You’ll be hooked by Spinalonga’s storied past

For a while, Spinalonga wasn’t on Greece’s tourist map


Taking a boat trip to Spinalonga is to explore an island with an intriguing past, ranging from impenetrable Venetian fortress to humbling leper colony.

For a while, Spinalonga wasn’t on Greece’s tourist map, but today it stands as a poignant memorial to yet another chapter of Crete’s astonishingly diverse history.

In Crete’s Gulf of Elounda, the teardrop-shaped island boasts a 16th century Venetian fortress, but its use as a leper colony for more than 50 years meant that authorities did little to publicise it. Tourists started to discover it when boats began making the short crossing from the mainland in the 1980s and, when it was the setting for Victoria Hislop’s best-selling novel The Island in 2005, it rightly gained international recognition.

You’ll immediately be taken by the size of the medieval fortification, built to protect the strategically important Bay of Mirabella. The walls appear as impenetrable now as they once proved to countless invaders.

Once inside, you follow a 1½km path around the perimeter – once, that is, you’ve passed through Dante’s Gate, an imposingly named tunnel from its time as a leper colony, greeting new arrivals who didn’t know what was about to happen to them.

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