Elafonissi (GR: Ελαφονήσι) is a small uninhabited islet on the southwest of Crete. It is connected to the mainland with a shallow reef (max. depth 1 meter) that allows crossing when the sea is calm. It is a NATURA 2000 protected area as it is the natural habitat of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
The best way to reach Elafonissi is by car via the north axis national road from the junction at Drapanias.
The distance from the town of Hania is around 73 kms and from Hania Airport around 90kms.
Regular public bus service is available from/ to Hania town via Kastelli Kissamos:
Hania - Kastelli - Elafonissi
Elafonissi - Kastelli - Hania
Price = 10* € | Travel time about 2 hours
For updated information on bus schedules click here
Small boats connect Elafonissi to Paleochora, Sougia and other places on the south-west shores of Crete.
The beaches both on the islet and the mainland opposite to it, are considered to be amongst the best in Crete and Greece. The fine white sand and the turquoise waters compose an exotic scenery.
Elefonissi belongs to the micro - reserve network of Crete (Natura 2000 Code : GR−4340002) with main protected species being the endangered Androcymbium rechingeri.
Walking on the beach of Elafonissos the visitor can see various plants and bushes (Atriplex halmus, crithmum, maritimum, rura clepensis, ballota pseudodictamum etc.). There is also a small frog (bufo viridis viridis) endemic to the island and various lizards (podarcis erherdil elaphonisi) considered a protected species. There are also reported instances of a snake (coluber gemonensis gemorensis) . According to studies conducted by the Greek Ministry of the Environment the island serves as a breeding spot for the caretta-caretta sea turtle. Finally local fishermen have reported noticing Mediterranean seals ( monachus monachus) in the open sea.
There are very few indigenous species of birds on the area, but the area is very important to ornithologists since it is the last stop from Europe to Africa for migrating birds.
In 1824 850 women and children sought refuge in the islet from the fury of the Turks. However the Turks managed to discover the passage from the mainland to the islet, walked over and slaughtered them all. According to the legend the sand on the beach took its red color from the blood of all the victims.
A memorial to this historical event stands at the parking area opposite to the islet.