Aerial image of the salt pans of Elounda. ©Municipality of Agios Nikolaos

Salt Pans

In the cove of the Gulf of Elounda, on the road that leads from the settlement of Schisma to the Spinalonga peninsula, there are salt pans, possibly from the Byzantine era. The Venetians took advantage of them from the first years of their presence on the island. The number of salt pans grew, and the salt production intensified after the loss of Cyprus in 1571 and the salt pans there, as well as after the fortification of Spinalonga in 1579.

Based on archival sources, there were two complexes of salt pans, one in Mesa Elounda, which is partially preserved even today, and a smaller one in Oxo Elounda, on the site of the square of the modern settlement of Schisma. The sources mention three types of sedimentation tanks (lakes – boilers – pans), which had gradually reduced depth. The State owned a small number of the salt pans, while most had been assigned for exploitation to local feudal lords, mainly from Fourni. The workers who worked in the salt pans were mostly from Fourni villages. From the land area of their accommodation developed today's coastal villages of Elounda.

In 1653, the Venetians destroyed the salt pans so the Ottomans wouldn't profit from them, who were already exploiting them and who soon recovered them.

The salt pans operated until the 1970s under the ownership of the Hellenic Monopoly of Salt.

Photo Gallery

The salt pans in Mesa and Oxo Elounda. Detail from a drawing by the Venetian engineer Francesco Basilicata (1618). © "Micros Nautilus" Publications - Vikelaia Library - LUMC Association of Crete

Aspect of the salt pans, as they are preserved today. ©Ephorate of Marine Antiquities. Office of Crete

Drawing of the port of Spinalonga by the Venetian engineer Francesco Basilicata (1638). At the innermost point of the gulf, the salt pans (saline) can be distinguished. ©Mikros Nautilus Publications. Heraklion