Elafonisi Beach Crete: Useful Tips by a Local to Visit the Best Beach on the Island

Elafonisi Beach

Turquoise shallow waters, pink dunes, cedar trees …are you dreaming about Elafonisi? If you are, then bookmark this trustful guide written by a local. It has everything about Elafonisi Beach but it also gives you helpful insight.

This includes the state of the roads to get there, the crowds you don’t see in the pictures, the crazy prices for a cup of coffee, and the windy days that make it impossible to stay on the beach. This is a complete insider’s guide. And as such it will also show you the bad, and the ugly about Elafonisi.

It will offer suggestions to get ready for one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, knowing everything that you can expect.

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Elafonisi Beach, the Best Beach in Crete

Elafonisi Beach

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Since I moved to Crete, Elafonisi is one of the places I’ve visited the most. The family loves it and it’s always exciting to go back.

According to my GPS, I live exactly 88.4 km from Elafonisi, and it takes us 1 hour and 48 minutes to get there. As you see, it’s one of my navigator’s favorite destinations too.

Elafonisi Beach
Taking pictures in Elafonisi is one of my favorite things to do when I visit.

Elafonisi Beach is one of those places that everyone wants to visit when they get to Crete. It’s a hit on Instagram and ranks in every travel site among the top 10 beaches in the world. Well, it really is. It’s a magical place.

Elafonisi Beach is one of those places that everyone wants to visit when they get to Crete. It’s a hit on Instagram and ranks in every travel site among the top 10 beaches in the world. Well, it really is. It’s a magical place.

However, the small island of Elafonisi stopped being a secret gem years ago. Every summer, especially in August, long lines of cars populate the rather narrow and dangerous roads that lead to the southwest corner of Crete.

Elafonisi Beach, is This Main Attraction Really a Must?

Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi Beach (Crete) in September.

Especially in the last few years, I’ve noticed (with a bit of sadness) that tourists feel that they must see Elafonisi, feeling that if they don’t go to Elafonisi, they feel they’ve seen nothing of Crete.

People seem to come to Crete with a kind of supermarket-style list that includes just 3 things:

All three places are definitely worth the visit, of course. However, in any case, my local’s advice would be to slow down.

If you really want to enjoy a holiday in Crete, take it easy and it will be more fun and relaxing to explore the island.

Family in Elafonisi
In Elafonisi with the kids.

Leaving all personal rants aside, every year, I still see tourists renting a car and driving like crazy around the island, from point A to B with only one of these in mind: “I’ve got to see Balos”, “I must see Knossos” “I must go to Elafonisi”.

As a consequence, they’re stressed and tired, and, honestly… they see virtually nothing!

What people probably forget is that there are equally beautiful places to see on the island minus the hustle and the crowds.

My suggestion is that, if you come with a limited amount of time, there’s no point in rushing around like it’s the end of the world if you don’t see those places.

Besides… I still have to know a person who has been to Crete and has not made up his mind to return. Trust me, you probably will. And you can always catch up next time.

The Roads to Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach
The most common road to get to the area of Elafonisi Beach is the one that goes through Topolia Gorge.

Living in the region of Chania has given me the possibility to visit Elafonisi many, really many, times. And it’s always a great full-day trip.

I always enjoy taking the kids, normally in May, early June, or September. But I’ve also taken friends at the peak of the season.

A few years ago, I drove there even on August 15th! Probably the craziest decision ever. As a consequence: I do know what crowds mean in Elafonisi.

Elafonisi Beach
Topolia gorge, road to Elafonisi.

Moreover, I’ve been to Elafonisi both in the era of paper maps and the era of Siri, and I know which roads you should take or avoid when the tourist season is at its peak.

I’ve been there on sunny days, windy days, and extremely windy days.

I’ve seen Elafonisi with rain, with clouds, and even in winter. I’ve been to Elafonisi accompanying tourists, as a guide, and as a driver.

Getting there? I was driven there, drove there myself, and even took the bus.

STAY IN ELAFONISI: It’s a good idea to stay in the village to make the most of your time. I’ve written a guide to the best places to stay in Elafonisi for you to check before your visit.

Maps: Roads to Elafonisi

I’ve tried all the possible roads according to Michelin Maps and Google Maps. In conclusion, one thing has to be said immediately, the roads to Elafonisi are not easy, that’s why this is how I begin this guide, discussing how to get to Elafonisi

road maps to elafonisi crete
1- Going through Topolia, the most popular option, the most crowded too 2- The less chosen option, going from Platanos to Elos, and from there to Elafonisi. 3- Coastal road from Platanos through Sfinari (Usually chosen by those staying in Sfinari and Falasarna).

