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Greece : Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka and Spinalonga Island

Just like most Israelis who visit Greek islands for vacation, until our last trip to Crete, we were content with sitting under the pleasant sun on the beach and in the pools of the pampering resorts where we stayed. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a vacation that sanctifies this absolute freedom. A vacation where you can go through whole books, enjoy cold drinks while your body slowly “bakes” from the sun or even fall asleep on the sunbed to the sounds of the waves, is wonderful in itself and certainly has an important place in our hedonistic life ๐Ÿ˜‰ But this time we felt like we needed a different kind of vacation – a combination of a relaxing “Siesta” on the private beach of the resort and short trips that will provide us with a taste of the island's rural atmosphere.

Although our stay in the north-eastern part of the island was relatively short, only 3 days which we spent at the wonderful Blue Palace Resort & Spa {click here for the full post I wrote about the hotel}, but thanks to our decision to rent a car we managed to visit all the central locations of this part of the island in one full day which was a great experience.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

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Greece travel guides

Agios Nikolaos

We started our journey in the picturesque and relaxed Agios Nikolaos, the capital of the province of Lasithi, built around a beautiful lake at the northernmost point of Mirabello Bay.

The lake, known as Lake Voulismeni, is considered the most intriguing part of the city and its full of legends and myths, like Greek mythological nymphs who used to sit and sing there, and also that it's a bottomless lake to which the Germans threw their weapons at the end of World War II. Whether these stories are true or not, this is a lake full of colorful little boats that are simply fun to look at from above, to stroll around or look at from one of the lakeside cafes and restaurants.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

After we went down to the lake and found a restaurant that looked excellent from the first sight, we decided to wander around the city's old center before we sat down to eat. After the first right turn from the direction of the lake is the main street filled with tourist traps, the kind you can find in all the main areas of the Greek islands. I recommend skipping it and walking around the more charming inner alleys, which also have cafes, taverns and small shops with local produce. Despite the fact that this is a very touristy city, we were surprised that in some of the stores the prices were very reasonable and we returned with a lot of olive oil, dips and natural health snacks, all of them made from fine Greek produce.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

Toward the end of our stay in town, we sat down at the restaurant NTAKOS, which sits on the lakeshore and serves excellent authentic Greek cuisine in the style of Crete. We ordered stuffed grapevine leaves, soufflaki, Greek salad, local beer and a chilledย rosรฉ, and we enjoyed every second. This was by far the best Greek restaurant we ate at during this trip, the prices were very reasonable and the atmosphere was great. I highly recommend it if you plan to get to the area ๐Ÿ™‚

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

 

Elounda

On the way from Agios Nikolaos to the fishing village of Plaka, we drove throughย Elounda, a small town that is considered one of the most exclusive holiday resorts on the island {which is where the resort we stayedย at was located}. On the way to the city we drove on winding roads facing high mountains to the west and the clear sea to the east. The city itself, which sits on a small port, is quite touristy and commercial and you can find tourist shops and local art items, mini-markets and taverns. We chose not to stop and walk around, because this style of tourism simply isn't our taste ๐Ÿ™‚ But if you plan on staying in the area, it's good to know that there's a center where you can find pool inflatables and food before arriving at the hotel.

 

Plaka

The small fishing village of Plaka, which is a 10-minute walk from the resort we stayed at, is exactly what comes to mind when you think of a classic small Greek village. The village sits on the seashore and overlooks Spinalonga Island, paved with street stones, authentic taverns and small houses, and seems almost unchanged over the last 50 years, at least in terms of appearance.

As we entered the village, we passed a number of taverns and reached the center, where we were exposed to small, colorful shops. The most special of which was the shop with the turquoise-front selling products only on this color scale. By the way, it turns out that this is also the first store of its kind in the village! The shops aren't cheap, because the tourists who have passed through the village in recent years have done their job, but you can find clothes, jewelry and special ornaments that can't be found in the usual tourist stores.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek islandOne Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

 

Spinalonga Island

Spinalonga, best-known as the ‘island of lepers', has become very famous in recent years for tourists thanks to Victoria Hislop's bestseller – The Island. I've heard a lot about this book in the past, but I admit that I decided to order it from Amazon just as we booked the trip thanks to my mother-in-law, who told me it was a must-read book before visiting the island.
Although I haven't finished the book yet {not because it isn't good, it's actually written in a great way, I just have a million things to do and I can't get to it… :/ }, but from the first chapters I read, I immediately understood why it encouraged so many people to visit the island.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek islandOne Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

But before I even talk about the whole story of the lepers, it's important to know that the island had a long history before lepers were expelled there from all parts of Greece. Initially, Spinalonga was a Venetian city on a small island surrounded by a huge citadel, which lasted 45 years after the fall of Crete by the Ottoman rule. The Turks took control of the island and settled it until 1903 when the Ottoman rule in the region ceased. That is, the island was inhabited for a long time before the lepers arrived there.

In the same year the government established a colony in Crete for the lepers on the island, and for 54 years the inhabitants of Crete {and later on, all of Greece} who were infected with the contagious and incurable disease were exiled to the island.

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

At that time, the people who were exiled to the island had a secluded and independent life from the rest of Crete. They established businesses, a church, schools and hospitals, and of course, a cemetery where those who didn't survive the disease were buried. Although the isolation wasn't ideal, after all, those people were removed from their families and friends, but according to the testimonies, life on the island wasn't bad at all. People got married, worked and even spent time in cafes.

This whole story doesn't stop to amaze me. After all, the disease of leprosy was a biblical and ancient plague, and here we're talking about really recent history… Think about it – all this happened less than 60 years ago!

One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island One Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek islandOne Day Trip Travel Guide in Northeast Crete : Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka & Spinalonga Island. Click through to read everything you need to know before traveling into this part of the Greek island

In order to get to the island we took a speed boat from the resort's private beach, but you can take a short cruise from Elounda or the village Plaka {or from Agious Nikolaos if you feel like spending a few hours on the boat} and the entrance to the island is with an additional cost. It's amazing to walk around the abandoned buildings of the island and the fortress, to gaze at the transparent turquoise waters surrounding the island and just imagine what life was like there, not long ago.

In case you missed the previous post, in this video you can see the amazing island of lepers from above ๐Ÿ™‚

{I recommend watching it on the highest quality – after pressing “play”, click on the small gear on the bottom right-hand side of the screen and then click “quality”}

 

Which of these places do you want to visit the most?
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