• Alex Gerlach

A Pedacito of Elafonisi, Crete

Updated: Jun 19

I remember peering over the steep ridge from inside the bus, my gaze diving down several meters to the rocky bottom of a deep gorge. My stomach dropped when I noticed there was no barrier to keep the bus from tumbling over the edge of the narrow cliffside road.


But our driver continued on without concern, hugging the mountainside as he weaved through the rugged valley. Eventually, the view gave way to turquoise waters, lush greenery, and Elafonisi.

Crystal clear water meets soft pink sand at the beaches of Elafonisi, Crete
Crystal clear water meets soft pink sand at the beaches of Elafonisi, Crete

Elafonisi is a very small island located on the southwest coast of Crete, separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon. The area is well known for its rare wildlife, unique rock formations, and pink sand – a characteristic that attracts visitors from around the world. It’s located in a remote region about two hours from the main city Chania. There are tons of tour services that offer shuttles from the main bus station to Elafonisi Beach. However, you can also get there by boat.

The narrow road leading from Chania to Elafonisi offers picturesque mountain views
The narrow road leading from Chania to Elafonisi offers picturesque mountain views and quick peaks at remote mountain villages

The bus ride to Elafonisi was absolutely beautiful, and admittedly a little scary, too. Between Chania and the island is a wide expanse of mountains and deep gorges filled with lush foliage. The road to Elafonisi is narrow and carved along the rocky cliffside, often only wide enough for a single vehicle. We traveled through the jagged valleys, passed small, remote mountain villages and vendors who sold honey and homemade raki along the road.

Often only wide enough for a single vehicle, the bus ride to Elafonisi can be a little scary at times
Often only wide enough for a single vehicle, the bus ride to Elafonisi can be a little scary at times

Upon leaving the mountains, the road continues along the shoreline and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. We turned off into a dirt parking lot full of cars and other buses, indicating we finally reached our destination. Even though the beach is remote, there is still access to amenities like food, beach equipment, and dressing rooms. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas for use on the mainland side of the beach.

As we left the mountainous inland roads, we traveled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea toward Elafonisi
As we left the mountainous inland roads, we traveled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea toward Elafonisi

We set up our towels and bags on part of the exposed sandbar that separates Elafonisi from mainland Crete. The view, from any angle, was spectacular. The horizon was an endless expanse of blue, barely distinguishable from the sea. Misty clouds covered the mountaintops behind us. The gentle current deposited pink sand in ripples along the shoreline. It’s no wonder it’s considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.


Greece is full of beaches with different colored sand, like the Black Sand beach in Perissa, Santorini.

Elafonisi is known for its pink sandy beaches created by deposits of pigmented microorganisms
Elafonisi is known for its pink sandy beaches created by deposits of pigmented microorganisms
The beaches of Elofonisi, Crete offer wonderful opportunities for taking pictures or just catching some rays
The beaches of Elofonisi, Crete offer wonderful opportunities for taking pictures or just catching some rays

I spent most of my time sunbathing, getting sunburnt, and trying to capture the beauty of Elafonisi with my camera. The area is full of wildlife waiting to be explored and discovered. If planning a visit, there are a few things to know before you get there:


  • The sand may not look as pink in the pictures. Many natural occurrences, such as wind or tides, can affect how pigmented the sand is.

  • The best time to visit is early autumn when tourism slows down and the water is still warm. If visiting in May or June, as I did, you will experience crisp, cold waters and chillier temperatures.

  • Nudity is permitted, so don’t be surprised if you notice missing tops along the beach.

Elafonisi is a great day trip if visiting Crete. Even during the height of the tourist season, the beach is relatively quiet thanks to its remoteness. Check out Memorial Cave, a nature reserve, and the old lighthouse on the islet. Or, take advantage of the steady winds for windsurfing. Whatever you’re there for, Elafonisi is sure to please.

Be sure to visit the Elafonisi nature Reserve for some truly spectacular views of Crete
Be sure to visit the Elafonisi Nature Reserve for some truly spectacular views of Crete
The tranquile beaches of Elafonisi, Crete will definitely help you relax and forget all of the world's problems
The tranquile beaches of Elafonisi, Crete will definitely help you relax and forget all of the world's problems

Plan your trip to Greece with us! Learn more about this amazing country from our other stories.

 

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