Elafonisi (The Deer Island) lies almost at the southeastern edge of Crete, about 76 km southwest of Chania and thus quite far away from our holiday house. However, it holds a special place in our memory - if not (alas) for what it is today, then for what it used to be more than twenty years ago, when we first visited Crete. It was one of the reasons for coming back.


Elafonisi is accessed by a short walk across a sandbar as it is separated from Crete only by a shallow lagoon. The sand is bright white with tinges of pink from crushed sea shells, the turquoise water is warm, calm and clear and and the entire scenery is framed by the impressive White Mountains. The island itself is a protected area and included in the 'Natura 2000' environmental programme of the EU. The long sandy beach on the Cretan side is also partly protected as it is not allowed to build any permanent structures closer than one kilometer from the beach. Elafonisi But ever since the dirt track of the good old days was turned into an asphalted road for the last five kilometers from the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa nothing prevents busses and cars from bringing scores of visitors in the high season, filling the dirty, rutted parking space, where once only sand dunes framed the shoreline. And the seemingly unavoidable endless rows of plastic sunbeds now litter much of the mainland beach.

The problem of course is not that the beauty of the place is made accessible to more visitors. The problem is lack of planning, reckless exploitation of the frail nature and insufficient infrastructure for such an influx. Nevertheless, Elafonisi is still an idyllic place to visit and there are still unspoiled spots to be found for the "Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints" kind of visitors.