The island of Spinalonga officially known as Kalydon , is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi, next to the town of Plaka. It is near the Spinalonga peninsula (“large Spinalonga”) – which often causes confusion as the same name is used for both.
Originally, Spinalonga was not an island – it was part of the island of Crete. During Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defence purposes and a fort was built there.
The island was subsequently used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. It is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. This was to maintain the religious tradition of the Greek Orthodox church.
There were two entrances to Spinalonga, one being the lepers’ entrance, a tunnel known as “Dante’s Gate”. This was so named because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived. However, once on the island they received food, water, medical attention and social security payments. Previously, such amenities had been unavailable to Crete’s leprosy patients, as they mostly lived in the area’s caves, away from civilization.
Today, the uninhabited island is a popular tourist attraction in Crete. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches and shallow waters. The island can easily be accessed from Plaka, Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Spinalonga has appeared in novels, television series, and a short film.
“The Island ” is a historical novel written by Victoria Hislop. It has won several awards including Newcomer of the Year at the 2007 British Book Awards
Watch a stunning drone video by a friend of our page