Elafonisi was our favorite out of all the beaches we visited in Crete! Perfectly hidden on the western corner of the island, this pink sand beach went relatively unknown until 2015. Around this time, it began to be listed as one of the best beaches in the world and landed on the international travel radar.
Elafonisi is not to be confused with Balos, which is Crete’s other pink sand beach and also worth a visit! One thing many travelers might not know before visiting is that Elafonisi beach isn’t just one long stretch of sand.
Instead, it consists of multiple beaches and coves along the mainland, and out onto Elafonisi island natural park. We hope our hunt for the unique colored sand will help you before your own trip to the pink sand beach in Crete!
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Crete Travel Inspiration
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Myths of Elafonisi Beach
Pirates once ruled the Mediterranean Sea, and Crete Island was a major haven for their devious activities. Elafonisi means “treasure island” in Greek, named after the precious riches the pirates supposedly stockpiled here.
While some believe this is a myth, it certainly doesn’t hurt to bring your snorkels to search for buried treasure. I guess pink sand might not be the only thing you’re hunting for on Elafonisi island!
→ Interested in learning more amazing history about Crete? Be sure to check out our guide on the world-famous Knossos Palace.
Getting To Elafonisi Beach
Visit Time: 3-6 Hours
Best Time to Visit: Early in the Morning or Late in the Afternoon
Packing List: Water, Sunblock, Snacks, and Snorkel!
Location: Elafonisi Beach
Just over an hour drive from Chania, this area of Crete couldn’t be more different than the island’s small metropolis. We’re warning you now, be prepared for an adventure to Crete’s pink sand beach!
The road cuts along a huge gorge for most of the drive, which hangs above a steep drop off. That mixed with the fact that locals and tourists don’t seem to be bothered by the unusually tight roads, it can be a little frightening at times.
We touched on this in our 10 Day Crete Itinerary, but until you’re really on it you’ll have no idea! Thankfully, Jake was driving and somehow kept his cool. All the while, I’m sitting in the passenger seat holding my breath as trucks and campervans whizzed past!
We recommend stopping at the several lookout points along your trip for beautiful views of the gorges. Also, there will be dozens of local stands on the side of the road mostly selling Crete honey and raki liquor!
→ Don’t Want to Drive Yourself? Book a Day Trip to Elafonisi Island from Chania
Hunting for Pink Sand at the Crete Beaches
Once you’ve braved the drive and made it to Elafonisi, it’s time to hit the Crete beaches! The most important thing to know about Elafonisi Beach (or really any pink sand beach) is that it’s not completely pink. I know you’re thinking… Crete’s pink sand beach isn’t 100% pink? What’s going on!?!
Interestingly enough, the lovely color can actually move with the tides and be more pink depending on the time of year. So hope to show up and have the entire beach screaming pink, but don’t be disappointed if it’s not. Honestly, you’ll just have to hunt for it! There are two sections of Elafonisi that the beach is broken into.
The Main Beach: When you first step onto the sand from the car park you’ll be on the main part of the beach. This is where there are chairs and umbrellas for rent, and many tourists choose to spend the day. On the day we visited, pink sand was best seen on the stretch of beach to the left.
Elafonisi Island: Across the water is Elafonisi island, where we found the most pink sand during our visit to the Crete beaches!
Exploring Elafonisi Island National Park
Once you cross through a small straight of water you’ll be on Elafonisi island. The water can range from a couple inches up to a few feet deep depending on where you cross. Our advice is to hang back for a moment and watch others try their luck to see where it’s the most shallow. As soon as we made it across, we found our first patch of pink sand!
Left Side of Elafonisi Island
When first setting foot on the island, walk down the path of sand and head into the dunes to the left for more Crete beaches. Going along the left side will be beautiful stretches of pink and white sand with many fewer tourists than the main area. It depends on the tides, but this is where we found the most colorful pink sand during our visit!
Right Side of Elafonisi Island
If you head to the right side of Elafonisi it is much different. Large sharp rocks fill the water and shrubs take over the landscape. It’s almost like a whole other world! There is a “path” made up of wooden planks leading back to the main area if you go this way. However, we found the makeshift wooden bridges often ended without warning, which created a super rough walking surface.
5 Tips For Visiting Crete’s Pink Sand Beach
1. You can drive all the way down to Elafonisi Beach. Don’t be fooled by the cars parked high above along your drive, otherwise you’re in for a long and unnecessary walk. The road will turn into gravel, but rest assured you can go all the way to the bottom and parking is free.
2. Head to Panorama restaurant for a view of the beach, and the best sunset in town. We recommend ordering the local Boureki, and a craft of white house wine.
3. If you have time stay for the night! Many people make a day trip from Chania to see the pink sand and head back. What they don’t account for is that late in the afternoon, and very early in the morning is the best time to visit. Not only do you beat the beaming hot sun this way, but also it’s the best time to avoid the crowds.
4. Stop at a convenience store on your way to the beach! There are only a handful of overpriced stands on Elafonisi selling water, beers, and snacks. Stopping before can save you almost half of what they’re charging on the beach.
5. Try to make it for sunrise which is the most beautiful time of day. The sand glows with the rising sun, and you’ll have one of the most beautiful Crete beaches all to yourself.
If you have any questions about Elafonisi Beach or want to share your own experience, please do so in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay Near Elafonisi
Our Pick: Musagores Rooms – It’s all about location with this one! There are very few hotels near the beach, and Musagores Rooms is one of them. We spent the night here, and loved being able to walk down to the beautiful pink sand beach!
For more places to stay near Elafonisi you can explore the latest prices here!
Greece Travel Planning
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies.
Flights: We always check Skyscanner and Kayak to search for cheap flights. That’s how we got from Crete to Athens for under $50 USD!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for around $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities in Crete Greece. You can find everything from taking a boat cruise to Balos Lagoon, to a guided tour of Knossos Palace, and Trekking Samaria Gorge.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Travel Planning: Planning a Trip – Cyclades Itinerary – 30 Facts – Greek Ferry Questions – Sky Express Review
Rhodes: Planning a Trip – Renting a Car – 1 Week Itinerary – 23 Things to Do – Old Town – Elli Beach – Kallithea Springs – Lindos Guide – Lindos Acropolis – Monolithos – Melenos Art Boutique Hotel – 11 Best Beaches – Anthony Quinn Bay
Karpathos: Fun Things to Do – 1 Week Itinerary – Must Try Food – 6 Best Beaches – Olympos – Saria Island Boat Tour
Crete: Bus Tips – 20 Facts – Vai Beach Palm Trees – Best Things to Do
More Dodecanese: Halki Island – Symi Island Guide – Symi Things to Do
Cyclades: Moon Beach Milos – Adamas Milos – Ios – Naxos Beaches – Naousa Paros – Galissas Syros – Mykonos Old Town – Santorini
Corfu: Old Town Food – Greece to Albania Ferry
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Please could you make it clear that it is illegal to remove the sand from the beach. There are wardens there and tourists will be prosecuted or even jailed.
Yes Julia we would be happy to add something about this. Honestly, we thought it was common sense not to take sand from the beach!