Elafonisos is a really small island in the south of Greece. It’s about 5 kms long, so we really mean it. In the past, it was famous for its fresh fish and people from Peloponisos, the southern part of Greece, would just visit it to have dinner at its delicious fish tavernas. No one cared to pay a visit to the southern side of the island, where lies probably the best beach in Greece and in whole Europe, the only “Caribbean Style” beach that we have seen in Mediterranean.
This is a blogpost to help you discover Elafonisos: how to go there, where to stay, where to swim and where to eat.
1. Where is Elafonisos?
Elafonisos (or Elafonissos) island, is in the southern part of Greece, in the district that is called Peloponnese, and more specifically in Laconia.
Elafonisos is around 320kms from Athens, the capital of Greece. It is a small island that is really close to the mainland – you just need to take a ferry boat that takes 10 minutes to get you to it.
Be careful! Elafonisos is different to Elafonisi, which is another area in Crete island. Many people are confused with the two names.
2. How to Get to Elafonisos
Elafonisos doesn’t have an airport. You have to drive your way to it. If you are in Athens, here is the directions you have to follow:
Athens to Elafonisos Driving Directions: Starting from Athens, go to the national road that goes from Athens to Korinthos. Then follow the signs towards Tripoli until you reach close to it. This is a great road, with 120 to 140 km/hour average speed, so you should expect to reach the area close to Tripoli very comfortably. It is a toll road, so expect to pay around 10Euros in total for its tolls.
And then the toughest part is waiting for you. The road from this point until you get to the end, is getting smaller and more difficult to drive. Your average speed will go down to 50km/hour and even less at some areas. Follow the signs to Sparta town (yes, the one in the movie “300”), and when you reach Sparta, follow the signs to Skala village. From the Skala village, you will find signs to Pounta. Pounta is the area which is opposite to Elafonisos, from where you will be getting your ferry boat to Elafonisos. Once you get to Pounta, you will easily find the spot from where the ferry is leaving.
Go there and buy your tickets to Elafonisos before you go on the ferry – there is a small reception office in a box just in front of the beach. The one way ticket from Pounta to Elafonisos cost 1E per person and 10 Euros for the car. Quite expensive for a 9 minutes trip.
Here is a look at the ferry you will be using to get from Pounda to Elafonisos:
If you arrive at Pounda on a high season timing, e.g. from 20th of July until 20th of August, on weekends, you may have to wait about one hour in the line, before you catch your ferry to Elafonisos. The reason is that the ferries are really small, they get around 30 to 40 cars inside and they come every 20 minutes. So, if there are another 100 cars in front of you, you may be waiting for an hour.
The total trip duration, door to door, from Athens to Elafonisos, could be: 5 hours to drive from Athens to Pounda beach, 1 hour waiting in the ferry line, 10 minutes to go from Pounda to Elafonisos, so around 6 to 6 and half hours.
30 meters to the left of the point that the ferry leaves from Pounda to Elafonisos, you will find a great beach with white sand and clear waters. It’s not better than the ones you will find in Elafonisos but if you feel like it you can jump in the water for a quick dive.
Here is what the beach at Pounda looks like:
A little secret about the Pounda beach. In the sea, just in front of the beach, you will find the most ancient, sunk city in the world. Yes! There is an actual city beneath the water, called Pavlopetri, which is 5000 years old. BBC has a documentary on that, that you could check out at youtube.
The University of Nottingham has tried to reconstruct the image of what the city looked like, based on the ruins that exist today. Here is the video:
Pounda to Elafonisos Ferry Times and Schedule:
There are two ferries from Pounda to Elafonisos and their schedule is posted at the Official Page of Elafonisos Ferry Time Schedule Pounda to Elafonisos. You can expect them to leave every 20 minutes in peak time, otherwise every hour. On the below table you can view some ferry times from the 1st of July until the end of August: The first column is the times of ferries departures from Elafonisos to Pounda and the second column is the times of ferries departures from Pounda to Elafonisos.
Arriving to Elafonisos by Airplane:
As we mentioned in the beginning, there is no airport in Elafonisos island. The closest airports are two: The airport at Kalamata town and the airport at Kythera island.
If you arrive at Kalamata airport, you can rent a car and drive a couple of hours from there to Elafonisos via Pounda. If you arrive at Kythera airport, which is much smaller, you can get a 1 and a half hour boat to Neapolis town and then another 30 minutes boat from Neapolis town to Elafonisos. The boat from Neapolis to Elafonisos doesn’t accept cars, so if you are driving one, you will have to go from Neapolis to Pounda (about 15 minutes drive) and get the ferry from Pounda to Elafonissos. We would recommend flying to Kalamata airport, except if you want to combine the two islands of Kythera and Elafonisos, so in that case you would want to fly directly to Kythera.
3. Best Beaches in Elafonisos
This is actually a very easy topic, as the island has only 3 beaches: Megalos Simos and Mikros Simos beach on the south and the beach “Nisia tis Panagias” or “Islands of the Holy Mary”, on the north side.
Megalos Simos and Mikros Simos are the two best beaches of the island.
Megalos Simos Beach
This is probably the best beach in Europe. It is a Caribbean-like beach, with 4kms of white sand and perfect crystal blue and warm waters. This is the picture you will see as you are getting closer to the beach. This beach is 4.2 kms from the main village of Elafonisos, the area where the ferry will get you from Pounda.
