Not far from the famous Elafonisi pink beach, you can visit the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery Crete and discover the legend of the Golden step. Located on a promontory, it offers a nice stop along the mostly wild West Coast. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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Why visit the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery in Crete ?
I must admit that I would not do the drive, just to see the monastery. But if you are heading to Elafonisi beach to see the pink sand and enjoy the shallow waters, the monastery is a good way to complement the trip.
Located on a promontory right by the sea, it has a privileged situation.
On top of that, this historical site is famous for the legend of the Golden step. I will explain it later in this article. Are you pure of heart? 🙂
Note: the name is sometimes written Chryssoskalitissa monastery or Chrisoskalitissa Monastery. However on all the signs in English there, it was Chrysoskalitissa, which is why I opted for this spelling.
PLANNING TIPS - Chrysoskalitissa Monastery Crete
How to get to the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery location
- Located at the South end of the West Coast of Crete
- 10 min drive North from Elafonisi beach
- 1h30 drive from Chania
- 1h drive from Palaiochora
- The roads in this region are through the mountains, but not especially difficult
- It is just off the road that take you to the pink beach
Chrysoskalitissa (with its GPS coordinates) is included in my eBook:
- 5 easy-to-plan Maps
- 60+ Scenic locations for your itinerary
- 16+ extra photo stops and places to see
- Planning info to make the most of your time
- GPS coordinates for peace of mind
- 150+ original photos to help you select where to go
- There is a large free carpark at the bottom of the monastery
- You can find boards with explanations on the carpark before entering
- Opening hours = at least 8am to 7pm
- Entrance fee = 2 euros
- You must be modestly dressed
- It is not a large monastery to visit - short tour
- Photography with flash is not allowed in the temple and museums
- Toilets just before the entrance
Monastery from the distance
I think the monastery is most beautiful when admired from the distance. A Cretan Monastery with one of the best locations (see my list)
It isolated on a promontory by the sea at 35m in altitude.
Because of its situation, it reminds a little of a fortress.
This first view is from the main road. You won't miss it!
This second view, was taken from the roads below. I was looking for an access to the Aspri Limni cove. So I followed the sign for the Aspri Limni house, but could not find any public access to the cove...
And the view below is when arriving at the carpark:
History and Legend of the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa - Golden Step
History of Chrysoskalitissa
This is a 17th century Orthodox Christian Monastery. It is consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (but during the Venetian occupation, it was dedicated to Saint Nicholaos).
Here is a short timeline:
- According to tradition, the holiness of the place is due to the presence of an icon found in a hollow rock
- Mid 17th century - the church is built inside the rock
- 1824 - The Turk-Egyptians massacre 600 people on the Elafonisi island and destroy the empty monastery
- Mid-19th century - the monastery is renovated and expanded
- End of the 19th century - the new temple is built
- 1907 - the Austrian ship Imperatrix sinks at Elafonisi beach. The monks were able to save 102 passengers.
- 1940 - the monastery becomes a nunnery
- 1941 to 1944 - the nuns are expelled under the German occupation and the monastery becomes a German outpost
Legend of the Golden Step
And I will finally tell you about the golden step.
The name Chrysoskalitissa literally means carved on gold.
There are 2 stories around this golden step:
- There was an actual golden stair and it was sold by the Patriarchate during the Turkish era to pay taxes (according to the board at the carpark)
- One of the 98 stairs was gold but only the pure of heart could see it (the most appreciated legend).
Personally, I did not see it. And I counted less that 90 steps. So I must be really bad... lol
Chrysoskalitissa Church & View
You can climb the stair all the way to the church and visit the inside.
It is dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary (Aug 15)
The temple has two aisles one to the Virgin Mary and one to the Holy Trinity, with a bell tower in the middle.
The façade is rather austere looking.
You can walk around and find the path along the building to admire the views of the Lybian sea:
Museums of Chrysoskalitissa
There are 2 museums you can visit
- The Folklore museum where you can admire tools that were used in the region and how difficult labour was
- The Byzantine museum where you can see some holy icons of Byzantine style, as well as Renaissance style. You can also see some old items of Worship.
The main point of interest of the area is the famous Elafonisi Beach.
Just 10min drive South of the monastery, you will find a lagoon with warm shallow waters, an island and pink sand!
To see more photos and learn about why the sand is pink, check out my article.
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