LASSITHI - VILLAGES
Agios Nikolaos (42 miles east of Heraklion) is the capital of Lassithi prefecture. It is situated in the northern part of the island at the large bay of Mirambello. In this attractive town the traditional houses blend harmoniously with the neoclassical buildings, whereas the port of Agios Nikolaos is ideal for relaxing and romantic walks, especially at night. The lovely port is surrounded by tile-roofed houses and illuminated by boat lights. The highlight of the town is Voulismeni Lake; the locals, unable to see its bottom, called the lake bottomless. The byzantine churches are definitely worth seeing as well as the several remains of ancient Lato, the city where Agios Nikolaos is built. Given that it is one of the most popular tourist resorts in Crete, the town offers all types of accommodations, various amenities and numerous shops.
The coastal town of Elounda lies 7 miles north of Agios Nikolaos. This world-renowned resort is built on top of an unexcavated ancient port, the walls of which still protrude from the sea. Elounda retains its authentic character and offers a unique landscape with many coves and pristine beaches. The resort has many excellent restaurants, spirited nightlife, and beautiful vistas over the bay toward the tiny island of Spinalonga and its fortress. It is noted for its coves, rocky coastlines, the beautiful village of Elounda itself, the fishing harbor, the sunken city of Olous and the remains of a Byzantine basilica. The ruins of ancient Olous (or Olounda) can be seen under the sea near Elounda Village and Shisma. The remains of a Byzantine Basilica can also be visited in the area. From Elounda, boat trips are organized to the nearby islet of Spinalonga and a few interesting monasteries can be visited as well.
The town of Sitia is 43 miles east of Agios Nikolaos. It is a coastal town, situated within the homonymous bay, on the northern coast of Crete. Sitia is the birthplace of the famous 17th century poet Vitsenzos Cornaros and one of the most ancient towns of Eastern Crete. Fishing boats dock at the port of the city, creating a peaceful and charming atmosphere. A fine sandy beach lies east of the port and offers various rentals and sea sports. A Venetian fortress was present east of the town, but only a small part of it still remains. Once in the town, you should visit the Archaeological Museum established in 1984, housing a rich collection of pottery, tools, weapons and other items from the surrounding area. From Sitia, one can visit various monasteries, archaeological sites and swim in the crystal-clear waters of the many idyllic beaches.
Sissi is a lovely coastal village that remains calm and quiet. It is situated 25 miles east of Heraklion and 16 miles northwest of Agios Nikolaos. Small, secluded, clean beaches can be found around Sissi, like the award-winning sandy beach of Boufos, with exceptionally clear waters. The other beach of Sissi is the secluded bay of Avlaki, with crystal waters and white sand. Over the last years, Sissi has become quite popular as a summer holiday destination and one of the busiest ports of Lassithi. Although it has partly kept its authentic character, the village of Ano Sissi (Upper Sissi) is totally untouched by tourism and is worth visiting. You will also find many delicious taverns by the sea and some lounge cafeterias to relax. For sightseeing, there is the archaeological site of Malia 3 miles from Sissi and the monastery of Saint George of Selinary on the way to Agios Nikolaos, whose icon is said to be miracle-working, and the cave of Milatos, about 3 miles to the east.
The town of Ierapetra (Holy Stone) is southeast, at the narrowest point of the island. The town was built on the site of ancient Ierapytna (from the Doric period), that flourished in the 2nd century BC and became the strongest city of the area during the Roman times. The most interesting part is the old town, Kato Mera with its narrow paved streets and the scent of flowers. It is located 22 miles south of Agios Nikolaos town and is the largest city of Lassithi (11,000 inhabitants). It is surrounded by abundant cultivations of orange and lemon groves. Several remains of a fortress built by the Genovese during the 13th century AD can still be seen, also known as the Castle Gerapetra, Katelli or Koule. There is a beautiful Turkish mosque in the old town, as well as the fine Church of the Metamorfossis (Transformation) of Christ. This church was built in the 14th century AD and hosts some interesting frescoes. Boat tours to the exotic island of Gaidouronissi (Donkey Island), and Chrissi, can be taken from Ierapetra. Daily buses link the town to the capital of Agios Nikolaos, Heraklion and Sitia.
The mountainous village of Kritsa is situated 6 miles southwest of Agios Nikolaos. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful traditional settlements in Crete and its charm emanates from its narrow alleys and well-preserved houses. A few accommodations and taverns serving local specialties can be found here.
The picturesque village of Tzermiado is 31 miles west of Agios Nikolaos, in the wonderful Lassithi Plateau, at an altitude of more than 2,600 feet. Gifted with unique natural beauty and known for its healthy climate, Tzermiado lies on the slopes of Mount Selena. The village was first inhabited during the 15th century. In Tzermiado several excavations were conducted that have brought to light many archeological findings from the Minoan period that are worth seeing. The village is also ideal for some hiking adventures.
Kalamafka is one of the most picturesque villages of Crete located 16 miles south of Agios Nikolaos in the middle of a fertile valley surrounded by wild mountains. The village is built on the site of the ancient town of Larissa that flourished from the Minoan through the Classical times. In the wider region, several remains of old churches and fortification walls can be seen. Kalamafka consists of old traditional houses. Trekking and hiking are also popular activities as beautiful paths lead to gorges, caves that are worth exploring and lush forests. The route Kalamafka-Anatoli-Males, in particular, is very impressive with its high rocks and steep cliffs.