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|The island of Gramvousa or Gramvoussa near Crete|
Gramvousa island is one of the small satellite islands of Crete. It is situated on the north west side of the island and can be reached by boat in about an hour from the town of Kastelli Kissamos. The ferry that will take you there leaves in the morning and sails close to the coastline giving you the opportunity to take a good look at the landscape and the phenomenon of land elevation by six to nine meters above sea level (you can see the difference in the colour of the rocks - the west of Crete has been rising out of the sea while the east has been sinking for the last 2000 years). During the trip you can see a small church, caves (for instance the cave of Tersanas) and the odd car that tries to make the journey to the point of the peninsula (there is a road leading to the end of the peninsula and to Balos Beach, but it is not very good, so you have to drive carefully - the last one and a half to two hours you will have to walk).
The ferry passes between the island of Crete and on your right side you can see another island, Agria (Wild) Gramvousa, as well as the island of Pontikonisi. It than sails to the island of Imeri (Mild) Gramvousa - sometimes simply called Gramvousa, where you can visit the Venetian castle, that was built on the top of a rock, 137 meters above sea level. The walk upstairs takes about 15 to 20 minutes and gives you the opportunity for some pretty views across the bay. This Venetian castle is one of the most impressive castles in Greece and definitely the prettiest and most spectacular one that I have seen in Crete, not just because of its size but also because of its position on top of a steep rising island. The views from the castle are in every direction and they are amazing.
|The fortress of Gramvousa island|
The Gramvousa castle was built between 1579 and 1584 by the Venetians. It was already destroyed in 1588 when thunder struck on the powder store. The castle was rebuilt again in 1630. It is almost triangular in shape and each side is 1000 meters long. Gramvousa is also known for its share in the struggle to liberate Crete from the Ottoman Turks. 3000 Revolutionaries used the island as their shelter for 3 years. Because of lack of food they took to piracy. Gramvousa was one of the last places to be conquered by the Turks (in 1692 after supposedly the Venetian commander was bribed by the Turks) and it was the first area of Crete to be liberated from the Turks in 1825 after Cretans disguised as Turks entered the fortress (the liberation of the rest of Crete followed in 1898). English-French garrison took over the island of Gramvoussa in 1828.
Today, besides being a tourist attraction, the island of Gramvousa is an important bird sanctuary and there are rare plants to be found. It is the habitat of over 100 bird species and 400 kinds of plants. Some of the plants and birds are protected species. In the area the Mediterranean seal lives in the sea caves and the Caretta turtle looks for food. Close to where you disembark the boat and opposite a small church there is also a pretty descent beach where you can take a swim in the sea. Down the path are the leftovers of a rusty sunken boat.
Agia Gramvousa or Wild Gramvousa is situated at the north of the peninsula. It is a rocky, wild and not a hospitable place rising up steeply from the sea. This is how it got its name. Imeri Gramvousa is more mild and it has a nice beach and a harbour. Opposite the island / islet of Imeri Gramvousa in a bay you can find the beaches of Balos. Both islands are uninhabited and also the Gramvousa peninsula itself knows no settlements, so it is only possible to go here on a day trip. Stories about hidden treasures that are buried in the many caves around the cliffs and the coastline make the whole thing more romantic.
You can get to Gramvousa island by boat from the harbour of Kissamos (it lays west of the town). The trips are organized by Gramvousa Balos Cruises. The boat we were on left at 10.00 o'clock in te morning and we were back in Kissamos around 18.00. The boat is quite comfortable, with seats outside on the deck (some in the shade, others in the sun), some sun beds, and comfortable chairs and tables inside. Besides the usual snacks and drinks that you can find on Greek ferries there is also a diner served that is actually quite good. You can choose from different dishes. On our trip you could choose from things like Greek salads, pizzas, souvlaki, chicken, fruits and other dishes. I am told it varies from trip to trip. The cost of the tickets to Gramvousa and Balos Beach are 22 euro (in 2008). It is a popular trip, so getting a ticket in advance if possible is a good idea.
Information & tickets: Port of Kissamos - Ferry Company: Gramvousa Balos Cruises