious monuments in Crete, in a magnificent location.
Elafonissi is a truly unique tropical beach, which is not on a tropical island, but on Crete. The whole area around Elafonissi is protected by Greek and international environmental treaties, as a place of unique biodiversity.
Elafonissi is located on the southwest edge of Crete. Elafonissi beach has shallow, crystal clear water, and characteristic white-pink sand. The intense pink color of the sand originates from the abundant shells in the area.
Opposite to the beach, and in a distance of about a hundred meters, lies the islet of Elafonissi. To reach the islet, you don’t have to swim, as the sea between the beach and the islet forms a shallow lagoon, with a depth of less than a metre. Walking into the Elafonissi lagoon, you will realize, as thousands of visitors every year in the area do, that you experience one of the most magnificent creations of nature in the Mediterranean Sea!
Some kilometers to the north of Elafonissi, you will find the wonderful Chrysoskalitissa Monastery. Chrysoskalitissa Monastery is one of the religious landmarks of Crete.
The name “Chrysoskalitissa” originates from the Greek words “golden step” and the Ottoman period, when the nuns of the monastery hid the golden masterpieces of the monastery under a step of the big staircase in the entrance, in order to protect them from being looted by the Ottoman occupying army.
Apart from the unique architecture and the magnificent view, in Chrysoskalitissa Monastery you will also admire the legendary painting of Virgin Mary’s Assumption, which is said to have been painted 1.000 years ago. You will find this distinct painting in the small church of the monastery, which seems untouched by the centuries that have passed…