The dreamscape of Crete’s Elafonisi beach
A day out at Elafonisi beach
When it comes to bucket-list swimming spots in Crete, Elafonisi beach makes quite a case for being right at the top. On some days it’s connected to the coastline of southwestern Crete, and on others it’s an island you can easily wade to through knee-deep water. One way or another, you’ll find an exotic paradise of fine white and pink sand (coloured by crushed shells), shallow turquoise water and gorgeous little coves. People come from all over Crete to see what all the fuss is about.
Protected within the Natura 2000 environmental network, the island of Elefonisi contains only sand dunes and more than 100 rare plants, including summer-flowering sea daffodils that look like white cups.
While the organised mainland side of Elafonisi beach can get busy during the peak season, you can easily find yourself a hidden bay to lie in or wallow in the shallows. The sand extends for some distance along the 1km coastline, with the small church of Agia Irini and a lighthouse at the far end.
It’s safe for swimming and snorkelling and has been awarded a Blue Flag for environmental cleanliness. Water sports are popular where the lagoon widens. But mostly, spending a day at Elafonisi beach is about relaxing and enjoying a beautiful landscape. Your kids (and Instagram feed) won’t stop thanking you.
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How do you get to Elafonisi beach from Chania?
- By car: Elafonisi beach is 75km (1hr30mins) by road from Chania, through the region’s mountainous interior, so many prefer to make the return journey during daylight.
- By bus (KTEL): The public bus schedule depends on the season, so check first: Bus information
- By foot: The E4 European long-distance walking path passes through here, so how about following the 18km stretch from Paleochora (which is 71km from Chania) to Elafonisi.
How do you get to Elafonisi beach from Heraklion?
- By car: Elafonisi beach is 142km (2hrs10mins) by road from Heraklion
- By bus: KTEL (public bus) info
When is the best time to visit Elafonisi beach?
- You’ll enjoy the exotic scenery of Elafonisi beach at any time of year, but swimming and sunbathing are best from May to October.
- If you do visit in July-August, do so in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler and quieter.
May-June and September-October are the best and quietest months to visit.
How long do you need in Elafonisi beach?
By far the best experience is to arrive early (by 10:00) and make a day of it.
There are plenty of facilities at Elafonisi (canteen, umbrellas, sunbeds, and water supports such as windsurf, kitesurf, SUP) and a lifeguard during the swimming season.
Make sure you have everything you need for a day in the sun: