Elafonissi beach guide Crete
Photo: Chris Stevens
The remote and isolated beach and offshore islet of Elafonissi is located on the south-west coast of Crete about 43 kilometres south of Kasteli Kissamos and about 80 kilometres from Chania.
The beautiful beach of golden sand bars and the arresting pink-hued rock formations of Elafonisi once made this one of the secret paradise beaches of Crete.
It was 'discovered' in the late 1990's and the beach is now a staple of the tourist circuit and one of the 'must see' beach for Crete island day trippers. Daily bus tours arrive from Chania and boat trippers roll in regularly from the south coast resort of Paleochora.
As a result the holiday visitor will be lucky to experience Elafonissi as the remote paradise it once was. Now there are sunbeds for hire, cantinas to drink in and other tourist trappings, most notably growing piles of rubbish.
Day trippers arriving by road usually pass through the breathtaking Topolia Gorge, with its huge cathedral-type cave of Agia Sofia which not only has a small chapel inside but some amazingly large stalagmites and stalactities, and past the picturesque mountain villages of Topolia, Elos, Kefali and Vathi.
Elafonisi beach is white sand and the waters often take on a pinkish hue from the coral growing there — now protected by an EU environmental programme. The sheer variety of beaches in the area make for one Elafonissi's biggest attractions, from wide open spaces to rock pools and hidden coves.
To escape the crowds it is worth wading out across the lagoon to the islet and heading south until the crowds thin out and you can find a secluded cove to yourself. There are lots of tiny beach coves on the islet's south coast.
The crossing is about 200 metres and easy to follow, although this is not recommended if the weather is unsettled or the seas are rough as the current round here can be quite strong.
The sun-warmed shallows of Elafonissi are rarely more than a metre in depth and take on a pink hue in places from the colour of the pale coral reefs. This stretch of the coast is littered with quiet coves and shallow rock pools.
Thousands of people visit Elafonissi each summer with up to 2,500-a-day in July and August, so those who want to enjoy it in isolation are advised to visit out of season, early in the morning before the crowds arrive or late evening when they have left. There are a few rooms for rent and some tavernas nearby
There is a small plaque on the islet summit at Elafonissi in memory of the 600 Greek women and children who were slaughtered by invading Turks who found them hiding there in 1824.
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.