Worth a Trip: Spinalonga Peninsula
The Spinalonga Peninsula is connected to Elounda by a narrow causeway, originally the isthmus of Poros. In order to distinguish it from the former leper colony on tiny Spinalonga Island just to the north, it is sometimes called Big Spinalonga. To get there, make a sharp turn off the Elounda main road at the Ergospasio restaurant and head downhill.
The ancient Greek settlement of Olous once stood on and around the isthmus, but what little is left today lies submerged on either side of the causeway. The area is popular with snorkellers, although, aside from some house foundations and the remnants of a harbour wall, there's not much to see.
To the right of the causeway you can still spot the shallow salt pans built by the Venetians in the 15th century and in use until 1972. Just beyond are three ruined windmills as well as the remains of an early Christian basilica, most notably bits and pieces of a mosaic portraying fish, birds and garlands. Find it after a short stroll to your right after the windmills.
A circular 7km hiking route follows the peninsula's ancient trails. Drivers can continue past the isthmus on a graded dirt road for about 1.5km to a parking area below the chapel of Agios Loukas. From here, it's about a half-kilometre walk down to the lovely Kolokytha beach, which does, however, get busy around 12.30pm when Spinalonga Island excursion boats drop their passengers here for swimming and barbecues. In the cove just north of Kolokytha beach you can spot the ruins of another early Christian basilica.