It’s just a matter of opinion as to whether you think the fairly isolated Elafonisos Island, not far from the Peloponnese mainland has or does not have the spectacular beauty of other islands in the Cyclades chain.
The small island in the region of Lakonia is a peaceful, magical place with stunningly beautiful turquoise seas, much like what you see in the Caribbean. It is a Natura 2000 environmentally protected zone and the breeding site for many migratory birds.
It has long stretches of sandy beaches, and you can prepare to be blown away by the sheer magnificence of Simos Beach, one of the most beautiful in Greece. The pristine beaches of Elafonisos Island are known for their superb snorkeling conditions.
It’s a place of quiet rest, a place to relax and restore frazzled nerves – these are the kind of gifts offered by this island. When you land on this island of dreams you discover that it is only 20 km2 in size.
There is the port, a few shops and taverns, some hotels, bed and breakfasts and a beautiful church. You can say that the chapel of St. Spyridon is one of the most picturesque things there are to see on the island.
This particular chapel on Elafonisos Island is built on a small island opposite the port. It is accessible by means of a bridge. You can take a walk around the islet, and go inside the chapel.
Elafonisos Island: A place that exudes an unusual beauty
You have to understand something about Elafonisos Island – it’s not a vibrant, bustling entertainment hub where you dance and party into the wee hours of the morning. The island is about sheer relaxation, and that’s what lures people to it – the elusive peace and quiet from a mad, chaotic world.
It’s to be expected then that the port town attracts many watersport enthusiasts and those who love to hike. What is fascinating about the island is that while it is quite unknown, it has a long history, and this has been confirmed to us by some prehistoric findings.
This opens up another form of entertainment – exploring historical sites. The island has some incredible historical sites built by ancient civilizations, and if you’re only on the island for a short stay, you’ll have to narrow down your visits.
For many people who make the trip to the small island, it’s not about filling their days with one activity after the next as Elafonisos isn’t about that. It has one or two cultural celebrations during the year, and one of these is the feast of fishermen that takes place at the end of August, stretching over 10 days.
The Fishermen Club organizes the event and if you’re on the island over that time, you can put on your dancing shoes, as there is plenty of lively music, dancing, wine and fried fish in honor of the visitors of Elafonisos. The events are often accompanied by some fascinating nautical history of the island.
The fascinating island was once connected to the mainland but in more recent times you need to take a ferry from Pounta Harbor. Pounta is only a small harbor town and the distance to the island is approximately 300 meters. The trip takes only about ten minutes.
Elafonisos Town has a port with some taverns and rooms for rent. The harbor can get busy, and if you’re at the port towards the evening, you’ll be charmed with the way the taverns and bars light up and cast reflections on the water. Elafonisos Island isn’t about clubs and in fact, you’re not going to find any, but it does have some bars where you can sit outside along the waterfront and have a drink.
So much atmosphere to soak up
In Kato Nisi is the 2-story castle of the Melas family. It’s an ancient castle dating back to 1863 and which is open to the public. There is also the Panagia church from 1825. Not far from the church is a Mycenaean cemetery and a Christian graveyard.
The protected Panagia Beach or Kato Nisi Beach is found on the west side of the island. During the summer the yellow-flowered Sempre Viva blooms, growing on the rocks, adding to the loveliness of the place.
One of the top things to do on Elafonisos Island to appreciate all its beauty is to hike, and a popular route to take is The route of the Terraced Balconies of Elafonisos. The beautiful route starts from Megalo Tigani and you follow the road till you come across a remarkable cave with a low vaulted roof.
Following the path towards the south, you come to Vardia which is the highest point of Elafonisos, at about 276m. It promises wonderful views of Kythera and the Malea peninsula. Despite the small size of the island, there are some excellent hiking trails and also some cycling routes.
Enjoy a Traditional Meal in one of the beach taverns
The taverns in Elafonisos like to add a personal touch to your dining experience and there are some great taverns to be found in the harbor of Elafonisos.
Nothing is set in stone with these Greek tavernas and you might opt to eat at one that tickles your fancy only to discover there is no menu. Sometimes there is a menu but not all dishes are available on that particular day.
Between the different Elafonisos restaurants and taverns, you’ll be taken on a wonderful culinary experience while you wine and dine in some magnificent waterside settings.
Aronis Fish Tavern
This stylish family tavern is found at the edge of the Kontogoni beach. Send your tastebuds into overdrive with delightfully good food while you cast your eyes over the entire beach. The tavern is famous for its fresh fish, caught from the tavern owner’s own fishing boat.
