For Caribbean-like white sands shelving into a multi-hued turquoise sea, this speck of an island is a beach lover's dream.
Historically remote and difficult to get to, we can now arrange stays here as a side trip from nearby Kythira (either with a car or transfers); combine it with any of our Peloponnese resorts (car hire required); or as part of a touring fly drive itinerary.
Not to be confused with the better known Elafonissi in western Crete, Elafonissos lies just off the south eastern shore of the Peloponnese and measures just 19 sq. kms. Outside Greece it is little known, being far from an international airport or mainstream holiday area. But the island is far from unknown to the mainland Greeks, who come in numbers at weekends and during Greek holiday periods (August is definitely to be avoided!). Why? For the simple reason that Elafonissos is home to a pair of beaches that regularly appear on 'best in Greece' lists.
This is no idle claim. Both Simos and Panagia (aka Kato Nisi) beaches are long and wide, with near-white sand shelving into turquoise-hued water offering safe, sheltered swimming. They are organised with sun beds available, but also plenty of space for those who prefer their own towel. Thankfully there is no major development behind these beaches - Simos in particular has a protected area of sand dunes - although there is a sprinkling of chilled cafe-bars.
Elafonissos is also popular with Greeks because, for them, the island can be reached very cheaply and easily. Small ferry boats run frequently (every 30 minutes in summer) from Pounta on the mainland, take 10 minutes and cost last year just €1 per person and €10 per car. Pre-booking is not possible - it's a shuttle service so you just turn up and get on the next available boat. There are rarely long queues - only at peak weekend and bank holiday times.
The ferry docks at the only village on the island, also called Elafonissos. The village has a large working harbour, home to a substantial fishing fleet and overlooked by a photogenic little church. There is a perfectly good sandy beach to one side for those who don't wish to travel out to the star names, which are a few kilometres out of town. Most Greeks bring their cars over, as there is no bus service and only one taxi. If you do not have a car then our hotels can arrange transportation to/from the beaches (local charge) or the taxi fare is c €7 each way.
The harbour is lined with cafes, small shops, ice cream places and tavernas, which together engender a buzzing Greek holiday atmosphere in the evenings.
If you visit Elafonissos with a car we recommend you take your snorkelling gear and explore the oldest submerged town in the world… 5,000 years of history beneath you. Pavlopetri is directly opposite the island, just off the beach and next to Pounta where the ferries go from.
Discovered in 1967 and subsequently explored and excavated, this underwater town dates from 2,800 BC but the remains which can still be seen are Mycenaean, from between 1680 BC and 1180 BC. Pavlopetri was an important trading port and controlled the entire Laconian Gulf.
The submerged town, covering over two acres, lies 3m to 4m beneath the waves. You are not allowed to scuba dive here, but to snorkel is thrilling!