Elafonisi (Greek: “deer island”) is an island located to the southwestern corner of the island. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water. The island is a protected nature reserve.
Why to visit Elafonisi?
The main attraction of Elafonisi is the beautiful sandy beaches with pink coral sand and the crystal clear waters.
You can walk to the island through the knee deep water of the lagoon. There are many small beaches on the South side and the further you walk, the quiter it gets. The water is generally quite shallow and safe for children.
The famous coral sand is produced by the large amounts of red and pink shells that get ground up by sea action.
The Elafonisi’ protected nature reserve (Natura 2000) hosts 110 different plant species and is a dream for anyone interested in botany.
Agia Sophia Cave is located near to the mountain road to Elafonisi, gives you a breath-taking view over the gorge and many of the mountain villages. On the left of the cave entrance, there is the small church of Agia Sofia (“wisdom” in Greek). The entrance of the cave has a width of 25m, while the height reaches 20m in many points, and the two rooms are at different height, the surface of which is full of stalagmites.
Chrysoskalitissa Monastery is a 17th-century Orthodox Christian monastery located on the south-west of the island. It was built up on rocks about 35 meters high, offering the panoramic view of the Libyan Sea.
According to Cretan myths, the name of the monastery is derived from one of the ninety steps, that lead there, which is said that only a true believer will see the golden stair (“chryso” in Greek). The monastery is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and Virgin Mary.