Spinalonga is a Spinalonga island - tiny dot of land and Cretan sea guarder! It's an island situated in the Bay of Elounda. The history of the name 'Spinalonga' is in itself subject to conjecture but it is widely accepted that its roots lie somewhere in the Olous, Olondi, Elounda location and the words meaning long and thorn. Spinalonga is actually the name of the sizeable but slender peninsula and on maps the small island is identifiable by the name Kalidon.
Spinalonga is a Spinalonga island – tiny dot of land and Cretan sea guarder! It’s an island situated in the Bay of Elounda. The history of the name ‘Spinalonga’ is in itself subject to conjecture but it is widely accepted that its roots lie somewhere in the Olous, Olondi, Elounda location and the words meaning long and thorn. Spinalonga is actually the name of the sizeable but slender peninsula and on maps the small island is identifiable by the name Kalidon.
Acquired from the Byzantine Empire at the start of the thirteenth century Spinalonga was to become a crucial part of the Venetian power base on Crete for the next four centuries. Huge fortifications still dominate this tiny but strategically important dot on the map. Such were the natural isolation and man made defenses of this tiny island that it managed to hold out against the Ottoman Empire for almost fifty years (from 1669 to 1715) after the fall of the rest of Crete into Turkish hands. From 1715 until the turn of the twentieth century it was held by the occupying Ottomans and populated by civilians.
The island is probably best known to the wider world for its twentieth century role as an isolated community of leprosy sufferers, a function that it fulfilled from 1903 up until 1957. In 1946 the first drug (dapsone) against leprosy was successfully contested. Around 1950, this drug became available to the residents of Spinalonga. Many people recovered and returned to Crete. There is little known about life on the island in the period the colony existed. How many people died, for example, is unknown. But we do know that people received compensation from the government. This fee was 3 times as high as the average salary on Crete. However, the people couldn’t buy much. Traders came along and sold them, often spoiled, goods for extortionate prices.
Spinalonga is accessible by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka. If you want to travel to Spinalonga at your own expense it is therefore advisable to go to Agios Nikolaos and board the boat over there. If you want to take the boat from Elounda or Plaka you can take the bus from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda. Of course, you can also book several excursions to the island. They are often cheaper than traveling at you own expense.
In the summer months it can be very crowded on the island in the very afternoon. Every day thousands of people visit the small island. When you travel at you own expense, you may want to leave early in the morning. In this way you remain ahead of the largest crowds.