Drive to Elafonisi

The prime attraction in this southwest remote corner of the island is enchanting Elafonisi.

Worth the long drive and the hairpin bends to end up at a semi-tropical “lagoon” with pinkish white sand with sea shells and white lilies, vivid turquoise water, warm and shallow.You can wade across the sandbar to the tiny island of Elafonisi, just offshore, another idyllic beach that despite it’s remoteness is always busy in high season. Car hire in Chania is the only way to enjoy this famous paradise.

Natura 2000 environmental network protects the area. The island of Elefonisi contains only sand dunes and more than 100 rare plants. Summer-flowering sea daffodils look like white cups.

The organised mainland side of Elafonisi beach can get busy during the peak season. You can easily find yourself a hidden bay to lie in or wallow in the shallows. The sand extends for some distance along the 1km coastline. Don’t ignere the small church of Agia Irini and the lighthouse at the far end.

It’s safe for swimming and snorkelling and has been awarded a Blue Flag for environmental cleanliness. Water sports are popular where the lagoon widens. But mostly, spending a day at Elafonisi beach is about relaxing and enjoying a beautiful landscape. Your kids (and Instagram feed) won’t stop thanking you.

Very close, don’t forget to stop by at the white Moni Chrysoskalitissas, the gleaming Monastery of Virgin of the golden stairs, perched high on a rock above the barren landscape. One of the 90 steps that lead up to the church is said to be made of gold, but visible only to those who are without sin!

Elafonisi beach is 75km (1hr30mins) by road from Chania, through the region’s mountainous interior, so many prefer to make the return journey during daylight.