Lassithi Spinalonga Islet

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Location: Plaka

Between Elounda and the Gulf of Mirabello in northeastern Crete, lies the renowned islet of Spinalonga. Some argue that the name comes from Italian, meaning long thorn, while in Greek its original name was Kalidon.
Its history begins in antiquity; the islet was fortified to protect the ancient settlement of Olous. When Crete entered the Venetian period during the 16th century, Spinalonga was again fortified. A bastion-type seaward fortress was designed for the Venetians to enhance the protection of their occupations.

The islet was used as a shelter by refugees during the Cretan War (1645-1669), and later as a base for guerrillas attacking the Ottomans. In 1715 the Turks took control of Spinalonga. The island was inhabited largely by Muslims, reaching its peak in the 19th century, as an important commercial and residential center. During that period there were around 1112 inhabitants.

After Crete won its freedom, Spinalonga started to be used as a leper colony (1905). All lepers of Crete, who were previously ostracized, were now taken to Spinalonga, where food and medical care were provided to them, creating a vibrant community. The lepers started gradually abandoning the island when the cure for the disease was found in 1957. The last inhabitant was a priest, who left in 1962.

Nowadays, the islet has turned into a popular tourist attraction. One can wander through the narrow alleyways and see the houses, the hospital, and the other settlements used by the lepers. The echoes of the past are present everywhere. The abandoned island of Spinalonga has frozen in time, filling every visitor with strong emotions.

Frequent boat itineraries depart from Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, and Plaka. Keep in mind that the islet is not inhabited and there are no accommodation options. Visitors usually take a day tour and stay on Spinalonga just for a few hours.

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