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Travel Guide To Elounda

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General Information About Elounda

This is a world renowned tourism resort located to the north of Aghios Nikolaos, having an indented coastline, shaded beaches, crystal clear seas, and a tranquil and heavenly environment. It is 10km distance from Aghios Nikolaos, and the cutting along the side of the road affords you the opportunity to admire the spectacular view of Mirambello Gulf and Korfos. The village is built on the southern coast of the Gulf of Elounda, 1km east of the ancient settlement of Olounda, from which it has taken its name. This used to be the favored place of legendary figures from Minoan Crete and of historical figures of our times. The four villages of Elounda are spread out along the lower slopes of the approach to the Massif. Pano and Kato Elounda, Mavrikiano and the new settlement of Skisma, the port of Elounda, bask in the glorious sea as it opens up before them offering its beauty and charm. This sea, as described by Mr. Anestis Makridakis, glows like a sapphire under the azure light of the sky, rose-hued in summer afternoons, silvered on moonlit nights. It is a sea whose light infuses you gently but swiftly, having the power to touch you emotionally. To float in this sea, or to observe it from further away is like dreaming with open eyes. This peaceful sea was used as a stop-over and refueling point during the period between both world wars by the UK’s Imperial Hydroplane Service The divine creator, in joyous and happy time of inspiration and joviality, did not skimp here with the colors, the lines or the boldness of combinations, giving a magical impression to the landscape. Here, lovers of the art of cinema, of the graphic arts, of music and poetry find an exceptional sight. Elounda is a place-name that is easy to pronounce, but difficult to describe. It is a place that can only be experienced personally, to live forever thereafter in your dreams.
Sights
Below you can find the most famous sights in Elounda village such us:

Olous - The sunken city , Spinalonga , The early - Christian Basilica  

if you click in each sight you can find a small description.

Olous - The sunken city

"Olous" was considered one of the most important towns of Crete. Olous, the history of which is discovered by different inscriptions, flourished, specially, during the minoan era [3000 - 900 D.C.). The ruins of the ancient town are still visible today at the channel of "Poros"! Pausanias, an ancient writer, reports that in his time, the 2na century A.D., Olous was among the cities which were odorating the statue of Vritomartis, one of the Dedalos works. The   inscriptions found, replace the silence of the scriptures regarding this ancient town. In one of these inscriptions (probably the 3rd cent. A.D.], is mentioned the treaty of friendship with the LATO neighbour­hood, though another one reports the agree­ment of 134 B.C. between Olous, Lato and Knossos and by which Knossos was recognised as the unique umpire for any difference between them.

In 1937, the french archeologist. H. Van Effenterre found upon the   arch, of the early Christian basilica of Olous, a piece of inscription containing the end of the conventional alliance between Olous and Rhodes. In 1960, the professor A. Orlandos found, in one of his excavations, the completing piece to this inscription, which is now shown in the museum of Ag. Nikolaos.   This inscription was written in a common dorian dialect. The convention, (as mentioned above), was humiliating for the inhabitants of Olous, because they were undertaking a lot of obligations for Rhodes. Also the convention between Rhodes and lerapitna is approximately of the same kind and the same era [200 D.C.). By these conventions, Rhodes wanted to assure the control of eastern Crete so, to close the road to smugglers, which were suported by Philip E' of Makedonia.   Later on, after the Dorians conquered Crete, the town existing of 30.000 inhabitants, relieved their supply of water by sources which are siill there today. In Olous, they were honoured talleos Zeus, Mars [Aris] and Artemis Vritomartis. Olous, also, as a self-govering town and center of exportation to the east and to Ionian Ports, had its own currency. The historian Svoronos tells of 1 ] types of decimals which represented either Artemis, Zeus beholding the eagle, the dolphin or the star with 8 points and the word olondion.

One other known town, during the same period, was Naxos. Some ruins, and specially some tanks, are found today at the top of the mountain Oxa, which is taken from the word Naxos. It is said that the town was built by Naxos, son of Akakallidas, doughter of Minos and that its colonies reached to the island of Cyclades, which has the same name today.   Now, regarding the destruction of Olous, the reasons and the period of destruction are not known. The different researches show that the town was existing during the Greek, Roman and I5' Byzantine period (824 A.D.). The 2nd Byzantine period was destructive for, almost, all the towns of Crete. From 824 to 901 the inner problems of the Byzantine state and rhe opposition of the rebel, genera Thomas, to the emperor Michael B1, gave the opportunity to Sarrasis, [Arabs) lo occupy Sicilli and Crete. Gortys was destroyed, and the new capital "Handax" (Heraklion) was built. Handax became the center of the sarassins attacks.   The Christians of Crete were persecuted without mercy and the island, for one and a half century, suffered from the sarassin 's ferocity, to which Nikiforos Fokas put to an end. Today, at the location "Nikiforos Fokas", opposite the island Kolokitha, are still visible, the ruins of the Byzantine church, built in honour of N. Fokas, before his journey to Egypt. Olous, didn't escape from the sarassins destruction because it was near to the sea and so, therefore, an attractive target to the arabic smugglers. The Arabs dominated Crete from 824 till 961. During the Venetian occupation (124O-121OJ the channel was seperated. The salt-works begun to function and the first fortress of Spinalonga was built. By the Turkish occupation, the village was destroyed , and almost desert in 1898. The English , the French and the Russians put Turkish domination to an end. After this time. the village was repossessed by its inhabitants. The French again separated the channel , and as a result in 1913 , Crete united with Greece.    

