Spinalonga, The Island
Spinalonga is one of Crete's top attractions, and is just over an hour's drive from Makrigialos. Famous today as the setting for Victoria Hislop's novel 'The Island', Spinalonga was fortified by the Venetians in 1579 as a defence against Ottoman expansion. Although most of Crete succumbed in 1669, it wasn't until 1715 that Spinalonga finally fell. In 1898 Crete became an autonomous state, free of Ottoman rule, and in 1903 Spinalonga became a leper colony, a function it retained until 1957.
Spinalonga is accessed by sea, with cruises departing from Agios Nikolaos (about an hour's cruise away), or Elounda (about 15 minutes away). For a more traditional visit, drive on through Elounda to the village of Plaka, on the mainland immediately opposite Spinalonga. Here you can make the short hop across to the island by typical Cretan fishing boat for around €8 per person.