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Olous - sunken city - Crete


Off the north-east coast of the Greek island of Crete, close to the popular tourist resort of Elounda and the peninsula of Spinalonga, the ancient town of Olous lies under the sea.

The town of Olous (also spelled Oloys) was one of the Cretan towns that existed on the island as early as the Minoan culture from around the 3rd millennium BC. Olous gradually became an important port city and reached its greatest height between about the 5th and 2nd centuries BC, when it reached the same level as the nearby cities of Lato, Gortys, Ierapitna (today's Ierapetra) and Driros.

At that time, the lively and prosperous Roman city had a permanent population of about 40,000 and the local society also benefited from democratic principles, for example, a mayor was regularly elected. Olous was an autonomous city, had its own water supply and minted its own coins.

There are several theories as to why the ancient city of Olous sank. One hypothesis links the city's demise to a massive and devastating volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini, which occurred around 1500 BC. However, archaeological research shows that the city was still functioning and communicating with others in the 2nd century BC. The theory of a gradual and more or less natural descent thus seems more likely. The eastern part of the island is slowly sinking into the sea, while the western part of Crete is rising. Mention of this 'movement' of Crete was also recorded in the 4th century AD.

The town of Olous eventually disappeared beneath the sea and the peninsula of Spinalonga remained connected to the mainland only by a narrow neck of land. On days when the sea is calm, you can see the outer walls of the houses of the "sunken city" from land. Otherwise, it's a wonderful place for snorkelling and sport diving and is best seen in the south-eastern part of Elounda, near the windmills on the Spinalonga peninsula.

Several preserved historical and artistic artefacts can be seen at the Archaeological Museum in Agios Nikolaos. In the town of Olous there also used to be a beautiful sanctuary of the god Apollo with three bronze statues of Apollo, Summer and Artemis, which are located in the Archaeological Museum in the town of Heraklion. However, few remains of the city from the Minoan to Roman period have survived, because in the 15th century the Venetians used everything they could to build the local salt pans and the fortress of Spinalonga.

More touristic destinations of Crete

Most favourite sights of Crete: Agia Triada (archaeological site), Archaeological Museum Heraklion, Phaistos (archaeological site), Gortyn (archaeological site), Arkadi Monastery, Knossos (archaeological site), Church of Four Martyrs, Fortezza Fortress (Rethymno), Frangokastello Fortress, Spinalonga Fortress, Windmills on Lasithi Plateau

Resorts, beaches, sights or trips - clearly listed on the map of Crete.

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