Elafonissi is known as the ‘Cretan Maldives’ with crystal clear water and pink sand. I was picked up at 7:30am for a tour to head across the island to visit this area. So popular is this area that our bus took an hour to pick everyone else up along the way and was completely full. Sitting next to me was a Polish girl ‘Margret’ and it wasn’t long before we started chatting. It was quite funny because every time she started to tell me a story the tour guide also started to speak. Our guide was a lovely blonde haired woman who was easy to understand and gave us some great information about the areas we were travelling through.
For instance we were driving on the ‘old road’ that the Germans and Commonwealth soldiers built during WWII. Apparently unusual friendships were formed between these two enemies when they were working on the roads. I also learned that oleander bushes that are very pretty and line most roads, are extremely poisonous and so deter goats from roaming onto the roads and causing accidents. Goats are everywhere on Crete.
We had a breakfast stop at a traditional Cretan village and then on through the rocky mountainside region of Topolia Gorge to the Holy Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa. This is one of only two churches in the world dedicated to Saint Sophia, the other is in Istanbul, Turkey. The building of this monastery has a true story – a shepherd found an icon on top of the hill but usually all monastery’s were easier to build at the base of hills. So he started to build at the base of the hill, created some walls and went home. Next day he came back to find the walls crumbled down and the icon back on top of the hill. He did this for two more days with the same thing happening. He finally realised that God wanted him to build the monastery on top of the hill! And there it is today, and you can view the foundations of where he first tried to build the monastery…
Inside the monastery was a tiny room used as a secret school, three small kittens and a beautiful church.
Ten minutes away was the island of Elafonissi and we were being dropped off here for four hours but the temperature was forecast at over forty degrees! I was therefore slightly worried I might come back looking like a beetroot.. I had picked up some lunch at the little village and had plenty of water thankfully. Walking off the bus it did look like an idyllic setting.
A group of us set up camp in a small patch of shade under some trees and changed into our swimwear. There was a couple of change booths, lots of umbrellas and loungers for hire, and a small canteen. People were wading out into the lagoon which was only waist high. I followed Margret to the actual island which you could wade out to in shallow water, and the colour of the water on the other side of this island was spectacular! Clear turquoise blue contrasted with the charcoal coloured rocks and pink stretch of sand.
Margret (who described herself as ‘the crazy Polish girl’) had me taking photos of her on just about every rock, but actually we had a lot fun as we both had our cameras. Along this section of the island we eventually came to a stop, decided to turn around, and hello there was a naked man sitting in front of us! He offered to take our photos together but we just giggled and carried on.
Between taking photos, swimming, eating lunch and napping the time soon went and we made our way back to the bus. The driver then turned up and he looked suspiciously like the naked man we had seen earlier! Thankfully I got back on the bus suffering only sunburnt feet, which happens to me all the time…
A quick stop at a local stall for a taste of Cretan runny honey and raki (with honey), then it was an hour or so for the drive back through the mountains to Amygdalokefali where it was extremely hot and stifling at the restaurant. I did have a lovely Greek salad and the view was magnificent across the coastline, but it was so lovely to get back and have a refreshing shower. It was a long 12hr journey and I was so tired but it was excellent value for money and now I know why Elafonissi is on all the postcards!