Spinalonga

This rocky island is located at the north – west opening of the Elounda Gulf. In 1954, for reasons unknown, the island, by decree, was re-named “KALIDON”. The fortress, which already existed in ancient times, was built to protect the port of the ancient town, Olous! It is reported that, among its ruins, many Christians, later, found refuge from the sarassins. Remains of the fortress, were then discovered by the Venetian architect, during his visit to the island in 1574 in order to construct a new fortress.In the Venetian museum, the original wooden model of the structure is preserved.   In the old Venetian documents, relating to the name of the island, if was designated as "STINELONDA", as meaning in Greek: "Go to Elounda". Since the Venetians cojld no! understand fhis expression, they adapted (t in their language, as Spina (thorn) Longa [long). In fact at the time, fhere was an island near fo Venice itself, with the name Spinalonga, but, which is now named, today, Giudecca, Since then, this name is used by the locals too. The fortress of Spinalonga was one of the most powerful! of Crete and some were even considering it to be untouchable. Its armament, in 1030, was beholding 35 canons in different diameters. After the integral occupation of Crefe in 1609, the fortress of Spinalonga remained under the Venefian domination, for almost half a century. Many Christians found fhere, a refuge escaping from me Turks. In 1715, the Turks, by capitulation, occupied the fortress and undertook the obligation to bring the guard and the inhabitants to the island of Corfu, only loter fo befray them.   

During the last years of the Turkish domination, the fortress became a secure place for Turkish families, who had good reason fo fear the Christian reprisals. In 1834, 80 Othoman [Turkish) families were staying on  the island  and in 1881   fhe 1112 Othomans   of Spinalonga were forming a community. Around  I860, another 1000 Turks, from the regions Mirabello, Sitia and lerapefra, for reasons of security, also joined the island. In May 1807, the Turks embarked on the main land and attacked the guard of the greek rebels, unsuccessfully. Spratt, the navigator, compares the fortress of Spinalonga to a small Giblaitar. He menfions, also, that the Venefians used, for its consfruction, raw materials found on Elounda (stones, whetstones e.t.cj.   In the fortress, ilself, the duke Giac Barbaro built there wind-mills so to grind the cereals for the guard. The main entrance of the fortress is simple and imposing, and upon the arch there is the inscription: LVCAS (MIC(HAEL) PRO(VISOR) GE(NERALIS) R(EGNI) CRfETAE] II AN(NO) in honour of Lucas Michael, who founded the fortress, in 15/6/1579. In 1903, the last Turks abandoned the fortress and since then, Spinalonga became a place of martydom. The same year, by decision of the Crelan goverment, Spinalonga was designafed as a place of con centra lion and residence for the lepers of Crele, who, till then, were kept at Miskinias, a place near to Heraklion. In 1913, when Crete united wifh Greece, all lepers from all over the country joined fhe island. There are many things said for the intolerable conditions of living and the deprivation of basic needs, from which lepers were suffering.   However, in 1957 the isolation came to an end and the state broughf the last lepers of Spinalonga to the community of Agia Varvara (near Athens], since the illness was fhen curable. Around 1980, the community of Elounda undertook, in cooperation wifh the Greek Tourist Board (EOT], the first works of reconstruction on fhe island.      

The early - Christian Basilica

Besides, upon the mosaic and near the dolphins, where other inscription were found, many names of co-donors were written, such as the name or Iliodoros, who maybe, was the maker of the mosaic. The various archeological researches, realised by different times showed that the temple of the early-Christian Basilica was built during the byzantine period, which means after the destruction, first or the Roman and then of the Greek Olous.   The architectural style, prevailing in this area, is the style of the Basilica. The application of this style gives a rectangular shape, which is seperated, inside, by columns and at the eastern side a circular apse is protruding. There is a belief, that the Basilica of Olous was founded upon the ruins of a Roman temple. With the predominence of the Christianism, Christians prefered to build their churches upon the foundations or idolatrous temples by bringing about the necessary changes. So was done, with the Roman temple, from which a nave (used   for the veneration of a Roman God), had remained. To this nave, Christians added two others isles. Morphologicaly, the Basilica of Olous was divided, in 3 naves. The one in the middle was the highest. The columns were dominating from the east to the west side, and they were made from local black stones, which were abudant in the region. The result, was a luxurious church and the only witness today is its mosaic floor, which was representing flowers and dolphins. This type of Basilica presents different variations in relation with the period, and specially, with the areas where it appeared first. The difference between the regions, as it is believed, was reflected in the architectural style, as well as in the other branches of art. Regarding to the basic parts, which composed the edifice of Olous Basilica, we are not in position to know any details.   However, it is possible to determine, approximately, the size and the general composition of the building. In conclusion we could say that the early Christian churcn of Olous was a remarkable work of three-naves, Basilica style.

