Elafonisi picture
George Tsartsianidis/Getty Images

Key Info

Elafonissi

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.2

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Located in the southwest corner of Crete, Elafonisi beach sparkles with pink-tinted sand and crystal-clear Mediterranean waters. If you're feeling adventurous, you can wade across Elafonisi's shallow lagoon to a small, uninhabited island, home only to a historic lighthouse, a chapel and more than 100 native plant species. Recent travelers hail Elafonisi as one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, if not in all of Greece.

However, Elafonisi's beauty comes with a few drawbacks. First, you must brave winding roads and harrowing mountain passes to get there. Once you arrive, your visions of pristine sandy stretches may be spoiled by the legions of tourists who have also made the trek, especially in the summer months. But never fear: You can avoid the throngs of visitors by venturing a little farther away from the parking lot. A short walk east or west and you will hit smaller yet more secluded shorelines bordered by a juniper forest. Another surefire way to beat the crowds is to visit in the off-season. From late October to April, you might just get the beach all to yourself.

You'll find Elafonisi beach about 45 miles southwest of Chania. During the high season (May to September) you can take a public bus from Paleochora or Chania to Elafonisi, but it only runs once a day. There's free parking available, so you may want to make the drive to the beach yourself. While there, take heed of the rules: Elafonisi is a protected nature reserve, so no umbrellas (besides the ones provided), fires, camping, littering or destroying plants. For more information about Elafonisi beach, check out Visit West Crete's website.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Rethymnon Old Town

If you're in Rethymnon, then you shouldn't miss the opportunity to wander the narrow alleys of Old Town, a seaside neighborhood that dates back to the 11th century. Here you'll find prime examples of Venetian Renaissance architecture along with splashes of Turkish influence spread throughout the city.

The food and shopping options in Old Town are seemingly endless, but the maze-like streets can be perplexing. If you do get turned around, don't despair: The area isn't huge, and once you see the Venetian Fortezza or the harbor, you can easily regain your bearings. Recent travelers have actually embraced getting lost in Old Town because the streets are so charming, the locals are so kind and the food is so good. Case in point, Old Town Rethymnon is simply beautiful.

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