Elafonisi beach Crete is one of the most beautiful areas on the island - turquoise water, a pink sand beach, lagoon and mountains... The beach is not so secret anymore but still worth a visit! Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with all you may ask: when, where how... and why is the sand pink?
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Why visit Elafonisi Beach Crete?
What is Elafonisi?
Elafonisi is a small island separated from mainland by a shallow warm water. It has become famous because of its pink sand and unique flora.
- BEST OF - Elafonisi (also written Elafonissi) is often listed one of the 3 best best beaches in Crete - I included it in my own list of amazing beaches
- BEST BEST OF - And it is even very often included in lists about the best beaches in Europe, like this one
- PINK - It is often referred to as the pink beach in Crete because it some areas the sand turns pink (and we will see why later in the article)
- SHALLOW - The transparent waters are very shallow for a big area. So it is great to just soak and enjoy the scenery
- QUIET sometimes - It used to be secret and quiet, but it has more and more tourists. However if you stay for the night, you cna enjoy the peace and quiet early and late
- SUNSET - It is a fantastic place for sunset (see picture further in the article)
Pink beach of Elafonisi in video
Below is a very short video of the area with the beach, the pink sand, and the lagoon. Sorry it is very short, it seems that I was so amazed by the views that I forgot to film a lot...
Planning Tips - Elafonisi beach in Crete
Where is the pink beach in Crete? Map
- The pink beach is located in the Chania Region
- At the South West tip of the Crete island
- Chania to Elafonisi - 1h40 drive
- Palaiochora to Elafonisi - 1h10 drive
- Rethymno to Elafonisi - 3h drive
- Heraklion to Elafonisi - 4h30 drive
- Do not mix it up with Elafonissos in mainland Greece
- Below is a map to help you understand the location of the Elafonisi pink beach in Crete:
How to get to the Elafonisi beach location
Elafonisi used to be more isolated and secret. Now you can find several ways to visit it.
- BUS - You can take a public bus from Chania that also stops at Western villages - You can check the timetable close to your departure date HERE - it takes over 2h
- DAY TRIP - Companies offer day trips from Chania and Rethymno that include the drive through Topolia gorge and time to enjoy the pink beach - you just seat back and relax - Check out the options and book
- BY BOAT - In Summer you can find boats operating from the town of Palaiochora
- SELF-DRIVE - But the best way is to go by car - and enjoy a road trip around Crete. The road to the beach is generally easy and in good condition (coming directly via the main road through Topolia gorge or following the West Coast) - the last 800m to the carpark are not paved.
Elafonisi 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
Tips for your visit to Elafonisi Crete
- There is a large carpark but it is not paved like the last 800m. There are big bumps and holes. Take your time
- From the carpark you can find pathways to the sand area, and then the sand is quite hard further from the water so it is easy to walk around
- You can find small shops and snackbars as you walk to the beach (April to October)
- Toilets and shower near the shops
- In Summer there is a lifeguard
- Few sunbeds on the beach
- DO NOT take pink sand or shell with you, it is a protected area
- When the wind picks up, it is a great spot for kitesurfing
Best time to visit Elafonisi
Elafonisi used to be a local secret spot but it is now a very famous beach.
So during the day in Summer, the beach get crowded (but not as much as it could be, thanks to its isolation)
The best time to enjoy the pink beach is early morning or late afternoon when all the day trippers have gone. So I recommend spending the night there and enjoying the sunset (see my complete guide about the best places to stay in Crete)
Elafonisi beach hotels - where to stay
- You can find a few accommodations close to the beach (not on the beach though), they are up the unpaved road.
- I stayed at the Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family - Very close to the beach is the Elafonisi resort with its modern villas surrounded by Olive trees. See my own photos at the end of the article - or check out the latest prices now and book
Why is Elafonisi beach pink?
Is the sand really Pink at Elafonisi ?
Yes and No and it depends:
- Yes there is pink sand at the beach, especially at the limit of the water. My photos below is without filter.
- But no, the whole beach is not pink - if you see picture like that, they have been photoshopped. So don't be disappointed!
- It depends - the quantity of pink you see varies everyday - it depends on the tide, the season, the light and much more...
Why is Elafonisi beach pink?
