If you’re looking for a new vacation spot in Europe, Greece is always one of the top choices. The island of Crete has been a favourite holiday destination for both Europeans and tourists from other parts of the world. Today, we’ll present you with one of Crete’s most magnificent beaches – Elafonisi.
The beach is actually a small islet located 82 km northwest of Chania town. It’s separated from the southwest coast of Crete by a shallow lagoon and a sandbar. Whether you’re an adventuristic backpacker or a family with children in need of sandy beaches to play at, Elafonisi will be your dream beach.
If you choose to visit during peak season, you’ll find the beach crowded and covered with beach loungers. Want to know why this previously empty beach has suddenly become so popular? Keep on reading, and you’ll quickly find out.
Elafonisi beach is an internationally classified nature reserve. A mile-long island ends in a rocky outcrop. The wind and water have formed weird, freestanding towers over the years, making this beach home with over 100 rare plants.
You’ll be able to spot summer flowering sea daffodils if you ever decide to come to spend a day at Elafonisi. Have you ever seen loggerhead sea turtles? Coming to Elafonisi will be a unique opportunity to step into a lagoon and witness these beautiful sea creatures. They are a protected species and, with that, very shy, so keep an eye out for a unique experience.
Pink sand is another characteristic of this lovely Greek beach. So, if you’re one of those avid Instagrammers, the photo opportunities will keep on lining up when you arrive at the beach. The colour comes from the remains of tiny pink shells that line the seafloor and turn sand into a blush pink shade that makes for a stunning backdrop.
Elafonisi gets an even more vibrant shade of pink around the lagoon and along the sandbar to the island. However, the wind, the motion of tides, the season and the microbes the shelled creatures eat all affect the colour of the sand. So, don’t be surprised if you don’t get to see the pink sand as in the pictures other tourists made. The beach is well-equipped with sunbeds and beach umbrellas.
You’ll also find two small beach bars, toilets and lifeguards keeping an eye out for swimmers. For those who love kitesurfing, you’ll be able to go to a hut and rent kitesurfing kits.
If you decide to drive to Elafonisi, be ready to tackle narrow and winding roads and paths. You’ll find either mountain roads or gentler stretches through olive groves. There’s no in-between. So we suggest you decide to drive, only if you’re an experienced driver.
With no safety barriers in many places, you’ll find driving around Crete quite challenging and sometimes dangerous. It’ll take about 90 minutes to two hours to arrive from Chania to Ealfonisi. However, you’ll enjoy the scenic roads that stretch from Crete’s central mountain ridge to the beaches on the southwest coast.
Reaching Elafonisi by bus is another option. Supraregional public buses serve West Cretan villages from Chania according to a timetable. However, you’ll only be able to depend on the bus during peak season, as the buses don’t operate off-season.
If you’d like to go on a boat ride to Elafonsi, look for boats at Palaiochora. They leave around 10 a.m. and depart from Elafonisi at about 4 p.m. Keep in mind that the boat won’t be able to leave you precisely at Elafonisi because of its depth.
The waters around Elafonisi are not very deep, so you’ll have to disembark at a landing stage, about a 10-minute walk from Elafonisi beach. The best way to arrange a boat trip is through one of the travel agencies in the bigger towns of Western Crete.
If you decide to go to Elafonisi by boat, you’ll only be able to do it from Palaiochora, as boat excursions of Elafonisi only start from that point.
Things to do
Elafonisi is a chock-full of activities. If you’re a fan of snorkelling, this beach will be the right choice for you. With clear and silent shallow water of less than 10 meters, you’ll have an unmissable snorkelling opportunity. Kite surfing is another thing tourists can enjoy at Ealfonisi beach. You’ll have high winds, you have a lagoon protected from waves, which makes for an ideal setting for kitesurfing.
For those who enjoy animal watching, Elafonisi will be a true paradise since it’s a habitat for a variety of birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Have you ever seen Lacerta-trilineata, i.e. the Balkan Green Lizard? What about the Hemidactylus turcicus i.e. the popular Mediterranean House Gecko? If not, you’ll have the chance to spot them at Elafonisi, where the Caretta-caretta sea turtles nest their eggs.
Serious hikers will fall in love with Elafonisi for its hiking opportunities. There’s a section of the European path E4, which connects Paleochora to Elafonissi. When you decide to hike for 10 km, look for this trail.
Visit Chrysoskalitissa monastery
5 km from Elafonissi you’ll find a famous Chrysoskalitissa monastery. Built in the 17th century, this wonder of fortification is 35 meters high and built on rocks. If you go to the monastery, you’ll enjoy an astounding view.
Where to stay
Chania Blazis House
150 meters away from the sea and nowhere near the noise of the beach lies Chania Blazis House. With a variety of comfortable, air-conditioned apartments, this contemporary house with traditional furniture will offer all the relaxation you need while on a vacation. A swimming pool in the yard allows for a quick dip when you don’t plan on going to the beach. The rooms are equipped with satellite tv, fridge, hobs, Wi-Fi, coffee machine, flatscreen TV and all the amenities you’ll need for a comfortable holiday.
Chania Villa Pefki
A family-run complex offers self-catering accommodation of high standards. The villa is located on a pine-covered hillside, in Agios Matheos, Chania, just 3 km from Chania’s town centre. Far from the hottest overcrowded touristic areas, this villa will be a true oasis of relaxation. If you want the ultimate privacy, you’ll love this villa because it features apartments with private yards and/or verandas. The rooms are fully equipped with all the essential facilities you need to have the most enjoyable vacation. From TV to wi-fi, showers, and air-conditioning, you’ll feel at home at Chania Villa Pefki.
Where and what to eat
When you arrive at the beach, you’ll have to options to have some food. The first one is Canteen Kukurakis on the edge of the eastern parking area. Perfect for grabbing snacks, ice creams, and cold drinks. It’s also the spot where you’ll find toilet facilities.
If you continue up the unpaved road away from the beach, you’ll find Panorama. A cute little bar with a similar choice of food and drinks. On top of snacks and cold drinks, at Panorama you’ll also be able to shop for alcoholic beverages. Panorama features a magnificent view, so feel free to stop for refreshments there.
For lunch and dinner options, the Taverna Kalomirakis is a perfect choice. Seafood and traditional Greek food are very well-known at the Taverna, so you’ll want to try the food that’s gotten a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor.
Grilled fish such as red snapper and squid are particularly yummy. Make sure you order anchovies too, for an exquisite meal. If you like Greek salad, tzatziki and garlic bread, at Taverna Kalomirakis they’ll taste like nowhere before. You’ll find this taverna half a mile from the beach. It’ll take 10 minutes to walk there and enjoy the delicious food.
Crete offers a vast array of beaches and accommodation, but if you decide to make Elafonisi beach the highlight of your vacation, make sure you try out all the establishments we’ve suggested. Only after you’ve tasted the delicious food at Taverna Kalomirakis and spent the night in comfortable beds of the aforementioned hotels will you make the most of your vacation and be able to enjoy your days at the Elafonisi beach.