Spinalonga the island of Living Dead

Spinalonga Island is one of the most well-known & popular historical attractions in Crete. It is situated directly opposite the village of Plaka, just a few kilometres from Elounda village. The famous award-winning English author, Victoria Hislop, made the island widely known through her best seller novel called ”The Island”, which was followed by a Greek TV series. Moreover, Spinalonga is protected by UNESCO, as it has been added to the list of World Heritage sites.

How to visit Spinalonga

There are several ways to visit the island. 

1.First, from the small fishing village of Plaka. 

Plaka is opposite Spinalonga island, from here you can take one of the small boats which depart about every 20 minutes, price 10€ per return ticket (2022 rate). Boat travel time is less than 10minutes & it is relatively easy to find parking nearby: free or chargeable.   

1.Another option is Elounda port or harbour. 

You can reach the island by taking a boat from Elounda port, or the harbour, which will cost 12€ round trip (2022 rate). Boats leave every 30 minutes during the day in summer season and travel time is about 30minutes. Plenty of free or cheap parking space available in Elounda. 

2.Agios Nikolaos harbour. 

On a summer day, quite a few ships leave the harbour of Ag. Nikolaos in the direction of Spinalonga. Rates & offers vary depending the package you choose; guided tour, bbq on boat, extra time for a visit and swimming at Kolokytha bay. Rates usually start at 15€ (transfer only) or 30€ with lunch. 

Our tip: 

If you are a sea lover choose Agios Nikolaos harbour; you will have the chance to spend more time on board and enjoy the scenery as the distance is longer. Combine this with a stroll in Agios Nikolaos town!

But even better –   enjoy a whole tour experience by purchasing one of several excursion packages that are available through travel agencies. For example, a package can include your transfer to the island by bus (starting from your hotel), a visit to Kolokytha bay for swimming and BBQ on the beach. Kolokytha is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.

Spinalonga entrance fee 

The standard entrance fee into the island of Spinalonga is 8€. Those over 65 years old can get 50% discount, while for children the entrance is free. The entrance fee is paid only on the island of Spinalonga; all prices on internet or travel agencies do not include the ticket fee.

History

Spinalonga was not always an island; according to history, the Venetians ‘created’ the island, in order to have one of the most significant defensive sea fortresses in the Mediterranean. Their main purpose was to protect their trade from pirates; it is said that even the infamous pirate Barbarossa didn’t manage to defeat the fort! The Venetians kept control of the island until the Ottoman Empire took possession of it in 1715. When the Ottoman occupation of Crete came to an end, the island became a refuge for thousands of Ottoman families, who formed their own community there during the 19th century.
After Crete gained its independence the Turks had to leave the Island of Crete, but because those who were living on Spinalonga were reluctant to leave, the Greek government turned the island into a leper colony in order to scare away the remaining Turks. As a result, from 1903 until 1957 Spinalonga was a leper colony, and people from Crete and other parts of Greece suffering from leprosy were forced to live on the island. Despite their difficulties, these people managed to develop a society with its own rules and values on Spinalonga, and live as normal a life as possible

Leprosy

At that time, Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases, as it was contagious and caused deformities affecting the face and limbs. But the truth is that it could take years for visible signs to manifest themselves. Leprosy is considered to be an ancient disease, but although curable, is still prevalent today, especially in regions of India and Africa. The signs of the disease are usually very mild symptoms, that are almost undetectable, such as slight changes of pigmentation on the skin. This notion started changing after the 19th century, when was discovered, that leprosy -like any other disease – is caused by bacteria.

In 1957, the last patient of Spinalonga left; the island was abandoned for many years, as the locals wanted to forget… In 1970, the island was declared a protected archaeological site and maintenance works begun.

On the Island

Spinalonga is a small arid and barren rocky island of 85 acres. For many years the reference to the name of the island was taboo, as it was connected with leprosy. Visiting the island: it takes about 1 hour to make the tour of the island on foot. While walking around the island, you will see the remains of the amazing village community that the residents created.
Spinalonga is the third most visited archaeological site in Greece after the Acropolis and Knossos, with thousands of visitors from around the world. A MUST SEE world heritage site during your holidays on Crete!

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