Lassithi TOWNS


Photo This seaside village is located about 53 km. southeast of St. Nicolas (Agios Nikolaos). The area exhibits the most beautiful sites in the County, with beautiful coves which attract many visitors in the summer. The archaeologist, mr. K. Davaras has brought to light the nearby ancient cemetary, with 250 tombs of the protominoan age, as well as a number of artifacts of great historical value.


Photo The town of Agios Nikolaos, built on the bay of Mirabelo, is the Capital of the County of Lassithi. According to archaeologists, this was the site of the ancient town of Lato or Hetera, which prospered during the 3rd century B.C. In the 16th century, the Venetians gave it its modern name in honour of the small church of St. Nicolas, built in the 8th or 9th century. The Mirabelo castle was built at the same time, giving its name to the Bay. Agios Nikolaos is a beautiful town of about 8.500 residents, and it is the centre of much of the financial and public administration life of the island. Its warm climate as well as its beautiful beaches have turned the area into a famed tourist resort, attracting great numbers of visitors in the summer. The town is full of shops, restraurants, little tavernas, traditional coffee houses, pubs and hotels. In spite of the booming tourist industry, the traditional profile of the town remains intact. Narrow stone laid alleys and squares, traditional homes, coming down to the leka Voulismeni, at the entrance of the harbour, are among the sites worth seeing. Also worth visiting are the Archaelogical and Laographic Museum as well as the "Koundourios" Municipal Library. From the port of Agios Nikolaos you will find easy access by fishing boats to cosmopolitan Elounda and to the isle of Spinaloga.


Photo The tourist area of Elounda, which consists of 7 smaller communities, is located at about 11 km. north of Agios Nikolaos. The seaside resort, Shisma, may be the most developed of the kind in Greece. Along its beaches you will find a number of hotel complexes, restaurants and nigh clubs, attracting great numbers of visitors in the summer. It is believed that this was the site of ancient Olounda or Olous, ruins of which have been found underwater. From Elounda you will have the opportunity to visit by boat the nearby isle of Spinaloga, as well as the Spinaloga Cape. Also in the area, the monasteries of Agios Eratios and Xiron Xilon.


Photo Ierapetra is located at a distance of about 35 km. south of Agios Nikolaos, and is has the most population of any other city in southern Crete. As it is proven by archaeological excavations, the city is built at the site of the ancient city of Ierapitna, which flourished during the 2nd century B.C. After the year 66 A.D. and all during the roman age, the city kept its eminence and was the strongest in the area. In the 13 century A.D. it was taken over by the Genovese, who built its fortress, known as Castle Gerapetra, and as Castelli or Koule to the locals. It was later taken over by the Venetians, who concluded the works for the fortification of the city. Today, the city of Ierapetra has about 11.000 residents who mainly live off agriculture and tourism. The city is surrounded by many cultivations of groceries and orange or lemon groves, which are veruy productive due to the innumerous days of sunshine and the warm climate. In the town you will find a worthwhile archaeological exhibition, with all the artifacts found in the area. Worth seeing are also the Mosque in the turkish neighbourhood of the old city, the Churches of of the Metamorhosis of Christ (14th century A.D.) of Agios Nikolaos, of Agios Ioanniw, of Agios Georgios (1856) as well as the Church of Panagitsa or Panagitsa of Kale opposite the fortress. From Ierapetra yoy may visit the village of Vasiliki, where have been found ruins of a protominoan village (2600 - 2300 B.C.) or the small island of Chrisi.


Photo The "head" village of Kritsas has about 2.100 residents and is located at a distance of 10 km. southwest of Agios Nikolaos. It is built on a hill and has a panoramic view of the area around it. This is one of the most beuatiful villages of Crete, with its narrow streets and the houses os traditional architecture. The villagers live off agriculture as well as the production of artifacts, knitted items, embroideries, pottery. Near Kritsa you will find th Church of Panagia Keras, built in the 15 century. Starting out from Kritsa, it is worthwhile to visit the site of the excavations of the doric city of "Lato Hetera" which thrived during the 1st,. millenium B.C.


