Travelers to Crete who visit for more than a week or ten days often learn of hidden treasures almost beyond belief. One such gem of experience is the small island of Koufonisi (sometimes Lefki or white), which lies just off the southeastern coast of the main island.
We arrived here as tourists in 2014 and stayed three weeks in Chania Prefecture. We promised ourselves we’d move here for good, and we did so in the Summer of 2017. Since then, we’ve dedicated ourselves to exploring the island and sharing some of the most unique locations, people, and cultures to be found anywhere in the world. Today, we bring you a fascinating place in time in the Libyan Sea.
Today, the uninhabited islet is known as Koufonisi, which lies about 3 miles (5.6 km) to the South of Cape Goudero on the coast of Lasithi, eastern Crete. Referred to as Leuce in antiquity, the island was once an outpost of the Minoans (Keftiu), the mysterious civilization of the Bronze Age. The island was, for eons of time, a vital sponge fishing center. However, Koufonisi’s most extraordinary claim to fame came from producing a purple dye made from the gastropod Murex trunculus known as Tyrian Purple. The Minoan civilization thrived because of commerce in luxury items such as rare dyes and fabrics colored with unique products.
Today, Koufonisi is visited by tourists sailing from Makrigialos port to experience some of the most amazing beaches in the world. This stunning islet is also designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a population of Eleonora’s falcons. Once again, the islet’s 36 stunning, secluded beaches with fine golden sand and crystal clear, emerald waters are the lure for the few who journey there each year. Nautilos Cruises in Ierapetra has fantastic tours to both Koufponisi and Cryssi Island to the west.
Cretan Beaches rates Akritamos Beach, on the West coast of the islet, as perhaps the best on the islet. The beach gets its name from the plant crithmum – kritamo (Crithmum maritimum), which is very common on the Mediterranean coasts and is used as an aromatic herb.
To learn more about this amazing islet, we recommend travelers consult Cretan Beaches for the scoop on all the best beaches and hidden gems of the island of Crete.