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10 Top Things to do in Elounda Crete

The area around Elounda Crete is one of the most beautiful on this astounding island.  It’s a small seaside village with breathtaking views of the Mirabello Bay coastline and mountains. It is one of the top luxury beach resorts in Greece. Add in a couple of brilliant beaches and one of the most famous landmarks in Crete, and you have a fantastic place to visit.

In this guide to Elounda Crete I’ll begin with things to do in Elounda village. I will then show you the boat trips you can take from Elounda (Including Spinalonga) and the activities available on these. I’ll also explain how to get to Elounda, and how to get around while you’re there.

I will then show you more places to visit near Elounda, around Agios Nikolaos and along the north coast.

Finally I will show you more places to visit further away from Elounda, including the capital of Crete, Heraklion.

Why Visit Elounda Crete

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Elounda Port

Elounda is famous for its stunning location in eastern Crete, with the mountains either side of the crystal-clear waters of Mirabello Bay.

Elounda is home to some of the best luxury hotels in Crete. These are mainly outside the village and some have private beaches for guests only.

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Schisma Elounda Beach
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A boat moored near Agios Fokas Church on the Kalydon or Kolokitha Peninsula

It’s a pretty seaside village with an outstanding sandy beach, and plenty of cafes and tavernas where you can enjoy the local food.

Elounda is also close to one of the most popular places to visit in Crete, the island of Spinalonga, and boat trips there run from Elounda and nearby Plaka.

Elounda is also the departure point for boat trips around the nearby coastline. As well as Spinalonga, these include swimming trips around the Kalydon Peninsula and beach barbecues at Kolokitha Beach.

Things To Do In Elounda Crete

1. Schisma Elounda Beach

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Another view of stunning Schisma Elounda Beach
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Umbrellas on Schisma Elounda Crete beach

The main Elounda beach is superb for families. It’s wide and sandy, there are plenty of facilities, and the views of the mountains, peninsula and Spinalonga are fantastic.

The water at this beach is also usually very calm. It’s at the southern end of the Gulf of Elounda, which has similar conditions to a lagoon. The entrance to the Gulf is narrow (guarded by Spinalonga), and the body of water is shielded by the ‘mainland‘ on one side and the Kalydon or Kolokitha peninsula on the other.

As with most beaches in Greece, it’s ‘organised’ – that is, you pay to use the sunbeds and umbrellas. It usually costs €8 for a two bed, one parasol package – you can stay there all day if you wish. A wonderful beach.

2. Elounda Windmills

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One of the windmills in Elounda Crete

There are several windmills in and around Elounda, a legacy from the area’s days producing salt. The one pictured is halfway along Schisma Elounda Beach, at the entrance to the jetty there.

You’ll find more windmills if you head south from the village towards the road to the Kolokitha (or Kalydon) Peninsula. The road passes three windmills next to the salt pans, where salt used to be harvested. Basically, seawater collects there and evaporates, leaving just the salt at the bottom.

3. Elounda Harbour And Village

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Faye and Our Little Man exploring Elounda
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Walking through Elounda Crete village
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A typical small Greek supermarket in Elounda

Elounda port is so picturesque, full of fishing and cruise boats, The village behind looks lovely, with its domed Orthodox church and tower, and the dramatic mountain backdrop.

Take a walk around the marina towards the superb beach (see above). And I’ve photographed a few of the shops for you so you know what to expect when you get there.

Elounda Cafes, Bars and Tavernas

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Elounda’s Bakery
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Mochianos Cafe in Elounda

Elounda has many great places to eat and drink. We stopped by for breakfast at the excellent Elounda’s Bakery, on the main street near the bus stop and taxi rank, and later in the day stopped at Alyggos Bar a few doors away for a cooling drink.

We also noticed several very appealing tavernas around the harbour, including Magali Cretan Cooking and Taverna Leonidas.

Ancient Olous

Sadly there’s not much to see of the ancient city of Olous, the distant ancestor of Elounda. It has long since disappeared beneath the waves either side of the causeway to the Kolokitha or Kalydon peninsula. As you walk along the causeway you can just make out some of the foundations of the buildings.

You can see these ancient ruins up close by snorkeling down to them.

Visit Plaka

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The boat jetty at Plaka
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The village of Plaka is very different in feel from Elounda.  It’s a lot smaller, more remote and much less developed than its more famous neighbour.

Plaka is an old fishing village that also acted as a transport point to Spinalonga when it was used as a leper colony.

It’s one of three departure points for boats to Spinalonga, the journey taking around ten minutes to the island.

The two main things to do in Plaka are relaxing on the pebble beaches and eating at one of the fish restaurants. We didn’t have time to eat in Plaka, but our guides strongly recommended Ostria and Taverna Spinalonga for their seafood.

The tourist blue train (€18 per person) also runs this route during the summer season.

Elounda to Spinalonga Boat Trip

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Spinalonga Island

Visiting Spinalonga Island is one of the most popular things to do in Crete.  The island – at the entrance to the Golf of Elounda – is best known as the site of the last leper colony in Greece.