The spaghetti with lobster or shrimps is worth a try as is the mackerel salad, pasta with chicken or salmon or something else. The recipes, some marinated with wine made from organic grapes, are always fresh and local, many of which are produced by the owners. Juicy seasonal fruit in baked desserts is a firm favorite. The olive oil sprinkled over some of the salads comes from olive groves of the Kato Nisi.
Ta nisia tis Panagias
This family restaurant with a name that means ‘the islands of Panagia’ offers an excellent choice for breakfast, lunch and supper. It is located on a very scenic spot on the island where you can dine and enjoy a perfect sunset while you relish unique dishes cooked with special love and care.
You might want to start with the delicious fish soup or try the traditional homemade tsatziki and salad. You can always enjoy some of the traditional meals too such as the finger-licking delicious home-made burgers.
Hike to the Castle of Vatika (Castle of Agia Paraskevi)
The castle, which dates back to the late Byzantine period, is located in Mesohori village. Once you reach it you are rewarded with a splendid view of Neapolis town and Elafonisos Island.
The castle of Vatika is found on a rocky cliff not far from the town of Neapolis. The castle has a small courtyard, a chapel and some 2-story houses. There is a wall that surrounds the castle.
The nature around the castle is great for hiking and there are a number of paths to explore. You have to have your camera with you as there the hilly, coastal walks offer superb photographic opportunities. Not only that, there is the chance to explore some of the villages that these exciting hiking paths take you to. Keep your eyes open for signs, some of them painted on rocks, indicating where the paths will take you.
Visit the famous Simos Beach
Once in Simos, it is difficult to get away from the idea that this is not one of the Caribbean islands, so fascinating is its extraordinary beauty. The wide beach of white sand just encourages one to throw down a beach towel and to bask in the sun.
The sea is peaceful and crystal clear, and the bay is split. Essentially Simos consists of two beaches, Megalos and Mikros. There is a narrow stretch of white sand that divides these two beaches. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas and there are also bars or taverns near the beach where you can buy refreshments.
The beach to the right of the spit is known as Mega Simos, Simos Grande or Megalos and it’s somewhat more upbeat, and you might be entertained by a game of beach volleyball on the go. You’ll find beach umbrellas and loungers too. Pack in dark sunglasses as nudists use the beach and you may want to take a peek more than you should! Just be aware of this if you plan on visiting the beach with children.
The crowds on the beaches at any time will be influenced by the holiday season which starts in May and goes on till August. This is the time when it is hot and sunny on the island and time to build on a fashionable tan.
Discover the Sunken City
There is a small island, Pavlopetri, that isn’t far to the northeast of Elafonisos. It’s a favorite spot for the seabirds that flock to the Stroggyli Lagoon. This is a wetland that is home to more than 130 different bird species. Some of these birds use the lagoon as a resting place as they make a bid to reach Africa.
The sunken prehistoric city is a fascinating place to visit and the island has received a lot of international attention because of this amazing underwater city. It’s not surprising that it has attracted extensive archeological research.
Even though Pavlopetri is the oldest submerged city in the world, but it only recently, in 2011, became known to the world. Many scientists have visited the site and believe that the city was possibly submerged by an earthquake of 8 magnitudes.
There seems to be conflicting information about the time that this happened. There are courtyards, buildings, water management system, streets, and tombs and all this is accessible to visitors. The amazing thing about this city is that even regular snorkelers can visit it as it’s just 3m below the water.
A camping destination
To make the most of camping in Elafonisos, you need to be armed with some knowledge. Camping is such an economical way to enjoy a holiday while making the most of what mother nature offers.
What a pleasure it can be sitting around a campfire under the bright stars on a clear night, not to mention the attraction of outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and cycling. An outdoor holiday on Elafonisos will be an amazing experience and will leave lasting memories and impressions of this most beautiful part of Greece.
The lovely Simos camping grounds on Elafonisos Island are just 4km from the port of Elafonisos, in a protected nature reserve. There are shady areas for caravans, campers and tents. inviting you to settle down to a blissful summer holiday. The campsite is well positioned in front of the beach where the glistening emerald sea invites you to dive right in.
The campsite is well equipped and comes with a restaurant, bar, bike rental services, and mini market. The bar offers cocktails and music for those who want to social a bit with fellow campers. If you’re feeling lazy, both cafe and restaurant serve breakfast, lunch and supper.
How to Get to Elafonisos
Elafonisos Island is the ideal summer destination and between May and October, you can enjoy excellent sunshiney weather.
