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Elafonissi: An Exotic Paradise on the West Coast of Crete

Elafonissi and Chrissoskalitissa, Crete

With its stunning turquoise waters and unearthly pinkish sands, Elafonissi conjures up images of tropical island paradise on exotic shores. Yet this magnificent natural treasure, which attracts thousands of visitors a day, is humbly situated the western coast of Crete.

Elafonissi is rarely quiet - but always worth it. It has been voted as one of the Top 10 beaches in the world and is in the Top 3 in Europe. It can easily be visited as a day trip from Georgioupolis. Driving there non-stop takes approximately 2 hours, but there’s plenty to see along the way, so allow yourself ample time for sightseeing, as well as for tackling the variety of twists and turns on the road. It’s well maintained but narrow – so take your time and savour the sights!

Chrissoskalitissa Monastery

Just before you arrive at the beach, you will drive through the small settlement of Chrissoskalitissa. The beating heart of the village is a monastery of the same name, the "Monastery of the Golden Stair". It stands snow-white in a dramatic location on a low, rocky outcrop directly overlooking the sea.

The monastery takes its name from the staircase of 98 steps leading up to it. According to tradition, only those who are without sin can perceive that the last step is made of gold (which neatly explains why no one, to this day, has ever seen it)!

A single monk still resides in the monastery during the summer, and in recent years it has been lovingly restored. It is home to a small, folkloric museum as well as the nuns' cells from the time when the monastery operated as a convent. The furnishings and heirlooms from their daily lives speak of a frugal, Spartan way of life.

A few historical icons from the 18th and 19th centuries are also on display. You can even visit an illicit classroom dating back to Ottoman rule, when Greek children were taught in secret by the monks and priests.

Chrissoskalitissa Monastery near Elafonissi Crete

Natural Pool at Aspri Limni

From the access road to the monastery, you will see a sign for Aspri Limni, approx. 1.5 km further along the road. Visitors here are greeted by a natural swimming pool in the rock basin. The pool is approximately 20 to 25 m in diameter, with a coarse sandy beach, only about 70 m in length. Be aware: the rocks here are razor sharp! Be sure to wear swim shoes before you take the plunge!

Those interested in the local vegetation will spot between 12 and 20 palm trees of a variety endemic to Crete in the immediate surroundings. There are larger groves of these palm trees to be seen in Vai and Preveli.

Natural Pool at Aspri Limni near Elafonissi Crete

Elafonissi Beach

And now for the final act – Elafonissi itself! The beach was relatively isolated right into the ’90s, when it could only be reached by boat from Paleochora or via a dusty dirt track from Chrissoskalitissa. Today, an asphalt road leads right down to the coast and several tavernas await, some of which also offer holiday accommodation. There are even a few beach stalls with souvenirs!

Nevertheless, the shallow bay between Crete and small island of Elafonissi just off-shore is more than worthy of its many admirers. The palette of colours is intense and unearthly: the waters sparkle in the most radiant array of turquoise hues; the bright, fine sand is almost magically pink in places from thousands of crushed seashells. It's nearly always possible to wade across to the little island just 200 m off shore - sometimes without even getting your feet wet!

You will find quieter, less busy beaches on the island itself, but the real secret to avoiding the crowds is to enjoy the sights in the small villages on the way to Elafonissi and arrive after 4 pm. Most of the tour buses will depart in the evening, leaving you with more of the beach to enjoy – and the sunset on the west coast of Crete? Nothing short of stunning.

Elafonissi Crete

An island full of surprises

A holiday destination for bathing enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, and those interested in history and culture. Today, Crete is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean - cosmopolitan and mysterious at the same time.

Popular hotels on the sandy beach

The Corissia Hotels are situated within the tranquil, picturesque village of Georgioupolis right on the sandy beach. An ideal seaside resort both to relax and explore the island, because that is just what holidays on Crete are all about.

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