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Have you ever heard of Spinalonga Island on Crete? Well, I didn’t until I went to do some research on possible activities in Crete. The recommendations about taking a Spinalonga Tour as a day trip sounded very promising, so this little gem found its way onto our bucket list. Little did we know that it would turn into one of our favorite day trips we took on Crete. Now let me give you a little insight into what you can expect and tips that best prepare you for your visit.
So… what actually is Spinalonga?
Spinalonga is a small island in the Lasithi province in Crete, Greece. If you think this place is just another island – you’re about to be proven wrong. Spinalonga is mainly known for once being the last active European leper colony and combines unique beauty with a rather dark history. (More on that in the next paragraph.)
Today, the island is a well-known tourist destination and is even considered to become a World Heritage Site.
PS: There is also a novel called “The Island” by Victoria Hislop covering Spinalongas history.
A visitors guide for your Spinalonga trip
Where is Spinalonga, and how can you get there?
Spinalonga is located in the northeast part of Crete. The island is found just in front of a town called “Plaka” and is only accessible by boat. The Spinalonga ferry leaves from Plaka, Elounda, and Agios Nikolaos.
Spinalonga can be explored daily during summer (usually Apr.-Oct. from 9-19). In the wintertime, they’re open for groups and during some weekends. Please note that Spinalonga closes on some national holidays.
We started our Spinalonga tour from Plaka and purchased our boat tickets at one of the many vendors along the main street. Plaka is relatively small but offers enough parking and many restaurants to visit before or after your trip.
From Heraklion to Spinalonga
You can reach Plaka after around 1h10min and Elounda after 1h. There is an incredibly scenic route leading you through the mountains if you’re coming from that direction. We stopped for a quick snack in one of the mountain towns and highly recommend you check them out! (Coordinates on maps: 35.2594338, 25.6493908)
A few tour operators offer day trips from Heraklion to Spinalonga in combination with Agios Nikolaos or other cities/sites. These are great if you don’t want to drive by yourself or don’t have access to a car:
What can you do during your Spinalonga tour?
The main thing to do in Spinalonga is to tour the ruins. After arriving at the south gate, you’ll follow the trails leading you through the old residences, along with the church ruins and ancient arrival gates. You can circumnavigate the island on the main path or take further detours up the hill. These are marked on the displayed maps and along the way. However, the waymarks sometimes guide you to nowhere, and you need to climb some ruins.
The detours aren’t well accessible at some points, so you walk them at your own risk. They are not suitable for children or visitors with difficulties walking.
Facilities on Spinalonga Island
There is a public toilet located at the ferry drop-off. (These are the only toilets on the island.) Besides that, you’ll also find a kiosk with snacks and drinks on this corner. This is, again, the only possibility to purchase snacks along your walk.
How much time should you plan for your visit?
It’s a little hard to recommend a certain amount of time since it depends on your route and the detours you might or might not take. We spent approx. 2hrs on Spinalonga, took all the detours we could find and spent some time taking pictures along the way. However, we usually walk very fast, so I guess 2 hours is a reasonable estimate.
As with many other destinations: the earlier you arrive, the fewer people you’ll find. If you find yourself in between many guided tours, take a detour to the top. Guided tours only circumnavigate the island on the main path, so you’ll have the rest to yourself and others walking without a guided tour.
General tips and things to pack
If you ask me, no Crete itinerary is complete without a Spinalonga tour – especially when combined with one of the coastal cities like Elounda. The island is such a unique sight full of history and carefully restored for visitors. So I’m curious: have you already been there? If not, is Spinalonga on your bucket list from now on?
As always, stay happy and healthy!
See you soon,
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