Megalos Simos in Greek means “Big Symeon”. Simos is the Greek name for Symeon. Simos, was the guy who went on to build a camping on this beach 20 years ago and made it more popular to the Greeks. The camping is also called “Simos Camping”. The whole area around the beach is a Natura preserved area, due to some species of plants that grow only here.
The beach is huge. The right side of the beach has great sunbeds and most families and couples who are over 30 go to that side. The sunbeds cost 12 E for 2 sunbeds and one umbrella. You can also order coffees, snacks, refreshments, beers and food on the beach. The service is slow, so it might take you up to 40 minutes to have your coffee served.
The left side of Megalos Simos beach belongs to the Simos Camping. There you will find younger people and parties having fun on the beach. It has also sunbeds and umbrellas. Don’t try to stay on the beach without an umbrella and a strong sun cream (more than 30 SPF), as the sun reflects on the white sand and is really strong. You could easily get burned from the sun on this beach.
Here is a closer look to the perfect crystal blue waters of Megalos Simos Beach in Elafonisos:
There is a free parking outside of the beach, without any protection from the sun. The road to get to the beach at Megalos Simos and also Mikros Simos, is just fine, so you can reach it with any type of car or bike. Some people also choose to run from the main village of Elafonisos to Megalos Simos beach, as it is a 4kms road, next to the sea. Just be careful not to run when the sun is strong, from 11am to 16:00pm.
Mikros Simos Beach
Mikros Simos in greek means “Small Symeon”. This is the beach which is the small brother to Megalos Simos beach, as it next to it. It has the same type of water and it is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. Some people prefer Megalos Simos, some people prefer Mikros Simos and it is a nice issue for debating during your dinner with your friends and family.
Nisia tis Panagias Beach
Nisia tis Panagias means “Islands of the Holy Mary” in Greek. This beach is in front of 4 really small rocks rather than islands, which you can see on the left side of the picture. The beach is on the right side of the picture.
This is a nice beach with white sand and great water and it is 2kms outside of the main village of Elafonisos, on the north side. The water here is deeper than the sea in Megalos and Mikros Simos beaches. It is a fine beach but we like Megalos Simos more. If you choose to come here, you will find sunbeds and umbrellas to rent and an open space parking in front of the beach.
4. Where to Eat in Elafonisos
Actually, there are just two things to do in this cute, little island. Swimming and eating. Elafonisos has many great tavernas, which are all together in the main village, just in front of the sea. You can try great fish there and especially the spaghetti with lobster (or Astakomakaronada) as it is called in Greek, is a must.
The best tavernas to go in Elafonisos are: Boukas Tavern, Menti Brothers Tavern, Spyros and Spyridoula tavern. At Boukas tavern you should try spaghetti with lobster (1kg of lobster costs 70E and the spaghetti comes for free – this could feed up to 4 persons). At the other taverns you can try fresh fishes like sardines and many other types of small or big fish.
Be careful, the fish is fresh but the calamari, octopus and shrimps are frozen and may come from other seas (e.g. when we asked about the shrimps, they told us that they come from North Atlantic). This is not a secret, it is written on every catalogue in every taverna but many persons don’t pay attention to it. The frozen seafood is still great in taste but we don’t like paying 15E for 4 shrimps that are frozen and not fresh. The salads are also fresh and tasty (try boiled vegetables, greek salad etc) and you may want to try some local greek dishes such as Stifado (rabbit with onions). You should expect to pay around 25 euros per person. There is a small cartel in the prices among the restaurants and tavernas in Elafonisos and the prices are almost the same everywhere. Thankfully, the quality is equally good.
Another great tavern is the one you can see in the picture above, which is called “Nisia tis Panagias Tavern” and is on top of the hill that overlooks the beach with the same name. This is 3kms outside of the main village of Elafonisos and is on the top of a hill – you can go there with a car.
Elafonisos has also one restaurant with pizza and italian food and two places where you can eat pita with gyros and pita with souvlaki, which is a cheaper way to satisfy your hunger – a pita with gyros costs around 2.5 euros here.
5. Where to Stay in Elafonisos
Elafonisos is a small island and you have to book a room early enough, especially if you want to stay for more than a couple of days. We suggest you book at least one month before going to Elafonisos.
As a general rule, there are two areas to stay in Elafonisos. Either you stay in the main village or you stay close to the two famous beaches, Megalos and Mikros Simos. These two areas are 4kms away. We prefer to stay in the main village and just drive to Megalos Simos beach every morning, enjoy the swimming and then come back to the village in the afternoon for a dinner.
If you want to stay in the main village, you can choose Papoulias Rooms, which cost around 50E per night without breakfast, for a 2 persons room. They have also a free parking for your car, which is important as the main road of Elafonisos where all the tavernas are, is closed from 8PM to 12PM as it is turned into a pedestrian zone. These rooms are just ok – nothing special but they will serve you ok. If you want to spend more, you should try and stay to Elafonisos Diamond resort. You will find double rooms for prices ranging from 80E to 100E with breakfast.
That’s all about Elafonisos! Enjoy this cute, little island with its amazing beaches – if you are heading to Greece, don’t forget to check out our awesome travel guides to Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Patmos islands.