When I think summer vacation in Greece, my mind drifts to some small island in the Aegean Sea. One of those windswept rock formations with white-washed houses perched on steep cliff sides. The kind of island you need to spend a minimum of 6 long hours on board a ship before you can swim into its deep blue waters. This is why I was always skeptical about Elafonisos, the tiny island overlooking the southern tip of the Peloponnese. It ticked none of my boxes. Given its proximity to the mainland, I didn’t even know if it qualified as an island to begin with.
But the truth is that I kept hearing nothing but praise about Elafonisos and its beaches. So, “Why not?”, I thought. And I went. And, then, I threw my doubts and my idiotic unticked boxes out of the window. Elafonisos is one of the best destinations imaginable for a relaxing summer vacation by the beach.
Elafonisos is a super tiny island located between the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira. Almost all accommodation and dining options are scattered around the port. There is a ring road connecting all villages and beaches on the island. The latter offers breathtaking views with every turn you take. It doesn’t take more than 20′ to drive the entire length of said road.
How many days in Elafonisos?
We arrived at Elafonisos on the 12th of August in the afternoon and we left on the 16th of August also in the afternoon. There is no sightseeing involved, no must-sees or special activities. We are talking about a tiny island ideal for spending endless hours on the beach, tasting fresh Greek food and relaxing. So, how long you stay depends entirely on the type of trip you are planning. If Elafonisos is just another stop on your Peloponnese road trip, two or three days will be just fine. If, on the other hand, all you need is a long and relaxing break with nothing but you, the sea and the sky then you can even spend your entire summer holidays in Elafonisos.
Best beaches in Elafonisos
At the southern part of the island there are two beaches divided by a narrow piece of land. The larger is called Sarakiniko while the smaller is called Fragos. However, everyone calls them Megalos (Large) Simos and Mikros (Small) Simos respectively or simply Simos. It is one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever been to in Greece. And, mind you, I’ve been to a lot. Although it can get really crowded, Simos is so huge that it seldom, if ever, gets annoying. Crystal clear turquoise waters, sand dunes close to 10m high, golden and pink sand and a cedar forest. If that’s not heaven on earth, then what is?
Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for hire in some parts of the beach. Otherwise you can bring your own umbrella. Sitting directly under the sun is not an option as it is literally burning. You can grab food and drinks from the camping at Megalos Simos or from a snack bar at Mikros Simos.
Ta Nisia tis Panagias
Literally translating to “Virgin Mary Islands” from the tiny islets of the same name overlooking it, this beach boasts endless stretches of golden sand and a sunset to remember. The scenery is very similar to Simos: sand dunes, cedars and turquoise waters. A lot less crowded than Simos, Ta Nisia tis Panagias beach also has a few sunbeds and umbrellas for hire as well as some restaurants and snack bars nearby.
If this beach was on any other island, it would be among its best ones. In Elafonisos, though, Kontogoni is overlooked as it is near the port and very close to the main road. However, it’s perfect for the first and/or last swim of the day as well as for a final one before taking the ferry. Dining and café options near Kontogoni are endless, while many bars and cafés offer sunbeds and umbrellas for free, provided that you have a little something to eat or drink.
This is a beach close to Simos with emerald waters and white sand alternating with rocks. It’s as beautiful as all the others, yet I can’t tell you more about the sea itself as I never had the chance to swim there. There is no café or beach bar, neither umbrellas nor sunbeds to hire.
This beach is not on the island of Elafonisos but on the coast of Laconia. It is located a stone’s throw from the port of Pounta so it’s super easy to visit either before taking the ferry to Elafonisos or on your way back from the island. Apart from crystal clear waters and endless stretches of golden sand, this beach offers visitors the unique opportunity to swim among the ancient ruins of the oldest submerged city in the world.
