Elafonissos is a small island, off the coast of Southern Peloponnese. In ancient times, Elafonissos was not an island but a peninsula known as “Onou Gnathos”, which literally means “the donkey’s jaw” as its shape was thought to resemble exactly that, according to ancient Greek geographer Pausanias. The name that the island bears nowadays means “Deer Island” and it is believed to have originated due to the large numbers of deer that populated the island in ancient times. It is therefore not surprising that several temples dedicated to Artemis, goddess of hunting, were scattered around Elafonissos.
The island of Elafonissos attracts several tourists, especially during high season between May and September. Even though the tourism industry has not grown to levels known in other Greek islands, concerns have recently been raised about the impact of tourism infrastructure development on the natural environment, especially since Elafonissos has been integrated into the European-wide nature conservation network, NATURA 2000. The island is home to a few different bio-habitats such as the Strogylli wetlands and various sand dune bio-communities. The sand dune biotopes provide a habitat for various species of flora, amongst which is the endangered Pancratium maritimum or “sea lily”. Cedar trees are also common on the island as are various types of Mediterranean bushes that provide safe nesting places for various birds of prey.
The most renowned natural landmark of Elafonissos is undoubtedly the beach of Simos. A narrow stretch of land marks the division between small Simos and Large Simos. The names of the two beaches indicate their length along the coast relative to one another. Small Simos tends to be quieter while Large Simos is busier, especially during high season. It is not an exaggeration to say that Simos may probably be the most beautiful beach in Greece. Simos has also ranked several times among some of the best beaches worldwide. What most people find most exciting about Simos are the sand dunes that form in the area starting from where the waves break and extending several hundreds of meters away. The beach just in front of the water is clear of trees but a few meters away there are beautiful cedars , forming corridors on the sand and providing shade.
Elafonissos does not have an airport. One must fly to Athens and then make the 5 hour journey to Neapoli, either by car or bus and then get on the ferry from Neapoli to Elafonissos. Alternatively one can fly to Kalamata airport and travel to Neapoli in order to reduce the trip to around 3 hours.