You might also want to read this step-by-step guide to car rental and driving in Crete

The Mountain Road: Going to Elafonisi Beach through Topolia

Elafonisi Beach
(Google Maps 2023).

If you depart from Chania, this road will take you to Elafonisi in a little bit more than an hour. In August, that might be almost double.

The best way to beat the crowds is to get in the early morning, never after 10 am. This way, you’ll encounter less traffic.

First of all and as a general rule, don’t expect, on any of these roads, to speed. It’s rather impossible and not just for the traffic. All of them are mountain roads, so they are narrow, and slippery, with blind hairpin turns, and distressing ravines.

Elafonisi Beach
Kri-kri, Crete’s native goat, can be found in the White Mountains, as well as on Theodorou island, opposite the city of Chania.
Elafonisi Beach
Vultures are commonly found in the high mountains of Crete.

The road to Elafonisi that passes through Topolia is among the most breathtaking drives in Crete. This is the same road tourist buses take if you’re getting to Elafonisi on an organized (and affordable) tour from Chania.

The road offers plenty of opportunities for unique captures of the local nature, the mountains, and the small villages around.

Topolia Gorge starts near the village of Stroules, about 450 meters a.s.l., to finish in the village of Topolia, where the rock walls are high and very steep.

This place is home to several wild birds, such as vultures and eagles. The canyon is crossed by the river Tyflos.

Its whole length is 3 km, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to hike, and there’s water until Spring.

According to the legend, the gorge of Topolia hosted fairies and the Minoan goddess Vitromartis.
And it was also in Topolia where the legendary Talos would stop and enjoy the music of the fairies.

If you are interested in stopping in places such as Potamida or Millia Mountain Resort (more about those later, at the end of the post), this is the way you have to choose.

On a personal note, I suffer from extreme vertigo in the mountains. However, I’ve found that if instead of being a front-seat passenger I’m sitting at the back or -even better- I’m driving, I can go through Topolia in a breeze.

I’ve spoken with many visitors with the same condition, and all seem to confirm that these recipes help.

If you want to avoid driving to Elafonisi, you can! Click here to check out all the available private tours that take you there!

The Bendy Road: Going to Elafonisi Beach from Elos

For the sake of precision, I include a small description of this second road (map 2). You can take that road arriving either from Chania or from Kissamos but it’s not in very good condition.

It’s also rather narrow and bendy. Once you reach Platanos, you keep driving until the village of Elos, and at the sign, turn to Elafonisi.

You’re better off avoiding this road although it allows exploring some picturesque and lonely villages worth a stop.

The Coastal Road: Going to Elafonisi Beach from Sfinari

Elafonisi Beach
(Google Maps 2023)

So basically, there are two good possible roads that take you to Elafonisi. The one through Topolia mentioned above and the following one from Falasarna and passing through Sfinari Beach.

This is a beautiful scenery road, that might take a little longer but is worth it. It’s rather bendy too, and it’s the common way to go to Elafonisi if you are staying in Falasarna.

This road is often less crowded than the road through Topolia, even in the high season.

The sea is part of the landscape as well as the pebbles and rocks falling from the mountains, and the dozens of goats and sheep blocking the road at times. Be careful… and patient!

Personally, I find that this road is stunning for photography. However, it tends to feel really long because bends do force you to slow down a lot.

Sifnari beach Crete - sunset hour
Sunset hour, Sfinari.

When I’ve got time to spare, I like to combine the first road on the way to Elafonisi and leave this one for the way back, especially if I return during sunset, the views are fantastic.

Boat Trip from Paleochora to Elafonisi: For the sake of precision, Elafonisi can also be reached by boat from Paleochora, certainly more relaxing than driving, but a bit more expensive.

In general, the roads are doable with due care, you must be precautious because parts of the roads might not have safety barriers or signposts indicating danger.

One important suggestion though, when you reach Elafonisi by car, it’s a good idea to either spend the night in the village or to leave at about 5 pm, before sunset, it’s always better to avoid these roads at night.

You can read more about Sfinari in the Balos Beach Guide.

Elafonisi Beach, a Top Destination in Crete

Where is Elafonisi

Elafonisi Beach
The gorgeous turquoise water, Elafonissi Beach.