Driving is the ideal way to get to Elafonisos Island, and you can expect an awesome 4 to 5-hour road trip from Athens to Pounta Port, after which a ferry will take you to Elafonisos in less than 10 minutes.
Remember, if you use public transport, and you want to know if you can reach and enter Greece, what with covid-19, click here to become an informed traveler.
There are bus routes from Athens, Tripolis and Kalamata. To go from Athens to Elafonissos, you take the bus to Neapoli and then the ferry from Neapoli to Elafonissos. The buses from Athens to Neapoli leave from Kifissos KTEL Bus Station.
Enjoy a day trip to Gytheion and Monemvasia
Gytheion is such a picturesque little town and it lies close to top attractions. It is close to Ancient Sparta, Mani, the medieval town of Mystras and to the Diros Caves. Visitors just love the beautiful seaside town as it nestles on the hillside in the peninsula of Laconia.
It’s got a most beautiful beach – Mavrovouni, and the turtles think so too, as endangered sea turtles arrive on the beach to lay their eggs. The seaside town is also ideally situated to take a road trip to Monemvasia.
Monemvasia is part of the prefecture of Laconia, It’s essentially a Medieval fortress, complete with Byzantine churches, ruins and a town. It’s located on the southeastern side of the Peloponnese and is magnificently carved into sea rock. It’s such a romantic place and many of the ancient mansions have been converted into trendy guesthouses and small hotels.
There is the more modern town outside the Rock, full of tourist facilities. It’s a cool place to stay while making day trips to Gythio, Don’t miss the breathtaking sea view from the top of the Castle.
Where to Stay in Elafonisos
There’s no shortage of awesome places to stay on Elafonisos Island and each one is appealing in their own way. The island is home to an eclectic mix of places to stay and hospitable hosts, each of whom offers something special to the area, and that gives you a number of reasons to stay over.
Located in Elafonisos, and just 500 m from the beach, the stylish air-conditioned stone villa hotel is peacefully surrounded by olive groves. It sports a lovely pool, poolside bar, sun terrace, free wifi, LCD satellite TV, and stylishly decorated units. The lovely bathrooms complete with shower and hydro-massage jets and free toiletries are designed to pamper and rejuvenate you. For availability and rates click here.
If you’re into the beauty of nature and its preservation, you’ll love Capari Suites on Elafonisos Island. You’ll find furnishings of natural wood that simply complement the place’s classic old-world feel.
It’s a sheer paradise of beautiful gardens and beautiful views. They’ve done what they can to be environmentally friendly, making use of solar water heaters, solar lighting, natural air conditioning and more. Capari Suites offers splendid sea and mountain views from its prime position looking over the Laknian Gulf. All their beautiful rooms offer balconies and terraces. It’s such a romantic venue and couples choose it for their wedding reception.
This wonderful hotel has a magnificent position, blending into the hills behind it and just 3.5 km’s from the main harbor of Elafonisos and a choice of fabulous taverns and just a few minutes away from the famous Simos Beach. For availability and rates click here.
It’s a 3-star air-conditioned hotel located in the Kato Nisi area of Elafonisos Island. The hotel is designed for comfort, relaxation and superb hospitality. It offers spacious rooms with sought-after amenities such as air-conditioning, satellite TV, free wifi, mini bar, private balcony, and magnificent views of the bay, all of which go towards ensuring a memorable stay.
Where to Eat on Elafonisos Island
Creperie Mammy Mam
If you love exploring gorgeous little eateries, be sure to stop in at Creperie Mammy Mam. While on Elafonisos you want to experience exotic island flavors with quality ingredients that elevate simple food such as fish to a whole new level.
While you enjoy your meal, you can take in magnificent views of the sea while the tantalizing smell of fresh coffee promises a quiet time of reflection. The restaurant is such a colorful place In terms of décor and atmosphere and the homemade treats promise an ooh-la-la experience.
If you’re not sure what to see and do on this wonderful little Greek island, many people take a guided tour of Elafonisos, preferably with a seasoned boatman, giving you the chance to stop along the way and swim in the famous turquoise waters.
As you approach the island, the sea is clear and is a blend of blue, green and turquoise. The island of Elafonisos and its village of the same name is busy, inviting you to pop into souvenir shops and a restaurant before you head towards your accommodation.
Elafonisos Island is small but it offers fantastic accommodation and when you start catching up with a few of the guests at your hotel or guesthouse to find out what they have to say about the island, they all seem to talk about it as a personal favorite travel destination.