The Leper Colony Spinalonga

Greece is so rich in interesting destinations that a short holiday is never enough to discover even a fraction of them. During our stay in Crete, the wish list was very long, but Spinalonga was a "must".

This actually had a very trivial reason. I had read a novel of Victoria Hislop shortly before the trip, and it completely captured my imagination. The “Island of the Forgotten” is set in the leper colony just off the coast of Crete and I was curious about the small island that is within sight of the coastline of Crete.


Leprosy is an infectious disease that can be transmitted by direct and indirect contact. To this day, the disease still causes fear and fright and the sufferers are still isolated but today treated with medication.

More than 100 years ago there was no such possibility. The Free State of Crete, therefore, decided to build a leper colony on the island of Spinalonga in 1903. The formally unused fortress on this island then became a place for sickness, despair, and the desire for healing. In the true sense of the word, the government collected all those suffering from leprosy on the main island and brought them over to the small island.


That caused big problems on the island at first. Water and food had to be transported over from the inland of the main island and also no doctor set food on the leper colony for the first four years. But gradually the inhabitants began to feel at home on the island. Houses were renovated, they tinkered with a self-sufficient water supply, gardens were built and livestock was kept. Even small shops were opened by the residents and tavernas with entertainment program started to appear.
In the middle of the 1930s, it became possible to build up a generator driven power supply on the island.
In 1954 it was decided to abolish the Leper Colony. The last 30 patients were taken to a hospital in Athens.


Today, tourist boats carry countless visitors to the island every day. I really enjoyed the stay on the island. Everywhere I discovered something that I had read before in the novel.


Especially the passage through the archway to the city, from where healthy family members had a last look on their sick relatives before they disappeared in the colony, gave me chills. Some of the residential buildings of the former inhabitants still look as if someone is about to open the door.


Clearly, time has left its mark on Spinalonga, but it is still possible to imagine the conditions under which those with leprosy lived here.

For me one of the most impressive places and one that touched me emotionally.

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Access to Spinalonga

There are ferries and small fishing boats from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka. Prices vary according to the departure place and the provider. One should also pay attention to the length of stay on the island offered.

Admission fees:

Person: 2-€



  1. Marteen on 6. April 2018 at 11:01

    This is just fascinating! I can’t imagine what must have been going through the minds of these patients when they first inhabited the island.

  2. Brianna on 6. April 2018 at 1:46

    I’ve never heard of this island before, but it sounds pretty eerie! Still, something just interesting enough to pique my interest!

  3. Avril is Away on 5. April 2018 at 3:11

    I’ll be in Greece in 5 days and I’m definitely going to put Crete on my itinerary ! Thanks !

  4. Wandering life - Catarina Leonardo on 5. April 2018 at 3:05

    What a good reason to visit Create. I´ve been in Greace but only in Athens and Mykonos. I need to go back and visit Crete and other places.

  5. Danila Caputo on 4. April 2018 at 14:43

    I never heard of the Island of the Forgotten, but gosh, leprosy sounds pretty scary! I can’t even imagine how terrifying it was back then!

  6. Lara Dunning on 4. April 2018 at 4:52

    I’ve been to Greece, but not Crete, and would love to see it and this island. I’m always looking for a new book to read that has historical context so I will have to check that book out. I can’t believe tours there are only 2 Euro! That makes it a no-brainer to go there! Thanks for putting it on my radar!

  7. Christine | The Traveloguer on 2. April 2018 at 18:08

    This was such an interesting read, I’d love to visit Spinalonga. It must have been so sad for the people who were sent away from their families to live there.

  8. Kelly on 1. April 2018 at 15:59

    Oh. Hearing about the tunnel parting really made me tear up. I would definitely want to visit based on your descriptions.

  9. Well Worn Suitcase on 1. April 2018 at 0:07

    How interesting! I had no idea that was the history of Crete. Very intriguing, thanks for sharing. I learned something new!

  10. Kavita Favelle on 31. March 2018 at 17:28

    I visited Crete as a teenager many many moons ago, and while we did visit quite a few tourist sites, I never knew about the former leper colony at Spinalonga. I remember fundraising when I was a young child at school for leprosy charities but hadn’t thought of the disease much since then. It’s very interesting to vsit and imagine what life must have been like for both sufferers and carers at the colony.

  11. Stephanie on 31. March 2018 at 9:59

    I feel places like this are sometimes difficult to visit because of all the emotions it brings out. It’s intriguing to learn about the history , but then again, it also makes you want to cry knowing how these people suffered in the beginning.

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