This is the easternmost and in several ways most exotic of Crete’s four prefectures. It’s the part that contains the sophisticated mega-resort of Elounda Beach and its imitators, the date palms of Zakros at the eastern tip of Crete, and the placid town of Ierapetra on the south coast. The date palms are said to be the descendants of date pips cast away by ancient Egyptian traders who touched at the place. There are plans to add a third Cretan airport at Sitia, which is expected to ease international access to that part of the island.
The chief town is Aghios Nikolaos on the north coast. It’s close to the small but luxuriously sandy beach at Boufos, and a rather larger one at Avlaki, fronting the Kalimeria Kriti hotel. The beach at Plaka offers a view of the islet of Spinalonga, a lepers’ colony until the 1950s and now a pleasant destination for a brief sail. Some beaches are shingle rather than sandy, such as those at Kalo Horio, Vai, Palaikatro and Kato Zakros.
This last-named community, about 100 kilometres from Aghios Nikolaos over a scenic and winding road, is the site of the ruins of a large Minoan palace rivalling in size that at Knossos. It is believed to have been a major naval base that had trading links with ancient Egypt and Anatolia.
The beach fronting the town of Sissi.
Mpoufos or Boufos
A small sandy beach but with big waves.
A cove with large pebbles. From here it’s a 5 minute walk to the sandy beach of Kalimera Kriti hotel.
A small sandy beach within the fishing port of Milatos. The best stretch is west of Milatos on the sand fronting the Minos Imperial Hotel.
The northern beach is pebbly with tamarisk trees and a great view of Spinalonga island, once a leper colony.
Α beach with sand and shingle and lots of tamarisk trees. This beach is one of the best in Elounda Bay, located between Plaka and Elounda.
North of the port there is a nice sandy beach, and a smaller equally good one to the south.
A small and pebbled beach close to the town centre of Agios Nikolaos.
A good sandy beach.
Sandy but crowded.
Kitroplateia and Ammos
Sandy beaches very near to Aghios Nikolaos.
The best beach in Aghios Nikolaos, long and sandy in a sheltered bay. The water is very shallow and suitable for children.
A great sandy beach very near to Aghios Nikolaos, easily accessible but crowded.
There are two beaches here. The first, Karavostasi, is quiet and pebbly. At the entrance to Kalo Horio there is a sign pointing to the beach. The second is Aghios Panteleimonas, also quiet, with two canteens. In the middle of Kalo Horio there is a well-signed Internet cafe. Across the road there is a supermarket and the narrow road that leads to this beach.
A sandy beach in a bay with turquoise water. To the left is a tiny cove and two very small pebbly beaches, not usually crowded.
This consists of two beaches: a sandy one with sunbeds, sheltered from the winds by the dock of the small fishing port, and a longer beach with tamarisk trees and pebbles, but big waves
Enter the village and look for the sign for Tholos beach. It is a pebbly beach with tamarisk trees and exposed to the wind. The left side is sandy and more sheltered. There are a couple of taverns here, and accommodation in Kavousi village 2 miles away.
A shingle beach west of Mochlos village.
A long sandy beach on the road from Sitia to Vai.
Erimoupolis or Itanos
A small sandy beach near the ancient town of Itanos. There is another longer sandy beach that one can walk to over the low hill on the left.
An area of exceptional beauty thanks to the palm tree forest. Vai is an organized sandy beach with water sports available. Crowded, though.
This consists of three beaches: Maridati, a small bay with a sandy beach, 3 miles northeast of Palaikastro; Kouremenos, a long, sandy beach, 1.5 miles northeast of Palaikastro; and Hiona, a superb sandy beach with a couple of fish taverns, 1.5 miles east of Palaikastro town. It is a long beach with the southern part of it open to nudism.
The pebbly beach of Zakros, where the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Zakros can be seen. Here is the end of E4 European hiking path.
Various sandy coves and turquoise water, superb when there is no wind. A sleepy resort far away from everything.
