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Ierápetra (GR: Ιεράπετρα), the southernmost town of Crete, combines a brilliant past with a present of economic growth and extension. The temperature seldom falls below 12°C, and the mean annual temperature is 20°C, also it is the sunniest and hottest region of Greece. It has a long sandy beach and clean blue sea, a picturesque port with the castle "Kales", an archaeological Museum, and many more attractions. Visitors will find a wide range of accommodation facilities and lots of interesting things to do and see in the town and the wider area as well.
A picturesque uninhabited small island of cedar forest, tempting golden beaches and the well preserved old church of Agios Nikolaos, only 8 miles off the port of Ierapetra, to the south. From the middle of May to the end of October, there are daily boat cruises to Chrissi island, departing from Ierapetra and Makrygialos. There is a bar restaurant at the south beach and a beach bar at the northern beach also known as "Golden Beach". The island belongs to the NATURA network due to its rare combination of ecosystems which form the habitats of several endemic species.
The village of Agios Ioannis
The mountain village of Agios Ioannis, and the coastal resorts of Koutsounari, Ferma & Agia Fotia, a few km from Ierapetra to the east.
Myrtos (GR: Μύρτος) is situated 15km to the west of Ierapetra, at the estuaries of the river Sarantapihos, in a valley with olive and orange trees. It is a beautiful village built by the sea, with a beach street lined with taverns and cafe bars.
In a short distance from Myrtos on a low hill lies the archaeological site of "Pyrgos" with the ruins of a villa from the post minoan period and a little further at "Fournou Koryfi" lie the ruins of a proto minoan settlement.
Myrtos features a small archaeological museum with exhibits mostly from the area, an initiative of a local teacher.
Myrtos is a popular tourist destination, with nice small hotels, picturesque taverns and kafeneions, a lovely sandy beach and hospitable people.
Ierápetra Archaeological Museum
Ierapetra town, South Lassithi
The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century, during the Turkish occupation of Crete and was housed in several buildings in the past. Today it is housed in the building of the Commercial Ottoman School, which is protected by a preservation order. The collection includes findings from the broader area and from the Minoan to the Roman period. Among the items are painted sarcophagi, lamps, vases, figurines, relief plaques. One of the most important exhibits of the museum is the Clay sarcophagus dated to 1450-1400 B.C.
Ierapetra town, South Lassithi
The fort, built by the Venetians and Known to Ierapetrans as the "Kalés" (GR: Καλές), has been erected on the top of the southernmost mole of the ancient harbour. It is one of those monuments of the past which, because of its solid construction and the fact that it was still garrisoned until the latest years of the last century, still exists today to serve as a reminder of some of the nation's most difficult times.
One of the largest villages of Crete, in the north of the valley of the river Sarantapichos. It is 28 km away from Ierapetra and 40 km away from Aghios Nikolaos, in a verdurous slope within immense olive groves, with an unlimited view to the valley of Myrtos, the Libyan Sea and the mountain peaks that surround it.
One of the most beautiful parts of the hinterland of Ierapetra is occupied by the picturesque village of Kalamafka. It is situated on the edge of the Lassithi mountains, an area known for its impressive diversity in landscape. Kalamafka sits at an altitude of 480 meters, 15 kilometers from the town of Ierapetra and 25 kilometers from Agios Nikolaos.
Kalamafka is a picturesque, large, and prosperous village surrounded by unique natural beauty. The springs at Kefalovryso, with its plane trees and lush vegetation, as well as its old historical churches, gorges, and springs, attract visitors due to the oasis-like coolness it offers in this otherwise dry and hot region. The village's wealth lies in its water sources and the vitality of its residents, who resist urbanization. Another reason for Kalamafka's enduring population is its advantageous location, as it is centrally positioned between the north and south coasts of the island, drawing daily visitors from Ierapetra and Agios Nikolaos.
History: The village derives its name from "Kali Afkla," a wooden channel that was once used to transfer water from one riverbank to another at the springs of Kefalovryso. Another explanation for the name is that the rock formation on Kastelos Hill resembles a Greek Orthodox priest's hat (kalymafki). Kalamafka, known as ancient Larisa, has been inhabited since the Minoan era. In the Psathi area, along the road to Ierapetra, archaeological findings such as human skulls, clay pots, spearheads, and various grave goods from the sub-Minoan era have been discovered. The geographer Strabo mentions Kalamafka, ancient Larisa, as follows: "And in Crete there is the city of Larisa, which now is united with Ierapytna, and from which the plain below, called Larision, takes its name."
