The idyllic scenery of Crete’s Northeast coast
Driving along the North East coast through the gorge of St George we reach the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos. Here we board a boat and Spinalonga Cruise starts. A Cruise along the Mirabelo gulf. Passing the Kri-Kri Island, the Cave of the pirate Barbarossa and the bird island, we reach the small sandy bay of Kolokitha, where the boat will be anchored. Here you have plenty of time for swimming at the crystal clear water, and a BBQ (optional) will be served on board. We then proceed to the small island of Spinalonga.
Spinalonga has had a very chequered history and today, although uninhabited, still echoes with ghostly reminders of the past. The Venetians constructed a very impressive fortress with 40 cannons which has been guarding the bay since the 15th century. At the beginning of 19th century human pain and sorrow was scattered around this islet. It became a leper colony, the last active leper colony in Europe, and it remained so until 1957, when it was cleared by the Health Authorities, leaving the place uninhabited.
The route along the northern coast of the island takes us to the small fishing village of Elounda, known to the older of us from the popular 1970s BBC television series “Who pays the ferryman”. The village became also well-known through Belinda Jones’ novel “Out of the Blue” and lately, through Victoria Hislop’s world best-seller “The Island”. Today Elounda is a popular holiday resort, often visited by VIPs for the luxurious beach resorts that are situated in the area.
From there, we take the boat that gets us to the small and sorely tried island of Spinalonga. The history and the culture of the island of Spinalonga became one with human tragedy in the course of time. This small isle carries within the history of Ancient Greece as it served as a natural guard for the ancient city of Olous; the history of the Saracens as a hide-out for their pirates; the history of Venetians as their fortress; the history of Turks as their settlement; and the history of contemporary Greeks as their dwelling, or better, as the place where their leper would be sent into exile until 1957.
We stroll through the village roads, listening –along with our guide’s narration- to the cries and sighs of the diseased exiles, which seem like having been curved on the rocks and the walls of the houses and admiring the exquisite beauty of the area. Finishing our touring on this much afflicted place, we head for the small bay of Kolokitha, one of the most beautiful beaches on Crete. It is a remote beach with white sand and deep blue serene water, side by side with old olive groves, where we can swim and taste the delicious BBQ served on the boat.
After our short respite, we go back to Elounda, and then we move to the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos, where we have our last stop. Here we have the chance to enjoy our coffee getting a perfect view of the magnificent lake, do our shopping in the traditional local shops and relax for a while before we hit the road for our going back.
We then go to Agios Nikolaos where you have time to look at the shop windows and visit the bottomless lake, where the “Lotus Eaters” the well-known film was shot.