In general, the island in front of Elounda is called ‘Peninsula of Spinalonga’ (meaning ‘long thorn’). Among the locals it is called ‘Kolikitha’, also to clearly distinguish it from the fortress island of Spinalonga.
Actually ‘Kolikitha’ is no longer a peninsula, since, at the end of the 19th century, French engineers laid a small canal for boats through the marshy isthmus and built a bridge over it.
In the east you can reach almost the Kolikitha beach by a passable path by car. Near a small church, there is some parking space in the grounds, as the approximately 10-minute walk down to the sea is hardly suitable even for a Quad Bike or SUVs.
At the shore, there is a short stretch of sandy beach in the bay and to the left, along the coast towards the north, you can see the remains of a Roman villa and the Fokas church. There is another, narrow sandy beach.
At this location, the Byzantines under their General Nikiforas Fokas landed in 960, when they recaptured Crete from the Saracens. Fokas was become later the Byzantium emperor and in memory of its successful landing, the Fokas church was built at the beach of Kolikitha. However, until today many parts and artifacts were stolen from the church and are scattered in all the winds.
View from Drone – Beach of Kolikitha:
In front of the Spinalonga peninsula is another small and bare island in the sea called Agii Pundes, where the attempt failed to settle the Cretan wild goat ‘Kri-Kri’.
The beach is crowded during the day in the main season and especially on hot days, where many locals also join, as it is visited by many excursion boats from Elounda and Aghios Nikolaos.
However, further south along the coast, there are two more, beautiful sandy beaches, which only a few visitors know. Follow the paths, which are only slightly more difficult to walk along the cliffs after the sandy beach Kolikitha. The other beaches are about 10 to 15 minutes walk.
Also, with a small boat both beaches are easy to reach. They are long, sheltered and the water is shallow and falls slowly to the open sea.
More photos of the Spinalonga peninsula and the beaches:
To the south of the peninsula
If one follows the beaches along the coast and climb up the cliffs, one reaches an area where in WW2 a position for a German coastal battery was. This can already be seen from the old barbed wire, which secured the position to the land side. The author has not discovered any of the old landmines, and if there are any leftovers, the many goats have already been removed in the course of time. Solid shoes and longer pants against thorns are recommended here.
During the German occupation on Crete, the Gulf of Mirabello was protected by a coastal battery on the Spinalonga peninsula and another on the opposite shore. At the end of the war, the guns were dragged out of their positions and cavern bunkers by the German soldiers and thrown over the cliffs. The remains of the guns are now a popular destination for divers (more about this in the subsequent video).
If one follows the coastline further south and then west again towards the bridge to the peninsula, you will find old salt mines and quarries.
Along the east coast and across the peninsula
If one follows from Kolikitha beach the path along the coast to the north, one will reach the beautiful, small chapel Agios Fokas on a narrow land. The path is not difficult to walk and it is a beautiful, 20 to 30-minute hike.
From here one can also cross the Spinalonga peninsula via small paths. However, one has to climb over and over across some old, dilapidated stone walls and there are also some steeper sections up and down (but no climb is necessary) and there is much wild growth. Solid shoes and long trousers are essential.
In some places the path was not always clearly recognizable, but in the meantime trail markers have been erected. In the past, the local shepherds often clearly marked the paths with high stones placed on top of each other, which are clearly recognizable as man-made.
When one cross the small hill, one can see a beautiful, remote bay. From here one follows the path to the west and reach old cisterns and masonry on a narrow hill.
There one will find an old donkey trail with tall stone walls to the left and right. Follow this road southwards down to Elounda Bay, where one can reach a lane which is suitable for cars. Simply follow it until the bridge over the Isthmus.
To the north end
The donkey path just described can also be followed in the other direction – to the north. This is a nice and somewhat longer hiking trip and you can almost reach the coast opposite the fortress of Spinalonga. However, here also solid shoes and longer trousers are recommended to protect against thorns.
The donkey trail leads after a deep incision and subsequent height, which is somewhat hard to reach, to an old, long abandoned settlement, of which only a few remains are existing, except for the small church Agios Ioannis. The donkey trail is not to be overlooked and good to be done.
Afterwards, however, it is somewhat more difficult to find a path up to the fortress of Spinalonga, which is not densely grown.
In this area is an ancient site called Amilka, about which is not much known. Early historians mention the place and it is named after the son of Atridis, the king of Lacedaemonians (around 1,200 BC.).
There are graves and even fossils were found with impressions of human bodies, and rocks and stones were also clearly worked on by humans.
There are probably more testimonies of this ancient site in the sea or are buried under the volcanic lava from the eruption on Santorini.
Video about the peninsula of Spinalonga
(Duration 5 min 37 sec)
Directions and paths on the Spinalonga peninsula.
Route 1 (for cars): Access to the pitches in front of the beach of Kolikitha (about 1,000yds).
Path 2: walk down to the beach of Kolikitha (about 200yds).
Path 3: walk to the other two, remote sandy beaches (about 600-800yds).
Path 4: Hiking path along the cliffs at the southern end to the old artillery position and stone quarry (about 1 mile (1.61 km)).
Path 5: Walk to the Agios Fokas chapel on the eastern part of the island (on the way you pass the remains of the Fokas church shortly after the beach of Kolikitha, about 3/4 mile).
Path 6: Cross-country path to the center of the peninsula (about 3/4 mile)
Path 7: Donkey trail (about 1,000yds)
Route 8 (for cars): to the bridge at the isthmus (about 800yds).
Path 9: Donkey trail to the north (about 1,000yds)
Path 10: Cross-country hiking path to a small bay with beach and opposite the fortress of Spinalonga (about 1 mile (1.61 km)).