The beach of Elafonisi is a remarkable sandy beach located on the Southwest coast of Cree, in the region of Chania prefecture. It’s about 74 km from Chania town, and 211 km from Heraklion (3 to 4 hours).

If you are staying in Heraklion and want to visit Elafonisi in a day, think it over, the trip can take a long time and be very tiring, even when you are not the one at the wheel!

Who Goes to Elafonisi

Elafonisi Beach

Families with kids usually target the area in the summer months in search of shallow and warm clear waters. Elafonisi is very safe, a very good place for families with small children.

Elafonisi is also popular among young couples looking for a romantic landscape.

Backpackers also choose Elafonisi, many of them spend the night in the nearby Kedrodasos, another pristine beach with fine white sand, junipers, cedar trees, and crystal-clear turquoise water.

Fewer people target Kedrodasos, but it is getting quite popular too.

Look into this guide to packing your beach bag in Crete to have everything your need with you!

The pristine beach is magnificent. An infinite palette of crystal blue waters with pleasant (warm) temperatures mixing with white and coral-red sand is the main attraction of Elafonisi.

The color of the sea is, for me the most distinctive trait, and one of the most spectacular blues on the whole southern coast of Crete.

The tones of the Lybian sea change from lighter greenish-blue close to the shore; to shiny, almost sparkling neon turquoise, to deep blue in the distance.

The Geography of Elafonisi

Elafonisi Beach

General Details About the Pink Beach

Elafonisi is more than just a beach, it’s actually a small islet that gives the name to the whole beach (Elafonisi Island), but everyone is busy searching for pink sand, so nobody notices!

The island is separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon and a strip of pure white sandbars sand usually below sea level.

Depending on the moment of the day and the tides, the lagoon changes in depth from 50 cm (low tide) to a meter or more (high tide).  

Sometimes you can cross to the island easily, some other times you have to put your beach bag on top of your head.

And, on occasions, there are currents too, not dangerous, but they can knock a small kid down. Don’t freak out, he won’t go anywhere but just know that kids can get a little startled.

Getting Down to the Beach

Elafonisi Beach

Whether you came with the daily bus service or by car, once you reach the large parking area, you will have to walk for about 5-10 minutes to get to the main beach and seafront.

There are hundreds of umbrellas on the beach and on that small strip of land that’s never underwater.

If you don’t arrive early in the morning, during the peak season, don’t even dream of getting a free spot.

And under the Cretan sun in high summer, an umbrella is really necessary, so, as an alternative, pack a hat. It will help, especially if you plan to spend the whole day.

In theory, you should not find other umbrellas than the “official ones”. Loungers, beach chairs, and umbrellas are not allowed because Elafonisi is a protected area. But you will find umbrellas, chairs, tents, mini-fridges… you name it.

Thinking of doing more beaches in a day? Read One day in Aspri Limni, Kedrodasos Beach, and Elafonisi.

The Islet of Elafonisi

Elafonisi Beach
The main beach, the strait with shallow waters (low tide), and the islet.

The small separate island is located towards the extreme west of the beach, you will find it after you walk past a few dunes and rock formations.

The islet is a Natura 2000 reserve, internationally recognized, and it hosts unique plant species and native rare plants that you won’t easily find anywhere else.

It’s a great place to take a walk or to spend a relaxing day next to the clear blue waters. Many even camp too, though it’s forbidden.

The area has unique coves and ponds with emerald green, transparent water, but there’s no umbrella available. It’s more isolated than the main beach as well, therefore popular among nudists too.

It’s also a good spot for snorkeling with a beautiful landscape also under the sea.

Elafonisi Beach

Needless to say, most visitors are day-trippers, often staying until the late afternoon.

However, if you are able to spend the night in the small village, and get to the beach before dawn, you will be amazed at the enchanting landscape.

Sunrise is probably the best time to visit. And the late afternoon, at sunset, of course!

If you are interested in seeing Elafonisi at its best, then visit in early May or October. You will find quiet beaches, desert roads, and warm water in both months.

Elafonisi Beach
Sunrise, Elafonisi.

The Crowds in Elafonisi

Crowds are there to stay, unfortunately. And since nothing is being done by the local authorities, we don’t really see a (favorable) change in the future.

As you can see in this picture, many years ago, the beach was virtually empty.

