There aren’t many beaches around the world with pink sand, but Crete is lucky to be gifted with two of them, both situated on the western coast of the island. Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Elafonisi Beach. The other, Balos, we hope to visit soon.
On the second day of our road-trip, we woke up at the crack of dawn, eager to get on the road. The earlier you show up at famous Elafonisi, the better. This beach is too amazing to be a secret, but the fact that it’s so far away from any sizable city, means that it takes a long time to get crowded. But as noon rolls around, the tourist buses begin arriving, one after the other, and it quickly turns into a nightmare.
Luckily, our guesthouse, Fairytale Elafonisi, was close enough for us to easily beat the crowds, even with an added mini-excursion to the Chrysokalitissa Monastery. There’s a legend that the ninth step up to the church is made of gold, but that its true nature is only visible to pure Christians. For us, it looked like stone (and we’d love to meet the person who claims otherwise… lying isn’t Christian, is it?) The monastery itself has a beautiful setting, on top of a hill with the bright blue sea behind it. This is a quick visit, and unless you’re extremely eager to get to the beach, worth a bit of your time.
On to Elafonisi! We parked our car in the nearly empty parking lot, then hurried down the path and onto the beach. It was as breathtaking as advertised. The unique pink color comes from the tiny shards of broken sea shells, and this isn’t nearly its only stunning facet. The beach connects to a small island just off the coast, also called Elafonisi, resulting in two beaches on either side of the divide.
To cross onto the island, we had to wade through warm, knee-high water. On this side, it’s a little more wild, with protected dunes, and a total lack of sun chairs or umbrellas. There are less people on the island, so we naturally preferred it. We grabbed a patch of sand, hopped in the water, and enjoyed the nature. Elafonisi translates to “deer”, and although I’m unsure if any remain here, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine. Also, the dunes contain over 100 different plant species.
We had agreed that, regardless of how much we were enjoying the beach, we would leave by noon, before the buses began to arrive. Turns out, noon was a little too late. By the time we fought through the crowds pouring onto the beach, and got to our car, the lot was full. Higher up the hill, an unbroken line of tourist buses was queued up, making departure nearly impossible. With enough brashness, we eventually pushed our car past the last bus, but were so rattled by the ordeal, we had to immediately stop at a bar. The Panorama Bar was a perfect place to shed the nerves though, with cold beers and stunning views over the beach.
Thanks to our early start, we had the entire afternoon free before the car was due back in Chania. So, we headed toward another coastal town called Palaiochora, and picked a tavern named Methexis for lunch. Across from a small beach with the most clear water we’ve ever seen, this was an excellent place with incredible prices.
This had been a great two-day excursion, and we were in high spirits on our drive back. We took a circuitous route home through the mountains, and arrived in Chania both tired and happy. If you missed the first day of our trip, just click here. Crete has a lot to discover, and we can’t wait to get back on the road!
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