Who wants to die alone? Think! This article is a little sad, a little loneliness. Its all about island of Spinalonga in Crete called Leper Island. Isnt it cold? In spite of its long and turbulent history, today Spinalonga is mainly known as the Leper Island.
Island of Spinalonga, located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, was used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches and shallow waters.
History of Spinalonga Island
Note the date…. In 1903, a leper colony was established on Spinalonga, to isolate people suffering from Hansen’s Disease from the healthy population. Don’t get me wrong, but it was a movie such horror. But they did not know yet! The cure for leprosy had not yet been discovered, and the contagious disease was regarded with horror. Hansenites, as lepers are known, were quarantined in leper colonies outside towns, living off the charity of passers-by.
People were terrified of leprosy and lepers had to wear bells to warn people of their approach. It was not known that most of the population is naturally resistant to the disease and that the risk of contagion was much lower than thought. But who would run the risk of catching an incurable, fatal disease?
So a small island was the ideal solution for isolating sufferers from the healthy population, who could thus feel safe. Spinalonga was ideal because it was close to shore, permitting the easy transfer of patients, food and supplies. There were also many empty houses there after the departure of the Muslim inhabitants.
On 30 May 1903 the decision to transform Spinalonga into a leper island was signed, and 250 patients were moved there from various parts of Crete. More came following the unification of Crete with Greece in 1913, while later patients were even brought here from abroad and it was classified an International Leper Hospital.
The patients of Spinalonga were entitled to a small monthly allowance, which was often not enough to cover their food and medicine. These were hard times, when Greece was rocked by successive wars (Macedonian Struggle, two Balkan Wars, two World Wars, the Civil War), worsening the position of the lepers on Spinalonga. Living conditions were extremely poor, and some lepers’ accounts paint a picture of utter squalor.
The Leper Hospital remained operational until 1957, when the last 20 patients were moved to a leper hospital in Athens. Many others had recovered and gone home in the meantime.
When did the last leper leave Spinalonga?
From 1948 onwards, when the cure for this dreadful disease was discovered, the number of lepers on Spinalonga fell. The Leper Hospital remained operational until 1957, when the last 20 patients were moved to a leper hospital in Athens.
How many visitors visit Spinalonga in summer?
According to the data for 2017, Spinalonga has 1300-1600 visitors daily during the summer months and is the most popular archaeological site in Crete after Knossos.
Where is Spinalonga Island in Crete
The island, located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, was used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches and shallow waters.
How do I get from Crete to Spinalonga?
To get to Spinalonga you must take the boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda or Plaka. Boats depart from Agios Nikolaos in the morning. Apart from the trip to Spinalonga, they also offer lunch and the opportunity for a swim off the beaches behind the Kolokytha Peninsula, before returning to Agios Nikolaos in the afternoon.
Prices for the boat trip to Spinalonga
- From Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga: 25 € per person
- From Elounda to Spinalonga: 10€ per person for adults | 5€ for children of 5-11 years old
- From Plaka to Spinalonga: 8 € per person
- This price does not include the cost of the entrance ticket to the Spinalonga archaeological site, which was 8 € in 2017.
Where to stay in Spinalonga Island, Crete
The island of Spinalonga has an interesting history, but also there are many beautiful beaches around it. We have collected budget-friendly hotels for you here. Where to stay closest to Spinalonga? Here the 10 closest Hotels to Spinalonga island, Elounda, Crete. You may make reservation with best prices from booking.com and hotelscombined.com, search and have it.