As the largest island in Greece, Crete is a true jewel of the Mediterranean – a cultural crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia. The island is not only renowned for its cultural heritage but also for its exceptional gastronomy, distinctive musical traditions and fascinating history, which tells tales of legendary kings, mythical monsters and powerful deities. Lasithi is the easternmost region of this idyllic island, filled with untouched natural beauty ranging from gorgeous coastline scattered with ancient archaeological sites to dramatic caves and gorges. Read on to discover the places you simply need to visit during your time in this wonderful part of Greece:
Located in the area of Paleokastro, the archaeological site of Zakros once served as a trade centre for countries east of the island, with remnants of the former civilisation still standing today. Inside the caves and walls of the slopes of the Gorge of the Dead are a series of intriguing Minoan tombs, while even more findings are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Sitia, including the workshop tools and objects the craftsmen used to work with.
Agios Nikolaos is Lasithi’s capital, and overlooks the bay of Mirabello on the northernmost point of the bay. Today, the city is regarded as one of the island’s most beautiful, with its centrepiece being Voulismeni Lake, one of Agios Nikolaos’ many natural landmarks.
Isle of Chrissi
The Isle of Chrissi is a peaceful sanctuary located on the south side of the prefecture, an uninhabited island just seven square kilometres in size. The island is completely unspoilt, and has been declared as a protected area of natural beauty – with its aquamarine waters and tumbling sand dunes, it’s definitely easy to see why.
Fortress of Kazarma
Perhaps the most impressive historical monument the region has to offer, overlooking the town of Sitia from up on a high hilltop. Once a powerful centre of military operations and administration during the Byzantine era, the fortress declined following a series of pirate invasions and a huge earthquake. However, the fortress has since been rebuilt, and offers excellent views out over the town and bay, while during the summer it is also a culture and music venue.
Monastery of Toplou
The island of Crete is decorated with monasteries, with the Monastery of Toplou perhaps being one of the most important. Located near the Vai Palm Forest, the monastery was built in the 15th century and has faced a tumultuous history of destruction and reconstruction, having last been destroyed during the Ottoman occupation. Visitors to the monastery can also see the impressive building from the inside, which boasts an impressive collection of icons, engravings and church relics.
Vai Palm Forest
The Vai Palm Forest is the largest natural palm forest in Europe and is home to over 5000 Cretan Date Palms. Just like the Isle of Chrissi, the forest has also been declared as a protected area of natural beauty, with its origins still debated today. One theory is that the Arabs created the forest during the medieval times, while another is that the trees were planted by Saracen pirates who were in need of a hiding place.
Plateau of Lasithi
Surrounded by epic wild mountains, the Plateau of Lasithi is one of Crete’s most fertile valleys, famous for their trademark windmills. Taking up an area of approximately fifty square kilometres, the plateau is home to eighteen villages, all of which are connected by a long circular road taking you through the foothills of the surrounding mountains.
Chic Retreats boasts an impressive collection of luxury hotels in Greece, with our hand-picked selection of boutique accommodation ensuring that you really enjoy the island of Crete in style.
Image: Sarah Murray, available under Creative Commons