Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete

For our trip to Crete I did very little research.  We only booked the flights 10 days before we flew, joining friends in a villa in the hills above Chania. Our plans were to relax: spun out from work and moving house. The little trip to Tallinn in April was feeling a long time ago!

But any travel blogger will tell you that FOMO exists and so I had a little look at Crete on Pinterest. Of course the beautiful white and pink sands of Elafonisi caught my eye.  We had been to Elanfonissos when we were in the Peloponnese, so the name stood out! Just a small road trip I told Mr P… And there’s only a handful of pink beaches in the world! So I wasn’t going to miss the one 80km from me!

He was delighted to see the pre-7am sunrise from our roof terrace before we set off… Clearly not convinced about a 2 hour road trip to see a beach. That was apparently pink… But the traffic was very quiet, just a few goats to navigate around!

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We arrived by 9am having enjoyed the scenic drive through the mountains.  The car park was empty: early alarm totally worth it! Hello empty beach, just us and a few other people seeking peace and quiet. And pink sand.

The beach that you arrive onto is vast and dotted with food stations and loungers… It’s set around a lagoon with splendidly warm and azure water, perfect for wading… And at 9am. But not pink and with a high risk of busyness…

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & ParkerPink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

After a little paddle we went exploring… Onto the island and nature reserve, accessible at all states of tide.

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Then suddenly we saw what we had come for.  A deserted white sand beach through the dunes.

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The pièce de resistance though, is the pink hued sand that collects along the water line. I was cynical and thought all the Instagram pictures must have been filtered to produce the pink. But no. It really is pink.  Even pinker through polarised sunglasses.

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & ParkerPink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & ParkerPink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & ParkerPink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Pretty excited to have found a beach to match my shorts and sunburn… I wanted to know what caused it. The beach, not the sunburn. Which, was from malfunctioning P20!  After all my degree was in Geography and Oceanography, and pink sand hadn’t been covered. Here’s the science bit, according to the Chania Post. “Pink sand is a result of tiny red organisms that grow on the dead coral reefs and pieces of shells which fall to the ocean floor and is washed onto shore. It is also made of natural formulation of calcium carbonate from very small marine invertebrates that mixed to corals and shells and other marine things which has Foraminifera, microscopic amoeba that has a red or bright pink body shell. All of these are what causes the sand to have a pink hue.”

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

It really is stunning. We felt like we had arrived in the Caribbean: the beaches around the island were as deserted as some we’ve found in Antigua and Jamaica. One doesn’t have to go far from the car park to feel like they’ve arrived on a desert island! And the view back across the sea to the mountains in rather spectacular too.

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

All islands have 360 degrees of coast so we decided to do a full lap.  It was even emptier on the west side of the island.  Windier and cooler too due to the prevailing wind. Hallelujah! We strolled across the dunes to a far rockier scene, I assume granite as the island of Crete is formed from tectonic activity. And volcanic stones too?

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We didn’t see a soul on this side of the island and the views are stunning.  Such great colour combinations with the white sand, dark rocks and azure waters.

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

I read somewhere that about 2,500 people come to the beach daily. You’d better believe it.  When we arrived back at the lagoon it was heaving with people. A few too may selfie sticks for me. We definitely made the right choice by rising early and strolling to the far end of the island. I’d guess only 20/2500 get much further than the main beach, thank goodness!

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The drive home was spectacular.  Once we had fought our way past the many (many) cars still arriving we enjoyed the scenery.  Narrow roads with switchbacks mean great views. The scenery really reminded me of trips into the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and our visit to the Dead Sea.  Looking at the map, a very similar latitude so no real surprise. Also plenty of roadside stalls selling olive oil, honey and raki – obviously we stopped!

Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker Pink sand paradise: Elafonisi, Crete - Travel with Penelope & Parker

A stunning day out. It really is quite something to visit somewhere so unique and peaceful. That early alarm clock and a smidgen of research always pays dividends!

Follow:
Share me:

20 Comments

    • August 17, 2017 / 11:09 am

      Thankfully the selfie sticks didn’t walk as far as the pink sand ?? Just a handful of people enjoying the remoteness!

  1. August 17, 2017 / 12:16 pm

    These pictures are absolutely stunning – what a place! Waking up early to get an empty beach like that is definitely worth it and I imagine it must have felt so peaceful. And that pink sand is just the most beautiful thing! I’d never heard of it before but have now popped this place to my ever-growing travel list 😀

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    • August 17, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      I hope you get to visit soon, I was so pleased when I found it on Pinterest and then when we got there it was as stunning as I imagined!!

    • August 17, 2017 / 10:44 pm

      It really was, the photos only go part way to it really!

  2. August 18, 2017 / 11:31 pm

    That pink sand contrasts beautifully with the crystal clear turquoise water – totally gram-worthy and definitely worth get up early for.

    • August 19, 2017 / 12:44 am

      That early alarm and being a morning person always comes through with gems!

    • August 20, 2017 / 2:55 am

      I know, I wish there were more. But if it’s all from poorly coral then less is more

  3. August 20, 2017 / 6:00 pm

    Seems so strange that you had that lovely beach all to yourselves while the main beach is heaving but how lucky for you! The majority obviously don’t know about it.

    • August 20, 2017 / 7:20 pm

      Place like this are so good for being hidden gems, I am glad so many people just want to bask in the sun by a bar!!

    • August 22, 2017 / 8:51 am

      Simply stunning, a hidden paradise island

  4. August 22, 2017 / 10:43 am

    The pink and blue look gorgeous together – and extra special to have it to yourself. I don’t know a lot about Crete but going from your beach pics alone it looks like it’s definitely worth a visit.
    Lucy recently posted…A weekend in CambridgeMy Profile

    • August 22, 2017 / 10:51 am

      I would really recommend staying in a villa in the mountains and dawn raids on the special places!

    • August 23, 2017 / 6:26 am

      It really was, I would have been unpopular if the pink wasn’t impressive after the early start!

  5. August 23, 2017 / 1:47 am

    Love this Anna and I love booking last minute holidays too! You would never have guessed this was Greece and I love that you managed to find secluded spots with no one else around – definitely bookmarking this!

    • August 23, 2017 / 6:27 am

      It was a real treat and a world away from the busy beaches and tourist spots

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge