Islands & Boat Trips
75 km from the valley of the white river and Natura cottages… Spinalonga is a barren, arid rocky islet, with an area of 85,000 sq. m., lying in the mouth of the natural harbour of Elounda in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. The islet was fortified in antiquity, to protect the ancient city of Olous. Towards the end of the 16th century, the Venetians, as part of their great fortification works to defend Crete, built on Spinalonga one of the most important bastion-type seaward fortresses of the Mediterranean, designed according to the bastion system of fortification by Genese Bressani and Latino Orsini. At strategic points in the fortifications are set the Michel and Moceniga or Barbariga demilunes, major works of fortification architecture.
During the Cretan War (1645-1669), refugees sought shelter on the islet, as did rebels (“Chainides”) who used it as a base to harrass the Ottomans. Under the terms of the treaty for the surrender of Chandax (Heraklion) in 1669, Spinalonga remained a Venetian possession. In 1715, following a siege, the islet was surrendered to the Ottomans, the Venetian garrison left and the remaining 600 inhabitants were taken captive.
From 1715 onwards, Spinalonga was settled by Muslims, who built their houses on the foundations of the Venetian buildings. The village flourished after the mid-19th century, until by 1881 it housed a population of 1,112 and was the largest Muslim commercial centre of Merabello Bay.
The village houses were arranged in a stepped pattern across the west and south sides of the islet. At the end of the 19th century it is estimated that there were approximately 200 homes and 25 shops or workshops on Spinalonga. Today many well-built two-storey houses and shops remain; their morphology and symmetrical proportions are indicative of the principles of local and Balkan architectural tradition.
In 1904, during the period of the Cretan State, Spinalonga was chosen as the site of a Leper Hospital. Sufferers who were sent to live on the island survived on State funding and charitable donations. Their hard, wretched life did not weaken their will to live. They organised their home, fell in love, married, had children.
After the Leper Hospital was shut down in 1957, the islet remained deserted and uninhabited. In 1976 it was designated an archaeological site. Today it is an organised archaeological site with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Ierapetra is the launch pad for boat trips to uninhabited Chrissi Island (also known as Gaïdouronisi or Hrysi Island). It is famous for its golden beaches, clear water shimmering in myriad shades of blue, cedar forest, traces of Minoan ruins, and Belegrina, a beach covered with a mountain of shells. There are usually a couple of morning boat departures that give you 4½ hours on the island. Tickets are sold online and by agents around town. Bring a picnic or buy refreshments on board.
Amazing day trip departing from our small harbor in Makrigialos (1.5 km from Natura cottages), off the coast of the eastern Lasithi region, in the Libyan Sea...
Koufonisi offers a completely different experience to the rest of Crete. Here the landscape changes to an expanse of limestone (its ancient name, Lekfi, means white) and the interior resembles an African desert, with tamarisk trees and rare or indigenous shrubs and bushes, hiding small lizards and other heat-loving animals. And there are no fewer than 36 beaches, most with fine white or golden sand.
Though uninhabited now, Koufonisi held a special value for ancient Greeks, and its waters (rich in sea sponges and shells) attracted civilisations as varied as the Minoans and the Byzantines. In fact, there are Hellenistic and Roman ruins around the isle, some still in the process of being excavated.
You are free to explore a landscape sculpted over time by the elements. Tread carefully, though. The entire island has been given Natura 2000-protected status. Apart the private boats that you can hire to visit "Koufonisi" island there is also a very beautiful traditional Greek boat that runs daily for group people... More information you will for both boat you will find at the section "Essential information".