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Five Islands to visit off the Crete coast
Five Islets off Crete
The island of Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands, and the fifth largest Island in the Mediterranean, covering 8336 square kilometers. The Capital City of Crete, Heraklion, has a population of 137,000 inhabitants and is the fifth largest City in all of Greece.
So Crete as a whole has little in common with the much smaller Greek islands, apart from the fantastic beaches and coves; it doesn't generally have the small Greek Island 'feel'. Just off the Crete mainland, however, lie a number of small islets which offer beautiful beaches with just a hint of tourism and rocky coves steeped in history.
See video of Gavdos Island
Gavdos island lies in the Libyan Sea off the south west coast of Crete, 45 kilometers from mainland Crete, and is the most southerly point in Europe. The island is around 10 square miles in size and is inhabited by just 45 people year round, but that number swells in the summer months when regular boats to and from Sfakia, Paleochora and Sougia on the Crete mainland, ferry day trippers and campers to the island. There is no mass tourism here and few conveniences. Just beautiful beaches (with the occasional taverna) and pine forests.
Boats run daily, Sfakia to Gavdos, from May to October, weather permitting.Also between Paleochora-Gavdos and Sougia-Gavdos.
Gramvoussa Island & Balos Lagoon
Gramvoussa Island lies just off the far North western tip of Crete, very close to mainland Crete, which is separated by the stunning Balos lagoon. Gramvoussa Island is home to a Venetian Castle, built on a rocky hilltop facing North and surrounded by a wall of 272m. The panoramic view is breathtaking. Below the castle is a fine sandy beach. There are no facilities or tavernas on this small islet.
Boat trips run daily from Kastelli (Kissamos) to Gramvousa Island, with a journey time of approximately 45 minutes. After a short stay on Gramvoussa Island the excursion boats anchor at the amazing Balos lagoon, with it's beautiful white sand and crystal clear aquamarine sea.
Chrissi Island (the 'Golden' Island), also known as Gaidouronisi ('Donkey Island'), lies to the southeast of Crete, 8 miles from the shore of Ierapetra. This uninhabited island, 5km long, approximately 1km in width and mostly flat, is known for its unspoilt beauty, sandy beaches, volcanic rock and small cedar forest. The west of the island has Minoan remains, Roman graves and the well preserved 13th century chapel of St. Nikolaos.
Boat trips run daily from Ierapetra to Chrissi Island in the summer months between May and October, and the journey time is around 50 minutes. It is forbidden to camp on the island and there are no rooms available. There is just one taverna, at Vougiou Mati, in the south of the island where the boat stops.
The small island of Spinalonga lies off the North East coast of Crete, just a short distance from Plaka and Elounda. The islet sits in the middle of the Bay in the Gulf of Mirabello and was used as a fortress by the Venetians to protect the Bay. The Fortress dominates the North face of the island.
From 1903 until as recently as 1957 the island of Spinalonga was a leper colony, where lepers from all over Greece were shipped to live in isolation on the island. The suffering of the lepers who inhabited Spinalonga was immortalised in Victoria Hislop’s bestselling book ‘The Island’. A Greek mini series of the book 'The Island' (Το Νισι) was filmed οn Spinalonga in 2010 for Greek Mega TV.
Today the island in uninhabited, but can be visited by a short boat trip from Plaka, Elounda or Agios Nikolaos. There is a footpath around the island, which takes you through the small deserted street of Spinalonga, with it's stone and concrete dwellings, around the fortifications and past the church and cemetery.
Souda Island is a small islet which sits near the mouth of Souda Bay in Chania, Crete. Souda Bay is the largest natural harbour in Europe, it stretches to 15km in length and is around 3km wide.
The Venetians occupied the area in 1207 and they fortified Souda Island between 1570 and 1573, in order to protect the area from Ottoman raiders and pirates. In 1571 an Ottoman military force landed at Souda and caused major destruction in Chania area, however the Venetians managed to hold on to the strategic islands within Souda Bay until 1715, over thirty years after the fall of Crete to the Ottomans.
In more recent years Souda island has been used as a military installation as it sits directly opposite the NATO navy base in Souda Bay. It was opened up to the public in 2007 and short guided tours are available around the island in the summer months. Note that there are no beaches as such on Souda Island and only escorted tour walks are allowed.
Souda Island is only accessible via escorted tours to the island, bookable via local travel agents as part of a day trip around Souda Bay.
Souda island is pine covered and has a Venetian fortress. It featured in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only", where scenes of the boat chase were filmed.
- Gavdos Online Traveler Service
Information about Gavdos, beaches, accommodation, sites.
- Crete Blog - Living in Crete: Initiative for a "green" Gavdos
Initiative for a Green Gavdos. The Greek Minister of Development announced that Greece will establish a "Green Island", an energy - autonomous island covering all the needs of each energy form using sun, wind, biomass and waves.
- The Med's Forgotten Island
John Pickford travels to the Mediterranean island of Gavdos where recent events have put this modest island firmly on the map.
Gramvoussa & Balos
- Balos Gramvoussa
Information and photographs
- Chrissi Island - Gaidouronisi
Chrissi Island or Gaidouronisi (donkey island) lies 8 miles south of Ierapetra. The residents of Ierapetra simply call it "the island"..
- Spinalonga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An introductory guide and visitors' photographs of Spinalonga, the small island just off the north east coast of Crete. Spinalonga (or Kalidon as it is often shown on maps)..
Souda Island & Souda Bay
- Souda Bay Facts
Facts and history of Souda Bay