Greece - Crete - Elafonis

This picture is from Elafonisi being designed as one of the world’s top 25 beaches on TripAdvisor in 2014. It was heavenly back then.

Elafonisi Beach
Windy day at the end of September, not so crowded.

The Truth About the Pink Sand

Elafonisi Beach
Pink coral sand.

The sand in Elafonisi is not pink. There you go. I’ve said it!

Yes, it’s not pink. It’s a wonderful and unique kind of pinkish color, at times. It depends on the tides, the light, the wind, and the moment of the day.

If you were waiting for a different shade of pink, then you’ve probably seen stunning pink sand photoshopped pictures of Elafonisi.

In full honesty, the sea color is even more stunning than the color of the sand.

The sand in Elafonisi has some tints of pink tones at times and on certain spots of the beach.
And the key to that color is in its composition.

Elafonisi Beach

The sand in Elafonisi is made out of millions of microscopic pink shellfish (Benthic Foraminifera) that mix with the white, powdery sand. So the color also will have to do with what these creatures eat. 

And it’s not exclusive to Elafonisi either. There are pink sand beaches in different parts of West Crete. It’s possible to spot pink sand in Balos, Falasarna, and sometimes even in Stavros, in the Akrotiri peninsula.

Elafonisi Beach

In any case, on the days that Elafonisi beach looks pink, the color is really intense, mostly close to the lagoon and near the shore.

Sometimes it forms colored pink and black strips close to the shoreline, but if you get a few meters away from the sea, the sand tends to go back to white.

Beautiful Landscape

Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi is a Nature 2000 protected reserve, so visitors should respect the following rules.

In Elafonisi it’s forbidden to:

  • Start fires
  • Camp
  • Collect or take sand with you
  • Cut and pick flowers
  • Litter
  • Use beach umbrellas (nobody respects this).

Elafonisi is home to over a hundred atypical plants. Among them are sea daffodils, pretty white flowers with the shape of a trumpet, quite unique but not exclusive from Elafonisi.

They can also be seen on other beaches of Crete. I’ve taken pictures of sea daffodils in Tersanas, Agii Apostoli, and Stavros (all beaches in the Regional Unit of Chania, West Crete).

Elafonisi Beach
Sea daffodils.

Another very uncommon plant is the winter flower called Androcymbium rechingeri which grows only in two places in the world, Crete and Libya.

Taking away fauna or flora (and sand) from the island is forbidden as well as punishable. And fines are high.

Not many are aware, but the lagoon is also the place of choice for loggerhead sea turtles, also known as Caretta Caretta, a rare and protected species very hard to spot.

This sea turtle is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Those who know better say they usually hid because they are shy, and it might as well be true because, after years and years of visiting, I’ve never seen one in Elafonisi. 

However, I’ve spotted the Caretta Caretta several times in the old port in the town of Chania!

Facilities and Things to Do on Elafonisi Beach, Crete

Elafonisi Beach

Sports in Elafonisi

This place is excellent to practice my favorite sport ever: doing nothing on a beach. However, if you’re not a relaxed type of person, snorkeling is very popular in Elafonisi.

The area is often hit by very strong winds which, paired with a calm lagoon, have transformed this spot into a sanctuary for kite surfing and several other water sports.

Looking for alternative beaches? Go over the best beaches in West Crete.

Where to Eat in Elafonisi

In short, there are no good places to eat on the beach. There’s just one traditional tavern at the very entrance of the parking spot, and then two different beach bars and snack bars with an assortment of fresh drinks and beer, ice cream, coffees, and pies or sandwiches.

It’s always safe to pack your own lunch, some fruit, and plenty of water.
Prices usually go up a lot in August if compared to Greek standards, especially for cold drinks.

It’s always a better idea to bring food from home or stop at any of the markets on the main road before the beach.

They usually sell frozen bottles of water that last cold until late in the afternoon.

If you pack your own lunch, please leave no memories on the beach, there are many well-marked containers for rubbish everywhere. Use them!

Other Details about Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach

As you saw in the pictures above, Elafonisi offers sunbeds and umbrellas (from €8 to €15 and more, depending on the month and sometimes on the hour of the day too).

There are also toilets on the beach, you have to pay a very small fee to use them. The earlier you go in the day, the cleaner you’ll find them, it’s a matter of basic maths.

Essential Things You Should Pack to Visit Elafonisi

Elafonisi is popular, more popular every year that goes by. It’s common to arrive and find that there are no umbrellas or spots in the shade.

