In the island of absence: Spinalonga, Crete

By mycountry In Travel

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in an abandoned place and to disconnect in order to reconnect. This day trip to Spinalonga Island had one aim: exploring the past of a fortified islet which served a variety of roles over the centuries. I came to eke out the last of the summer sun, and to explore Spinalonga, which sits on the glittering Gulf of Mirabello,Lasithi. 

Historical Information

Spinalonga has a very long and interesting history – throughout history. In antiquity the island was walled to protect the ancient city of Olous. In the late 16th century, the Venetian’s built one of the most important in defensive sea fortresses in the Mediterranean within the context of the major fortifications works they carried out o defend Crete. Construction began in 1579 till 1586.

During the Cretan War refugees and rebels (hainides) took refuge here and harassed the Turks, using the islet as their base. With the treaty of the surrender of Candia (1669), Spinaloga remained a Venetian possession. In 1715 the islet surrendered to the Turks following a siege. The Venetian garrison withdraw and the remaining 600 or so inhabitants were taken prisoner.

Muslims settled on Spinaloga from 1715 and they built their houses atop the Venetians buildings. The Muslim settlement was initially isolated and inaccessible with 250 inhabitants in the early of 19th century.  After the mid-19th century, the settlement experienced a heyday accompanied by urban development and the island operated as the largest Muslim trading center of Mirabello.

In 1903, the Cretan State established a leper colony on the island. The first 251 patients settled there in 1904. Until 1913, lepers were deported only form Crete, but after 1913 when island became part of Greece, lepers from the rest of the country came to Spinalonga.

Life in the island of Spinalonga

Patients lived independently in their own space, were responsible for earning their livelihood. They organized their space, engaged in cultivation of the land. The leper colony had nursing personnel, caretaker, financial department and a priest. The leper colony was closed in 1957 after the healing of the patients using antibiotic treatment. 



Getting there by Boat: The island of Spinaloga is accessible by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka. The cost for a turnaround ticket is 8€ (from Plaka).

Ticket : 8€ for more Administrative Information

Words & Photos: Sonia Farasopoulou


  1. eLeM 2016-09-11

    Although just its name it brings to mind really sad pictures, these specific pictures make you feel that it is worth a visit.

  2. […] at the top of the bay of Elounda with a view of the magnificent castle of Kalydon, the famous Spinalonga, guarding the harbor's entrance. Opposite the island is Plaka (4.5klm from the port of Elounda), a […]


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