Elounda  History

History

Since postminoan ages, until the turkish occupation, Elounda was the area which is mentioned as one of the most significant cities of Crete. Elounda had several names throughout history, like Olous, Olounda, Hersonisos, Amylka, Amykloion, Kolokytha Olous, Alyggos, Naxos, Axos, Oxa, mountain tallaion, Kadistos. The name, the history and the script of Elounda are not Familiar to us until Monoan ages. Elounda was said to have been an important commercial-craft industrial harbour, with the excaration of whetstone to be held in from Oloundas quarries. Whetstone was excarated throughout  the ancient period and is still being excarated nowdays. Whetstone is mainly used for smoothing metal tools. Homer mentions in his poem “iliad” about the occupation of the ancient citizens of Elounda with whetstone. Ancient Olous was also known for the extraction and trade of purple dye. Olounda flourished during all historical periods but it’s geographical position forced it to change its appearence, while the civilization of each period vanished with the appearence of the following period. We can consider as proof of this, a temple that is dated from the 5th D.C. century which was constructed over ancient temple. The construction of the salt works and the Fortress of Spinalonga by the Venetians, was the main reason for the destruction of the buildings. The stones these buildings were made of were used as the material for the construction of the salt works and the fortress of Spinalonga. The buildings, the coins, the signs, the artifacs and the statues that where found in Olous reveal the High Level and the culture of this city, a big area of it much of wich sunken underwater. We are still not aware about the fortune of the 30.000 inhabitants that lived in Olous. French archeologists claim that Olous flourished as a Minoan city and it is still providing archeological material of great importance. In 1987 the french army dug canal in Poros and in that way the gulf of Mirabello was linked with Corfos. The archeological findings were not puplished but some of them are kept in the museum of Louvre.Olous was the city that was built in the most marvelous and unigue area of Crete, on the seashore of Mirabello where God and nature used all their craft in order to create this amazing scenery of unparalleled beauty. The Olous goverment regine was called Eunomia, atype of democracy where the heads of state were named cosmia, and were responsible for the legislature and executive authority. The cosmia were elected from “Cosmionces” every year, and constituted the collective organ of the state while the leader of the state was called “Protocosmos”.The citizens of Olous worshipped the local godess vritomartis (meaning sweet virgin) while the vritomarteia, a religion Festival was held in her honour, all over Crete. On the southern side of  Elounda, there is the mountain Oxa lay. It is said that in Oxa there was an ancient town called Naxos, where some coins have been found. Still nowadays some stone water tanks have been maintained in good condition as well as considerable sections of Naxos protectiveshield. The geographical position and the organization of Oxa reveal that it was a powerfull fortress that could intercept every hostile attack. The majority of the coins that were found represented the godess Vritomarti on one side and the god Zeus on the other. In Spinalonga, the small island that situated on the northen side of the gulf there, were walls that protected ancient Elounda. Traces of the walls existed in the 16th century. Above these walls, the Venetians constructed their own (1579 - 1586) and entrenched the island, which the Turks captured in 1715. Spinalonga, at the early beginning of 19th century was inhabited by turkish people whose main activities were navigation, fishing and trade. In 1834, Spinalonga had 81 muslim families while in 1881 the island’s habitants numbered 1112. In 1900 the number of muslims citizens decreased to 272. The dwellers of Spinalonga abandoned the island in 1904, the year when Cretan authorities transfered lepers there from all over Crete. The leper hospital of Spinalonga closed operating in 1957. A document from Areti monastery in 1633 mentions “Metohi Eloundas” for first time, while the traveller Paslei mentions that in 1834 Elounda, consisted of 40 christian families. Directly connected with the history of spinalonga and the modern history of Elounda are the villages of Pines, Tsifliki, Plaka, Braxos. Moreover, the former communities of Louma and Skinia had close economic relationships with the above villages especially after the Turkish occupation In 1928, Elounda was the base of a community with 1506 citizens. From 1928 until 1939 the gulf of Elounda was used as refuelling station for the airplanes of the British airline company Imperial. In 1941, is was captured by the german and Italian armies and it was converted into one of the most powerful ports. The population of all the villages during the next years (1951,1961) decreased significatly due to immigration. In 1969 the construction of the first large hotel, the Elounda Beach, begansimultaneously, the development of Elounda began, and thus the area was converted into a unique and model tourist resort of Greece.  

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