Insider's Guide to Heraklion

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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For centuries the island of Spinalonga has been known for its Venetian fortress, and more recently it was the setting for the 2005 novel 'The Island' by Victoria Hislop.

The now-abandoned island is the perfect place to lose yourself for half a day. You’ll discover how the island was once part of the mainland, and was created by the Venetians to protect the Gulf of Mirabella. You’ll also see where salt was harvested by the Venetians, but the main attraction and dominating landmark is the fort.

The Venetian fortress was built in 1579, and over the years it’s been used as a Turkish bastion and leper colony. Built to watch over the neighboring mainland port of Elounda, the massive fort is surrounded by a circular walk passing ruined churches, homes, fortified structures and turreted walls.

Along the shore there are sheltered pebbled beaches for paddling, but that’s about it when it comes to facilities. There’s a small snack bar but no accommodation, so the island is a destination for day trips only.

Practical Info

The little island of Spinalonga lies 80km (50 miles) east of Heraklion in the Gulf of Mirabella. The island’s southern tip is connected to the mainland by a causeway near the town of Elounda, but you need to take a quick ferry ride from Plaka or Elounda if you want to be dropped off at the fort.

Tours & Tickets

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Santorini Island Day Trip

3.5 star rating: Worth doing 6 Reviews

Get to know Santorini on a full-day independent trip from Crete, and see as much of the island as you wish! Either soak up the sun with a book on the beach, or ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

From USD $180.54

Full Day Tour to Spinalonga Island with BBQ Lunch

4 star rating: Recommended 13 Reviews

From the pretty village of Elounda, reached by traveling the northern coastal route, take a boat to the island of Spinalonga. This former leper colony ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $78.98

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