The god protector of ancient Larisa was Asclepius, and this is why the Medical Association of Lassithi has adopted the figure of a statuette discovered on the Kastelos peak, which overlooks the village and served as a peak sanctuary according to Mr. Michalis Pytikakis. Larisa was conquered around the 3rd century B.C. by Ierapytna, and its residents were relocated as per the terms of the treaty. Evidence from subsequent historical periods suggests that the Kalamafka area has been continuously inhabited due to the presence of the water sources of Kefalovryso. Place names like Kastelos, Mesokastela, and Larisakia attest to its historical significance.
Kastelos Hill, serving as the seat of a feudal lord during the Venetian rule, had 435 residents in 1583. It boasted several notable Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, along with numerous chapels. During the Turkish rule, it was a breeding ground for prominent chieftains like Nikolaos Foniadakis and Ioannis Baritakis. The village's history is marked by struggles and sacrifices that cannot be easily summarized.
Today, Kalamafka is a vibrant village with a growing population. It has a two-seat school, a nursery school, a cultural association, numerous coffee houses, and seven taverns. The natural landscape, often referred to as "Chinese" due to its small rock pillars with bonsais, stone formations, and Kastelos Hill with its 224 steps, is considered a monument of natural history. Kalamafka offers visitors a wealth of attractions, including caves, rock paintings, the Havgas gorge, an ancient olive press, and the churches of Saint John and Saint Anthony.
The taverns, shaded by plane trees and surrounded by running water, serve traditional and delicious local dishes, including the traditional "klostenios" halva and skyfomakarounes (local pasta). The sounds of the lyra, violin, and lute add to the ambiance, pleasing both locals and foreigners. There are indeed many compelling reasons to visit Kalamafka.
By Toby Robert
The village of the rising sun, as its name declares. The golden rays illuminate Anatoli, the hanging rocks, the Holy Cross church, Drygies, Karkasa, and give the impression that the sun keeps rising. It is an old, historical, traditional village, situated at 17 km in the north-west of Ierapetra, at an altitude of 600 m. Its housesare visible from the plain and seem like white doves, nested in the fortified mountain of Anatoli. A privileged place, it has been a cradle of men of letters, Notaries, University professors, with great history and civilization.In the 70s, most of Anatoli’s residents got down to the plain and worked in the glasshouse cultivations. They founded, along with residents from other villages the settlementsStomio, Nea Anatoli, Ammoudares. The small picturesque village Kalogeroi, which, according to tradition, was built by a Turkish Aga, is part of Anatoli. It is referenced sincethe era of the Venetian rule. In 1583, along with Kalogeroi, it had 666 residents. In 1951 it had 897 and in 2001, along with Nea Anatoli, it had 1235 residents. The Tower of theVenetian feudal lord still lies in ruins in the north of the village. It nurtured important men of letters, such as Antonios Damilas, scribe and printer, Neilos Damilas, scholarlypriest-monk in the Karkasia Monastery, Dimitrios Damilas, brother of Antonios, scribe and printer in Milan, who published the “Greek Grammar” in 1476, Anthimos Donos,and Ioannis Olokalos, whose notary documents have been recently published. The latter had his seat in Drygies, a wonderful location in the east of the village with runningwaters, a tavern with a view of Ierapetra and the little church of Saint Foteini. Anatoli was an important intellectual center, having a school during the Venetian rule and a secretschool during the Turkish rule.The area of Anatoli, a fortified position, produced great fighters during the Turkish rule, such as Emmanuel Lakerdas, general chief of Ierapetra, Iakovos Mahairas, AthanasiosBarberakis and Georgios Bekiaris.Its history and struggles were imortant in all the historical periods. It has many ecclesiastical monuments, Monasteries and Byzantine icons of great art.The old traditional settlement of Anatoli has remained untouched by time, with its stone-built houses, the alleys, the old Kato Vrysi. Five years ago, it entered a program ofrenovation, was characterized as a traditional settlement and today houses and tourist lodgings of exceptional esthetics are built in stone. In a few years, Anatoli of Ierapetra willbe one of the most beautiful villages of Crete, with its wonderful climate, its extraordinary view, its incomparable natural landscape on which the Museum of Natural Historyof Crete has worked and about which it published a relevant document.Anatoli as well as its residents have to this day been successful in the agricultural, tourist and intellectual sectors. Personalities coming from the village dominate the political,social and intellectual life of our country. Anatoli was a Municipality in the beginning of the 20th century, then a Community and today a Local Department ofthe Municipality of Ierapetra, building its future on solid foundations. Hosting important cultural events, with itshistorical, folkloric and musical contributions, it is a center of attraction of bothlocals and foreigners. With two taverns, two coffee houses, a renovatedold school and hospitable residents, it satisfies the most demandingvisitors. Anatoli is even rich in snails and wild mushrooms.
