Best Places to Eat in Spinalonga, Crete

The teardrop-shaped island of Spinalonga wasn’t always on the tourist radar, but it’s now a must-see for visitors to Crete. It’s home to a 16th-century Venetian fortress and a former leper colony which became famous after appearing as the setting of Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island.

Boats to Spinalonga depart from the jetty near Elounda. You’ll pay the entrance fee here before continuing on.

1. Makris Restaurant

Located in Plaka Elounda overlooking the historical Spinalonga, this family taverna offers a wide variety of traditional Cretan food. Enjoy fish of the day and octopus cooked on the grill along with local raki and wine.

If you don’t have a car, the best option is to take a day trip from Heraklion that includes a tour of Spinalonga and visits to Agios Nikolaos and Plaka. The buses run several times a day and are usually less than 2 euros.

Visiting the island of Spinalonga is one of the top things to do in Crete. It’s a fortified island that was once home to leper sufferers and has become famous thanks to Victoria Hislop’s best-selling novel, The Island. The ruins are open to the public and were recently restored. It is also featured in the British TV series Who Pays the Ferryman and Werner Herzog’s short film Last Words.

2. Yaosai Bar

The hotel’s design blends mild earth tones with works of art from internationally recognized and local artists. Breathtaking sea and UNESCO protected castle views are incorporated throughout the property.

Domes of Elounda invites you to immerse yourself in the pageantry of one of the world’s most vibrant cultures. The renowned destination is home to the ancient Kalydon settlement, and the abandoned leper colony of Spinalonga, both now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The hotel’s four restaurants, a cafe and two bars offer culinary delights from across the globe. Dine at the elegant Tholos restaurant with endless sea views, experience the refreshing breeze at beachfront Topos 1910, or try Asian cuisine at Yaosai. There’s also the CORE concept of deli stalls and food trucks dotted around the plaza serving cooked-to-order street-food. INSPIRED BY CULTURAL TRADITION AND IN TUDE OF GLOBAL GASTRONOMICAL DEVELOPMENT.

3. Mesoyios Pool Bar

Sit down at the bar and order a refreshing drink as you gaze at the real-life painting that is Spinalonga island. It’s the perfect spot to soak in the beauty of this place and enjoy its history.

There are a variety of dining options here as well, including the buffet restaurant Amvrosia, Pergola snack bar, and Mesoyios a la carte restaurant. Kassandra also offers a half-day swimming and barbecue cruise that goes to Kolkytha bay and back.

The best way to visit Spinalonga is by boat, and boats leave from Elounda’s quayside every 30 minutes throughout the day. Once on the island, you’ll need to pay a small entrance fee at the kiosk before walking around the former leper colony. It’s a fascinating history that has inspired a number of books and films. Among the most famous is Victoria Hislop’s ‘The Island.

4. The Cave

Crete’s Lassithi region is famous for a few things that make your trip here more fun than most, including the beautiful beaches and the mysterious island of Spinalonga. This little teardrop-shaped island, which was used as a leper colony from 1903 to 1957, was the last place in Europe where people were forcibly moved because of leprosy.

The ruins of the impregnable castle still stand today, and this small island has gained a bit of celebrity after appearing in Victoria Hislop’s best-selling novel ‘The Island’. A short boat ride from the port of Elounda takes you to this little piece of history. If you want to visit the site, we recommend booking a tour with a local guide. A private tour usually includes lunch and a swim on the beautiful Kolokytha beach. It’s a truly unforgettable experience.

5. Nikos Restaurant

The Vrachasotaki family have owned this family-run fish tavern for over 30 years and it’s a great place to enjoy traditional Cretan seafood. It’s right by the beach and overlooking Spinalonga.

There are plenty of organised boat trips to Spinalonga, many from Agios Nikolaos across Mirabello Bay. Some are half-day excursions and include a trip to Kolokytha beach to swim and have a barbecue, plus some time exploring the ruins on the clifftops.

Walk from the town to Plaka and you’ll come across some small, pebbly beaches with milky turquoise water – perfect for sunbathing and swimming without being disturbed. You might even have the whole cove to yourself! Agios Konstantinos and Eleni church is nearby. It was once the church of the leper colony and has appeared in a number of novels, television series and Werner Herzog’s short film L’Ordre.

6. Aphrodite Restaurant

Aphrodite Restaurant is a great place to stop and enjoy a meal at this unique spot. It offers beautiful views over Elounda bay and is just a short walk from where the boat trip to Spinalonga departs.

The restaurant has an extensive menu with something to please everyone. They also serve cocktails and all-day beverages.

Tours to Spinalonga are a must for anyone visiting the Lasithi region. The most popular way is to book a day tour from either Agios Nikolaos, Elounda or Plaka. These tours usually include a visit to the island, lunch and entrance tickets. Some also include a trip to Kolokytha Beach, a secluded stretch of beach that’s connected to Spinalonga. It’s a great option for families or groups of people who want to see the historic site. But, be warned that the tour is a no-go if it’s stormy or rough out at sea.

7. Xenia Restaurant

The Xenia restaurant at Domes of Elounda is a stunning venue for dining, with floor-to-ceiling windows framed by the magnificent castle of Spinalonga. Here, you can enjoy everything from haute cuisine fusion gems to delicious local specialities.

The restaurant is a short stroll away from the small fishing village of Plaka, which features heavily in Victoria Hislop’s book ‘The Island’. This tiny place is a popular spot for visitors who have been drawn to the village by the book and its depiction of the leper colony.

There are a handful of restaurants lining the main street in Plaka, many of which overlook Spinalonga. Alternatively, there are plenty of authentic tavernas in the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos, where you’ll find a greater range of options.

8. Aetos Restaurant

There are a number of excellent tavernas on Spinalonga. The one that is most popular because it was featured on the Greek TV show To Nisi is Giorgos Plaka restaurant and offers fabulous views of the bay and Spinalonga settlement. It’s not too expensive either for lunch or just drinks (ouzo and raki come with complimentary mezes).

You can get to Spinalonga easily on your own as boats leave regularly from the quayside in Elounda. It’s best to visit when the weather is good as it can get quite hot.

The main landmark of the town is the impressive Agios Konstantinos and Eleni Orthodox church which dominates the central square. It’s also worth looking for the stone squares that mark out the old salt pans on the seabed. You might even be lucky enough to spot a rare Seawhippet.

9. The Beach Bar

The final place on our list is a small beach bar that has become something of an institution for young locals and tourists. It’s a party place at night with live music and DJs playing into the early hours, but during the day you can relax on the soft pebbles and enjoy a refreshing drink.

If you’re planning a trip to Spinalonga, we highly recommend booking a hotel with views across the bay to the island (or staying at the Blue Palace Elounda which has a private beach area, 3 pools, tennis courts, spa and fitness centre). The town itself is not too big but there are a number of hotels with fabulous restaurants as well as some gorgeous beaches including the stunning Kolokytha beach that’s worth the walk from the main town. It has milky turquoise waters!

10. The Beach Restaurant

The Beach Restaurant is an authentic tavern near Spinalonga that serves Greek cuisine and is very affordable. The staff here are friendly and the service is fast. They serve excellent red snapper, grilled prawns and greek salads. You can also try their raki, yogurt and parfait.

The tavern is open from April to October and it is highly recommended that you visit during this time because the weather will be cooler and the island will be less crowded. The entrance fee is 8 Euros per person.

There are buses that run from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos and then you can catch a boat from there to either Plaka or Elounda, where the boats to Spinalonga depart. The boat trips take about 1 hour. If you are visiting during the winter, it is advisable to book your trip beforehand so that you can be sure that the boat will be available.