Photo The seaside resort village of Makrigialos is located 63 km. southeast of St. Nicolas (Agios Nikolaos) , built at the centre of the Kala Nera Bay, an area which is full of greenhouse cultivations. Its wonderful sandy beaches and its crystal clear waters attract great numbers of visitors during the summer months, allowing the area to evolve into one of the most important resorts on the island. A minoan age mansion was discovered in the village, exhibiting important archaeological findings, which are kept at the St. Nicolas Archaeological Museum. From Makrigialos you may visit the nearby monastery of St. John Kapsa.


Photo Milatos has about 400 residents and is located at a distance of 32.5 km. northwest of Agios Nikolaos. Here we have two communities, the seaside Milatos and inland Milatos, built at the site of the homonymous minoan city found there until the 3rd century B.C., which was destroyed by enemy town Lyto. According to mythology, the town was named after Milatos, a boy raised by a wolf, who as a teenager killed the local tyrant freeing the people from oppression. Legend has it that Milatos was also the founder of cretan colony Militou in Asia Minor. Worth visiting near the village of Milatos is the homonymous Cave, with exquisite stalactites and stalagmites. Next to the Caves you will notice the small church of St. Thomas, built in memory of the 3.600 Cretans who were massacred in 1823 at this site by the Turk, Hasan.


Photo The picturesque seaside resort of Sissi is located at a distance of 21 km. northwest of Agios Nikolaos. The about 400 residents of the village mainly live off tourism, since the exquisite sandy beach of the resort attract many tourists during the summer months, causing Sisi to become one of the best known tourist centers on the island.


Photo The city of Sitia, with 8.500 residents, is built at the center of a quiet and picturesque cove, at a distance of 69 km. east of Agios Nikolaos. According to archaelogists, it is located at the site of the ancient town of Itia, the porrt of Presos and the birthplace of "wise Myson". As it is proven by the excavations at the Mohlo area and on the little island of Psira, the town flourished during the minoan age. The contemporary town of Sitia was built in 1870, on the architectural plans of Avgi Pasha, after two centuries of almost complete desertion (1651 - 1870). Among its buildings you will notice parts of the fortified wall and of the castle of Kazarma, which were built by the Venetians and were destroyed during the earthquakes of 1303 and 1508, as well as the bombardment of the town from the pirate Barbarossa, in 1538. Sitia is also known as the birthplace of the poet Vintsezos Kornaros, the composer of "Erotokritos". Worth visisting in the town are the Church of the Analipsis of Sotira, the Archaelogical Museum, which opened its doors in 1984, and the Laographic Museum, where you will find lots of information about the daily life and the tradition of the area. From Sitia, you can visit the ruins of the ancient city of Presos, at a distance of 15 km. south of the town, the Hamezi area where has been located a structure of the mid-minoan and the ancient-empire period as well as the Monasteries of Faneromeni and Toplou.


Photo The unique Vai palm-forest lies 92 km east of Agios Nikolaos and occupies an area of 250 square km. Its unique beauty is reminiscent of tropical locations, as 5,000 palm-trees extend for two miles and reach the beautiful golden beach which attracts scores of swimmers in summer. It is the largest known palm-tree forest throughout Europe. According to a local legend, Phoenician merchants arrived here and threw date-seeds, which produced the famous palm-trees (vagia), after which the area was named.


Photo The village of Zakros or Epano Zakros is located at a distance of 108 km. southeast of Agios Nikolaos. It is built in an area full of orange groves and olive trees, at the side of two hills. The whitewashed houses of the village, with their beautiful gardens, give it a unique grace. From Zakro yoy have easy access to the archaelogical excavations site of seaside Kato Zakro, where an importan ancient village and a minoan age mansion have been found.