Spinalonga is an arid and barren rocky islet with an area of 8.5 hectares lying at the mouth of the natural port of Elounda in the Lasithi prefecture of Crete. Due to its strategic location, it was fortified and served a variety of roles and purposes over the centuries.Here, on an island where lepers from Crete and the rest of Greece had been kept in isolation until 1957, a story about love and pain, separation and fear was born.
Although it is small and known as the island of the outcasts, Spinalonga has a rather interesting story to tell. The island forms a natural defence “mechanism” for Elounda harbour, and in 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress here on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. The Venetians kept control of the island even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669 and it remained under their control for almost another half a century until its capitulation in 1715. Today thousands of tourists visit Spinalonga by boat from Ayios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka each summer as it is the most popular archaeological site in Crete after Knossos.
A walk around Spinalonga –with some of the finest views of the clear blue waters that surround the island– will guide you through the pages of the novel. Strolling around the island takes about an hour, but the serenity of the place and the remnants of its recent history will certainly tempt you into spending much longer. A left turn by the old town hall takes you down to the beautiful seafront; take advantage of the opportunity to take some time for a swim here.
Take the boat from Ayios Nikolaos, Elounda or Plaka. As well as the trip to Spinalonga you can also enjoy a swim off the beaches behind the Kolokytha Peninsula, before returning to Ayios Nikolaos in the afternoon.