Amazing view of a beach on Koufonisi island with turquoise waters
EXPERIENCE

A boat trip to Crete’s desert island of Koufonisi

With 36 beaches and its very own desert to explore, the island of Koufonisi offers a sand-filled escape for day-trippers from Crete.
Thrace region-id="pin-13";Macedonia Macedonia Epirus Thessaly Sporades Ionian Islands Western Greece Central Greece Attica Peloponnese Crete Cyclades North Aegean Islands Dodecanese Dodecanese Karpathos Astypalea Tilos Sitia Faistos - Matala Patmos Kastelorizo Kasos Kos Leros Halki Rhodes Symi Sfakia - Loutro Rethymno Elounda - Agios Nikolaos Agia Galini Plakias Hersonissos - Malia Ierapetra Heraklion Chania Nisyros Ikaria Lipsi Tzia - Kea Thasos Samos Lesvos Samothrace Limnos Chios Kalymnos Paros Naxos Zante - Zakynthos Lefkada Corfu Santorini Milos Kythnos Kimolos Serifos Syros Sifnos Koufonisia Ios Kefalonia Mykonos Paxi Ithaca Arta Ioannina Tinos Parga - Sivota Metsovo Anafi Sikinos Folegandros Donousa - Iraklia - Schinoussa Antiparos Zagori Mountainous Arkadia Porto Heli - Ermioni Preveza Amorgos Andros Delos Messolongi Ancient Olympia Aegina Kythira Archea Epidavros Patra Nafplio Kardamyli Kalamata Ilia Corinth Western Messinia Kalavryta Elafonissos Nafpaktos Spetses Poros Hydra Alexandroupolis Pylos Mycenae Monemvasia Loutraki Piraeus Athens Arahova Xanthi Galaxidi Mystra - Sparta Mani Edipsos Delphi Chalkida Karystos Evia Skyros Vergina Alonissos Volos Karditsa Skopelos Skiathos Kastoria Thessaloniki Prespes Agios Athanasios Edessa Serres Veria Larissa - Tempi Elati - Pertouli Trikala Pelion Meteora Drama Ammouliani Mount Athos - Ouranopolis Nymfeo Mount Olympos Katerini Halkidiki Grevena Lake Kerkini Naoussa Kozani Kilkis Kavala Pella Lake Plastira
Duration
6 - 8 hours
Season
May - October

OVERVIEW

It takes just 10 nautical miles to reach Africa from Crete. Or so it feels when you travel to Koufonisi, off the eastern coast of Lasithi, into the Libyan Sea. 

The small island offers a completely different experience to mountainous Crete. Here the landscape changes to an expanse of limestone (its ancient name, Lekfi, means white) and no fewer than 36 beaches, most with fine white or golden sand. The interior, meanwhile, resembles an African desert, with tamarisk trees and rare or indigenous shrubs and bushes, hiding small lizards and other heat-loving animals. 

Though uninhabited now, Koufonisi held a special value for ancient Greeks, and its waters – rich in sea sponges and shells – attracted civilisations as varied as the Minoans and the Byzantines. 

In fact, there are Hellenistic and Roman ruins all over the island, with some still in the process of excavation. Instead, you’re free to explore a landscape which has been sculpted over time by the elements. Tread carefully, though. The entire island has been given Natura 2000-protected status.
 

Read More Read Less

DON'T MISS

Beaches

With 36 to choose from and all that white and gold sand, the only danger is of not knowing where to start. So here’s a quick tour of the island: Pigadi, on the north coast, is closest to where you’ll most likely be dropped off. Heading east, there’s beautiful Anemertia, which is sandy at one end and rocky at the other (nearby excavations have revealed a theatre). Heading southeast, you reach the generous sandy bay of Hiliaderfia and Prosfora, the longest beach on the island. And, finally, there is secluded and untouched Asprougas.

The Church of Agios Nikolaos

Near Pigadi Beach, you’ll find the little Chapel of Agios Nikolaos, patron saint of sailors, and a well from which the beach takes its name. You’ll also find a path leading inland.

The Desert of Elias

As you explore inland, you’ll completely forget that you’re in Greece (perhaps only the sand dunes of Ammothines, on Limnos, are comparable). The name (Elias) comes from a centuries-old olive tree, which is the only tree in the desert and one of only four olive trees on the island.

The Lighthouse

At the end of the path, there’s a ruined lighthouse, alongside the remains of a Hellenistic-era temple. The lighthouse was built in the 1920s, partly with the remains of the temple that once stood an impressive 2.5m tall. 

Read More Read Less

From Makri Gialo port in Lasithi (Crete)

  • Daily crossings from 10:30, returning at around 17:30. 

To Makri Gialo 

From Sitia Airport:

  • By car or taxi: 39km (50mins)
  • By bus (KTEL): More info

From Ierapetra:

  • By car or taxi: 27km (34mins)
  • By bus (KTEL): More info
  • Boat trips to Koufonisi operate from May-October.
  • All boat trips are dependent on weather conditions
  • Tickets cost around €25 per person for organised trips. Renting a boat and skipper will cost more. 

The peak summer months are the busiest and hottest, so May-June and September-October are the ideal periods to visit. 

  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • How long you stay on the island will depend on which boat trip you choose, or whether you hire your own boat. 
  • The crossing takes approximately 1 hour.
  • The entire experience will, most likely, take 7-8 hours. 
  • Depending on which boat trip you choose, you may be served food and drink on board.
  • If you hire your own boat, be aware that there are some reefs around Koufonisi. 
  • There are no facilities on the beaches.  

Make sure you have everything you need for a day in the sun: 

Plan your trip

 

TRAVEL RESPONSIBLY

Greece’s uninhabited islands are delicate ecosystems, so please help keep them in the best possible condition and leave only your footprints.

Use the bins provided or, if need be, take your rubbish with you.
Don’t remove any shells, rocks, fossils or sand from the beach.
Respect the marine life and the plants and animals on shore.
Use a refillable water bottle to try to minimise your use of plastic.
Explore your surroundings but please keep to designated paths for your own safety and to avoid disrupting the flora and fauna.
Making fires on beaches is strictly forbidden.
YOU NEED TO KNOW ·

See also

You might be interested in
View of Santorini island from Thirassia

A boat trip to Thirasia, the Santorini of 50 years ago

The beach to the north of Marathonisi island has a luxuriously generous covering of sand

A boat trip to the sea turtles of Marathonisi island

Visit beautiful secluded bays and beaches along the way, Marine Park of Alonissos

Exploring nature’s gifts in the Marine Park of Alonissos

Depending on which boat excursion you take from Karpathos, your day trip to Saria will involve soaking up the feeling of freedom on the beach and swimming in wonderfully clear water

Feel the meaning of escape on uninhabited Saria

An absolute must-see, Kleftiko was once a pirate hideout on the southwestern tip of the island

Milos’ beautiful beaches and bays revealed by boat

Aerial view of Spinalonga in Crete

You’ll be hooked by Spinalonga’s storied past

Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Elafonissi is an island you can easily wade to through knee-deep water

The dreamscape of Crete’s Elafonissi beach

Minoan Palace of Knossos

Exploring the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete

A boat trip to Chrissi, Crete's golden isle

A boat trip to Chrissi, Crete’s golden isle