Style: Freeride, Freestyle, Wave, Slalom, Speed
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Good, Specialist
If you only had one place to visit while you're in Crete, this place should definitely be Elafonisi! Voted as one of the 25 best beaches in the world, its natural wild beauty makes this place looks like paradise. The exotic beauty of the area is due to the dunes, the cedar trees, the white lilies, the black rocks and the rare species of animals and birds that live in the blue waters and the white sand. Elafonisi looks like an island because the peninsula “breaks” at point that units it with Crete and makes it look like a separate island. This small island is about 200m south of the main swimming area north of which is the big shallow kite surfing lagoon no more than 1m deep.
The feeling of being in this south sea lagoon is the reason for its mass tourism indicators. Elafonisi a protected nature reserve and you can walk to the island through the water, given the good weather conditions of the spot. It is located 76 Km southwest of Chania and 5 Km south of Chrysoskalitissa, in the southwest part of Crete.
The northern end of Elafonisi works as breakwater and the rocks are steep. There you will see the church of Agia Irini. Historically the beach of Elafonisi coincides with Mousagores Islands of the ancient Greeks, and once it was used as a base for pirates - and that is how it got its name. Pirates hide their loo.
Medium Months: April, October
Wind Type: Thermal Winds, Frontal Winds
Best Direction: E, SE, NNW, NW
Main Direction: N, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW
Wind Factor: 11-16 knots (4 bft), 17-21 knots (5 bft), 22-27 knots (6 bft)
Main Wind Direction: Offshore, Side Shore
Blowing at: Morning, Afternoon, Evening
Elafonisi is the most fascinating destination with conditions for all tastes and levels, when eastern and southeastern winds are blowing -mostly in winter. The spot is also exposed to the north-west wind of Ionian Sea and is a side-shore spot with steady wind and no gusts or changes in direction. NW winds give flat water conditions. During summer months, the thermal wind guarantee planning conditions in choppy water (N) almost every day with force 4 to 6 bft, but with a lot of gusts.
In summer time water temperature 24°C, air temperature 30°C. A lycra for sun protection is recommended. Spring/autumn you need a wetsuit. In winter time, a long wetsuit is necessary.
Quality: Crystal Clear
Depth: Shallow (walking several steps not to step on)
Seabed: Sand, Rocks
Attention: Rocks, Reef, Current, Swimmers
Perfect natural scenery, beautiful turquoise, calm water to swim in, it is a friendly place too for your non-windsurfing partners.
At the south side of the lagoon you will enjoy some of the best freestyle, freeride and slalom conditions, as the water is flat and the wind is steady. In the lagoon there is waist deep water ideal to enjoy kitesurfing too. If you are a beginner you will learn to sail in the tiny gulf in front of a surf club which is a natural sandy pool with waist deep flat water. There are several reefs with rocks.
In winter, when eastern and southeastern winds are blowing, there are nice waves; ideal spot for wave and still for freestyle windsurf.
In summer time water temperature 24°C, air temperature 30°C. A lycra for sun protection is recommended. Spring/autumn you need a wetsuit. In wintertime, a long wetsuit.
Bathers Period: May, June, July, August, September, October
Kid Friendly: Yes
Attention: Rocks, Turtle Nests
A beautiful lagoon and a south-facing swimming beach both with crystal clear water and pink sand due to the millions of broken shells that you see there, comprises exotic scenery found only in a few places on earth. The sand at the beaches isn’t just sand but masses of empty seashells, which explains the pink and red color of the beach. The swimming beaches in most areas are shallow and totally safe for children. Across the beach of Elafonisi is Elafonisi Island which may be visited by simply walking through the shallow water. Behind the island you will find a quieter small beach with clear blue green water. The area has been included in the protected areas Natura 2000. The endangered turtle’s careta careta and several rare animals nest on the island and it is strictly forbidden to remove any plants, animals and sand from the area.
Just look out for tourists, you have to windsurf away from the coast. Also there are always many coves available for naturists.
Arrival on Elafonisi:
Arrival by Car, Moto, Camper Van: Elafonisi is located in the southwestern most corner of Crete; it is about a 2 hour drive from Chania and a 1 hour drive from Paleochora. From Chania west on E65 to Kastelli, then south to Kambos and further to Agios Pandeleimon. From there, about 4 km further south to Elafonisi.
For those who stay at cosmopolitan Chania, local and international travel agencies organize bus trips to Elafonisi every day. An alternative choice is to rent a car.
Additionally, for those who choose to stay at Paleochora Village, they can catch daily boats to Elafonisi from the eastern harbor of Paleochora. Those boats usually arrive around 11 o’clock on Elafonisi and depart at 5 o’clock.
Access to Crete:
Arrival by Airplane: Millions of visitors come to Crete every year from all over the world directly by plane, especially by charter. The three international airports on the island, in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia are linked to hundreds of other international airports. The largest low cost companies have regular flights to Crete and the most important international airlines organize charter flights. If you take your own equipment, it’s best to reserve this in advance.
Airport at Heraklion: It is the primary airport on the island of Crete and the country’s second busiest airport after Athens International Airport. It is located about 5 km east of the main city center of Heraklion, near the municipality of Nea Halicarnassus. It is a shared civil/military facility. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek writer and philosopher. Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is Crete’s main and busiest airport, serving Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Malia, Hersonissos, Stalida, Elounda and other resorts.