So, remember to bring with you a big hat and loads of sunscreen with high UV protection. I’ve seen friends getting burned by the sun and regretting not using sunscreen!

Take special care of children, provide special sunscreen for them too, as well as a hat, even a T-shirt or cover-up, and loads of fresh water.

That’s also a reason why you’ll see so many tents around on the beach.

In case you forget any of the essentials, there’re a few markets on the main road before reaching the beach. There you will find bread, fruit, snacks, and iced drinks.

It’s also possible to get magazines, beach toys, towels, and hats.

Not all beaches in Crete are nudist-friendly, so check this list of nudist beaches in Crete before taking off the swimming suit!

Spend the Night: Elafonisi Beach Hotels

Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi Resort Kalomirakis Family, Elafonisi.

Spending the night in Elafonisi is an excellent idea if you come from Rethymno (132 km) or Heraklion (211 km).

If you are staying in the west part of Crete, a day trip is bearable, but spending the night or even a few nights is always much better.

We spent the night a few times and it’s something that I would definitely advise. The village is quiet and gets very lonely and peaceful at night when most tourists start their way back to the north.

There’s a very small selection of places to stay. Therefore, it is better to book in advance if you visit in July or August. However, I’ve always managed to find accommodation without booking in late September. 

One of the nicest places where we’ve stayed is Elafonisi Resort Kalomirakis Family, it’s located right at the entrance of the beach, where the paved road ends.

Prices are fair and the bungalows are really nice, among olive groves, lemon trees, and pretty views, and they also allow for easy access to the beach.

The breakfast options were abundant, but it’s usually not included in the price of the room. It’s definitely a quiet place, with a nice garden for children.

The rooms are basic and very clean, with a kitchenette and air conditioning. We stayed many times and we’ve always liked it.

Another popular place to stay is Glykeria, located on the main road of the village, a few hundred meters from the beach.

The place has a magnificent view of the sea and is often fully booked early in the season.

They also have a pretty interesting restaurant worth dinner. We’ve also visited many times, both at sunset for a drink and later for dinner too. 

Pro tip: Open your eyes! We managed to spot deer crossing the main road of the village!

When is the Best Month to Visit Elafonisi Beach

Elafonisi Beach

If you are visiting for the same reason that 90% of people go there, aka the beach, then you must visit sometime between late May and early October for warm temperatures.

July and especially August are very busy, crowded, and hot.

Winds are not uncommon at all, in any month, but there’s not a precise factor as to why. You need a bit of luck.

The Wind in Elafonisi Beach

If upon arrival you find heavy wind, reach the island on foot, place your beach towel on the wet sand, and just wait.

This will help you spend a more pleasant day. Also, you can find a protected place to stay near the coves.

That’s about all you can do. Or simply get in the sea and swim until it gets better.

Elafonisi Beach in the Cold Season

If you’re just looking for a lonely place to spend some time, maybe resting, or just reading a good book, you can visit any time of the year, spend time in the small traditional villages in the area, enjoy the view of distant olive groves, walk on the sand and even make it to the small islet, and fully enjoy the solitary beach.

Please take extra care when driving in winter, as temperatures in the mountains drop and ice formations are not rare.

Also, accommodation might be close to impossible to find and floods are not uncommon. You might need to drive to Kissamos to spend the night.

Remember that the sun sets earlier in winter, leave with plenty of daylight ahead to drive through the mountains.

More Ways to Get to Elafonisi

Check also these alternatives to travel to Elafonisi…

Traveling to Elafonisi by Bus

Elafonisi Beach
Buses at Chania City Bus Station.

These are the things you need to know to visit Elafonisi Beach by public bus:
– It’s not hard at all to reach Elafonisi by bus from Chania’s Central Bus Station.
– The timetable is usually at the station or on the KTEL bus company website.
– The bus service is very limited during winter. 
– The ticket is 11 € and the journey there is about 2 hours.

Organized Bus Tours to Elafonisi

Another affordable way to get to Elafonisi is to join an organized bus tour with pick-up from your hotel and drop-off at the end of the day.

OVERVIEW OF THE BUS TOUR TO ELAFONISI: For an affordable fee you skip the driving part, visit the beach, take advantage of explanations by a local guide, enjoy free time on Elafonisi Beach, and on your way back you will also stop for a delicious lunch in a small village in the mountains. Pick-up and drop-off are included.

