For several decades now, Elounda in the Mirabello Bay in Crete has been one of the most luxurious Greek holiday resorts, visited all year by the Greek and international jet setters. Still, this tiny fishing village has retained its charming, old, down-to-earth atmosphere. In its little harbor, you can board the boat for Spinalonga Island, a former leper colony and the area’s main attraction.
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 is often confusing 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 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 was also used as a leper colony during the first half of the 20th century.
Ancient Olous, the sunken city
Olous or Olus is an ancient, sunken city situated in today’s town of Elounda in Crete.
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 town are some scattered wall bases.
Olous, and accordingly the wider region, were depopulated in 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. In combination with the emergent Turkish threat, particularly after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the continuous pirate raids, this fact forced the Venetians to fortify the island of Spinalonga.
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Elounda – charming, luxurios and down-to-earth
Elounda is a small fishing town on the northern coast of the island of Crete. It is part of the municipality of Agios Nikolaos.
The road into Elounda from Agios Nikolaos is around 12 km and follows the shore as it climbs to 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.
Plaka – a small fishing village overlooking the island of Spinalonga
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 daily. The one-way boat passage requires approximately ten minutes.
You will find a small but lovely sandy cove on the eastern shore of Spinalonga Island. It has a great view across to Kolokytha Island. Every day the tour boats drop their passengers here for a swim and barbecues from noon until the early afternoon. If you want to enjoy its remoteness, come early in the morning or in the afternoon. To get there, walk or drive to the parking space beneath the chapel of Agios Loukas and follow the footpath to the coast for about 500 m.
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Things to do in Elounda
Spinalonga and Elounda
DAYTRIP FROM HERAKLION – GUIDED TOUR AT SPINALONGA ISLAND, STOP AT KOLOKYTHIA BEACH, ELOUNDA, AND AGIOS NIKOLAOS
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, hammam scrubs and floatation wraps, private steam cabins and saunas, and an endless selection of treatment suites, relaxation lounges, and meditation rooms.
Semi-submarine boat trip with “Nautilus.” This is the name of the unique double hull ship. It takes you on tour in the waters around Agios Nikolaos in Crete. There are windows on each side in both the hulls that enable you to look underwater and see the beautiful rock formations and sea life. You will find Nautilus at the Port of Agios Nikolaos.
In one of the most beautiful bays of Crete, you will discover a peaceful, silent underwater world. In the area, you can find many certified dive centers that provide many services and equipment. Mirabello Gulf has a wide range of marine life and many interesting diving spots.
TRADITIONAL COOKING CLASS AT ELOUNDA (TRANSFER & LUNCH INCLUDED)
Weather and climate in Elounda Crete