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Hike to the highest peak in Elounda and visited Spinalonga!

After some windy and rainy days we had to go for a hike again. We choose the south side of the island because the wind came from north and we thought it would be less wind on the south side. Not….. We had a easy walk around a huge lake. Walking mostly on a gravel road, I regret we didn`t choose another hike. Not much to see.

This is the view towards the lake from the road we took.

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It is 8 km to walk around this lake.

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It is nearly spring and it is a lot of theese yellow flowers everywhere.

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We used almost two hours for this hike.

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We contacted Amanda and Simon on Noforeignland after we saw their boat on the other side of the bay. When the wind calmed down they came over to Elounda where we anchored. We took them to Agios Nikolaos to do some shopping and to check out of Greece. We invited them for dinner that evening. So lovely couple from UK, we were talking for hours!!

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One of the days we took a short hike around in Elounda. We saw some masts from our boat and wanted to see if we could go up there.

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We walked up in the hill, through a village and farmers land. This could be an amazing property, except from the steep hill to get there…

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It was a nice hike and when we arrived on the hill there was some old windmills.

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And a nice view towards Elounda.

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We did this hike to the top of the masts, at 250 masl.

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Oxa, the highest peak in Elounda, 540 masl.

The next day we did a hike we were talking about since we arrived Elounda. To Oxi, the highest mountain in Elounda, at 540 masl. We walked up the valley and took a steep shortcut between the curves. There is a dirt road going almost all the way to the top, but if you are walking on that road, it is a very long hike. And this shortcut is well marked. But it is steep, around 200 meters right up the hill!

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When we had done this shortcut, we walked on the road until we came to this taverna or what it is. It is abandoned so it is hard to say if it was some private or not. After that you have to walk to the left, there is a sign on the road.

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It is a dirt road before it changes to a path. It has a beautiful view towards the mountains.

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It is uphill all the way, but it is an easy hike even if it is over 500 meters.

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We could see the snow on the mountains.

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It was a beautiful summer day, but at the top it was more windy. On the top you will see the ruins from Ancient Naxos. And that has nothing to do with the island Naxos.

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One of the old buildings.

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Outside the old church we had a snack break. We thought we were alone in the mountain this day but on the way to the church we met a girl, she was hiking from the other side of the mountain. Luckily we met her before I started to change my chlothes…

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The view up there is amazing and on the south side we can see towards Agios Nikolaos.

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The church is beautiful, but unfortunately it was not possible to go inside.

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We walked further east on the ridge to find the peak and to see the view towards Elounda. Here you can see the Spinalonga peninsula and Spinalonga itself in the inlet of the bay.

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You can see our boat and our neighbour boat, Susan Isabel.

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Between Elounda and Spinalonga peninsula there is a minoan city under the sea. For calm days you can see the ruins.

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Astor on the top of Oxa!

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And then it was time to walk back. Because of the steep hill we took on the way up, we decided to walk back the road. It is so much better for your knees. But it is much longer. This hike was totally 12 km, so a long hike, but absolutely worth it!

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Here is the track for the hike to Oxa:

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Here is the video from this hike:

Then it was some days with a lot of wind and rain so we moved the boat over to the other side to hide from the weather. It was so nice and calm to stay there.

When we came back to the anchorage in Elounda we invited Amanda and Simon for a trip to Agios Nikolaos. We had some laundry we had to take care of and we needed a little bit of shopping. We also met Tuula and Pekka again and had a lovely lunch together all of us.

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We came back to Elounda right before sunset, it was a calm and lovely evening.

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I said earlier that Spinalonga is closed during the winter season, but we found out that some Sundays, if it is good weather they open it. So we went there with Sarah, David and Davids mother. It is possible to anchor right outside the entrance.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived, we realized that they closed one hour later. It is not a big island, but it is a lot to see so we should have had at least one hour more.

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The history of Spinalonga is long. The islet was fortified in antiquity, to protect the ancient city of Olous. Towards the end of the 16th century, the Venetians, as part of their great fortification works to defend Crete, built on Spinalonga one of the most important bastion-type seaward fortresses of the Mediterranean,

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During the Cretan War (1645-1669), refugees sought shelter on the islet, as did rebels (“Chainides”) who used it as a base to harrass the Ottomans. Under the terms of the treaty for the surrender of Chandax (Heraklion) in 1669, Spinalonga remained a Venetian possession. In 1715, following a siege, the islet was surrendered to the Ottomans, the Venetian garrison left and the remaining 600 inhabitants were taken captive.

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From 1715 onwards, Spinalonga was settled by Muslims, who built their houses on the foundations of the Venetian buildings. The village flourished after the mid-19th century, until by 1881 it housed a population of 1,112 and was the largest Muslim commercial centre of Merabello Bay.

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At the end of the 19th century it is estimated that there were approximately 200 homes and 25 shops or workshops on Spinalonga.

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In 1904, during the period of the Cretan State, Spinalonga was chosen as the site of a Leper Hospital. Sufferers who were sent to live on the island survived on State funding and charitable donations. Their hard, wretched life did not weaken their will to live. They organised their home, fell in love, married, had children.

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After the Leper Hospital was shut down in 1957, the islet remained deserted and uninhabited. In 1976 it was designated an archaeological site. Today it is an organised archaeological site with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

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Have you read the book “The island” of Victoria Hislop? Then you know this island very well. I read this book after I was here in 2003 and I could imaging the story from here. But it is also nice to read the book before you go here, to be prepared.

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Some houses are well taken care of, but most of them are ruins.

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One of the churches on the island.

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I guess this is a ruin of an older church.

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We anchored just outside the wall and took the dinghy ashore. Elounda is in the end of the bay.

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We always think about “go to the highest point”, but even if you can see a lot of the island if you do that, I would prefer to use more time in the streets. (since we already had too short time)

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It was very interesting walking around.

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Our boat.

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Some of the “trails” was marked.

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Inside one of the houses.

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In the street, here we should have spend more time.

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Thinking about over 1000 people lived here ones!

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We had a really nice tour to Spinalonga, thanks to Sarah for telling us it was open.

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Here is a video from Spinalonga:

It was fun to do some hiking and meet new friends! In our next post it will be more hiking and we say goodbye to Elounda and the eastern part of Crete.

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