These are some of the Elafonisi bus tours I’ve tested and I can recommend:

As you can see, prices for bus tours to Elafonisi range from €30 to €40 )a bit more if you come from Heraklion). If someone asks for more than this fee, then you should expect a private tour (ranging from an average €80-€100 per person, with higher costs and a more exclusive service).

Getting to Elafonisi by Boat

As I briefly mentioned before, the only place with boat trips to Elafonisi is Paleochora. This is another south village that is rather far from Chania. Therefore, this boat service is only worthwhile if you are already staying there.

Boats usually leave at about 10 am, but it’s always better to confirm with the local boatmen. Bear in mind that there is no port in Elafonisi.

The boat will leave you at a nearby docking area, about a 10-minute walk from the beach.
Check prices with several boatmen before buying your ticket.

Looking for alternative beaches near Chania? Discover the beaches in Akrotiri Peninsula.

Best Places to See Near Elafonisi Beach, in Crete

If you’re driving to Elafonisi, take it easy and stop on your trip to check the following places…

Komolithi Formations, Potamida

Elafonisi Beach

If there’s a place worth stopping while you’re on the way to Elafonisi, this is the one. It should be your first stop on the way there because it is the attraction that is closer to the town of Chania.

Don’t miss a visit if you are a lover of nature or photography, or if you travel with kids.

Elafonisi Beach
Kids enjoy the landscape and the possibility to explore without any danger.

Komolithi is located in the village of Potamida, in Kissamos, in the valley of river Tyflos.

If you are coming from Chania, it’s no more than 15 minutes after you take the detour to Elafonisi.
Look out because there is just one small sign.

This bizarre landscape is made of very soft clay hills, grey, and rather low.

Elafonisi Beach

The erosion has sculpted their unique conical shape, and many of the formations have vegetation on the top. There’s only one place in Crete with similar formations.

The hills are fairly easy to climb while the place is rather unknown and solitary, perfect to take unique pictures.

Cave of Agia Sofia

Elafonisi Beach
The small chapel inside the cave.

Right after you’ve passed the tunnel of Topolia, there’s a wonderful place that deserves a stop: Agia Sophia.

After a breathtaking steep climb of over 150 steps, you will reach the imposing entrance of this unique cave, about 285 meters a.s.l.

In it, there is a tiny church, with the same name as the cave, as well as huge stalactites and stalagmites.

The main chamber has been known since ancient times, and it is called The Cathedral due to its dimensions, about 20 meters high and 70 in width. Humidity increases the further you venture into the cave.

So remember to wear comfortable shoes to climb and walk inside, and avoid flip-flops at all costs.

Elafonisi Beach

The place is famous for the alga, but also the number of pigeons flying inside. Inside the cave, there is a variety of spiders, known as Phoicus Creticus, that only live here, nowhere else in Crete… or in the world!

According to a legend, Saint George’s horse left an imprint of his hoof on the walls of the cave. After the visit, stop while you climb down, for a refreshing orange juice in the local taverna.

Milia Mountain Retreat

Milia mountain retreat
Milia Suite, (Courtesy of Milia Resort, Credits Vassilis Kotrotsos)

Milia is a private mountain resort in the center of Kissamos, and it’s in a zone belonging to the network Natura of protected areas.

The facilities used to be an abandoned village from the 15th century, above the gorge of Topolia gorge, at the foothills of the White Mountains.

Thanks to accurate restoration work, it’s now a cozy hostel with an organic farm on the premises.

This settlement has become very popular during the last years and many locals choose it as a Winter retreat.

It’s also popular among young Cretans as an alternative to spending Christmas at home, they come here with friends or with a partner.

The complex is amidst a breathtaking mountainous landscape, in a valley surrounded by the mountains Kefali and Psilo (about 550 meters a.s.l.).

You can get more information about the accommodation and on-site activities on the website, including cooking lessons and hiking. It’s a place to keep in mind for a long stay in the mountains.

Chrysoskalitissa Monastery


About 5 km north of Elafonisi, check the Monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalithisa (sometimes spelled Chrysoskalithissa).

It’s located on the top of a rock, less than 40 meters high, this seventeenth-century building offers spectacular views of the surrounding area and the sea.

This is a fortified construction with a very interesting name. Chrisoskalithisa comes from the Greek chrisa skalopathia meaning golden steps.

