Just off the coast of Elounda, in the bay of Mirabello, is the
rocky little island of Spinalonga or Kalydon. It is a popular
sightseeing attraction both for its history and its stunning
views across the bay and daily boat trips can be found at many
resorts along this coast for around 30 Euros. The Venetians
recognised the importance of protecting the ports and harbours
along this coast and built a very strong fortress on Spinalonga
in 1579. The preserved remains of this fort can still be seen
400 years later.
However, Spinalonga is probably more infamous as a former leper colony, indeed it was the last active colony in Europe, and sufferers of this disease were kept here from 1903 until 1957, with the last inhabitant leaving in 1962.
Although hauntingly sad it should be remembered that people then were ignorant about the contagiousness of leprosy and, prior to the colony being set up, anyone suffering this disease was forced to live in remote caves, and scavenging or begging for scraps to eat. Once, however, in the colony they were provided with food, shelter, money and medical attention..