The islet of Elafonisi

The small islet of Elafonisi is separated from the mainland by a small channel. Protected by an EU environmental programme,  the pristine beach, with its pure white sandbars and clear turquoise sea are breathtakingly beautiful. The whole region has beautiful beaches although the coast near the monastery is steep and rocky. The island has a tragic history that belays its tranquil beauty. In 1824 it was the site of a Turkish massacre of 850 women and children who were hiding here. Sadly, they were discovered and all brutally murdered. A plaque on the island commemorates this slaughter.

Further north close to the bay of Stonio, some 72km south-west of Chania, lies the monastery of Chrysoskalitissa which is built on a rock and has superb views across the bay. The name, Chrysoskalitissa means golden step and there is a legend that one of the 90 steps leading up to the monastery is of pure gold but only those with pure spirits are able to see it. The monastery was abandoned during the Turkish occupation until the middle of the 19th century when a monk from the region of Sphakia moved in. Today there is one monk and one nun ( who are kin) live there.