Lasithi Prefecture (Greek: Perifereiaki Enotita Lasithiou) is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia, and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikti in the west and the Thrypti in the east. The Sea of Crete lies to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south.
To the east of the village of Elounda lies the island of Spinalonga, formerly a Venetian fortress and a leper colony. On the foot of Mount Dikti lies the Lasithi Plateau, famous for its windmills. Vai is well known for its datepalm forest.
Thanks to its beaches and its mild climate year-long, Lasithi attracts many tourists. Mass tourism is served by places like Vai, Agios Nikolaos, and the island of Chrissi. More off-beat tourism can be found in villages on the south coast like Myrtos, Makrys Gialos or Makrigialos, Xerokambos, and Koutsouras.
Lasithi is home to a number of ancient remains. Vasiliki, Fournou Korifi, Pyrgos, Zakros, and Gournia are ruins of Minoan date, Lato and Itanos were Doric towns.
The history of Lasithi can be traced over at least three millennia. The region has considerable ancient history antecedents, including the Dorian era settlement of Olous and Lato.
Agios Nikolaos contrary to the other urban centers of Crete was not always an important settlement. In the Minoan years, there was a small harbor, a little northern than the current one. On the hill between the lake of Agios Nikolaos and the current Marina, existed the ancient city of Lato that it appears to exist during the precocious Byzantine period. Later was build the temple of Saint Nicolas (Agios Nikolaos) which it gave its name and to the next little port, as well as to the entire gulf and to the current city. On the hill of the city during the period of the Venetian domination, there was build the castle of Mirambellou, which suffered serious damage from the earthquake in 1303 and was burned by the raids of pirates in 1537. It was rebuilt and in 1645 its governor delivered initially to the Turks but the Venetians recapture it. When they had to abandon it again they preferred to blow it up.
The modern history of Saint Nikolaos begins in the 19th century when the settlement progressively began to develop mainly from the residents of other regions (Sfakia, Kritza). The major growth of the city is thanks to tourism.
The number one landmark of the area is lake Voulismeni, which didn’t always communicate with the sea, but was a closed lake and the fable wanted it not to be without a seabed. Finally, by sounding that was made in 1853 from Admiral Spratt it was discovered that it had a depth of 64m. In 1867-71 there was build little bridge that connected the lake with the sea. The lake as well as the dock of the harbor constitute the basic landmark of Agios Nikolaos.
In the church of Agios Nikolaos, you can see murals of the 14th century but also older layers with geometrical and plant patterns that refer to iconographies of the period of Iconoclasm.
Places worth going to see
You must pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum Agios Nikolaos with exhibits of Eastern Crete from all periods of its ancient history.
Popular Resorts of Lasithi Prefecture
Elounda Village, once a picturesque fishing village in lovely Mirabello Bay and nowadays is an ideal destination for people who want a seaside holiday in a place which is neither too busy nor too isolated, having a spectacular coastline, shaded beaches that looks out to the intriguing Spinalonga Island, crystal clear seas, archeological interest. The place is packed with authentic Greek tavernas and friendly bars. There are fine mountain and sea views along the 11km road north from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda. It centers on a handsome fishing harbor, where you can board a boat to Spinalonga Island. Once discovered by tourism, Elounda developed into a resort famous for its beautiful scenery and the luxury hotels which are still being built in the area. It is said to be the place with the most five-star hotels in Greece. Apart from politicians, Elounda often welcomes Arab princes with their large families, film and music stars, Russian tycoons, and other VIPs from all over the world. This is also part of its magic, as many people dream of spreading their towel on the beaches of Elounda, where some famous person has been swimming. Elounda is ideal for people who want a seaside holiday in a place which is neither too busy nor too isolated. In Elounda you will find small, pretty beaches, visit the island of Spinalonga, walk along the peninsula of Kolokytha (the word means “gourd” or “pumpkin”), and explore the many little villages far from the sea, offering a window into times gone by. Elounda is not for those looking for a hectic nightlife, nor for those who prefer the isolated beaches of southern Crete. You might think that with so many luxury hotels, Elounda is the priciest place in Crete for a holiday. It’s a reasonable assumption, but not true. Prices in Elounda are much like those in the rest of Crete. We’re not talking about prices at a luxury hotel, but in the smaller hotels, apartments for rent, restaurants, and cafeterias.
The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect: Gerapetro) is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional center. With its 16,139 inhabitants (2011) it is the most populous town in the regional unit of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is nicknamed “bride of the Libyan Sea” because of its position as the only town on the south coast of Crete. Ierapetra was chosen among 500 South European destinations by the Quality Coast International Certification Program of EUCC as one of the 50 most attractive tourist destinations for visitors interested in cultural heritage, environment, and sustainability. In 2012 Ierapetra was one of the only three destinations in Greece that won the Gold Quality Coast award, ranking 2nd among the TOP 100 chosen European destinations. It’s a nice city for holidays with nice coast with taverns, bars & cafes. It’s ideal to be used as a base to explore southeast Crete.
