With countless beaches of golden sand and warm winds, Ierapetra offers holidays that move at a leisurely pace and can be taken virtually all year round.
This old town on the south coast of Crete’s Lassithi region invites you to explore its narrow alleyways and flower-strewn patios. The waterfront is teeming with fish tavernas, cafes and bars, and every night feels like a celebration.
What to do in Ierapetra, Crete
Enjoy the sea and sand on beaches up and down the coast
Ierapetra is endowed with beautiful, seemingly endless beaches. You’ll rest and recharge your batteries, soaking up the sun while lounging on the golden sand. Anywhere you look, the scenery is exotic. The long, sandy main beach is fully organised with sun loungers and water sports, and a picturesque port, with tavernas, stores and hotels, awaits you as well as a village renowned for the warmth of its locals. It’s also worth exploring the many other small beaches and coves you’ll encounter as well as popular Makri Yialos, just 30km to the east.
Take a boat trip to Crete’s golden isle
Don’t miss the opportunity to catch one of the many boats offering day trips from Ierapetra to the tiny island of Chrissi, just 8 nautical miles into the Libyan Sea. Chrissi (meaning golden in Greek) is an almost entirely flat strip of paradise, with shallow, turquoise-coloured water and powdery pink sand. The captivating scenery is made even more special by the scent of cedar and you’ll have the opportunity to discover some of the 120 species of birds that live or migrate here. If luck is on your side, you could even encounter the famous Caretta caretta sea turtles that often visit the island.
A boat trip to Chrissi, Crete’s golden isle
Set your imagination free at Ierapetra’s fortress
Standing at Ierapetra’s fortress, overlooking the old neighbourhoods and gazing out to sea, you’ll let the stories of the Saracen pirates take over your imagination. A point of architectural pride for Ierapetra and its most impressive attraction, the famous Fortress of Kales was built at the beginning of the 14th century and has witnessed its fair share of history – notably the Venetian and Ottoman wars. Well-preserved, it hosts various cultural events, like the Kirvia Cultural Festival every summer.
Start the night with a sunset, then let the fun begin
The nights in Ierapetra are unforgettable. They begin with a walk on the beach or along the waterfront. The tavernas here are famous for their fresh fish, adding even more vitality to an already lively city, where it feels like every sunset marks the beginning of a great celebration.
Hidden gems of Ierapetra, Crete
The home that once welcomed Napoleon?
Many claim that, in July 1789, Napoleon spent the night in Ierapetra on his way to Egypt to declare war on the Mameluks. The two-storey home said to have hosted him is located in the old town.
The religious legacy
A bishop’s seat, Ierapetra has interesting religious monuments. It’s worth visiting the churches of Panagia tou Kale, Afendi Christo, Agios Spyridon and Agios Ioannis, which was converted to a mosque in the 17th century.
The scenery of Selakano
The wild beauty around Selakano grips you from the moment you set eyes on it, with beautiful gorges, streams and birds of prey abounding. You’ll reach this impressive destination by passing through the village of Selakano and a network of forest roads. In the plateau, there are two settlements as well as walnut and pear tree orchards and vineyards.
The Selakano Forest is considered one of the largest apiculture sites in Crete and ends at the peak of Mt Dikti, Afentis Christos, at a height of 2,148m.
FAQs about Ierapetra, Crete
Where is Ierapetra in Greece?The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete and is a popular but quiet summer holiday destination in the Lassithi prefecture of Crete. Its name means ‘Sacred Rock’ in Greek and it has also been referred to as the most southerly town in Europe and the ‘Bride of the Libyan Sea’.
How do you get to Ierapetra in Crete?Ierapetra is around 96km (1hr30mins) by road from Heraklion airport (domestic and international flights) and 60km (1hr10mins) from Sitia airport (domestic flights only). Both Heraklion and Sitia also have ports with regular ferry connections to Piraeus and (seasonally) to Cyclades and Dodecanese islands.
What is Ierapetra famous for?Ierapetra is known as a relaxing summer holiday spot, perfect for couples and families who are looking for relaxing beach holidays with great food, sandy beaches in town and along the coast and the 14th-century Fortress of Kales. Visitors to Ierapetra enjoy day trip options into the Cretan countryside and Chryssi island, around 9 nautical miles into the Libyan Sea.
When is the best time to go to Ierapetra, Crete?You can comfortably swim in the sea in Crete from mid-May till the end of October, but every season is special in Crete, with spring and autumn especially popular for outdoor activities. The temperatures can vary by 5-10 degrees from coastal to mountainous regions throughout the year. Crete does get busy in the peak summer months (July and August), so it is best to visit in May-June or September-October if possible. However, Ierapetra is one of the quieter summer holiday spots in Crete.