Elafonisos, meaning “the island of deers”, was an important hunting place in the ancient times. Small red deers used to live there. The ancient traveler Pausanias, reported Elafonisos as a peninsula. He also noted there were many sanctuaries in the area devoted to the goddess of hunting, Artemis.
Parts of the land dipped into the sea and formed this small island, distanced 570m from the Peloponnese, (Pounda Beach). Close to Pounda Beach, beneath the waves lies the ancient city of Pavlopetri. There’s a BBC documentary series about Pavlopetri. There’s also a book titled “Submerged Prehistory” about submerged sites, including Pavlopetri, which you can download.
Pounda is a great beach. The sand is full of tiny shells. The waters have a turquaze color. You can swim until the small islet, Pavlopetri, which is an archaeological place. There you can see hewn steps and ancient cist graves.
Elafonisos is strategically positioned in the passage of ships from Italy and West Mediterranean to the Aegean and the Black Sea. It served as a base for pirates and corsairs for centuries. The island was first inhabited in 1850 which was also the time when the newly formed Greek State managed to control and suppress piracy. Now it has one of the largest fishing fleets in Greece.
The highest point in the island, Vardia, is a hill with 276m altitude. It is a nice hike and at the top you can enjoy an aerial view of Simos beach, the whole island, the shores of Peloponnese as far as Mani on the west, Cape Malea in the east, and the island of Kythera. On here the pirates had a permanent watchman to spot the ships passing by and notify their carefully hidden warships to attack. The huge sandy beaches facilitated them to bring and hold ships at the seashore.
I didn’t find any path though so I made my way through the rocks and bushes. Τhe scent from the oregano, thyme and herbs was so intense! The sea color is amazing. A very intense emerald/ turquaze color!
The twin beaches Fragos & Sarakiniko or in short Simos beach, is probably the most well known beach in Peloponnese. Its impressive sand dunes host a dynamic and sensitive flora ecosystem.
In August the sand is full of the beautiful and endangered Sand Lilys (Pancratium maritimum). Other species include the Agatha (Eryngium maritimum) and the Ammophila (ammophila arenara).
The region of Elafonisos is in the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
The west side of Elafonisos is perfect in the afternoon. The sunset is amazing and the beach Panagias Nisia, is also marvelous.
Food is excellent. Fresh fish, traditional dishes with locally produced olive oil and vegetables.
During mid-July and August the island can get too crowded though.
Elafonisos is a must visit in Peloponnese for sandy beach lovers.