If you plan to visit Elafonisi Crete and you are keen on hiking, don’t go to the beach by road from Chania!
Go to Paleochora instead, where a nearly 10-km hiking trail starts! Take a chance to visit the wildest and most uncrowded, yet still beautiful landscapes of Crete!
The trail is a part of Europe’s longest hiking trail! E4 is more than 10,000 kilometres (almost 16,100 miles) long in total, it begins in Tarifa – the southernmost small town in Spain, it runs through the Pyrenees to France, and then through the Alps (Switzerland and Germany or Austria – there are a few possibilities) to Hungary, then through Romania (however, the trail hasn’t been marked there, yet), Bulgaria and Greece, where it jumps onto Crete, and its final piece is in Cyprus.
On your way you’ll spot some markings: black and yellow stripes, pyramids of pebbles and plates with the inscription E4. It’s really difficult to get lost there, so don’t worry. What you should worry about is how to prepare yourself to hike, but that’s why I wrote this small guide for you! 😉
There are some things you have to keep in mind if you decide to hike to Elafonissi:
How to reach the trail?
It is a really tricky issue!
First of all, forget about the car because you’ll have to leave it in Paleochora (or rent a car if you want to hike there and back).
You can reach the trail by bus from Chania. Mind that the timetables in Crete take into account only the largest town as the last stop on the list, and don’t say anything about smaller villages. As a result, we got to a place 10 km before the beginning of our trail! So if you’re taking the bus don’t buy the ticket to Paleochora but to the last village (Gialos), which is much closer to the trail.
Take a morning bus so when you reach the trail it should be just the noon or a little bit after.
How much time does it take to hike the trail?
The trail is about 10 km (6,2 miles) long but the trail itself is sometimes quite difficult – rocky and steep (not all the time, though). It can take you even the whole day to hike it! Depending on your physical condition, but from at least 4 hours, even up to 6-7 hours! – especially if you want to hike during the day, when the sun is in zenith.
If you want to live the adventure I recommend to go on the trail about 2 p.m. The heat will go down soon and you will reach the middle of the trail just before sunset. There is a very nice wild beach where you can spend the night (you need a tent as there is NO infrastructure!). You can see this beach in the picture below, it’s just under the mountain on the right.
If you choose the option with sleeping on the beach and you get to it still quite long time before sunset, don’t go any further! From that point you’ll pass many bays and beaches, however, almost all of them are rocky or pebbly. The soil itself is also very difficult to put a tent for the night so stay where you are.
Continue your hike just after sunrise, when it’s still quite chilly and you’ll have time to stop on some of the beaches as they are really beautiful!
What I should take with me?
The trail is quite serious one and I really want you to be prepared. Mind your safety! Good hiking shoes are needed here!
As the trail is quite demanding, don’t forget water and food. Water is the key-word here. You’ll be very active in heat so you should have more than you normally drink.
As there is almost no shade during the trail, remember a hat to cover your head from the sun and suncream with filter.
On your way you’ll pass many tempting spots to swim. Don’t forget your towel! 😉
However, remember, that the temperature can reach 30 C degrees and if you decide to cool yourself off in the sea, make it in safe way.
The water can be cold but nothing can give a better relief to your hot body. Of course, in such situations, you have to remember that the body needs to cool down gradually. If you plunge into cold water too quickly it can lead to thermal shock, which can cause breathing problems and even loss of consciousness. Given the fact that so far you are cut off from any civilisation, you’d rather avoid fainting or any other health problems. There is no rush. Enjoy it slowly!
Oh, and if you want to sleep on the wild beach I’ve mentioned already, don’t forget a tent! 😉
Elafonisi Crete: is it really a pink beach?
I recommend you not to set your mind only on Elafonisi. While you pass the trail, you’ll see so many picturesque spots that – I don’t want to scare you! – Elafonisi may be a little bit overrated to you… and crowdy!
To be honest, I’d never believed in the turquoise blue sea, I’d always put it down to Photoshop. No sooner than in Crete, on this trail exactly, for the first time I had the opportunity to see that sea water could really be of turquoise colour. And because it’s my favourite one I was over the moon even more!
So on your way you’ll see some bays like this one below. Perfect for swimming and just for you. YOUR PERSONAL PARADISE!
But what about Elafonisi? Is it really pink?
The beach itself made a huge impression on us (click here to check their rate on TripAdvisor!!!) because of the colour of its sand and water. Hovewer, personally I wouldn’t call it a ‘pink’ beach, pink shells are next to nothing. Although the water was very cold we could still dive. Elafonissi doesn’t really make a paradise for divers but we enjoyed the fact that when you immerse yourself in the shallows you have a turquoise space in front of you, whereas below you there is a perfectly flat seabed. A wonderful feeling. Nearby, there’re also some rocks, among which one could find a few fish and sea urchin. Fun provided exactly for 4-hour stay at the beach.
Elafonissi isn’t only the beach but also an island located in the central part of the beach. In 1821, when the uprising against the Turks broke out in Crete, 850 women and children found a hideout on this little island. The invaders, who pitched a camp near the beach, accidentally discovered that between the beach and the island there’s a long shallow, and having gone through it they killed everyone without exception. The place commemorating this bloody event is located at the top of the island.
We reached Elafonissi at noon as most tourists did. Luckily, we found a less crowded place, not so windy and with a beautiful sand – the one in the middle of the beach is very unpleasant – hard and rough. In addition, the middle part is mostly besieged by sunbathers and it’s really windy. While lying on the sand and indulging ourselves with a soup we saw a huge vortex of wind floating together with sand and dust, which looked like a mini sandstorm. We quickly covered up the food and faces, thanks to which we weren’t affected at all; yet, the wind surprised all the ones sunbathing right in the middle of Elafonissi.
So, if you’re looking for the good place to lie down and sunbathe, I advise you to avoid the middle, most crowded part of the beach. Go somewhere on the side.
About an hour walk from Elafonissi there’s another and much less crowded beach, Kedrodasos. It is sandy, and its name comes from the cedar trees growing on it. You will pass it while hiking, and – if Elafonisi is not the highlight for you – I recommend to stay there. It is really nice place and not too many people know about it.
We didn’t stay in Kedrodasos, though, as our goal was Elafonissi itself, from where it’s easier to get out… Or we thought so that time!
How to… get out?!
Well, if you’re visiting this place after half of May, when it’s tourist season already, there is no problem to catch the bus to Chania (the last one is about 3 p.m. but make sure about that as it might change!).
The problem is… before half of May! There is no local bus that time and as we didn’t know about that, we had to hitchhike.
If hitchhiking is not a problem for you, try it, but bear in mind that Greece is very bad hitchhiking destionation. There is very small chance that Greeks will help you so you better count on other tourists, who may not be so open-minded and helpful…
Okay, okay! I don’t want to dishearten you! Just make sure that you have some numbers to taxi drivers, just in case!
How do you find this post? Is it helpful and encouraging to take the hiking trail to Elafonisi Crete? Or maybe you did it already? Did you like it? Share your opinion in the comments box below!
Want to know more about Crete, Greece? Read my other posts:
– My own subjective Cretan cuisine experience