Elounda is a seaside town on Crete’s northwestern coast. It’s an up-and-coming retreat that revolves around a colourful harbour and the main square just next door. The place is packed with authentic Greek tavernas and friendly bars – it also comes with a sandy beach that looks out to the fascinating Spinalonga Island. It’s quite a lively spot, but if you want a little bit more more action there’s Agios Nikolaos just 15 minutes’ drive away.
Elounda’s main beach, just a short walk from the harbour is a 200-metre stretch of golden sand. It has the Blue Flag for cleanliness, as does the quieter Driros Beach, a 15-minute walk south along the coastal path. Or if you’ve got a car, a 5-minute drive takes you to the pebble beach at Plaka, which comes with a promenade.
A short walk south will bring you to the causeway connecting Elounda to Spinalonga Island– it’s here you’ll see the only remains of the submerged ancient city of Olous. Five huge stone windmills were excavated and today they stand next to the bridge, open to the public to walk around.
It’s just a 15-minute boat ride from the harbour to Spinalonga Island, a strange place with a long history. A flat coastal path around the island takes 2 hours to walk and along the way you’ll pass through the huge 16th-century Venetian fortress. You’ll also see the eerie abandoned leper colony – the inspiration for Victoria Hislop’s book The Island – which was inhabited until 1957.
Along the harbour road, you’ll find designer clothes stores and souvenir shops where can pick up model Trojan helmets and painted ceramics. And a 5-minute stroll down the road takes you past jewellery shops and supermarkets that stock all the essentials. Every Friday there’s a market along Dimokratias Street, in front of Elounda Church. Here you can haggle for fresh fruit and veg, and the tasty Cretan graviera cheese.
The restaurants in Elounda are spread out in an L-shape around the harbour – the places here have kept the old fishing village charm and serve up authentic Greek dishes. Dishes like the slow-cooked lamb kleftiko and skewered chicken souvlaki are favourites in most of these restaurants. As for vegetarian options, the most famous Cretan appetiser is the ntakos, a Greek bruschetta topped with tomato, feta and olives.
Elounda may seem like a quiet little place compared to the bigger resorts on other Greek islands, but there’s actually lots to do here. The marina is superb, with a variety of boat trips available. How about booking a place on a fishing trip or you could step aboard a yacht for a more luxurious cruise with views of the rocky coastline. If you fancy seeing what’s going on beneath the sparkling waves, check in at the scuba diving centre to take a peek at the local sealife.
For a different kind of water fun, head out to the huge Acqua Plus waterpark. You’ll get there in less than an hour by car, and you’ll be rewarded with an exciting array of slides, pools, a lazy river and a kids’ water playground. Waterpark junkies will be pleased to hear it’s just one of several on Crete.