The two islets of Gramvousa lie off the beach of Balos on north-west tip of Crete on the large Korikos peninsula that gropes north from the resort of Kastelli Kissamos.
The Gramvousa islets and Balos make up one of the most spectacular sights on Crete. A large sandbank in a shallow, azure sea links two offshore islets to the wild white sands of Balos.
The smaller of the two islets that lies to the north is known as Agrio Gramvoussa (Wild Gramvousa) and the larger one to the south-west is called Imeria Gramvoussa (Tame Gramvousa).
The strategic location prompted the Venetians to build a fortress on Gramvousa. Construction started ended in 1582 but the fort was destroyed just six years later when lightning struck a powder store. the whole fort was rebuilt in 1630 but today there are only deserted ruins to see.
On the mainland opposite Gramvousa is the large and splendid beach of Balos. It can be reached fairly easily along an unsurfaced road, then along a track down to the beach, although many visit on boat trips from nearby resorts, notably at Katelli Kissamos.
The sea here is a virtual lagoon; very shallow and extraordinarily blue. It is possible for holiday visitors to walk out to the main islet across a large sandbank on quiet days, although this should never be attempted when the wind is up.
The growing popularity of Balos meant more and more tourists dumping their rubbish here each season but a surcharge now means the beach can be regularly cleaned.
The local authorities in Kissamos introduced a small charge for visiting the beach and visitors must now pay to see it, either through paying a toll on the road or through a surcharge on daily boat trip tickets. The cash goes towards beach cleaning and maintenance.
Balos beach is an outstandingly beautiful shelf of white sand that lies between a couple of small streams. The white sand and bright pebbles give the shallow sea an emerald glow that is unique to the area.
There is good hiking to be has over the whole Korikos peninsula which is covered in thyme, oregano and wild flowers, making a spring visit particularly enjoyable.
The city of Rethymnon on the north coast of Crete is packed with colourful parades and impromptu street parties in a celebration that has been running more than 100 years.
An intricate mosaic of pebble and stone cover a complex of buildings at Koumos, including a taverna and even a chapel, in an architectural extravaganza that will take your breath away.
Also, among the weapons on display at the Arkadi Monastery are some of those used in the famous siege, including flintlock rifles and long-barrelled pistols as well muskets.
Crete may be a holiday hotspot today but the islands was once the scene of a ferocious firefight between Allied troops and German paratroopers now buried in war cemeteries.