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Agios Nikolaos City Map
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Vái Palm grove & Beach
Sitia, East Lassithi
A palm tree forest stretching on a marvelous valley and sandy beach. It consists of self planted palm trees of Theophrastus (Phoenix Theophrasti). It is unique of its kind in Greece, Europe and probably the world. Vai because of its special value and beauty is protected by the Greek state, European Union and international contracts. The protected area covers 23.4 ha.
The sandy beach of Vai is amongst the most beautiful in Crete and Greece and attracts thousands of visitors every year since Vai is a top destinations especially for the new comers.
The small islets opposite the beach add a lot to the beauty of the place.
There is a parking area, a tavern, a canteen, umbrellas and seabeds.
There is regular public bus connection with the towns of Sitia and Palaikastro during the summer and many organised day trips by travel agencies.
If you don't like crowds, you can walk a little to the south from Vai to Psili Ammos a lovely small beach with fine gold sand which is nested in a small cove.
Late Minoan Cemetery
The site was first discovered by a teacher who noticed that two pupils were playing football using a minoan vase as a ball!. He mentioned the fact to the authorities and the excavations that followed unearthed about 300 tombs of the Late Minoan III period (1450-1100 BC). As the tombs had not been yet looted, the archaeologists found significant treasures like vases, weapons, statuettes, jewels etc.
It is obvious that such a big cemetery should belong to a big city which, despite the extended investigations of the archaeologists, has not been discovered yet.
It is built at 500m a.s.l. and 37km away from the city of Rethymno, with 400 inhabitants most of them farmers and stock breeders. It took its name due to its position, "MYRIOKEFALA" means myriads of heads (here :Hills). It is the birth place of George Maravelakis, a great fighter of the 1866 revolution against the turks. The monastery of Miriokefala, an interesting sight, devoted to the Holly Mother, was established by Ai Kir Giannis (a Cretan Saint) in the 11th century. There are many icons of Byzantine art, among them this of Holly Mother.
Zouridi is a village of the county of Rethymno, located 19,5 km away from the city, built at 260m a.s.l. with 90 inhabitants. Here excavations unearthed findings from the post palace period, and the Roman period as well as many venetian houses. Nowadays the village is characterized as a preservable settlement, and buildings such as the old high school are going to be restored.
Makry Gialos town
Makry Gialos (Long shore GR:Μακρύ Γιαλός) is a small beach resort on the south-east coast of Crete, located 60km from Agios Nikolaos, 25km from Ierapetra, and 33 km from Sitia.
Makry Gialos features a small fishing harbour and a nice 1km long sandy beach that stretches from the harbour to the east. Four more lovely beaches can be found in the immediate area. Accommodation is available mostly in family-run studio and apartment complexes and there is a good choice of bars, restaurants, tavernas, some of them right on the beach front or at the small fishing harbour.
Makry Gialos is the administrative centre of the wider area which comprises some picturesque traditional villages built on the tree covered mountain sides.
The area has been inhabited since the Minoan times as many ruins from this as well as the Roman and the Venetian periods prove.
Makry Gialos main beach
A one kilometre long beach, with fine gold sand and shallow waters, lies right in front of the town of Makry Gialos. It is accredited with the blue flag and is considered to be one of the safest beaches for swimmers of all experience and children due to its soft and gently shelving.
It is an organised beach with sun-beds, umbrellas and most sea sports facilities.
Zakros Gorge of Dead
Zakros, Sitia, East Crete
Within a few distance from the town of Zakros, starts the Gorge, which ends at the bay of Kato Zakros, almost near the Palace area. This gorge is of outstanding beauty, with large caves in its walls. In those caves were discovered tombs dated to the Minoan period, and finds of great archaeological importance. That is the reason why the caves are named "The Caves of Dead" and the gorge "The Gorge of Dead".
Because of its natural beauty and archaeological significance the gorge attracts numerous visitors every year.
Zakros, Sitia, East Crete
The cave, with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, is located near the sea (~200m), at Pelekitá (GR: Πελεκητά), a place 3km away from the Palace of Zakros (~1 hour walk)and above the small bay of Karoumbi. In this cave were discovered signs of neolithic habitation. Its entrance is at 105m above sea, it is 310m long and its area is approximately 4.500m2. A little further there was found also the quarry from where the ancients took the stones to built their Palace (hence the name "Pelekita"). The cave is also known as "Sikias Spilios" (the fig tree's cave) due to the fig tree that is located at its entrance. The view to the sea from there is magnificent.
Messara Bay, Iraklion
Two small dry and uninhabited islets off the bay of Messara, ~7.5 naut. miles to the west of Matala. Due to their close proximity to one another the two islands appear as one from a distance. They are also called "elephantaki" as from north they look like a baby elephant that is lying down. In mythology it is believed that the goddess Lito gave birth to the god Apollon and the goddess Artemis on these islands. In antiquity they were called Dionissioi after the god Dionissos.
