Crete 2010: Elafonisi and How to Get There

Koutsomatados Ravine

Elafonisi (Ελαφονήσι) is a beach located in the Municipality of Innachorio (Δήμος Ινναχωρίου) on the South West corner of Crete; its quite a long drive from Kamisiana, but there are a couple of good places to stop at along the way. We visited on Friday 6 August.

To get there, we got on the motorway A90 at the Kolymvari junction, and headed West towards Kissamos. Don’t go all the way to Kissamos though – there is a crossroads just after you come into the Municipality of Mythimna, signed Nopigia in one direction, or Elafonisi in the other (obviously, you want to go towards Elafonisi).

As you come out of the village of Topolia (Τοπόλια), you drive along the edge of the Koutsomatados Ravine. There is a place to stop and take photos by the side of the road (see above), before you go into a tunnel which takes you through the mountain.

On the other side of the tunnel, is the Cave of Agia (Greek for St) Sofia. Its one of the largest caves on Crete and you can park by the side of the road and climb up the steps, past the taverna and gift shop, and go in – for free! For the disabled, one downside is that its not wheelchair friendly. Also remember also that the cave is a chapel, so therefore please respect the Greek Orthodox religion… if you’re one of those men who takes their shirt off when its sunny, they’re probably not going to like you that much.

Cave of St. Sofia, Crete

At the entrance to the cave you’ll see the flag of the Greek Orthodox Church alongside the Greek and EU flag (I’ve never seen a Greek flag without and EU one next to it) – and when you go in you’ll see how big the cave is! Have a walk around, take some photos, and enjoy being out of the heat of the sun for a while. Then, head back down the steps, and maybe have a drink at the taverna.

A Sign At the Cave of St. Sofia

After a short walk around, we got back in the car. Next, we drove down to the village of Elos (Έλος); by this time it was lunch time, so we stopped at one of the tavernas to eat. You can either have a full meal, or have something like a gyros (γύρος). A gyros is sort of like Greek fast food, but not necessarily very fast! 😐

Then, we got back into the car for the final part of our journey towards Elafonisi; about another 30 minutes drive away. At the village of Vathi, you will find the turning down to Elafonisi. We eventually got to Elafonisi at 2pm – nearly 4 hours after leaving Kamisiana. Of course, we’d stopped 3 times and one of them for a whole meal, so if you drive direct it’ll probably take less time.

Elafonisi is a large, sandy beach. Its quite busy, because its very shallow so excellent for those with young children. You can walk across to an island in water no more than knee-deep (ankle-deep for the majority of it). Its still quite busy on the island, but you can follow a path on the island to some beaches over the other side where it is quieter, and you can access water deep enough to swim properly in. There are lots of rocks as well, so this far side of the island is a good place to go snorkeling.

Elafonisi

We’d actually turned up at Elafonisi at quite a good time, because within a couple of hours there were more people leaving than arriving; Elafonisi was the sort of beach where both tour operators and the local bus company (ΚΤΕΛ Χανίων – Ρευύμνου Α.Ε.) run regular trips; they all leave at around 4pm so its slightly quieter after this time.

We stayed until around 5pm before starting the journey back. It only took 2 hours, as we reached our apartment shortly after 7pm.

We went back a slightly different way, choosing the coastal road from Vathi instead of heading up towards Elos. Along the way there is a taverna on the mountainside, which is a good place to stop for either a meal of something like an ice cream. You get a good view looking down the mountainside to the sea below and also the village of Livadia.

The View from the Mountain

Elafonisi can get a bit busy; especially during high season. We went on a Friday and it was busy. Sunday is usually the day when the Greeks go to the beach, so I’d recommend avoiding it then. But don’t avoid it alltogether. Go during the week, when the Greeks are at work. If you’re there in low season I expect it wouldn’t be so busy.

Return tomorrow to read my last article about Crete. I’ll write about the town of Georgioupoli and Lake Kournas. And don’t forget to visit Google Maps to see where all the places mentioned today are.

Finally, here is some video footage I shot at Elafonisi. Note that there is no sound for the first half.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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