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Fortress of Spinalonga

Fortress of Spinalonga Island, Fortress of Spinalonga, Fortified islet of Spinalonga

Fortress of Spinalonga Island

Lasithi Prefecture – Spinalonga Island


Details / Information  Overview:

Discover the History of the Fortress of Spinalonga

Welcome to the intriguing world of the Fortress of Spinalonga Island, a place where history and human resilience intertwine on a barren islet at the entrance of Elounda Bay, Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. This rocky fortress, with an area of 85,000 sq. m., has witnessed the rise and fall of empires and the enduring spirit of those who sought refuge on its shores.

A Bastion of Defense

Ancient Origins: Spinalonga’s history dates back to antiquity when it served as a fortress guarding the ancient city of Olous. However, its true transformation occurred towards the end of the 16th century when the Venetians, in their efforts to fortify Crete, erected one of the Mediterranean’s most formidable bastion-type seaward fortresses on Spinalonga. This architectural marvel was designed according to the bastion system of fortification by Genese Bressani and Latino Orsini.

The Cretan War: During the Cretan War (1645-1669), Spinalonga island became a refuge for those fleeing conflict, including rebels known as “Chainides” who used the islet as a base for resistance against the Ottomans. Remarkably, under the terms of the surrender of Chandax (Heraklion) in 1669, Spinalonga remained under Venetian control.

Ottoman Occupation and Transformation

A Change of Hands: In 1715, following a siege, Spinalonga was surrendered to the Ottomans, marking the end of Venetian rule. The Venetian garrison departed, and the islet’s remaining 600 inhabitants were taken captive.

Muslim Settlement: From 1715 onwards, Spinalonga was settled by Muslims who established their homes atop the foundations of Venetian buildings. The village thrived, becoming the largest Muslim commercial center in Merabello Bay by the mid-19th century.

Architectural Heritage: The village on Spinalonga is a testament to the coexistence of various architectural styles. Stepped patterns of houses stretch across the west and south sides of the islet, showcasing the principles of local and Balkan architectural traditions. Even today, many well-built two-story houses and shops remain, reflecting the island’s unique history.

The Leper Hospital Era

In 1904, during the period of the Cretan State, the fortified islet of Spinalonga underwent a significant transformation. It was chosen as the site for a Leper Hospital, where those afflicted with the disease sought refuge. Isolated from the mainland, the lepers on Spinalonga forged a resilient community, organizing their lives, falling in love, marrying, and even raising families despite their challenging circumstances.

An Archaeological Gem

After the closure of the Leper Hospital in 1957, Spinalonga island remained deserted and uninhabited. In 1976, it was designated as an archaeological site. Today, it stands as an organized archaeological wonder, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Outstanding Universal Value

Spinalonga’s uniqueness lies in the coexistence of architectural remains from different historical periods and cultural influences. It embodies human values, showcasing developments in urban planning, fortification, and the use of space over centuries. Its history as a leper colony adds a layer of human pain and resilience that makes it a source of inspiration for artists, authors, filmmakers, and musicians.

Criteria for Outstanding Universal Value of Fortress of Spinalonga Island:

  • (i) Masterpiece of human ingenuity in fortification architecture.
  • (ii) Demonstrates human values over time in urban planning, fortification, and space usage.
  • (iv) Important example of a seaward bastion-type fortress reflecting key phases of human history.
  • (vi) Symbolizes the concept of incarceration and human torment, inspiring creative works across various art forms.

Authenticity and Protection

The fortress complex remains well-preserved due to its solid construction and use of quality materials. The village on the island retains its authenticity, with streets, houses, and walls that bear witness to the lives of those who lived here.

Spinalonga’s integrity is safeguarded as a designated archaeological site, and recent restoration efforts have preserved its archaeological and architectural treasures.

A Unique Monument

The Fortress of Spinalonga Island is a remarkable testament to human history, resilience, and architectural innovation. It’s a site where the echoes of the past resound, and the layers of history invite exploration and contemplation. Visit this captivating monument and step into a world where the past comes alive.

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Address  Address:

Fortress of Spinalonga Island

Location (City, Village, Area)  Location:

Spinalonga Island, Lasithi

Telephone number  Telephone:

(+30) 2841022462
(+30) 2841028361
(+30) 2841090511

Fax number  Fax:

(+30) 2841025115

E-mail address  E-mail:

[email protected]

Website Url Url:

Operating Period  Operating Period:




Operating Days & Hours  Operating Days & Hours:

From April 1st up to October 31st
Opening hours 08:30-18:00 (daily)

Fortress of Spinalonga Island is closed in winter (November 1st – March 31st). Open only on request for groups.

The visit to the monument depends on the weather conditions and the itineraries of the boats that perform the transports on the island.

Admission Fee  Admission Fee:

• Full: €8, Reduced: €4

Book a Tour

Notes  Notes:

Amenities for the physically challenged
The main ring road is accessible.

Archaeological guide, maps, cards, and other souvenirs.


 Media  Media:




* The above information, is subject to change without prior notification from the institution. In any case, has no responsibility for any occurred changes.

 Last update 21/09/2023

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