Spinalonga, Crete Island
When we arrived at Spinalonga, it got a whole lot better for Lorraine, who purportedly is only tolerant of my archaeological interests. The fort, built over earlier ruins by the Venetians, is largely intact today and very popular and Lorraine was right into it, even more so than myself.
The Turks overran it after bitter conflict in the 18th century but when they were eventually ousted the place was disused until it became a leper colony and many changes were made to the architecture, mainly to ease access to the sea for the patients. You could feel the history as you walked the streets and climbed the stairs to the wonderful panoramas over the bay.
The bay itself was used as a flying boat base by British Imperial Airways connecting England to India but time moved on and so, eventually did we, only we caught the wrong ferry (my fault) and ended up in Plaka, a miniature version of Elounda where we had time for afternoon tea before returning to Spinalonga and catching the correct ferry.
The island of Spinalonga,officially known as Kalydon is located in the gulf of Elounda in north Eastern Crete.Originally Spinalonga was not an island,it was part of the island of Crete.During Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defence purposes and a fort was built there.During Venetian rule salt was harvested from salt pans around the island.Many other rulers have occupied this island as well as the Venetians there were the Arabs,the Ottomans and finally the Cretans themselves.The island was used as a Leper Colony from 1903 to 1957 in fact when World War 2 came to Crete the invading German Army refused to set foot on the island for fear of contamination.Today the island is a popular tourist attraction with boats organizing tours from Elounde and Agios Nikolaos.The tours last a few hours and tickets can be purchased from almost any resort in Eastern Crete.
The cost per adult is 2 Euros for the island entry fee,boats trips cost 15 to 20 euros depending on which port you sail from.The island is open from April till October all week.
Crete is a very beautiful and largest Greek Island and the Cretan people generally are very nice.
We have been coming or going there for past 5/6 years and have been drawn back to a place that never fails to take your breathe away, so much so that we now plan to have a second home there.
The Lassithi region of Crete has dramatic scenery and Elounda in particular is a good place to be with larger town of Aghios Nikolaos within easy reach one way, about 9 kilometres and
6 kilometres the other way you find the tranquil setting of Plaka which overlooks historic island of Spingalonga, an ancient Venetian fortress and a leper colony up until 1957.
Blue flag beaches and plenty to do for all ages be it water sports, walking, driving even, archaeological sites, great food & wine of course or just chilling out.
A few kms north of Ayios Nikolaos is the incredible fort of Spinalonga - a small island off the coast at Elounda (boats will take you across from here - takes only a few minutes). The fort was built by the Venetians in the 15th century and held off attacks for an extraordinary 45 years after the rest of Crete had fallen to the Ottomans! More recently it was used as a leper colony!
it's an amazingly evocative place - wandering through the ruins and the fortifications - a sense of solitude descends on you as walk around, in spite of the fact that you are so close to the rest of Crete. During spring, the island is overtaken by wild flowers.
Spinalonga island is a fascinating place a short boat trip from Elounda and an island well worth a visit. In 1957 the last of the lepers were allowed to leave spinalonga, the story of the island is very sad and it is worth while to either take a guided tour or read up on it before going.
Spinalonga is a very small island off the coast of Crete. It is about 15 mins by boat. The pier is located about 45 minutes drive West from Hersonassis.
The island has an old venetian fort and was once used as a leper colony up to the early part of the last centuary. The island is now derelict but the old buildings are a testimont to the people who once lived and struggled to survive here. It is a very interesting place to visit and in some ways to pay your respects to those who suffered here.
Spinalonga Island was used by the Greeks as a leper colony for over 54 years. They were so afraid of the disease, they shipped people over to the uninhabited island to live in a separate community.
The island has held a strategic position in Elounda Bay, and was heavily fortifed by the Venetians in the 16th and 17th centuries. They built houses and workshops, and the ruins of these were used by the poor exiles to house their families. The community was strong in adversity however, and many marriages were sealed in the unique church which was created by them to be half Catholic and half Orthodox.
The island was virtually unscathed in the war, as the Germans were terrified of leprosy. The island then also became a refuge for those who wanted to get off the mainland.
Over 30 healthy babies were born in the community, but were taken to the mainland to live with relatives, because of fear the disease would be spread to them.
The leper colony was established in 1903. A hospital was built on the island in 1927.
The graveyard is on a small plateau and overlooks the mainland, which serves as a poignant reminder of the homeland those poor souls never returned to. Only 44 graves exist, and were filled, emptied, and refilled over the 54 years. The remains would be sent to the relatives on the mainland.
A very atmospheric place, well worth a visit.
Spinalonga is a small rocky islet, in the entrance of the lagoon of Elounda. The name Spinalonga is Venetian (Spina=thorn, longa=long).
Spinaloga, since antiquity, has protected the harbor of ancient Olous.
It used to be one of the most powerful fortresses of the Venetian Crete, and it was never conquered. Its high walls were built in 1579 and are preserved today intact. In 1630 it had 35 cannons.
For half a century after the Turkish conquest of Crete, Spinalonga remained in the hands of the Venetians and was a refuge for many Christians who fled there to escape from the Turks. In 1715 the islet was handed over to the Turks with the conclusion of a treaty. From 1912 to 1958 the islet served as a sanatorium for the lepers of Crete.
Today the entrance is free for the visitors who are attracted by its history and architecture.
If you are somewhere near Agios Nikolaos, you should take some time to go on a boat trip to an island called Spinalonga.
The boat first takes you to the island and you can look around for an hour or so. Then the boat drives into a small bay with beautiful, chrystal clear water. You can swim, sun bathe...and then before takeoff there's a barbeque; very delicious!
The whole trip should take about 4-5 hours.
It is an islet at the entrance of the Elounta bay. In antiquity there was a fortress of the Olounites. In 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress there, which remained under their rule even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. During the last years of the Ottoman occupation, it was a safe refuge of Ottoman families. In 1903, by law of the Cretan government, it was appointed as thte place of stay for the lepers of Crete.
It is an islet at the entrance of Elounda bay. In antiquity there was a fortress of the Olounites. In 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress there, which remained under their rule even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. During the last years of the Ottoman occupation, it was a safe refuge of Ottoman families. In 1903, by law of the Cretan government, it was appointed as the place of stay for the lepers of Crete. The conditions were cruel and prison-like until the construction of a hospital in 1937. Twenty years later the colony was closed and the patients moved to Athens hospital. Today the island is uninhabited and the fortress and town are in ruins.
You drive to Elounda (in the prefecture of Lassitthi) , which is a very nice fishing village. From there you can take one of the boats to Spinalonga. ( When you lodge in the western part of Crete it is a very long drive !!!
Spinalonga is in the east.)
It is an islet at the entrance of the Elounda bay. In antiquity there was a fortress of the Olounites. In 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress there, which remained under their rule even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. During the last years of the Ottoman occupation, it was a safe refuge of Ottoman families. In 1903, by law of the Cretan government, it was appointed as the place of stay for the lepers of Crete.
On your way back, you can drive to Agios Nicolaos. Very nice to take a walk in the narrow streets.
This is the view from the boat as we had left, should have taken a better one as we approached, but we did'nt realise how good it was going to be and everyone had the same idea going back and wanted to take piccys!
These are what remain of the graves of those who died whilst out here. Standing looking at them you just coud'nt help feel sad for how they were pushed to the side and ended up here without their loved ones
This Island was built especially for people who suffered with the disease leprosy.
They were taken away from their families and placed on here, some were forgotten, but those who still had families had food delivered regulary