Kalo Chorio (Meaning in Greek: “good village”) is a village in the municipality of Agios Nikolaos. The village has a population of around 900, nestles attractively in the midst of a verdant hilly landscape, where olive groves and abundant and colorful Mediterranean shrubs and plants reach all the way down to the sea. Over the past years, naturally with tourism, part of the village has grown up nearer the beach, Istro has many archaeological points of interest. The new village of Istro sits on the site of the ancient town of Istrona, remains of which are still being uncovered to date. Because of this, the land closest to the sea has a conservation order and no new building may take place, which leaves the beaches uncrowded and unspoiled. The delightful beaches of Istro Bay are regularly awarded a Blue flag for cleanliness. Kalo Chorio has three main beaches all within 1 km of the village. With clean and pristine waters, from golden sands, silver sands to a quiet and long pebble beach, all beaches have modern facilities including cafes, sunbed rentals, and bathrooms. Also within a 10 km radius, are at least another 10 blue flag awarded beaches, all accessible by cheap and regular bus services from the numerous bus stops. It is also possible to choose to explore and discover private sheltered coves along the coastline. Due to its status as a working village, it is not a heavily developed tourist resort. It has only three large hotels and a few smaller apartment-style accommodation facilities. This undeveloped status has helped maintain its traditional feel. It is a small village and resort with a dozen tavernas and half a dozen bars, snack bars, and cafes (all with internet access). This area contains several ancient archaeological sites going back to 3000 BC. Among them are Priniatikos Pyrgos, Vrokastro, and Vasiliki, Lasithi. There’s an Archaeological Museum in nearby Agios Nikolaos, Crete.
This famous and beloved beach is 5 km to the east of Ierapetra, in the Koutsounari settlement. The endless beach impresses visitors with its rich sand of grey pebbles. There many hotel accommodations, quite a few taverns & cafeterias. It’s mostly a family-oriented resort.
The tranquil Lasithi Plateau, 900m above sea level, is an arrestingly beautiful expanse of green fields interspersed with almond trees and orchards. Offering a sense of secluded rural Crete, it’s really more of a plain than a plateau, sitting as it does in a huge depression amid the rock-studded mountains of the Dikti range. It’s sparsely inhabited with just a few villages dotting the windswept expanse. The one that gets the most visitors is Psyhro, the gateway to the Dikteon Cave, where – so the myth goes – Zeus was hidden as an infant to protect him from his voracious father.
Descending the pine forest of Peukoseliou found in Makrigialos, one of the most popular summer resorts in Crete. Makris Gialos, gets its name from the large sandy beaches, which each year enjoy thousands of locals and foreign visitors. The later history of the record as a small fishing village with few inhabitants which served as a hub for agricultural products and animals, but the perfect natural landscape was to decisively change the identity of the area. The current population is 760 inhabitants. The large tourist investments that began in the 1980s highlighted the quality of Makrigialos and converted it into an ideal summer destination. The golden sand, shallow and awarded with Blue Flag beaches waters of Makrigialos, full and multidimensional coverage of services offered, people have identified the site as an appropriate family destination and not only. Its nodal position between Ierapetra and Sitia recommends Makrigialos ideal for alternative tourism activities in Eastern Crete, while the mild climate attracts mainly northern European citizens to buy land and houses. The small and picturesque harbor fueling the taverns with fresh fish while in the summer season there are daily excursions to Gaidouronisi and Koufonisi The value of the area of Makris Gialos seems appreciated since ancient times, and the ruins of the Minoan Villa, (miniature of the Palace of Knossos) dating back to 1500 b.c. is the best witness. In the area is also the great age of easily Villa which dates back to between the 1st BC and the 3rd century AD and in which it is believed that it remained a Roman centurion, who supervised crops marine snails for the production of valuable then purple.
Sitia is a picturesque town, built in an amphitheater shape beside the sea in the Gulf of Sitia. The town is situated on the north-eastern edge of Crete. It has a population of 9,000 inhabitants. Sitia gots an airport (domestic flights), and a shipping port with connections to Piraeus and the islands of the South-East Aegean. Sitia is well known for its clean beaches with rich sand, many awarded the distinction of Blue Flag status. Nice restaurants & taverns around the beautiful peaceful port, will allow you to enjoy the lovely authentic Cretan cuisine. Sitia is famous also for its excellent wine… Having Sitia as your base, you can visit the unique palm forest of Vai, the Monastery of Toplou, Kato Zakros, and many archaeological sites in the area.