Crete. Sun, a sparkling sea, dreamy beaches, stories and legends: Sitia’s ambience guarantees a great holiday, bringing together the beauty of past and present. Enjoy cafes and beaches and savour Cretan cuisine washed down with tsikoudia (schnapps-like firewater). Explore the Kazarma fortress and the archaeological museum as well as the celebrated palm forest in Vai. Then, revisit the glorious days of ancient Itanos. In the home of Vitsentzos Kornaros (author of the epic poem Erotokritos) you, too, will find your muse. Welcome to Sitia.
What to do in Sitia
The historic Kazarma fortress
It stands proudly in front of you, impressive and majestic. Kazarma (Casa di arma), the fortress of Sitia’s castle, has a truly tumultuous history to tell. From the Middle Ages to Byzantium and up to the present day, it’s been demolished, repaired and rebuilt many times over. Venetians, pirates, Ottomans, earthquakes… all have left their mark on Kazarma. Every summer it hosts the Kornaria, a series of cultural events.
Strolling through Sitia
Sitia welcomes you with its restaurants, cafes and charming waterfront. It’s an animated scene, with shops, tavernas and bars. Visit the Archaeological and Folklore Museum and then go swimming at the expansive sandy beach next to the centre of town.
Head for the beach
Makry Gialos, Kserokampos, Goudoura, Koufonisi… you’ll enjoy swimming, water sports and scuba diving at the beaches near Sitia.
The exotic palm forest at Vai
Some 20km west of Sitia, is one of the most spectacular sights in Crete; a palm tree forest covering an area of approximately 200,000 sq metres. According to local legend, the forest grew from the stones of dates that were thrown here by Egyptian soldiers, Saracen pirates and King Mithridates’s army. Do you believe it? What is definitely unbelievable is the incredible beauty you’ll encounter.
The rare palm trees Theofrastou (Phoenix Theofrasti) embrace an exotic beach with golden sand and blue-green water that has been awarded a Blue Flag. The exotic palm forest of the Mediterranean awaits!
Glamour and glory: ancient Itanos
Since you are in Vai, take the opportunity to travel to the past. Near the beach, there are remnants of a colony built by the Phoenicians. Ancient Itanos, whose ruins are spread along a sandy hill, acquired its wealth and power by trading Tyrian purple, a rare dye for fabrics. It had its own currency and decorated its public buildings and temples with beautiful marble. It was prosperous until the Byzantine period. In 795 BC, a catastrophic earthquake and the raids of the Saracens in the 9th century signalled the end of its glory days. Today, you’ll see the ruins scattered across the width of the cape.
Hidden gems of Sitia
The poet of Erotokritos
"In Sitia was he born, in Sitia was he bred. And there he labored hard to write all these words you’ve read’’. Vitsentzos Kornaros, the author of the epic Erotokritos, was born in 1553 in Trapezonda in Sitia. His romantic work, written in rhymed verse, between 1600-1610, is a masterpiece of Cretan and modern Greek literature.
About 9.6 km west of ancient Itanos, in a lunar landscape of stones and shrubs, you’ll find the Toplou Monastery. A fortified monastery built in the 16th century, the Ottomans named it Toplou after the cannon that it used to keep pirates at bay (‘top’ means cannon in Turkish).
The pure ingredients and traditional sweets of Sitia
The pure, natural products of Sitia’s soil are special: the award-winning extra virgin olive oil, the unique flavour of its thyme honey, delicious dairy products, excellent tsikoudia, the herbs, and traditional pastries, many of which you’ll find only here. Try the savoury kalitsounia filled with myzithra (a local cheese), koulourakia (sourdough buns), loukoumades (doughnuts) drizzled with thyme honey, and kserotigana – delicately wrapped sweet fritters that are a staple at traditional Cretan weddings.
Experience the best of Sitia
- The historic Kazarma fortress
- The exotic palm forest at Vai
- Ancient Itanos
- Toplou Monastery