Spinalonga island. Started as a Venetian fortress (1574-1715), became an Ottoman colony (1715-1898) after the Venetian-Ottoman wars.
Spinalonga was not always an island. It is believed that in 1526, the Venetians destroyed part of the peninsula of Elounda to create an island, which was reinforced to safeguard the port of ancient Olous.
Olous had remained uninhabited until the mid-15th century when it earned commercial value due to its salt pans. The inhibition of the city, along with the pirate raids and the Turkish threat, made the fortification a necessity and resulted in Spinalonga becoming one of the most powerful sea fortresses in the Mediterranean.
Spinalonga remained under Venetian rule even after the rest of Crete was occupied by the Ottomans. In 1715, however, the Ottomans managed to overthrow the small island, banishing the Venetian presence from Crete completely. Eventually, in 1903, the Turkish left the island and it became once again a part of Greece.
This is why Spinalonga is known across the world as the host of the leper community from 1903 to 1957, and as one of the last active leper colonies in Europe, reaching a number of almost 400 inhabitants during the outbreak of the illness.
It was also one of the few places in Europe that the Germans wouldn’t occupy during WWII
Those that contracted leprosy were sent there to isolate and to wait for their death.
How to get there
Rent a car from us to get to Agios Nikolaos and from there take the ferry to cross if you are in Crete it’s definitely worth a visit.