Coordinates: 35°16′20″N 25°44′55″E
The island of Spinalonga, officially known as Kalydon today, is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, next to the town of Elounda. It is near the Spinalonga peninsula (“large Spinalonga”) – which often causes confusion as the same name is used for both.
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.
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 approximately 12 km in length 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. (read more about Elounda…)
In 1579, the Venetians built a mighty fortress on the island of Spinalonga on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. The Venetians kept control of the island even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1669 and it remained under their control for almost another half a century until its capitulation in 1715. Spinalonga island is notable for being the last active leper colony from 1903 until 1957. Today, it is unoccupied and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the area.
The small fishing village of Plaka (Lasithi), which overlooks the island of Spinalonga and the Kolikithia Peninsula, can be reached a mere 5 km from the main square of Elounda heading north away from Agios Nikolaos. Elounda is a famous tourist attraction, heavily visited by VIPs for its seaside luxury resorts.
Today, the unoccupied island is a popular tourist attraction in Crete. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches and shallow waters. The island can easily be accessed from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Tourist boats depart from both towns on a daily basis. There is no accommodation on Spinalonga, meaning all tours last only a few hours. Boat trips from Elounda take approximately fifteen minutes while trips departing Aghios Nikolaos can take almost an hour.
Things to do
Diving: Mirabello Bay is one of the most wonderful bays of Crete to discover the peaceful, silent underwater world. Under the Cretan Sun 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 intresting diving spots.
Birdwatching: Over 6000 species of plants and flowers thrive in Crete, and of these 170 species are endemic to Crete.
Along the coast at the beginning of Autumn, one can spot the “Sea Lily” which is represented in Minoan and Thiraean wall paintings. In the mountains, partridges, blackbirds, badgers, weasels and hares provide company. At great heights one can spot one of the rarest species of eagle. At Almyros Beach, turtles, herons, eels and waterfowl can be observed. The preservation of this wildlife diversity is dependant upon our environmental awareness and sensitivity.
Hiking or walking: Some of the most interesting trips around Aghios Nikolaos and the surrounding villages can be made on foot or by bicycle. A sunhat and sunglasses, the right shoes and some water are all that you need to enjoy a walk in the spectacular nature of Eastern Crete.
This area appears green even during winter because of the olive trees, and in spring nature bursts through from the mountain slopes to the coast filling the area with red poppies, white margaritas and other multi-coloured wild flowers. Glancing around one can see a wild olive tree, dictamus, narcissi, chrysanthemum, capers, cuclaminus, thyme, and wild orchids.
Sea Kayaking: Paddle in the calm – peaceful waters of the Lagoon of Mermaids, swim in the turquoise blue cretan sea and explore the historic island of Spinalonga – “the island of tears!”
Organized tours by Cretan Adventures
Period: From May to October 2011
‘Cretan Adventures’ is the specialized company in the area of outdoor activities and alternative forms of tourism in Crete and Greece in general. ‘Cretan Adventures’ organizes all kinds of activity holidays in Crete, including all land services and facilities (accommodation, meals, transport etc.), covering the most interesting and beautiful routes and areas. The Activity Holidays have been formed in order to cover the visitor’s interest in the nature, the history and the landscape of Crete.