During the summertime there are small cruising boats that bring tourists here from Agia Galini and Kokkinos Pyrgos. There is only a small beach with fine pebble and rich seabed at the south side of the easternmost islet.
Messara, Iraklion South
The village of Pitsidia is located 65 km southwest of Iraklion at an altitude of 80 m a.s.l, just before the magnificent bay of Messara. The village with aproximately 700 inhabitants is the oldest village of the area and is refered (by S. Spanakis) that it was the place where the soldiers of Nikiforos Fokas, commander of the Byzantine army, settled. The army, famous for its bravery, came from Pisidia of the south Asia Minor, and this is probably the origin of the name Pitsidia.
Sitia, East Crete
The hilly village of Ziros (GR: Ζήρος) spreads over the lower slopes that the locals call Egremno (the Cliff) at an alti-tude of 590 m. at the pictureque Armeni-Handras plateau.
The village is the seat of the Municipality of Lefki.
The village was first recorded as Siros in 1577 in the Venetian Barozzi's catalogue of the villages of Sitia. In a census carried out by the P. Castrofilaka it was listed under the same name in 1583, with a population of 448. In 1928 with the first census after the union of Crete with Greece, the population was 742. Today the population of the village is approx. 742 but diminishing.
The Ziros community includes the villages of Kalo Horio, Hametoulo, the coastal settlement of Xerokampos, the deserted Lamnoni and some settlements inhabited seasonally like Agrilia, Lethi, Achladias, Makri Livadi and Anargyros.
The Ziros area has many antiquities from all periods, however no methodical excavations have yet occured. Ancient sited can be found at Plakospilios (roman settlement and tombs), St. John (an Archaic set-tlement), Fonias (a Minoan settlement), Stalos (Minoan tombs and settlement), Katsoulianos (Minoan tombs), Pentalitro (Minoan Acropolis), Katergari Papa Pigadi (Minoan Settlement), Anemomilia (Minoan building), Pirgales (Minoan Villa), Vrisi Hametoulou (Minoan settlement), Limnia or Palaki Mantra Hametoulou (Minoan buildings).
An important peak sanctuary of the Middle Minoan period existed at the Plagia hill but now it is ruined.
The Ziros area is dotted with caves and also other geological features, the most important are: the cave of Agrilia, the cave of Lygias Spilios and the cave of Voevodas. The Ziros area has also many remarkable churches to show with the most important from all the painted church of St. Paraskevi dated back to 1523. The St. Nikolaos church has graffiti dated back to 14th and 15th century.
Lefki (Koufonissi) island
Sitia, East Crete
Koufonisi is a small island in the Libyan Sea just off the South East coast of Crete and the Cape of Goudouras.
It is also named LEFKI and gave its name to the municipality.
There is a cluster of small islets in the area like Makroulo, Strogylo, Trahila and Marmara. The island is deserted and in many spots it is covered with sand reminding an African landscape.
Until 1976 the shepherds used to feed their sheep there but it was not inhabited.
Later the Archaeological Offices of Eastern Crete under the authority of N. Papadakis began the excavations and the island proved to be full of ancient sites.
A beautiful theater, made of stones, at the North West end of the island opposite the Marmaras islet was discovered. At the South East of the theater where a settlement was found, a villa with 8 rooms and a guest room was brought to light.
The excavations also showed a workshop where the famous purple robes of the Romans was made. They also dig out an astonishing building, the Public Baths, dated back to 1st and 4th A.D. and ruins of an old temple.
Boats depart daily from Makrygialos to Koufonissi (during the tourist season and only if the weather permits) offering day-trips.
A short description of Lefki, by the archaeologist Nikos Papadakis:
Koufonisi island covered today with sand and bushes, lies close to the southeast shore of Crete. From the Middle - Ages until today is nowhere referred that the island has ever been inhabited permanently. However scattered ancient remnants, drew the attention of the English admiral and traveller T B. Spratt in the mid - 19th century. His itinerary and visit was repeated by the English archaeologists Bosanquet and Curely in 1903 and by the American A. Leonard jr in 1970. The definite conclusion all the above travellers reached was that Koufonisi could be identified with the island Lefki of antiquity for which the people of Itanos and Hierapytna were contending as it is referred in the famous "Inscription of Magnetes" of 112 - 111 B.C.
