With countless beaches of golden sand that are caressed by warm winds, Ierapetra, in the Lasithi prefecture of Crete, offers holidays that move at a leisurely pace virtually all year round. The waterfront is teeming with fish tavernas, cafes and bars, and every night feels like a celebration. The old town of Ierapetra, in southern Crete, invites you to explore its narrow alleyways and flower-filled patios.
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. In whichever direction 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 Gialos, just 30km east into the Lasithi prefecture.
Don’t miss the opportunity to catch one of the many boats offering day trips from the port of Ierapetra to the tiny island of Chrissi (meaning golden), eight nautical miles into the Libyan Sea. Chrissi is an almost entirely flat strip of paradise, with shallow, turquoise-coloured water and powdery pink sand. The captivating scenery is further enhanced 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. And if you want to visit an even more remote island, boats leave for day trips to the desert isle of Koufonisi from Makri Gialos.
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.
The nights in Ierapetra are eventful. 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.
Many claim that Napoleon, on his way to Egypt to declare war on the Mameluks in July 1789, stopped in Crete and spent the night in Ierapetra. The two-storey home said to have hosted him in Ierapetra is located in the old town.
A bishops’ 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 wild beauty around Selakano grips you from the moment you set eyes on it: beautiful gorges, streams and birds of prey abound. You’ll reach this impressive destination by passing through the village of Selakano and a network of forest roads. In the basin, there are two settlements as well as cultivations of walnut and pear trees and vines. The Selakano Forest is considered one of the largest apiculture sites in Crete, ending at the peak of Mt Dikti, Afentis Christos, at a height of 2,148m.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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