Not long ago, Elafonisi Beach on the southwest coast of Crete, was a secret known to very few locals on Crete. Then, in 2014, it was named one of the world’s top beaches on TripAdvisor.
Today, this beautiful sandy beach is one of the must-see destinations for everyone from young backpackers and families to adventure seekers and nature lovers. Go in the high season and you’ll find this once empty beach, connected by a sandbar to an island nature reserve, crowded and covered with beach loungers. You can also blame Instagram and Pinterest for that.
But, if you go very early in the season you can still enjoy the remarkable pink sands, the wildflowers, and strange rock formations in relative peace.
Elafonisi: A NATURA 2000 Protected area
The impressive pink color of the sand in Elafonisi originates from the so-called Foraminifera shellfishes, which, when they complete their life cycle, leave behind their reddish shells which are crushed in the white sand and mix with it to produce this unique pink color.
The whole area of Elafonisi in general is very rich in rare species of flora and fauna, and this is the reason that it is an environmentally protected Natura 2000 area. Possibly the most fragile of these species, are the centuries-old cedar trees that very slowly grow on the sand year after year.
Due to the great environmental value of Elafonisi, you should be aware of the following basic rules to protect local nature:
– Taking sand is strictly forbidden.
– It is forbidden to injure the rare cedar trees, such as cutting part of their branches, as they grow up extremely slowly.
– Protect the sand lilies, which grow on the sand dunes. Elafonisi is one of the very few remaining beaches where you can still find them.
– Waste is prohibited.