Excavations and archaeological research have since 1976 taken the responsibility to answer to the questions almost innate and consequent to the above conclusion and the result is undoubtedly impressive: An entire theater that could have housed a thousand spectators: a temple still containing fragments from the colossal cult statue: two private houses with 17 rooms decorated with mosaics and colourful walls: a system supplying water to the city through a series of vaulted cisterns and built pipes: a Minoan acropolis: cemeteries and last but not least the city of Lefki itself. Thus, slowly but steadily is unveiled the short but impressive presence of this small island nearby east Crete. Judging from the so far finds we can say that Lefki being one of the major centers of processing and trading purple, a symbol of authority and economic power soon became the object of rivalry among its neighbours. A series of diplomatic intrigue and fighting had occurred over the dominance of this prolific island. Later when its sources of prosperity were depleted the people of Lefki were exterminated through arms and fire: an invasion in the 4th century A.D. turned the historic island into ashes. On the basis of the existing ruins the importance it had for its neighbours and the fact that it was never again inhabited after its destruction we may describe Koufonisi by quoting a western journalist as Delos of the Libyan Sea.
Sitia, East Lassithi
A small picturesque village by the sea characterized as a landscape of exquisite, natural beauty. With joyful and peaceful inhabitants who constantly tease each other. It is located in Crete, north of Lasithi prefecture, between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia, at equal distance (30-35km) from the three major cities(Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Ierapetra).
Ideal place for holiday or special weekends.
You will enjoy the most colourful sunset and the most beautiful daybreak from any other place. The serenity of the morning open view, with the sun rising from the sea, will be unforgettable.
The small island, opposite the village, with the small church of Agios Nikolaos, offers a unique beauty to the landscape.
Sitia, East Lassithi
Palekastro (Palaíkastro GR: Παλαίκαστρο) is a lively, unpretentious town, at the east coast of Crete 20 km. away from Sitia and the seat of the Municipality of Itanos. It was named after an old castle. Its sources main income is agriculture and tourism. Although the town is growing, it manages and retain its character and charm. The town's square is the center of activities and is lined with cafes and taverns. Many a pleasant hour can be passed here, watching the world go by. During the summer months, weddings are often held in the village, with the huge wedding feast taking place in the square, to which everyone is invited. A chance to try your hand at Cretan dancing!
Neapolis is located 15 km westwards of Agios Nikolaos on the way to Heraklion from where it is roughly 50 km far. Neapolis is built in the green valley of Mirabello.
In the period of the Venetian domination its two settlements were named "New Village". But when the seat of the Prefecture was transferred from Fourni to the “New Village” this last was renamed to Neapolis. Neapolis was maintained as the capital of the prefecture of Lasithi till 1904. After that date Agios Nikolaos became the new capital.
Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt
English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist
Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (11 May 1811 - 12 March 1888) was an English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist.
He was born at Woodway House, East Teignmouth, the eldest surviving son of Commander James Spratt, RN, a hero of Trafalgar. He entered the navy in 1827 and was attached to the surveying branch on "HMS Victory". He was engaged almost continuously until 1863 in surveying the Mediterranean. As commander of the "Spitfire" he rendered distinguished service in the Black Sea during the Crimean War, and was appointed CB in 1855.
Lyttos ancient town
The ancient city of Lyktos or Lyttos (GR: Λύκτος / Λύττος) was one of the most ancient and powerful towns in Crete.
Although the excavations in the area reveal traces of habitation from the Hellenistic years onwards (630 B.C.), the archeologists Georgios Rethemiotakis and Angeliki Lempesi have excavated traces of habitation from the time of the destruction of Lyttos by the Knossians (219 B.C.) in excavated residences of the Hellenistic period.
From the Roman period, the city was subject to new workings as testified by the architectural remnants and the many inscriptions and statues discovered.
Numerous vestiges of ancient structures, objects, and broken marbles are seen, as well as an immense arch of a Roman aqueduct, by which the water was carried across a deep valley by means of a wide marble channel. Traces of the aqueduct which brought its water supply from Kournia, near Krasi village, are still visible today in the rural road to Kastamonitsa village. Lyktos had also a theatre, built in the slope of the hill the design of which we know only from the drawings of Belli (1586).
Finally, the most important discovery is that of a room of nearly 14 metres by 11.40 metres, with marble flooring and a series of four stone platforms along its two longer sides. The room was erected, according to the inscription that was found at the site, at the beginning of the second century B.C. This room was identified as the chamber of the Roman deputies of the city and was very probably destroyed by an earthquake at 365 AD.
Lyktos appears to have still been inhabited in the 7th Century AD as indicated by the excavation of late-roman shops in the area. (Late Roman Empire, 284-610 AD)
Spili (GR:Σπήλι) is 30 km away from Rethymnon, along the road that goes from Rethymnon to Armenoi and then Spili. The town has about 800 inhabitants and it lies at a height of 430 m above sea level, at the foothills of Mount Vorizi, which belongs to the Kedros chain.
The landmark of the town is the square at Kefalovrissi with the 25 fountains each one in the shape of a lion's head. The square is named after Thanassis Skordalos (1920-1998), a popular lyra player and composer born in Spili.
Spili is a modern town, with all the facilities and services required by the locals and by the large number of visitors.
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