Elafonisi Beach
Elafonisi Beach

According to the legend, one of the 98 steps leading up to the monastery was made of gold, the last step of the staircase.

Another version explains that the sanctuary sold the valuable staircase during the Ottoman rule of Crete to alleviate its economic burdens.

Very close to the monastery, archaeologists have found a little fishing village dating back to the Minoan era.

You might also want to read more about Chrisoskalithissa and other Cretan monasteries.

Village of Elos

This small and quiet village is about 60 km from Chania, fairly close to Elafonisi. It is a superb stop for food before or after the visit to the pink sand beach.

Elafonisi Beach

The village is surrounded by green scenery made of chestnut forests, olive groves, and plane trees, as well as a few streams flowing from the mountains.

Every year, by the end of October, the arrival of Fall is celebrated by the chestnut festival, which attracts visitors from different corners of the island.

If you stop in the village of Elos, I strongly recommend you taste the homemade dishes of Philoxenia Taverna, you will never forget a meal there. You can read the reviews here.

Kedrodasos Beach

Elafonisi Beach
Kedrodasos Beach.

Kedrodasos is only one kilometer from Elafonisi, towards the east. It’s a bit hard to reach as you will have either to hike or to drive along a very rough path, an off-road vehicle is the best way to go.

The name of the beach means cedar forest, but the tree that populates the area is the juniper, a delicate and protected species.

The area is secluded and there is no accommodation around. Many people choose the place as a camping spot, though Greek law forbids it.

There’s more information about Kedrodasos in my article about the best beaches in South Crete.

The best way to discover Crete is by planning a road trip and itinerary on your own. Are you ready?

🏖️ Please, help us protect the beaches in Crete. Respect the environment and don’t leave any trash behind.

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More resources to enhance Your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Chania

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these hotels in the city:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Discover Cars is my favorite engine for finding a rental car on the island.
  • Finally, to book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin it Now! Pin This Guide With All The Secrets About Elafonisi Beach in Crete

Elafonisi Beach

You might also want to read these other articles about Crete:

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

15 thoughts on “Elafonisi Beach Crete: Useful Tips by a Local to Visit the Best Beach on the Island

  1. earthcomedy says:

    thanks for this guide! Almost 10 years ago I stayed in Paleochora over the winter for 3 months or so from memory. While I went to Samaria Gorge and drove around the island in a day or two, I never made it to Elafonisi! Wasn’t a beach person then, but now I am. Going in Sept!

  2. Natasha says:

    Hi everyone, Absolutely amazing place!! Best beach ever! Just returned! We stayed in Falasarna, but traveled on the coastal road!! Wow! Scary Journey or what! But worth it, plus stopped off in the local Cretan taverns, just so beautiful set in the hills & valleys on route home.. all Greek so lovely, but definitely worth visiting Elonofinisi beach August get up & go get on that beach to grab shade! You will need it, plenty of places to buy refreshments.. so pleased we stayed at this end of the island & the Chania airport is so small as well.

  3. Mayi says:

    I hadn’t heard of Elafonisi before, to be honest, I’m not very familiar with Crete. The detailed post made me appreciate this little island, I might even add it to my bucket list! Thanks for sharing!

    • Gabi says:

      It’s always great to be able to add more places to our endless bucket list! I hope you can make it to Crete soon! Thanks for leaving your comment

  4. April says:

    I love how you not just not cover the beach but the history and myths of the surrounding area. The Elafonisi Beach seems like an incredible place to visit. I’m sorry that I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for a great post!

  5. Lisa M. Foyer says:

    We’ve used your page to go to Elafonisi this summer and it was useful and the info accurate. Thanks! You helped us choose the roads and we are thankful for that too. I suffer from vertigo too and reading your experience was helpful. 🙂 We’ve been to Santorini and Mykonos in previous years but this was our first time in Crete. We so much loved Crete and hope to come back next year, it is such a nice island!

    • Gabi says:

      Hi and thanks for reading! Yes, vertigo is not a joke and some of those roads can be impressive, glad I could help a little bit to cope with that and happy you are thinking of coming back, this island is magic 🙂

  6. Diana says:

    Such a beautiful place, I hope to visit Crete soon. Of all your posts about Crete, this was my favourite.

    • Gabi says:

      Hi Diana, and welcome.
      I hope to finish the Crete series really soon… It was such an intense experience it is taking me more than expected to tell all about it, but it’s my goal and I promise more posts in the short run. Keep coming back!

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