Spinalonga is a Venetian era fortified island off the coast of northeast Crete, not far from Agios Nikolaos and the high-class tourist part of the island. It has the enduring fascination that in later years it was the site of one of Europe's last operating leper colonies finally closing in the middle of the last century. Today the name Spinalonga is only applied to the islet, but the Venetians used it to refer to the large peninsula of Nissi or Kolokytha, which is connected to Elounda by a narrow isthmus. Apparently Kolokytha used to be joined to Spinalonga but in 1526 the Venetians cut a canal between the two, forming this small island. Today you can take a boat trip to the now-deserted island and view the remains of the leper houses and other community buildings, and imagine what life must have been like there. The landscape is quite barren, lending a desolate air to the place. Spinalonga was the inspiration for a popular novel, "The Island" by Victoria Hislop and a spinoff television series in Greece.