Tucked into Crete’s southwest corner, this symphony of fine pink-white sand, turquoise water and gentle rose dunes looks like a magical dreamscape. As the azure water swirls across the sands, prismatic rainbows shimmer across the surface. Off the long, wide strand of Elafonisi beach lies Elafonisi Islet, occasionally connected by a thin sandy isthmus, which creates a lovely double-beach, but otherwise easily reached by wading through 50m of knee-deep water.

Elafonisi islet is marked by low pink dunes and a string of semi-secluded coves that attract a sprinkling of naturists. A walk to its high point offers mind-blowing views of the beaches, sea and raw mountainscape. The entire area is part of Natura 2000, the environmental protection program of the European Union.

Alas, this natural gem is hardly a secret and less than idyllic in high summer when hundreds of umbrellas and lounge chairs (€7) clog the beach (dash out to the island where you can find peace). The invasion puts enormous pressure on this delicate ecosystem and on the minimal infrastructure, especially the toilets. Come early or late in the day or, better yet, stay overnight to truly sample Elafonisi’s magic. And outside of high season, when there are no public transports to the beach and very few tours, you may have it all to yourself.