Spinalonga was made famous by Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island, which tells the story of a woman who learns a family secret. Her grandmother and great-grandmother had been banished to Spinalonga because they suffered from leprosy.

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The boat to Spinalonga at Elounda
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Approaching Spinalonga from Elounda

The island of Spinalonga was also one of the most important fortresses on the coast of Crete. The fortifications were built by the Venetians in the late 16th century, and the island remained unconquered for over 40 years after the Ottoman Turks captured the rest of Crete in 1669.

Boat trips run from the port in Elounda every half an hour in season (April to October). The price for a return trip to Spinalonga from Elounda in 2024 is €15.  Tickets for entrance to the island are €8 for adults, and €4 for seniors and children.

Elounda Boat Trips – And Kolokitha Beach

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Our boat at Elounda jetty
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Our Little Man on our boat trip from Elounda

There are many options for boat trips from Elounda, including Spinalonga, swimming cruises and sunset cruises.

We opted for a swimming cruise from Elounda, which took us to several locations along the Kalydon or Kolokitha peninsula.

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Faye and Our Little Man swimming off Kolokitha
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Our Little Man about to return to the sea
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Faye and Our Little Man swimming off the Kolokitha Peninsula

After passing Spinalonga island, we stopped at a few beautiful spots along the coast, where everyone (except me!) got out for a swim in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Mirabello Bay. Snacks and lunch were also included in the package, which was €70 for the three of us.

Most of the boats stop at Kolokitha Bay, a magnificent spot where some also set up beach barbecues. We were also taken to some other bays along the peninsula coast, including a stunning bay on the northeast side of the island.

Mountain Drive To Lassithi Plateau

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The stunning Lassithi Plateau in the mountains above Agios Nikolaos

The Lassithi Plateau is an amazing landscape encircled by mountains high above the coast of Crete. The vivid green landscape is famous for its produce, and there’s a strong chance you’ll have sampled some of its delights during your stay in Crete. You’ll see several windmills around the Plateau – these are used to irrigate the land during the hot, dry summers.

Some tours take you to the Lassithi Plateau, stopping at a restaurant at Seli Ambelou for lunch on the way. They also stop nearby at the Cave of Zeus, a 15-minute uphill walk above the village of Psychro.  

Explore Agios Nikolaos

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A fishing boat on Lake Voulismeni

Agios Nikolaos is by far the largest town in the area. It’s the fourth largest city in Crete, built on hills overlooking Mirabello Bay and the mountains beyond. It’s a breathtaking location, and the main gateway to eastern Crete.

The main sight in Agios Nikolaos is beautiful Lake Voulismeni, a gorgeous spot a short distance inland from the shore. If you’re spending a day in the town, check out my guide to the best Agios Nikolaos Beaches. Ammos Beach and Kitroplatia are the best beaches in the town, and Almiros Beach, to the south, is our pick of the best.

There is also an Archaeological Museum with many amazing artefacts from eastern Crete, including the nearby ancient city of Lato.

Agios Nikolaos is the main transport hub of the region, and there are onward buses to Sitia, Ierapetra and Heraklion.

Stay At One Of The Luxury Elounda Crete Hotels

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The harbour in Elounda Crete
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Elounda village from the Gulf of Korfos

Elounda Crete has one of the biggest concentrations of 5-star and luxury hotels in Greece. Some of the hotels in Elounda Crete are among the most exclusive in the country.

Some complexes have villas and bungalows- which they call suites – which cost upwards of $5,000 a night in high season.  For this you get every luxury you could need, plus astonishing views over some of the most beautiful coastline in the Mediterranean.

The luxury 5-star hotels and resorts are outside the village of Elounda, either off the road to Plaka (to the north) or along the road to Agios Nikolaos (to the south).

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A boat moored off the Kolokitha Peninsula
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The windmill next to Schisma Elounda Beach

Domes of Elounda Autograph Collection is one of the best Elounda hotels. Each suite has its own private swimming pool or hot tub, and guests have access to a sandy beach with views of Spinalonga.

Phaea Blue Palace is a little closer to Plaka, around 3 km (2 miles) north of Elounda. It’s an outstanding place to stay, and wait until you see the views from the villa balconies.

There is also a great selection of luxury Elounda hotels south of the village, off the road to Agios Nikolaos, including Elounda Mare and Aquila Elounda Village Resort, Suites & Spa. Guests at Elounda Mare can also use the facilities at its sister hotels, Porto Elounda and Elounda Peninsula All Suites Hotel.

There are also plenty of mid-range hotels in Elounda village. Elounda Colour Apartments is an ideal 4-star option, with superb views of Mirabello Bay and just a short walk from the village, harbour and beach.

Elounda Garden Suites is a great 3-star option – and unlike many of the apartment hotels in Elounda village, it also has a swimming pool.

Other Elounda Beaches

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Looking towards Kolokitha Beach

Chiona Beach is a small but beautiful beach that has formed below the causeway connecting Elounda to the Kalydon Peninsula. It’s a sand and pebble beach with fantastic views up the coast, and it’s next to the old windmills and salt pans.

