The island of Spinalonga (official name Kalidon) is located in the eastern part of Crete, near the town of Elounda. Harking back to the Venetian occupation, the name Spinalonga is Italian, meaning “long thorn”. In 1579, the Venetians built a fortress on Spinalonga over the ruins of an acropolis. They kept control of the island until the Ottoman Empire took possession of it in 1715. The island is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe, being used in this manner from 1903 until 1957.
Heraklion is the largest city in Crete, located roughly in the centre of the north coast. Heraklion has a population of 131,000 (2001 census), but it