11th stop: Spinalonga and Elounda
The island of Spinalonga, officially known as Kalydon, is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi prefecture, next to the town of Elounda. It is near the Spinalonga peninsula – which often causes confusion as the same name is used for both. The official Greek name of the island today is Kalydon.
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 defense purposes and a fort was built there.
During Venetian rule, salt was harvested from salt pans around the island. The island has also been used as a leper colony during the first half of the 20th century.
Ancient Olous, the sunken city
Archaeologists discovered ancient texts within the ruins linking the town to the ancient cities of Knossos and the island of Rhodes. The sunken city can be visited by tourists swimming in Elounda Bay. Today, the only visible remnants of the city are some scattered wall bases.
Olous, and accordingly the wider region, were depopulated at the middle of the 7th century because of the raids of the Arab pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. Olous remained deserted until the mid-15th century when the Venetians began to construct salt-pans in the shallow and salty waters of the gulf. Subsequently, the region acquired commercial value and became inhabited. This fact, in combination with the emergent Turkish threat, particularly after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the continuous pirate raids, forced the Venetians to fortify the island of Spinalonga.
The road into Elounda from Agios Nikolaos is around 12 km and follows the shore as it climbs to the top of a small mountain. The view from the top is incomparable; on a clear day it is possible to see the whole of Mirabello Bay and all the way to the eastern tip of Crete. Elounda is a famous tourist attraction, very much visited by VIPs for its seaside luxury resorts. Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou used to spend his summers in Elounda; today, it is visited almost every year by the royal family of Saudi Arabia.
The small fishing village of Plaka, which overlooks the island of Spinalonga and the Kolikithia Peninsula, can be reached a mere 5 km from the main square of Elounda town heading north away from Agios Nikolaos.
Tourist boats depart from Plaka to Spinalonga on a daily basis. The one way boat passage requires approximately ten minutes.
Things to do
Health travel: Recognized as the “World’s Best Spa” by the Sunday Times TRAVEL magazine 2007, the Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda Deluxe Resort has magnificent indoor and outdoor spaces with spectacular sea views. Luxurious treatment rooms form the stage for world-renowned signature treatments to be enjoyed in pools and bubble tubs, hamam scrubs and floatation wraps, private steam cabins and saunas, and an endless selection of treatment suites, relaxation lounges, and meditation rooms.
Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda
Elounda, Crete 72053, Greece Tel: +30 284 106 8000
This photo of Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda Crete
is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Semi-submarine boat trip with “Nautilus”. This is the name of the unique double hull ship. It takes you on a tour in the waters around Agios Nikolaos in Crete. In both the hulls there are windows on each side that enable you to look under water and see the beautiful rock formations and sealife.
Semi-submarine boat trip
Port of Agios Nikolaos, Crete 72100, Greece
Tel: +30.6936051186 Website
Scuba-diving: In one of the most wonderful bays of Crete you will discover a peaceful, silent underwater world. In the area you can find many certified dive centers that provide a great variety of services and equipment. Mirabello Gulf has a wide range of marine life and many interesting diving spots.
Diving Centre Blue Dolphin
Aquila Elounda Village | PO Box 100, Elounda, Crete 72053, Greece
Tel: +30 2841 041802 Website
Elounda Heights Apartments and Studios
Elounda, Crete 72053, Greece
Tel: +30 6932385337 Website
Prices from 50€
Domes of Elounda all Suites and Villas SPA Resort
Elounda, Crete 72053, Greece
Tel: +30 2310810624 Website
Prices from 188€