The stunning island of Spinalonga is home to a rich history: a history that I was completely clueless about before last week. Influences from Venitian rule are evident here in the ruins of a grand fortress and Spinalonga was used for a variety of defence roles over the centuries. But most famously, the island was used as a leper colony from 1903 until 1957 and it was for this reason we decided to visit.Hopping on a boat from the stunning, tranquil town of Plaka, the peace didn’t last as we were hit by a salty breeze as the island came into view. The gorgeous scenery was the only thing stopping me from jumping straight into the sea for a dip – crystal clear and amazingly blue, it’s the sea of dreams.With just an hour to explore the island, we enthusiastically set off through a tunnel – only to be directed straight back outwards to purchase an 8 euro ticket from the booth. Oops. When we made it inside though, it was nothing like I expected.In spite of the last lepers not leaving the island until a mere 60 years ago, I was expecting complete desolation and ruins. Instead, evidence of an entire community awaited us – houses, shops, market stalls and even an ornately decorated church.While the island was moderately busy, it wasn’t overflowing to the point where you couldn’t take in the atmosphere. In many places, we were the only people walking through the shaded streets and it became clear that the residents had turned Spinalonga into much more than a hospice for the shunned.With time running out, we decided to climb to one of the best vantage points at the top of the island. Unfortunately, when we’re together, Lauren and I always seem to go somewhat…off the beaten track. While following a perfectly clear path.Unsure how we’d ended up climbing up slippery rocks again, we decided to make the most of the adventure and scramble to the top regardless. A gorgeous view did indeed await…But the wind from earlier was back and attacked with a vengeance!Photo opportunities taken care of, we slid back down to the bottom of the island where celebratory cheese pies (my new favourite food) awaited. Then it was back on the boat and to mainland where we cooled off with milkshakes and Mythos, the tasty local beer of Greece.
The island of Spinalonga is easy to reach by boat from Plaka (as we did), Elounda and Aigos Nickolaos.