The seabed between the islet of Pavlopetri and the homonymous beach is dotted with the ruins of an ancient settlement dating back to 2800 BC. The remains of this ancient city are visible with basic snorkelling gear. The only thing that can deter you from marvelling at this underwater archeological site are the currents or winds blowing in the area. You should always consult with the locals as to when it is really safe to swim all the way to the Pavlopetri islet. However, you can always swim a few metres off the beach and still get a glimpse of some of the ancient remains.
Where to eat in Elafonisos
The vast majority of eateries are located in the main village near the port. There you can find numerous taverns serving traditional Greek dishes, souvlaki places, pizzerias and snack bars. Go to Gyrofolia for the best souvlaki on the island and to Mammy Mam to breakfast on mouthwatering huge crepes, pancakes and sandwiches.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a meal comprising of either handmade pizza or traditional Greek food at Simos Camping. Also, Ta Nisia tis Panagias restaurant is located above the beach by the same name, offering unique panoramic views and delicious seafood dishes.
Where to stay in Elafonisos
As soon as you get off the ferry, the main village of the island stretches to the right. Almost all accommodation options are located there. There are no large hotels, only guesthouses and B&Bs. The number of rooms available is inversely proportional to the popularity the island has gained recently. This is why, especially in July and August, don’t even think of going without having previously booked a room. Also, keep in mind that for the same reason rooms are not what we call reasonably priced, especially in August.
If you are into camping or just don’t want to let Simos beach out of your sight, you can stay at Simos Camping. Located right on the beach, it provides all necessary facilities as well as restaurants and bars.
When to go to Elafonisos
Elafonisos is genuinely a summer destination. Only then do you get to make the most of its biggest asset: its unbelievably beautiful beaches. Moreover, outside summer months, most bars and restaurants are closed. If you prefer peace and quiet on your holidays go in late May, June or early September. If you don’t mind a bit of a crowd, though, July and August are the best months to visit. From October to April, you should only go if you are in need of absolute quietness bordering on loneliness or if you want to enjoy some easy hikes in the most spectacular natural surroundings.
How to go to Elafonisos
Driving is by far the best way to get to Elafonisos. This way you will have the opportunity to stop wherever you like or even organise a great road trip to explore the Peloponnese and the beautiful Laconia region. You drive all the way to the port of Pounta in Southern Laconia. From there you take the ferry and after 7′ you are in Elafonisos.
If neither your own nor a rented car is an option, you can travel by bus from Athens. However, there is no direct route. You need to travel to Neapoli first. From there you take a different bus to Pounta and then the ferry to Elafonisos. Once on the island, there is no means of public transport. In order to go from the port to Simos or anywhere else you like, you can rent a bicycle or scooter or call the only taxi operating on the island.
Elafonisos and the Peloponnese in general are also ideal destinations for those travelling from and to Italy by boat arriving to the port of Patras with their own cars or camper vans.
Elafonisos can be one stop on a marvellous road trip across the Laconia region. At least that’s how we did it and we liked it a lot. Laconia is a relatively unspoilt region in Southern Greece with amazing nature and beautiful villages. Some of the region’s highlights include:
The castle town of Monemvasia
Monemvasia is a fine example of a uniquely preserved medieval settlement thanks to the total absence of vehicles and the strict regulations set by the Archaelogy Services regarding the construction and reconstruction of buildings within the castle walls. Wandering around its narrow cobblestone streets makes you feel like a time traveller trapped in the Medieval Ages. You can find our Monemvasia travel guide here.
Kastania is one of the most impressive caves in Greece and the second of its kind in Europe in terms of density and variety of shapes, colours and figures. It is three million years old and it is near Neapoli. You may only enter the cave with a guided tour that takes place every hour and lasts about 30′ to 40′ minutes. For more information on how to best plan your visit, check out the cave’s official website.
If the beauties of Laconia are not enough, you can continue your vacation on another wonderful Greek island, Kythira. The latter is easily combined with Elafonisos since it is reached by ferry from Neapoli.