If there is one beach visitors are often aware of in Crete, it is Elafonissi. Recognized as one of the best beaches in the world, countless times, it is a unique experience and enchants everyone that visits. It would be fair to say that Elafonissi is an emblem of the island, and is featured on countless postcards. It is to be found just 80 km from Chania and 43 km from Kastelli, next to the monastery of Panagia Chrysoskalitissa. According to tradition, one of the 98 steps that lead to the monastery is gold, however, only true believers can see it.
Elafonisi is a small island, connected to the Cretan mainland by a shallow crossing of several hundred meters, which can be made on foot. The whole area, which is part of the EC programme NATURA 2000, is characterized by its pale sands, its shallow and crystal-clear waters – turquoise in colour – and the small pink patches made up from microorganisms in the crushed sea-shells. The setting falls a little short of outstanding, marred only by the sun-loungers and canteen-bars set up on the beach-sands themselves. Ideally one should visit Elafonisi outside of the tourist season when it is not overwhelmed by people. However, if you time it right and escape to an area further away from the main parking spots, you will experience a completely different Elafonissi.
Above everything else, Elafonissi is part of a precious natural habitat that houses rare and protected plant life and animals. Leave no traces or rubbish behind and be respectful of the plants and wildlife on the islet. Camping is strictly forbidden in the area. On the rocky western part of the island a lighthouse can be seen, as well as the communal burial site of the victims of the Austrian ship “Imperatrice” which sank here in 1907. It is also believed that a sanctuary of the god Apollo used to be here. Also, a massive massacre of revolutionaries, including a large number of women and children, who had taken refuge in Elafonίssi, took place here by the Turks, in 1824.
Those looking for an added challenge can hike from the monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalitissa to Agios Ioannis to the south, which passes through Elafonissi. This is a part of the E4 European long-distance trail and will take you through small olive groves, a cedar forest, rocky coasts and impressive coastal views. Agios Ioannis is about 4,5 km from Elafonissi on the most southwestern point of the island.