Airport at Chania: Located on the Northwestern part of the island, the airport is also known as the “K. Daskalogiannis” Airport. This international airport is situated near Souda Bay, on the peninsula of Akrotiri, serving the city of Chania (14 km away). Moreover, it is a gateway to western Crete for an increasing amount of tourists. It is a joint civil–military airport. It is much smaller and far less busy than Heraklion airport. The airport is connected with many countries (about 30) from Europe and Asia especially in summer season and with flights connections in Greece and Cyprus whole year.
A new public airport in Sitia: it is a small community airport in the region Bonda of Sitia Municipality, on the eastern part of Crete, located 1 km north/northwest of the city center. The facility is serving the city of Sitia, currently only with a small number of domestic flights, mainly to/from Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos with an internal flight. The flight time from Athens to Sitia is 55 minutes. Also from Rhodes Island, with stops Karpathos and Kassos flight time and 120 minutes. Fly from Alexandroupolis during 105 minutes, from Preveza to over 100 minutes and from Heraklion during 25 minutes.
Inland airport at Kasteli: There are long term plans to replace Heraklion airport, which is too close to the city, by a new inland airport at Kasteli, southeast of Heraklion. It is a small airport located at the edge of Heraklion. It has basic facilities and a small parking lot.
Almost all scheduled international flights transit through Athens (which take about 45min) where you must take a scheduled domestic flight to Chania or Heraklion. These are quite frequent (around 6 to 8 times a day to Chania and more to Heraklion). During the months of July and August there are flights from Thessaloniki to Heraklion and Chania (they take about 90 minutes). The airport at Heraklion also has daily flights to Rhodes which takes 1 hour. From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to Heraklion and Chania from many European airports.
Arrival by Ferry/Boat: If you are already in Greece and specifically in Athens, you can continue your journey to Crete not only by plane but even by ferryboat from Piraeus. Athens airport offers good public transport connections to the city center as well as to the port of Piraeus. The three biggest ports of Crete, Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania have dozens of luxury ferry boats linking them with Greece’s largest port, Piraeus, on a daily basis. You can also go from Piraeus to Crete to Agios Nikolaos or Sitia Ports and from Thessaloniki to Heraklion.
The regular ferryboat service from the port of Piraeus to Heraklion and Chania is that ships depart every evening around 8.00 or 8.30 (times vary a little depending on the season) and arrive very early morning (generally between 5.00 or 6.00 am). Avoid weekends and especially the beginning and end of holidays. If you want a cabin it is often safer to book in advance.
Ferryboat from Peloponnese: South Peloponnese (Gythion, Neapolis or Kalamata) and Kythira Island is connecting to Kastelli/Kissamos (45 km west of Chania). Timetables are rather erratic (and very difficult to find) but it is an option if you want to spend time on the Peloponnese or simply avoid Athens.
Ferryboat from Cyclades and Dodecanese: From April to October you can also get boats from Cycladic Islands to Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. There are daily catamarans (hydrofoils) to Santorini and the trip takes about 2,5 hours. Also Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos and Milos from the ports of Sitia, Agios Nikolaos and Kissamos.
Since there are no roads along the southwest coast there is a ferry line with connections between Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion (Sfakia). There is also a connection with the islet of Gavdos, Europe's southernmost point (Cape Trypiti).
Ferryboat from Italy: Several shipping companies connect Italy (Trieste, Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi) with the mainland of Greece (Patras and Igoumenitsa). It is preferable to book your passage in advance in the summer season.
Arrival by Car, Moto, Camper Van: Be careful when driving in Crete; despite the fact that most roads (including the new National Highway) are full of twists and turns through mountains, Cretans usually drive aggressively, fast, and on the edge of safety. In rural and mountainous areas (which is almost everywhere), there can be goats, sheep, donkeys, and stray dogs on the roads.
Overland to Greece: Traveling to Greece overland has virtually stopped since the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. The alternative through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria takes so long that it is not worth thinking about unless you want to visit these countries. The only option if you want to come by car or bike is by ferry from Italy.
For those who don’t have their own means of transport, there is of course always the possibility to rent a car or a camper which will allow you to explore the island on its modern network of roads. Taxi services are another way to get around Crete, but can be quite expensive.
Arrival by Bus: Most of the bus services are run by KTEL (around 200 intercity modern buses of all sizes) conducts hundreds of routes daily, thus linking the major cities of the island with all the settlements, but also with the rest of Greece within a framework of combined transportations. Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables quite trustworthy. Bus drivers usually divert from their marked routes to enter little villages if asked to do so. Bus services along the north coast and towards the south coast are excellent, reliable, frequent and cheap.
Cretan bus stations are very simple for the most part, except for in Heraklion which has two major bus stations (one for buses going in town and one for KTEL run buses).
On foot: Although Crete is the largest of all Greek islands; you can get around on foot. Especially the countryside in the western part of Crete offers some rough country walking and there are good paths between Chania and Chora Sfakion. These go via forests with cypress, evergreen oak and cypress, various gorges and of course olive and orange groves. This part of Crete is good for walking holidays.