The prefecture of Lasithi located on the eastern part of the island, covering an area of about 1.900 square metres. The landscape is a mixture of rocky hills, fertile plains and coastal beaches. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of revenue. People have lived in the region since the Stone Age. The region, as most of Greece has been under occupation by the Venetians and the Turks. Lasithi offers the visitor a variety of sights, charming villages to the popular tourist resorts.
The district of Lasithi lies on the eastern side of the island, and has seen some major developments in the tourist industry, small villages have grown into centres for the tourists, with hotels, cafés and bars. Despite this the area has some of the best landscape on the island.
Small villages have grown into centres for the tourists, with hotels, cafés and bars. Despite this the area has some of the best landscape on the island.
Away from the holiday centres you enter another world, small villages on the Lastithou Plateau and high mountains with wonderful views.
A drive along the coastal road is not to be missed as leads you to wonderfull beaches where you can sunbathe to your hearts content.
The eastern end of Crete is often the least explored – and yet probably is the densest in sites and attractions. Graced with three small cities, Agios Nikolaos in the north, Ierapetra in the south, and Siteia in the east, you can stay in either of the first two and drive easily to the other. Ierapetra has the distinction of being the southernmost city in Europe. Beaches near Ierapetra are wonderful: Myrtos to the west, the tiny island of Chrysi to the south, Kala Nera and Makrygialos to the east: all of them bathe in the clear, warm sunlight of southern Crete. Agios Nikolaos has a beautiful lake that joins up with the sea, and makes the most of its beautiful waterfront by offering the most nightlife of anywhere in Eastern Crete. For culture, head southeast to the Minoan site of Gournia – probably the most beautiful of all the Minoan sites in Crete – and neighboring Vasiliki; then head further east toward Siteia. A swim off Moxlos to the island of Pseira is worth it to visit the Minoan city. The far east coast has some of the best beaches in Crete – including the palm beach at Vai. More sites at Palaikastro, Zakros, and the beautiful and historical Toplou Monastery make Lasithi probably the most cultural of the four prefectures, and the most unspoiled. Lasithi has three main towns: Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, and Siteia. All three have ample accommodation and dining options for visitors, Agios Nikolaos being the largest and most well-organized for tourism.
How To Get There
The best way to get to Lasithi is through Irakleio (ferry or air). A new airport is being built in Siteia.
Agios Nikólaos is the regional capital of Lasithi, this former fishing village, is now one of the regions main tourist areas. Agios Nikólaos situated on the shoreline of Mirabello Bay , with the ruins of a Ventian castle overlooking the town, and the Voulismeni Lake in the centre. The lake, reputed to be bottomless, in fact, it is 64m deep, and a small canal connects it to the sea. There are a wide range of restaurants and tavernas, catering mainly for the tourists. There are also many shops, selling gifts for the tourist to more expensive goods. Nightlife in the town varies from small reasonably quiet bars to bars catering for the younger tourist.
The Archaeological Museum : houses a fine display of artefacts from the region, artefacts from the Stone Age to Roman period. One of the star attractions is the “Goddess of Myrtos”, a clay jug from 2500BC. Fine displays of pottery, glass and gold jewellery, one of the strangest is a skull, crowned with gold leaf, from the 1 st century AD.
The Folklore Museum : Has a display of local crafts, photographs and local costumes.
The Aquarium: on show are, as one would expect, fish. Information on diving and snorkelling is available. Note all diving must be under the supervision of a diving club.
The Church of Agios Nikólaos : is the towns oldest, under restoration in the 60s, frescoes from the 10 th and 14 th century were discovered.
Beaches: the beaches in the town are pebbly and filled to capacity; the beach at Alymyros is better.
Events and Activities: the Lato Cultural Festival takes place in July and August, with Cretan and international music, dances and competitions. Marine Week, takes place in the last week of June with boat races and swimming competitions also a firework display. Fishing trips, cycling and guided tours are also available.
One of the highlights of the area if not the whole island, is the beautiful church of Panagia Kera, a small white painted building, famous for it,s frescoes from the 13th. Century which cover nearly all the interior of the church. Scenes describing what happens to sinners on there way to hell is overpowering and fantastic.
A drive to Sitia is experience up and over the mountains with glimpses of the sea in the distance, when you arrive you come to a town built up around a bay, a relaxing place and a good starting point for further travels in the area. The area is rich in archaeological sites, probably more than any other area on the island. Sitia has both a Archaeological and a History Museum which are worth visiting. In the summer you can visit the local wine cooperative, here can you see the process of making wine and of course taste the end product.
Driving to Sitia is an experience, up and over the mountains with glimpses of the sea in the distance. The town built around the bay, offers a good place to relax and a good place to explore the district. The area is rich in archaeological sites, more than any other area on Crete . Both the Archaeological and History Museums are worth a visit. During the summer months, you can visit the local wine cooperative, see the production of wine, and of course taste the product. In the last week of August the Sultana Festival takes place, here you can enjoy a glass of wine or two and watch the locals dance. Followed by the Kornari Festival, were concerts and cultural events tale place.