The road behind the beach continues onto the Kalydon Peninsula. It soon becomes a dirt track, which passes the secluded Dianiskari beach and cove on the right, before continuing across the peninsula.

It eventually reaches Kolokytha Beach, a popular destination on many Elounda boat cruises. The beach itself is a small sandy strip, lapped by gorgeous clear turquoise waters. The excursion boats moor close top the shore, and you can swim in the beautiful water and enjoy a beach barbecue. If you want it to yourself, come early in the morning!

There are also more beautiful coves where you can swim further up the peninsula coast.

There are also a few small beaches along the seashore between Elounda and Plaka, including Tsifliki Beach.

Tours From Elounda Crete

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Knossos is one of the most popular tour destinations in Crete

Elounda is a tour destination as much as a base for exploring this part of Crete. Tours run from the the Elounda area to the Lassithi Plateau – and some also include a trip to Knossos, the fascinating Minoan Place complex on the outskirts of capital Heraklion.

 And in the opposite direction, I highly recommend this tour to Toplou Monastery and the famous palm forest at Vai Beach. This gorgeous palm beach is unique in Crete, and one of the best beaches in Crete.

Where Is Elounda In Crete

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A boat between Elounda and Spinalonga Island

Elounda is in the province of Lassithi in northeast Crete, 10 km (6 miles) north of the city of Agios Nikolaos. It’s at the southern end of a body of water variously called the Gulf of Elounda or Korfos Lagoon.  It’s also just 5 km (3 miles) south of Spinalonga Island.

Distances From Elounda:

Malia – 36 km

Hersonissos – 42 km

Heraklion – 70 km (43 miles)

Heraklion Airport – 66 km (41 miles)

How To Get To Elounda

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Agios Nikolaos Bus Station

The easiest way to reach Elounda is by car.  If you’re arriving by air, the car rental offices are all just outside the main entrance to Heraklion Airport. Check discovercars.com for the best deals. If you’re driving directly from the Airport, the journey to Elounda should take you around 1 hour 15 minutes.

If you’re new to Crete, it’s probably best to take the main E90 road from Heraklion (via Hersonissos and Malia) to Elounda. You can then follow the coast road up and over the mountain to Elounda.

It’s also easy to reach Elounda by bus. Regular buses run from Agios Nikolaos bus station to Elounda, stopping in the main square next to the port and beach. Some buses also continue to Plaka. Bear in mind that if you see a bus to Plaka at Agios Nikolaos bus station, it will also stop in Elounda.

Bear in mind that if you’re travelling by bus, there is no direct bus between Heraklion and Elounda. You need to catch a bus from Heraklion (which stops at the Airport) to Agios Nikolaos, and get another bus from the station there.

Elounda Crete – Final Words

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Elounda Crete
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Our swimming group off the Kolokitha peninsula

I hope you have enjoyed my guide to Elounda. It’s well worth a visit, somewhere you could see in a day or so. Or stay a week or more if you just want to stop, relax and unwind surrounded by incredible scenery.

It’s also very close to some of the best places to visit in Crete, and if you’re driving, much of the eastern half of the island is within easy reach. Don’t miss Spinalonga Island – it’s one of the main reasons people visit this part of Crete, revealing a compelling, tragic part of the history of Crete.

Agios Nikolaos is well worth a day of your time – check out my guide to the best Agios Nikolaos beaches to find somewhere suitable to chill out for a few hours.

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A summer day at Voulisma Beach

From Agios Nikolaos, it’s a 20-minute drive along the shore of Mirabello Bay to stunning Voulisma Beach. The crystal-clear turquoise waters here are some of the most beautiful we have seen anywhere. Try to pick a day when there is little wind for your visit, and savour this corner of tropical paradise.

Don’t miss the gorgeous village of Kritsa Crete, a 15-minute trip into the hills from Agios Nikolaos. It’s one of the most beautiful villages in Crete, with narrow cobbled lanes, and purple bougainvillea flowers draped over whitewashed houses. There is also a superb church, Panagia Kera, and the nearby ancient city of Lato to explore.

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Sissi Crete Harbour

This is also close to the Lassithi Plateau, an amazingly fertile landscape high in the mountains. The soil is watered by the winter snows each year, and some of the tastiest food in Crete is grown there. You can also visit the legendary Cave of Zeus, the god of ancient Greek gods, while there.

If you’re thinking of exploring more of the northern coast of Crete to the west of Elounda, I have written many guides to this area. Check out my article on Sissi Crete, a blissful harbourside village in the shadow of the Dikti mountains.  From there it’s a short drive to the much busier Malia Beaches, the Malia Minoan Palace and wonderful Potamos Beach.

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A fantastic sandcastle on Malia Beach
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The Venetian Fort or Koules in Heraklion

If you venture further west, check out my guides to the best Hersonissos Beaches. Don’t miss pristine Sarantari Beach, and I also recommend a short stop in the village of Old Hersonissos, high above the town.

And finally, don’t miss my guide to the best things to do in Heraklion, the fascinating capital of Crete. This often-overlooked city is home to the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, the outstanding Archaeological Museum and some of the best food in Crete.

Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.