Sand is formed by corals being crushed by the waves into tiny particles.
When the shells are pink, the sand turns pink.
As you can see below, in another area of the beach, I have found shells not crushed and some of them are pink.
Please do not pick up the Pink sand or the shells!
Exploring Elafonisi Beach in pictures
Elafonisi from above
To give you an idea of how the beach and lagoon are structured, I have purchased this aerial photo of Elafonisi.
You can clearly see the island and the large lagoon area and sand space.
To reach the island you must walk at least a little in water
Arriving at Elafonisi
As you arrive from the carpark, it does not look fascinating at all.
You find a large sand area (hard sand at the beginning) that must be crowded in Summer.
So you have to walk a little to get to the water.
Quality of the beach
Once you are close to the water, you can appreciate how transparent it is. And because of the light color of the sand it appears turquoise under the sun.
In the background are some of the mountains of South West Crete.
By the limit of the water is where the sand appears more pink.
At the furthest point where you can go without crossing water, you can find beautiful rocks:
There are a few sunbeds with umbrellas near the water. However in Summer they are taken over fast, so you have to come early to get one.
As you can see in the picture below, the water is shallow for a long time and you can walk quite far.
The water is warm and transparent.
Normally there are no big waves, but it can also get very windy.
Elafonisi Lagoon & Island
The Elafonisi island
- Size - the island is 1.3km long for 400m wide
- Flora - The island is a protected nature reserve with rare plants.
- There are several walking path on the island for you to explore but do not leave the footpaths!
- History - As in many other places on Crete, locals were hiding there and have been killed during the war of independence
- You can also find a wooden cross on the island which commemorates an Austrian shipwreck from 1907 (the Imperatrix)
- At the West end is also the small chapel of Agia Irini and the very basic lighthouse (the old one was destroyed during the Second World War)
- It seems that Elafonisi means "Deer island" but there are no deers in Crete, so the origin of the name is unknown
You can walk to the island through the lagoon. You will have water at the knee level.
The Elafonisi lagoon
Considering the water is shallow all around the sandy beach, it is a great place to visit for families.
Those shallow water are home to a rare species of protected turtles: the loggerhead sea turtles. There are little chances to see them. But if you spot one, please stay away.
Sunset at Elafonisi, Crete
If you can, I recommend spending the night near Elafonisi (but book early, there are not many accommodations around)
This is a beautiful spot to enjoy sunset.
Below are a couple of pictures of my experience:
Hiking to nearby beaches - Kedrodasos beach & E4 path
If you like hiking, Elafonisi is on the famous E4 walking track through Crete.
You can hike all the way to Palaiochora (7 hours)
Or you can just hike to the next beach of Kedrodasos near the Cedar forest if you are looking for a quieter environment.
When facing the island, walk to the left, this is where you will find the beginning of the trail.
You just follow the signs and markings that are yellow and black. They are quite easy to spot.
It is quite easy at the beginning but then you have to climb on a few big rocks.
Sadly I had a strained ankle and I had to turn back.
Some people have written it took them 20min to get to the beach. This surprised me. I know my ankle was hurt, but still, this is not a place where you can walk really fast.
But it is a very enjoyable walk!
Note that because of its isolation, you may find naturists on this beach.
So here is a picture of Kedrodasos beach from another photographer:
If you want to stay near Elafonisi, I recommend the Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family.
This is where we stayed (I selected it myself and paid entirely for it).
It is located in an olive tree farm.
There is a main building as well as separated nice spacious villas.
- The decor is modern,
- the kitchen is fully equipped
- the terrace is large
- the bathroom is good with a large shower
The only things I did not enjoy as much were the lack of wifi away from the main building (but they will probably work on it) and the a la carte mode for the breakfast.
Below are a few of my own pictures.
See more pictures, latest prices and book on Booking.com
Other thing to do around Elafonisi
The other main attraction in the region is the Chrissoskalitissa monastery, only 5km away.
It was built during the Venetian period (17th century) on a rocky hilltop by the water.
It is famous for its staircase where the legend says that one step is made of pure gold but only people with pure heart can see it... I did not 🙁
It is opened daily from 8am to 7pm. Your shoulder and knees should be covered.
Want to see more of CRETE?
Have you ever seen pink sand?
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