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Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete
Best BeachesChania area

Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete

Whoever is in the western half of Crete should not miss a visit to the islet

Elafonisi with its special atmosphere.

Almost white dunes, the beach covered with small shells and some pink colored tiniest shell pieces, crystal clear sea water, an almost always blowing breeze and the feeling of seclusion allow the beaches of Elafonisi to appear gorgeous.

Elafonisi islet is about 300m wide and 1500m long, and depending on the flow, the island with the mainland is connected by a strip of sand; in the worst case one steps for a few meters through up to 1 m deep water.

Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete

Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete
A lot of beach chairs and umbrellas
Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete
Visitors and “locals” co-exist
Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete
There is enough space for everybody

A little history …

Like almost every piece of land in Crete, the story of Elafonisi is connected by tragic facts with the rule of the Ottomans on the island of Crete. On an Easter Sunday on April 24, 1824, about 600 women and children and 40 resistance fighters who were hiding here from the Ottoman army of Ibrahim Pasha, found their death here; a stone monument is set for them on the north side of the island.

… and the shipwreck of the steamer Imperatrix

Elafonisi, exotic lagoon in southwestern Crete
The Austrian Lloyd steamer Imperatrix

The Times of London published on Monday February 25, 1907 the following: “Austrian Lloyd Steamer Wrecked”.

A Reuter telegram from Trieste, dated February 23, says: – “The Austrian Lloyd steamer Imperatrix, which left Trieste on 19 inst. went aground evening of 22nd. near Cape Elaphonissi, Crete and sank. The Austrian Lloyd steamer Castore was immediately ordered from Crete to the scene of the wreck. There has been loss of life but no definite news is available. The Imperatrix had a crew of 120 hands and carried 20 passengers, including two children and four nuns. A severe storm seems to have been the cause of the wreck.”

All passengers and most of the crew were saved, the 37 victims were buried in a common grave on the islet. Parts of the shipwreck are located near the north side of the island at a depth of 10m.

Very interesting details of this shipwreck can be found at

The European nature conservation program Natura 2000 at Elafonisi

In addition, the island Elafonisi is affiliated to the European Nature Conservation Natura 2000 program. The island’s interior is largely deferred and visitors are asked not to enter it.

Rare and endemic plant species can be found here: the small lily Androcymbium rechingeri, the caper, Capparis spinosa, the salt-Elecampane Inoula crithmoides or rosette Hemikryptophyt Centaurea pumilio are just some of the encountered here and protected growing plants.

Useful information

  • Directions from Chania and Kissamos: through the gorge of Topolia (stop at the cave chapel of Agia Sofia) and the village Elos
  • Directions from Paleochora: through Plemeniana, Strovles and the village Elos / or Hondros and the village Elos
  • There are several snack bars, toilets and beach chairs / umbrellas for rent (7 euros the set (June 2014)), but all of this on the mainland side, not on the islet.
  • Close to the beach are taverns and also rooms to rent.
  • The sea between the mainland and the island is very flat and suitable for small children.


My recommendation: combine your visit to the beaches of Elafonisi with a visit to the monastery Chrysoskalitissa (about 5km north of Elafonisi) or continue driving a little while towards east to the magic Kedrodasos, the beach for nature lovers

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