Gournia is a as yet a undisturbed archaeological site, not far from Agia Nikolaos, and gives the visitors a insight into the daily life’s of the Minions. The ruins seen today are from 1500bc. When the town was at its high. The town was destroyed circa 1450bc. Then rebuilt, and finally left deserted about 1200bc.
Walking around the site you will notice how well it is stood the test of time, Hundreds of foundation walls to the houses spread up the hillside. The downstairs rooms where used as workshops and storerooms, but the upstairs living quarters have long since gone. If you walk up the narrow streets, at the top you will see the remains of the Governors Palace. to the south is the market place, at the top of the steps, a large stone block is said to be a alter for offerings.
Looking from the top down over the town, you have to envisage it 3 –4 times larger than it is today. When visiting Gournia take refreshments with you as there are no cafes near by, at it can be extremely hot here.
Gournia is one of the important Minoan sites on Crete , the ruins date from 1500 BC to 1450 BC. The site gives you an insight into the daily lives of the Minoans, with foundations walls of the houses along the hillside. The downstairs rooms were workshops and upstairs were the living quarters. At the top of the narrow street are the remains of the Governors Palace , to the south is there is a stone slab, thought to be where they sacrificed bulls.
The small size of this village without any sights to see is worth taking time out of a busy schedule to visit, for the reason it is a typical Cretan village with the locals going about their daily lives. Stay a say or two and relax in one of the tavernas on the shoreline. A perfect place to recharge your batteries. Myrtos is a charming village, typically Cretan with whitewashed, flower covered houses. The village has some good tavernas along the seafront. Here you can relax away from the hustle and bustle of the busier resorts.
A magnificent beach surrounded by palm trees, a walk through the palm trees whose seeds are said to be from either Date eating pirates or Egyptian soldiers who spat them out as they were passing. The beach can is very popular, so you have to be early to get a good place. located 24km from Sitia, palm trees line the beach; these trees are the source of speculation as to their origins. Many believe they grew from palm pits spat out by the Romans who rested here. The beach is very popular and therefore is busy in the summer months with watersports and sun worshippers.
North of the town was a former fishing village, now a busy tourist resort. Just south of the town are the remains of the Ventian saltpans, and the site of the ancient city-state of Oloús. Boat trips from the town take you to Spinalónga/Kalidón, where you can see the sunken city of Oloús . In 1903, this was a leper colony and the infected had to live in caves or ramshackle huts. Later houses and were built and they received medicine and food from the mainland, the colony closed down in 1954.
Surrounded by the Dikti Mountains , this plateau is 900m above sea level. Covered with orchards, almond trees and a patchwork of fields, hundreds of windmills stand as sentinels over the landscape. Some of these windmills pump water up for irrigation, sad to say, modern pumps are taking over. This remote plateau, during the invasions of Venations and Turks, became a base for revolutionaries. In the 13 th century, the Venetians came, destroyed the crops, and forced the villages out. The plateau lay desolate for two hundred years. Later in 1886, the Turks came and destroyed the land in retaliation against the revolutionaries. They are numerous villages scattered around the plateau and are very popular with tourists.
Tzermiádo is the main town on the plateau, tourists pass through here on their way to the Dikteon Cave . There are a number of souvenir shops selling woven and embroidered items.
Nearest village to the Dikteon Cave , and is the terminus for tourist buses. The usual array of souvenir shops selling goods to tempt the tourists. There are numerous tavernas and rooms to rent for the tired traveller.
According to legend is the hiding place of the god Zeus. His mother Rhea hid her newborn child here to protect him from her husband Cronas, his parents told that he would lose his powers to one of his children. Cronas solved this problem, by eating his first four children. Rhea fled to Crete where she hid the child in the cave, and Zeus grew up to be the greatest god of the mythical world. There are two sections in the cave, the upper and the lower, the upper is rock strewn, the lower is more interesting, with stalagmites and water pools. Entrance to the cave is by walking up a rough track or by donkey.
This pleasant village on the south of the plateau is a good base for those who wish explore the area by bicycle. The Folklore Museum is in the house of Katsapakis family. The Eleftherios Museum is dedicated to the former Greek statesman.
Southwest of Agios Nikólaos is the village of Kritsá ; this village is a popular destination for tourists. In the summer, the residents stage feasts and local dances. The main street is awash with souvenir shops, the side streets with their charming houses tempt you to take stroll. The Church of Panagia Kera has striking frescoes from the 14th century, depicting scenes from the bible. Parts of the church date from the 13 th century.
The ancient city-state of Lato, founded in the 7 th century BC became one of the most prominent cities on the island. Destroyed in 200 BC; around the site are the ruins of a temple, agora and theatre.
This monastery east of Sitia, looks like a castle than a monastery. Built in the 15 th century, a time of piracy and conflicts, the monks fought of invaders with cannons and boiling oil. Pirates looted the monastery in 1498, followed by the Crusaders in 1530 followed by the Turks in 1646 and 1821. A beautiful icon called the “Lord Thou Art Great”, in the church has 61 small scenes taken from prayers in the Orthodox Bible. During the Second World War, resistance fighters ran a clandestine radio here; this resulted in the execution of the Abbot by the Germans.