A stately village built in settlements, 22 km away from Ierapetra, at an altitudeof 225 m, next to the Ierapetra-Vianos provincial road. A green landscape,overgrown with olive trees, with an unlimited view of the Libyan Sea, to thesurrounding areas Koleitos, Kakon Oros, to the beaches Vatos and Kallikovrechtis.An almost abandoned village, with old houses built of stone, with chiseled doorframes and coats of arms bearing the Christian cross and proving its old gloryand history.Giannis Dimitromanolakis, an author from Gdohia, writes:“Gdohia sprouted right opposite the beach of the Libyan Sea. Nothing wouldhave been better for the pirates, who, like diabolical ghosts, emerged into thenight to kill and prey. The village’s history is dipped in blood, as it often sufferedfrom the raids of the pirates from the Barbary Coast. It took the name Gdohiafrom the catastrophes, from the verb “gdyno”, to skin, to set fire, to devastate.”Gdohia’s course in time has evidence of struggles, sacrifices and holocausts toshow. It was not only exposed to the pirates but it was situated on the naturalsouth passage going from the Viannos area to the Ierapetra area. This meantthat the hordes of barbarous conquerors burnt and devastated it, along withthe other Symiana villages, as they are called, in the West Ierapetra.Gdohia’s settlements are built leaving a distance between each other: KatoGdohia or Pitropiana, taking their name from the Epitropakis family livingthere, Pefkiana or Grysboliana, from the Grysbolakis family, Dimitromanolianafrom the Dimitromanolakis family, Daskaliana from the Daskalakis family,Papadiana from the Papadakis family. Great stonecutters, stoneworkers,famous for their art, Gdohia’s residents built the mansions of the whole areaand the famous bridge of Myrtos using stones from the quarries of Kolleitos.The miraculous church of Panagia (Our Lady) Evaggelistria of Gdohia, a workof art and a great ecclesiastical monument is also built by Gdohia’s residents.Gdohia village, once the seat of a Community, today a Local Department ofthe Municipality of Ierapetra, presents an exceptional sight-seeing interest. Itprovides natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, picturesque little churches onthe hills, a spacious square with palm trees, seats and a war memorial forthe fallen fighters of the liberation wars. In the 1881 census, 296 residents areregistered and 73 in 2001. Gdohia’s permanent residents, along with someforeigners’ families who have bought and renovated old houses, struggle forthe village’s development which gradually acquires the necessary infrastructures.A village with rich history and civilization, with vast olive groves, a nicemild climate, both during summer and winter, it hopes to come back to life.The old mansions, half-wrecked and burned in the German Occupation, standas if they were sculptures, a painting with the deep blue Libyan Sea serving asa background, narrate the flourishing, the glory and the history of Gdohia andwait to be inhabited again.
It is a small village, 7 km to the north of Ierapetra, at an altitude of 212 m. According to tradition, the village took its name from a large olive tree. It produced at least 10 sacks of olives and it provoked admiration by its size, and mostly by its height (Makrylia meaning tall olive tree). The village is old and traditional, with original Cretan style houses that have remained untouched over the time, in a beautiful and healthy environment, with a view of the overgrown with olive trees plain, with a rich history and hospitable residents.
Gournia - Archaeological Site
Pahia Ammos, Ierapetra
Gournia lies on a small hill, a few hundred metres from the sea in the Gulf of Mirabello, close to the north end of the Ierapetra isthmus ( 2 Km from Pachia Ammos village & 19 Km from Ag.Nikolaos). Gournia - the ancient name of which is not known - is the most characteristic of the excavated medium-size settlements, dated to the period of the peak of the Minoan culture (Late Minoan I period: 1550-1450 B.C.).
It is called "Pompeii of Minoan Crete" because of the good state of preservation. It occupies a low hill, close to the sea, at the Isthmus of Ierapetra.
Vassiliki - Archaeological Site
Pahia Ammos, Ierapetra
The ancient settlement of Vasilike is one of the first Minoan settlements with town-planning. It occupies the top and slopes of a low hill near the village Vasilike, in the vicinity of the Minoan settlement of Gournia. The first settlement dates back to the Early Minoan II period (2600-2300 B.C.) and owed its development not only to the strategic position, controlling the Isthmus of Hierapetra, but also to the neighbouring fertile plains. The central building of the settlement was destroyed by fire in around 2300 B.C.
Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete
The Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete (or INSTAP-SCEC) is a unique facility for archaeological research, especially in the area of Aegean Prehistory. The Center is committed to stimulating and facilitating publication in the broader field of Cretan studies, with a focus on archaeology and ethnology.
Between OLEROS and OLERIA there is the village Meseleroi, which took its name from the ancient OLEROS. It is situated at 10 km in the north of Ierapetra at an altitude of 360 m. Ancient Oleros flourished during the classical times, to be conquered by thepowerful Ierapytna. Oleria was a place of worship for Oleria Athena, with its famous statue, venerated by the residents of Oleria and Ierapytna.
