Elafonisi (“deer island”), also called Laphonissi, is located close to the southwestern corner of Crete, in the region of Chania. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water. The island is a protected nature reserve.
Elafonisi – a small paradise
This small paradise rivals Balos for a place in your heart. Elafonisi – which has given its name to the region is a small island separated from the mainland by a few meters of shallow sea. Here you will enjoy the crystal-clear waters and fine white sand with purple hues caused by the broken shells. Around the beach you will find clusters of cedar rooting directly through the dunes. Try to camp on the island – it will be a unique experience.
Greek War of Independence
At the highest point on the island there is a plaque that commemorates a tragic event. On Easter sunday of 24 April 1824 several hundred Greeks, mostly women and children, were killed on Elafonisi by Ottoman soldiers. To avoid advancing Ottoman troops, forty armed men had taken refuge on the island with women, children and old folk where they were waiting for a ship to take them to the Ionian Islands. The Ottoman soldiers had decided to camp on the beach opposite the island. One of their horses walked along the shallow water to the island and the people hiding on the island were discovered. According to several sources there were between 640 and 850 people in total, most of whom were killed and the remaining survivors were sold in to slavery in Egypt.
Shipwreck at Elafonisi island
In the past Elafonisi was feared by sailors, because of the huge waves that rise when the northwest winds blow. These waves have demolished many a ship in the scattered reefs.
On February 22nd in 1907 an Austrian Lloyd passenger steamer by the name Imperatrix wrecked on the cliffs of this little island. A large wooden cross is placed in remembrance of the 38 people who lost their lives when trying to reach the shore in a lifeboat. The strong northwest winds caused the lifeboat to sink. They were all buried on the island. You can still today see the Imperatrix lying on the seabed in front of the island’s cliffs.
On the mainland the 17th century Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa is approximately 5 km from the island.
Palaiochora is a small town in Chania prefecture. Paleochora is located 77 km south of Chania, on the southwest coast of Crete and occupies a small peninsula 400m wide and 700m long. The town is set along 11 km of coastline bordering the Libyan Sea and its population was 2213 in the year of 2001.
Palaiochora has crystal clear waters, well organised beaches, and beautiful isolated small anchorages. It is served by numerous hotels, restaurants, tavernas, cafés, and bars. Facilities in Palaiochora include bank branches, a post office, a central telephone office, a health centre, doctor’s offices, dentists, chemists, a police station, a coast guard and customs office, and many types of stores. Ferry boats connect Palaiochora with Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro, Chora Sfakion, and Gavdos.
Local attractions include the abundant wild flowers in the spring, the opportunity to see Venetian and Byzantine wall paintings in some of the local churches (those in Anidri and Voutas being particularly impressive), and a museum dedicated to the Acretans in the town itself. The nearby village of Azogires, 5 km away, contains a museum dedicated to the area as well as the, now empty, Monastery of the 99 Holy Fathers and what is claimed to be the largest Evergreen Plane Tree on the Island. In 2009 it is planned to open a number of signposted walking routes in the area and the town is on the European E4 Long Distance Footpath. Palaiochora is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Kalamydi.
Sougia is a small village in the municipal unit of East Selino (Anatoliko Selino). It is also located on the south coast of Crete, 70 km south of Chania.
Sougia is reached from Chania by car in 2 hours or by ferry boats from Palaiochora, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion. Although it is not one of the larger towns of the province of Selino, Sougia is interesting to the tourist, providing a lovely beach, impressive mountains and interesting remains of an ancient city and old Byzantine churches. Sougia has some tourist services, such as small hotels, rooms to rent and a few taverns, cafes and bars. Sougia was the ancient city of Syia, a harbour of Elyros. In the village church, an important basilica of the Byzantine era, was found a beautiful mosaic, now exposed in Chania’s Archeological Museum. In 1943, during German occupation, Germans razed the villages Livadas, Moni and Koustogerako, by way of harsh reprisal for local partisans actions.
Things to do
Close by Paleochora there are areas of exceptional natural beauty and environmental value which you can visit, such as the Gorge of Samaria, the Gorge of Agia Irini, and the small Gorge of Anydri-Gianiskari. Other beautiful areas are, the Island of Gavdos, the beach at Elafonisi, the district of Koundoura, and picturesque villages inland like Voutas, Anydri and Azogyres.
Beaches around Paleochora: Beach Pachia, Ammos Beach, Halikia Beach, and Gianiskari Beach
You can also see archaeological sights on the way to Paleochora like the ancient Byzantine churches of Kantanos and Plemeniana, villages like Asfentiles, Prodromi and Spaniakos. Also very interesting is the Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa near Elafonisi and the archeological sites of Lissos and Kadros.
Daily ferries connect Paleochora with Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Hora Sfakion, Elafonisi and there are regular ferry trips to Gavdos. In the evening roads of Paleochora are closed to the vehicles, to provide people with a place to walk, buy, eat and enjoy the exceptional night life of the town.
The caves of the area are: Zoures in Azogires, Ligias, Sapouna in Rodovani village, Xotospiliaro, Nerospilie and Thafto in Koustogerako village, Dissea’s, Halaro and Stalihtra in Temenia village, Bitoro’s and Sfadahtospilio in Kabanos village as well as 13 caves in Agia Irini gorge.
Paleochora is a place that you will never forget. Enjoy the sun, the sea, the great Cretan food and the warm hospitality of the people.