The now-uninhabited island of Spinalonga (Kalydon) sits in the Elounda Gulf along Crete’s northeastern shore. During the 16th-century Venetian occupation, the invaders built a defensive fortress here protecting Mirabello Bay. Today visitors can tour the massive structure and the abandoned buildings that sit along its turreted walls.
Spinalonga is a popular tourist attraction, known for its archaeological site and fortress (once used as a Turkish bastion and leper colony), shallow pools formerly used to harvest sea salt, and pretty pebble beaches along clear waters. You can reach the island by boat trip from Plaka, Elounda, and Agios Nikolaos, but by far the best way to visit the island’s archeological site is with an expert tour guide. Many full-day Spinalonga tours include other nearby highlights like the so-called “bottomless lake” in Agios Nikolaos and the beautiful beaches on Kolokytha, and some offer a BBQ lunch. If you’re a more adventurous visitor, choose a tour that pairs a ride through the countryside on a 4x4 with a private speedboat trip to the island.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Spinalonga is for day-trippers only: There are beaches for taking a dip and a small snack bar on the island, but no accommodations.
- Don’t forget a hat, sunblock, and plenty of water to stave off Crete’s summer heat.
- Tours do not include the entrance fee for the Spinalonga archaeological site and fortress.
- The fortress and archaeological site have stairs and uneven ground, and are not suitable for wheelchair users.
- Older children enjoy touring the abandoned fortress, but infants must be carried as the site is difficult to visit with a stroller.
How to Get There
The island of Spinalonga lies 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Heraklion in Greece’s Mirabello Bay. To access the fort, you need to take a ferry or boat tour from Plaka or Elounda.
When to Get There
Spinalonga is most crowded in summer, which is also when the heat can be hard to manage. Plan your day around visiting the archaeological site in the early morning or late afternoon, and staying cool at the beach during the hottest time of day.
Spinalonga in Books and Movies
Spinalonga has been the setting for a number of books and movies—most famously the 2005 novel The Island by Victoria Hislop, which was adapted into a Greek television series.