It is a small village with few residents, loacated 4 km to the west of the village Christos at an altitude of 600 m. The residents of Metaxohori (GR: Μεταξοχώρι, or Parsás - GR: Παρσάς) have immigrated to the plains of Ierapetra, in Stomio, Ammoudares and Xerokampos and work in the glasshouses. The village has been renamed in 1955 from Parsas to Metaxohori to honor the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis who was born here.
Mournies (GR: Μουρνιές - meaning: mulberry trees) is a village of the western Ierapetra. It is located north of Myrtos, and 25 kilometers away from Ierapetra at 275m (elevation), built on the southeastern outskirts of the Lasithi mountains, with beautiful views of the Libyan Sea and the plains of Ierapetra. It has a mild climate, without extremes, ideal both for permanent residence and for holidays. The landscape is hilly plenty of olive trees. In the 2001 census it had 83 residents.
Mournies is a beautiful, historic, picturesque and traditional village with cafes, a square with a war memorial, an old fountain, and narrow streets branching off the main street of the village. Mournies was named after the Mulberry tree which however is not abundant in the area.
Deep inside the valley of the river Sarantapihos is built the village Mythoi. It is 22 km away from Ierapetra, it is a small village, in a verdurous landscape,with a beautiful square under the shade of age-old planes. It is said that the village took its name from the plant “Minthi”, or mint, which is abundant there.However, it may have been named thus because of its many legends, traditions, and myths (mythoi), the most prevalent one being the Sarantapihos’ one. A mythical giant, forty ells tall, like another Talos or Akritas Digenis, he protected the residents from raids. There are the place names “Tou Sarantapihoui Patounia” (Sarantapihos’ footprint) and “Tou Sarantapihou to Mnima”(Sarantapihos’ grave). There is evidence of ancient habitation at the site “Leniko” where traces of walls can be seen. Also, in an excavation, the head of a woman of the Roman period has been found. At the sites Kastelou Haraki and Orfanou to Spiliari claypots, oil lamps, e.t.c. have been found. The site called Sarakina above Mythoi was a fortress, a hideout of Saracen pirates. The village’s modern history is rich in contributions to the struggles against the conquerors. It nurtured the chieftains Emmanouil Xenikakis, Ioannis Hatzakis, Emmanouil Christakis andothers. During the German Occupation, residents of Mythoi took part in the guerilla corpses of the United Resistance of Captain Bantouvas. In the battle of Symi, one of the most heroic figures was lost, Apostolos Vagionakis, who stood up to the enemy’s bullets for the ideals of our unsubdued Crete. They paid the price of their participation to the struggles during the German Occupation,as 4 persons were executed, including the old and bedridden Nikolaos Ioannou Christakis. The community of Mythoi is today a Local Department of the Municipality of Ierapetra, in 1900 it had 360 Christian residents, in 1951 it had 423 and in 2001it had 287. In the north of Mythoi, around 6 km away, there is the settlementKarydi with the famous Monastery of Panagia (Our Lady) Karydiani and now abandoned summer residences. The mountainous settlement “Minos”, which is situated in a verdurous small plateau below the Afentis peak of the Lasithi mountains, also belongs to the Community of Mythoi.The village Mythoi is a lively village with a rich social and cultural life. It has a cultural association, a football team and field, and a modern olive press. The village’s square with its old plane trees, the mulberry trees, the old fountain,the traditional coffee-houses with the raki and the local dishes, is a place of reference for the residents of Mythoi. The sights, the wild natural landscapes in the north of the village, the famous gorge of Sarakina, a monument of natural beauty, attract a lot of local and foreign visitors. The gorge of Sarakina is one of the most beautiful in Crete. Its steep, vertical sides cause awe, and reach a height of up to 250 m. Its widest opening is no more than 15 m while in some places it’s so narrow that its sides seem joined. Its rich flora and fauna, dittany,the wild birds that nest there and the route inside the gorge are breath-taking. Its promotion is a foremost goal of the Local Department and the Municipality of Ierapetra, of the residents of the village, who head to the future with optimism and anticipation for the development of their place.
Source:The Municipality of Ierapetra.
A monument of natural beauty that attract a lot of local and foreign visitors. The gorge of Sarakina (GR: Σαρακίνα) is one of the most beautiful in Crete. Its steep, vertical walls in some parts reach a height up to 250 m. Its widest opening is no more than 15 metres while in some places it’s so narrow that its sides seem to join each other. Its rich flora and fauna, the dittany, the wild birds that nest there, the running water make the route through the gorge a worthwhile experience.
At a mountainous, precipitous site, in the west mountain slopes of Dikti, at an altitude of 550 m above sea level and at 2 km from the village of Malles, is built the village Christos (GR: Χριστός – Christ). Christos is a beautiful, verdurous village, with many running waters, traditional, unchanged by time, with narrow sloping cobbled alleys.
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