This little island is located across the settlement of Makrigialos and is also known as Lefki meaning ‘white’ in Greek, probably because of its impressive white sand beaches and limestone that covers its surface. It is the biggest in a cluster of islets and skerries (Koufonisi, Makroulo, Stroggylo, Trachila, and Marmara), and has a distinct history and natural beauty. The island’s name “Koufonisi” (trans.: Hollow Island) derives from the caves and caverns formed by the seawater and the rain on its soft rock formations. The island is about 6 kilometers long, 5.5 kilometers wide, and has an area of 4,26 square kilometers.The island is deserted and in many spots it is covered with sand reminding an African landscape.Koufonisi has 36 stunning beaches, with fine white sand, and emerald waters. Some of them, such as Asproulos, Hiliaderfia, Faros and Anemertia next to the Roman theater. In Minoan times Lefki was an important station of sponge collecting and mainly, of the working of murex shells, from which the famous, precious and expensive purple dye was extracted.
While you are there, you will have the chance to see the white rocks, against the backdrop of the Libyan Sea’s endless blue, enjoy the tranquility of nature, and swim in the crystal clear waters. Leuke was continuously inhabited from the Early Minoan (3000-2200 B.C.) until the Early Christian period and was finally abandoned in the 4th century A.D. The very restricted human presence on the island thereafter (it was used only for cultivation and stock-breeding) greatly contributed to the preservation of the antiquities as it actually remained uninhabited, although the largest part of its surface was covered with sand.
The island is uninhabited today, but still filled with remnants of past human activity that starts from the Early Minoan times until the post-Byzantine era. The locals like to call Koufonisi as Delos of Crete, due to the significant archaeological monuments found there. On 1970s archaeological Offices of Eastern Crete under the authority of N. Papadakis began the excavations and the island proved to be full of ancient sites. A beautiful theater, made of stones, at the North West end of the island opposite the Marmaras islet was discovered. At the South East of the theater where a settlement was found, a villa with 8 rooms and a guest room was brought to light.The excavations also showed a workshop where the famous purple robes of the Romans was made. They also dig out an astonishing building, the Public Baths, dated back to 1st and 4th A.D. and ruins of an old temple.
Today, the island is a haven for fishermen, away from the strong winds and rough seas of the Libyan Sea. In recent years, the wealth of its history and environment were discovered and studied. This knowledge and the natural beauty of the island are a gift to visitors who must respect and protect it.