Spinalonga Island: The ghostly town of lepers

Amazing Europe | | January 29, 2011 at 12:05 am




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Welcome to the Crete’s must see island! From the cute hamlet of Elounda, make a plan to travel via the boat along the northern coastal route to reach the Spinalonga Island. Formerly a leper colony, this now abandoned site since 48 years is the home of the well-maintained houses and churches along with a flanking fortress reflecting a strong Venetian influence.  in the form of a fortress surrounding the village. Swim in the crystal blue water before enjoying a BBQ lunch.

Attractions and tours

Officially named as Kalydon, the Spinalonga Island was actually a part of the Crete island, but the Venetian occupation reclaimed a small island for defense purpose and so you can see their fort today. No wonder as to why it has become the famous tourist attraction despite the fact that it is uninhabited. Besides exploring the deserted leper colony as well as citadel, the visitors also love to stroll and recline on its small pebble beaches featuring not so deep waters.

The island can be entered via two entrances of which one is the lepers’ entrance that is actually a tunnel named Dante’s Gate. This so-called tunnel was named so as the lepers were not aware of what will happen to them after their arrival. But, after reaching the island, all of them used to get water, food, water, medical aid, and social security payments; which formerly were unavailable to them because of their dwelling in the remote caves far from settlements. Today, the Spinalonga Island is a ghost town with hardly any resident left and degenerated buildings that call for a serious repair. But, a lot has been done to conserve the island and so you can visit this one via a guided tour. One of the famous tours is offered by Victor Zorbas, the hero who has experience of guiding the tourists here since 25 years. While here, do read his book – “The Island of the damned” – that has been locally published, but has obtained an international applause due to his investigative scripting. If you join him, your tour will take some 1 to 2 hours during which Victor Zorbas will narrate the entire history of the island in deep, all starting right from the Gatehouse as the place where the lepers first stepped on the island and then taking you to the hospitals and church that are still sheltering the lepers as they finally rest here in a small graveyard.

We know today that leprosy is not contagious, but passed via the contact through blood. However, what life would have been in those days on the island is very interestingly showcased by this guide, which aids you in envisioning. And yes, as you pass ahead, small museums with photos as well as many sad memories will hug you. But before you leave, do enjoy the stunning vistas from atop the island. Once you are done with your walking tour, you get a great chance to swim in the island’s crystal blues that are of the Gulf of Mirabello.

Boat trips

Easily accessible from Agios Nikolaos as well as Elounda via the daily boat tours, the Spinalonga Island has no accommodation, which indicates that your tour is of some hours only. However, the nearest one is Elounda as the trip from there takes only 15 minutes, while from Agios Nikolaos, it takes 60 minutes. The boat trip should not cost you more than 30 Euros. Most of the boat trips go on a daily basis in summer. Alternatively, you can book a tour at Viator.com whose charges start from £29 that includes a guided excursion, a BBQ lunch, and round trip.

The trips are held in several languages such as French, German, Dutch, and English.  No matter which guide is with you, he is sure to be an experienced as well as knowledgeable one who knows much about the tragic history. So, avoid thinking of taking a tour of the Spinalonga Island without a guide as you will lose the background as well as true picture of the history.

As per the boat operator you choose, a BBQ on the boat, sail around an isolated bay, and a trip to a small beach will be offered. The food will include salads, fruit, and chicken. Although water will be there for you, it is recommended to bring your own ones as the tour will last for a few hours.

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