Places to visit in the prefecture
- Lassithi Plateau
- Zakros Palace
- Gournia Palace
- Dicteon Cave
- Pahia Ammos
Zakros & Kato Zakros
The village of Zakros, 45 km south-east of Sitia, is the nearest permanent settlement to the east –coast Minoan site of Zakros, which is 7km away.
Kato Zakros, next to the site, is a beautiful little seaside that springs to life between March and October. If the weather is dry, there is a lovely two- hour walk from Zakros to kato – Zakros through a gorge know as the Valley of the Dead because of the cave tombs dotted along the cliffs. The gorges close to the Minoan site.
Ancient Zakros, the smallest of Crete’s four palatial complexes, was a major port in Minoan times with trade links with Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and Cyprus. The Palace consisted of royal apartments, storerooms and workshops flanking a central courtyard.
The town occupied a low plain close to the shore. Water levels have risen over the years so that some parts of the palace complex are submerged. The ruins are not well preserved, but a visit to the site is worthwhile for its wild and remote setting.
Spinaloga island lies just north of the Spinaloga peninsula. The island’s massive fortress was built by the Venetians in 1579 to protect Elounda and Mirabello bays. It withstood Turkish sieges for longer than any other Cretan stronghold, finally surrendering in 1715, some 30 years after the rest of Crete.
The Turks used the island as a base for smuggling. Following the reunion of Crete with Greece, Spinaloga became a leper colony. The last peper died there in 1953 and the island has been uninhabited ever since.
Spinaloga is still know among locals as ‘the island of the living dead’. The island is a fascinating place to explore.
The first view of the mountain–fringed Lassithi plateau, laid out like an immense patchwork quilt, is stunning. The plateau, 900m above sea level, is a vast expanse of pear and apple orchards, almond trees and fields of crops, dotted by some 7,000 windmills, but slender metal constructions with white canvas sails. There are 20 villages dotted around the periphery if the plateau, the largest of which is Tzermiado.
The plateau’s rich soil has been cultivated since Minoan Times. The inaccessibility of the region made it a hotbed of insurrection during Venetian and Turkish rule. Following an uprising in the 13th Century, the Venetian drove out the inhabitants of Lassithi and destroyed their orchards. The plateau lay abandoned for 200 years.
The village of Kritsa, perched 600m up the mountainside 11km from Agios Nikolaos. Tourists come in bus loads to the village every day in summer.
There are craft shops of every description line the main streets of the village.
There are magnificent mountain and sea views along the 11km road from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda.
The place is considerably quieter than Agios Nikolaos. It also has an attractive harbor and a sheltered lagoon –like stretch of water formed by the Spinaloga peninsula.
Sitia was an once an important Venetian Port and during this period was three times totally devastated, once by an earthquake, next by the pirate Barbarossa and finally, quite deliberately, by its own occupants, the venetians, to prevent it falling into the hands of the invading Turks. It subsequently lay in ruins for about two centuries before being rebuilt by the Turks who then occupied Crete.
The town has an attractive small harbor and a long sandy beach. The valleys to the South of Sitia produce vast quantities of sultanas – a substantial proportion of the sultanas sold in Great Britain come from this area.
Ierapetra is the most southerly town in Europe and only 230 miles from North African coast. To the west of Ierapetra is the main area for growing cucumbers and tomatoes on the island, most of which are for export and grow all year round.
Vai is the most unique beach in Crete as it is fringed by the only natural palm forest in Europe – beautiful sand and sea on the most easterly tip of the island.
The capital of the Lassithi prefecture, Aghios Nikolaos, occupies the site of the ancient port of Lato Pros Kamara, which was the harbor of the city lato Etera whose ruins lie inland near the village of Kritsa. Until the early 1960’s, Aghios Nikolaos was a quiet little fishing port. The town takes its modern name from the mariner’s chapel on the coast just a little to the north and dedicated to the saint of the same name.
The Lake is the one of the most important landmarks of Aghios Nikolaos. Its full name is Lake Voullismeni (sunken) or Xeratomeni (bottomless). According to old legend, Athena and Artemis Britomartis bathed in the Lake. In 1870 it was joined to the sea by a short canal and now forms an inner harbor for small boats. The best views of the Lake are from the western side, above the cliff but you can also enjoy it by sitting in one of the numerous cafes, tavernas and restaurants situated around the Lake. Many events are held around the Lake throughout the year.
To the east of the lake is the harbor, full of caiques, sailing and fishing boats and from where you can take one of the many organized boat trips, as well as one of the regular ferries sailing to Sitia, Rhodes or Piraeus.
In front of the harbor and acting as natural break waters, are the small islets “Mikronissi” (small island) with its lighthouse and “Megalonissi” (big island) with its Chapel of All Saints. On June 9th, All Saints Day, a religious feast takes place and decorated boats ferry pilgrims to this island on what is a very festive occasion.
The Marina houses many beautiful yachts and events are often held in this area during the summer.
During the season, the town is very lively with scores of eating and drinking places offering a wide selection of food, wines, cocktails plus plenty of souvenir shops, boutiques and nightlife.
Cretan Nutrition a key to longevity
Studies on Cretan diet have concluded that the native inhabitants have the longest life expectancy. The Cretan cuisine consists of a great number of vegetable products: olives and olive oil, vegetables, raw fruit and salads, wild vegetables and herbs, cereals, potatoes and nuts. All of them are valuable for the organism and it has been concluded that they act against cancer. Claytonia that is consumed in the summer in great quantities as an ingredient used in salads, protects against heart diseases with its high content in unsaturated fatty acids. Nettle, which has almost vanished from the dietary schedule of Cretans in recent years, acts as a preventive method against cancer, thanks to its high content in vitamin B. At the same time, not only does it help the control of diabetes, but it is also used as a corroborant in cases of anemia, due to its valuable content in minerals. Walnuts also contain important unsaturated fatty acids, which contribute to the sound function of body cells.
Olive oil on itself plays a central role, not only on the island of Crete, but also in other countries of the Mediterranean. Its high content in unsaturated fatty acids prevents the occurrence of heart diseases.
Fruits and vegetables follow with their beneficial vitamins and cellulose.
Everyone has heard of the famous “Greek salad” with or without Feta cheese. Cooked vegetables also stay high on the dietary list. An amazingly great variety of fruits equally consumed, especially during the summer months. Cheese and yogurt follow (albumen), then come olives and olive oil.
However fish, poultry and eggs are consumed more sparsely, just a few days a week. Red meat is consumed to the minimum and sweet and pastry do not play any important role in that dietary pattern. Both are limitedly consumed within a month.
In conclusion it can be said that heart diseases, diseases of circulatory system, as well as gastric disorders are rare here, thanks to the ideal nutrition. As a result, Cretans have the key to longevity.