Just over 85 miles southeast of Aghios Nikolaos is the site of a luxurious Minoan palace, the fourth in significance on the island, which produced a number of important finds, now in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This palace, which covered up to 4,500 square yards and contained royal apartments, storerooms and various workshops, and the adjacent city were destroyed around 450 BC by a violent earthquake, most probably an effect of the giant explosion of the volcano on Thera (Santorini). Zakros was a major Minoan naval base, which established trading connections with Egypt and Anatolia. It is here that Minoan farming estates, a cemetery and cave tombs have been discovered. Ticket entrance
This is 13 miles southeast of Aghios Nikolaos and 9 miles north of Ierapetra, the best preserved of the Minoan settlements, and one of the most noteworthy archaeological sites in Crete. It appears to date from 1550 to 1450 BC. The ruins of the town include small houses and a small palace on top of a hill; even the narrow streets and connecting stairways have survived among the foundations of the houses. Ticket entrance
Nine miles west of Aghios Nikolaos, this is spread out on the slopes of two citadels. Founded in the 7th century BC, it was one of the most powerful cities in Crete in its heyday. The ruins include city walls, houses and shops of various periods built on terraces. Free entrance
This is 60 miles east of Aghios Nikolaos and 14 miles from Sitia, at Roussolakos, with the remains of a port settlement. Ticket entrance
An islet at the entrance to Elounda Bay, in antiquity it was a fortress. In 1579 the Venetians built a bigger fortress there, which remained under their rule even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. In the last years of the Ottoman occupation it was a refuge for persecuted Turkish families. In 1903, by law of the Cretan administration, it was made into an official lepers’ colony which was abolished in the 1950s. Ticket entrance.
This contains finds from excavations in Eastern Crete.
Archaeological Museum (Ierapetra)
Contains marble statues and inscriptions from the Greek and Roman eras.
Archaeological Museum (Sitia)
Contains Minoan-era finds from Sitia, Zakros, Petra, and Palekastro.
Throughout the prefecture there are excellent restaurants, but also traditional taverns, which complete in the best way the main diptych of tourism. All this, in conjunction with the mild climate and the almost constant sunshine, keep the good hotels open all year round, whereas the development of internet services renders the prefecture an ideal destination for winter- and tele-working tourism as well!
At all the tourist centers of the prefecture there are organized beaches offering sea sports. Tourist craft can dock at the marinas of Agios Nikolaos and of Sitia, but also at smaller sea retreats. In Agios Nikolaos, diving tourism develops, and international sailing competitions are held with great success, whereas other spots are ideal for specific sea sports, e.g. Palekastro for surfing.
The transport network, as well as the urban infrastructures, are in excellent condition and permit an easy and safe visit to the most important sights in the region. Projects for the remodelling of towns and villages carried out over the last few years have restored or created anew splendid common spaces, squares, old roads and back streets, green areas, and areas for recreation and walks. As for the countryside, in addition to the E4 European hiking trail, fine nature-loving and cultural trails have also been created, and visitors can follow certain parts of these by car or bicycle, and the rest (or, alternatively, even the full trail) hiking.
Sitia Airport Tel: 0030 28430 24424
Agios Nicholaos Port Authorities Tel: 0030 28410 22312
Lassithi Tourist Police Tel: 0030 28410 283190
Lasithi Police Tel: 0030 28410 22498
Lasithi Hospital Tel: 0030 28410 25221
Lasithi Bus Service Tel: 0030 28410 22234
Official website: www.lasithitourism.com
A trademark for the Lassithi prefecture tourism is its hotel infrastructure, which is at a par with the infrastructures of countries which have a long tradition in luxury tourism, such as France and Switzerland. Many people, in fact, consider Mirabello to be the area with the highest quality of hotel infrastructures in the world. The plushy hotels and amazing villas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos and other areas receive every year kings and princes, known politicians, famous artists and athletes, big-time businesspersons and people of the jet-set from all over the world, they win international prizes, and have created a long tradition for society life, quality and luxury.
For those who love peace and quiet, nature, rural living and villages, the Lassithi prefecture is an ideal region which holds many surprises, great emotions and often magical moments.
Monasteries and countryside churches, ancient cities, mansions, ports and altars, fortresses, castles and traditional settlements , as well as deserted little villages and monastery dependencies, spring heads, watermills, windmills and all other remains of a farming and pastoral life, are all sights which have, over the last few years, constituted exclusive destinations for those who love the tourism of the authentic, the unexplored, the non-elaborate. The sort of tourism which is now called “alternative”, and which is supported by specialised services and infrastructures to serve the visitor-traveller, such as cultural walks, hiking and climbing trails, canyoning trails, and systems to explain and showcase both the monuments and the environment.
There are also accommodation and restauration facilities, such as excellent restaurants, taverns and traditional coffee-houses, farm holiday accommodation, organised camping sites, small hotels and guest-houses, rooms for rent and apartments, all offering high-quality building- and other facilities, areas for recreation, entertainment, sports and other activities, an excellent service and a friendly environment.