45km southeast of Sitia, Zakros is primarily an agricultural centre where profusion of vegetables and fruit grow. The tourists that pass through here are on their way to the Zakros Gorge or to the archaeological site of Zakros Palace .
This site is one of the last Minoan sites excavated, artefacts include a stunning rock crystal vase and stone bulls head now on display at the museum in Iraklio. The palace contained royal apartments and other buildings around a central courtyard. Parts of the site are now submerged and the ruins are in a sorry state.
This laid-back village is stimulating; with little tourism, it has a decent beach and a decent nightlife. Offshore is the sandy island of Gaϊdouronisi , where Lebanon Cedars grow the only place in Europe . There are good beaches in the area; they are also popular and crowded. The Kryvia Festival in August features concerts and exhibitions.
Lasithi has many beaches, some beaches are pebbly or a mixture of pebbles and sand. Whilst many are long sandy beaches with all amenities ideal for sunbathing and children usually near the major tourist resorts, others more secluded, where one can relax far away from the maddening crowds.
Agios Nikolaos the beaches in the town are pebbly and filled to capacity; the beach at Alymyros is better.
Serves the eastern and central areas of the island, the airport lies about 5 km outside the city. Taxis and buses are available outside the terminal. In the terminal you will find the usual offices for car hire companies, bureau de change as well as cafes and bars. During the summer months they can be delays due to the amount of charter traffic. From the airport you can travel to other islands, Rhodes, Santorini plus many more.
Route no.1 takes you into the city, fare cost ca 1 euro. Departure every few minutes.
Always use registered taxis as there are a number of pirate taxis operating out of the airport. Always make sure the taximeter is on or agree on a price before the journey starts. If you have any trouble with a registered taxi, note the number on the sign and report to the tourist police. Fare to the city cost ca. 8 euro in the daytime, plus a baggage charge.
Serves the western area of the island, the airport lies about 15 km outside the city of Chania. The usual offices are to be found here, car hire companies etch, several flights a day to Athens. There also goes daily flight to Thessaloniki.
There are no regular bus services from the airport, buses meet up for arrivals; most people take the taxi to the city. Daily bus connection to and from Rethymno (Olympic airways coach)
The trip to the centre of the city cost ca, 9 euro. The same rules apply here as in Heraklion as to the use of taxis.
Sitia airport is under expansion and takes for the time being mainly charter flights.
From the mainland port of Piraeus there are daily sailings to Crete. There are also ferries from other islands and from Cyprus and Israel. Make sure you leave plenty of time when travelling by boat as there can be delays, due to weather and ferry departures times can be altered. Taking the ferry from Piraeus can be a bit of a trial, as the ships do not always dock at the correct quay. So make sure you take the time to find the right ferry.
Cars can be hired from international car hire companies based at the airport. Cars can also be hired from private companies, in towns and main tourist areas. There are age restrictions to hire cars, you must be a qualified driver, and been driving for at least 1 year and 21-23 years old. Be sure when hiring a car that it has full insurance and unlimited mileage.
Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly forbidden, and if stopped can result in very heavy fines or imprisonment. Seat belts are compulsory for all passengers; children less than 10 years must sit in the back seat. Local drivers have a more aggressive driving style, so drive carefully and keep a cool head.
Scooters & Motorcycles
Can be hired in the towns and tourist areas, a driving licence is required fro the class of motorcycle/scooter you wish to hire. Helmets must be worn on any motorcycle over 50cc. Check that the brakes work and the hire bike is in good condition before you hire it.
Though not a popular mode of transport in Crete, due to the terrain they can be hired in tourist areas.
Water: is safe to drink on Crete, but if you preferring bottled water it is widely available in the shops.
Medicine: If you take medicine make sure you have enough for the duration of your holiday (Check at you does not take any medicine that contains codeine, as this is forbidden in Greece).
Weather: The weather can get very hot in the summer months, so make sure you use a good sun lotion and a hat. Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
Health insurance: EU citizens must take form E-11 (endorsed by their local insurance office), normally you have to pay then get a refund when you arrive home.
Useful Phone Numbers
General Hospital, Agios Nikolaos 28410-25 221
Hospital of Ierapetra 28420-26 766
Hospital of Neapolis 28410-33 333
Hopspital of Sitia 28430-24 311
Tourist Police 28410-26 900
Tourist Police(SITIA) 28430-24 200
Fire Department 199
Airport of Sitia 28430-24 666
Public transport (KTEL, Agios Nikolaos) 28410-22 234
Public transport (KTEL, Ierapetra) 28420-28 237
Public transport (KTEL, Sitia) 28430-22 272
Port Authority (Agios Nikolaos) 28410-22 312
Port Autority (Ierapetra) 28420-22 294
Port Autority (Sitia) 28430-22 310
Taxi (Agios Nikolaos) 28410-24 000
Radio taxi (Ierapetra) 28410-26 600
Radio taxi (Sitia) 28430-22 317
Tourist info (GNTO) 28410-82 384