History of Lasithi
The area of Lassithi has been habited from the Neolithic age attested by evidence found at Trapezas, the village of Magasa near Sitia and tombs on the Kastellos hill in Tzermiado. From 2700 BC new tribes from Asia or Africa occupied the area, then followed the first phase of the Minoan civilisation that continued up to 1700 BC. Settlements were built in: Myrto Ierapetra, Mohlos, Zakos, Paleokastro, Hamezi and the development of ceramics, metalwork and architecture. After the catastrophe of 1700 BC new settlements were built in Gournia, Psira, Maki Gialo and the creation of naval bases. Later, after 1450 BC catastrophe, Dorians came to the island around 1100 BC and created a new culture and built the cities of Ambelos, Dragmos, Drypos, Lato, Minoa, Olous, Presos and Ierapytna.
During the Hellenic years the cities were destroyed by civil wars and were later captured by the Romans in 66 BC and in 395 AD it became part of the Byzantium Empire. In 824, it was captured by the Moors, but was freed by Nikiforo Foka in 961. During the Venetian rule, from 1204 - 1645, the island was fortified. The Ottomans invaded and captured the island from 1645 - 1897. The residences rebelled against the Turks with a major revolution taking place during the period 1866 - 1869. Union with Greece was affected on 1st December 1913.
What to See in Lasithi
Lassithi is a prefecture of Greece on the island of Crete. It lies east of the prefecture of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major tows are Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains includes the Dikte to the west and the Sitia mountains to the east.
To the east of the village of Elounda lies the island of Spinalonga, formerly a Venetian fortress and a leper colony. On the foot of Mount Dikti lies the Lassithi Plateau, famous for its windmills. Vai is well-known for its datepalm forest.
Lassithi attracts many tourists. Mass tourism is served by places like Vai, Agios Nikolaos and the island of Chrissi. More off-beat tourism can be found in villages on the south coast like Myrtos, Makrys Gialos or Makrigialos, Xerokambos and Koutsouras.
The prefecture counts a lot of ancient remains. Vasiliki, Fournu Korfi, Pyrgos, Zakros and Gournia are ruins of Minoan date, Lato and Itanos were Doric towns.
Weather and climate
Lassithi, Crete is blessed with one of the best climates in Greece, and indeed Europe. Lassithi is located at the southernmost point of the continent, yet offers pleasantly warm and dry summers and mild winters. The fact that Crete, and therefore Lassithi, is an island means that cool and refreshing winds are able to reduce the effects of the hot Mediterranean sun, making it a comfortable holiday destination during both summer and winter. The climate in the mountains and the seaside are very different. Snow may fall on the peaks of Mt. Dikti, while at the same time weather in Elounda, for example, may be fairly temperate.
From January to March, temperatures in Lassithi, Crete range on average from 12°C - 14°C. Temperatures rise in April and May range from 17°C to 22°C. Summer is when the weather in Lassithi really warms up. June, July, August and September temperatures range from the mid to high 20s. October, November and December remain quite warm, as temperatures range from the mid teens to the low 20s.
The Meltemi wind picks up in July and August, and visitors usually prefer sheltered beaches when the wind is especially strong.
Lassithi sights & attractions
While vacationing in the Lassithi Prefecture, Crete visitors are offered the unique opportunity of touring the exquisite historical and natural sights of the region. If you are an archaeology aficionado, we recommend starting off with a visit to the very impressive archaeological sights of Ancient Itanos, which is located near the Palm Tree Forest of Vai, Ancient Driros that is situated near the town of Neapolis, and Ancient Praissos located south of Sitia. In the town of Kato Zakros visitors can explore the splendid Minoan Palace. Other wonderful ancient sights include the Doric City of Lato in Kritsa, the Post-Minoan settlements of Gournia and Markygialos, the Minoan settlement in Palekastro, the Pre-Minoan cities in Myrtos and Pachia Ammos, and the Ancient Ruins of Olous in Elounda, which are located just beneath the surface of the sea.
There are several impressive sights from the Venetian Era, such as the Kales Fortress in Ierapetra, and the Kazarma Fortress in Sitia. If you truly want to get a glimpse of genuine Cretan lifestyle, we suggest touring the small traditional villages in the Lassithi mountainside. For the religious buffs, ecclesiastical art lovers and museum enthusiasts, the prefecture of Lassithi Greece does not disappoint. Start off by procuring a map of Agios Nikolaos in order to tour the capital city. Your first stop should be the Byzantine Church of Agios Nikolaos, from which the town took its name. Afterwards visit the town's superb Archaeological and Folklore Museums. Next, pop over to Sitia, where you can visit the Toplou Monastery, which is one of the most famous sights in the Lassithi Prefecture, Crete, known for its amazing icons and frescos. Sitia and Ierapetra also have excellent Archaeological and Folklore Museums.
Some of the finest natural sights in Crete are located in Lassithi. The most pre-eminent of all is the the Palm Tree Forest of Vai, which is unique in Europe. For those who consider themselves something of an amateur speleologist, we recommend visiting the Diktao Andro Cave on the Lassithi Plateau and the cave in Milatos, which has a lovely collection of stalactites and stalagmites. If you are a trekking and hiking enthusiast, the Katharos and Lassithi Mountain Ranges, the Gorges of Cha and Chavga, and the Pine Forest in Males are ideal locations for your favorite activity.
The beautiful shoreline of the Lassithi Prefecture provides visitors with a plethora of splendid beaches on which to spend leisure time basking in the sun and swimming in the cool waters of the Cretan and Libyan Seas. On the northern coast of Lassithi, Crete, the waters are warmer and shallower than the southern waters, although the beaches on the southern coast of Lassithi are less crowded than those on the northern coast.
In Lassithi, Crete, visitors will find a great number of both popular beaches and quiet beaches. The most crowded northern-shore Lassithi beaches include, of course, the beaches located around the capital of the prefecture, Agios Nikolaos, as well as the beaches of Almyros, Ammoudara, Elounda, Istro, Plaka and Sitia. In fact, Elounda Beach is one of Crete's most frequented holiday destinations. If you are vacationing on the southern side of the prefecture and are looking for popular spots, you should swim at the Lassithi beaches of Myrtos, Makrygialos and Ierapetra. Many people gather at the stunning Palm Tree Beach of Vai on the eastern coast of Lassithi, which is one of a kind in Europe.
If you prefer beaches that are serene and secluded, we suggest visiting the northern Lassithi beaches Driros, Sissi, Havania, and Pachia Ammos or the southern Lassithi beaches of Agia Fotia, Xerokambos, Koutsounari, Achlia, and Lagada. Close to Vai Palm Beach on the eastern shore of Lassithi are the wonderful beaches in the Palekastro region, Itanos Beach and Kato Zakros Beach. The majority of Lassithi beaches provide beach facilities, such as tavernas, cafes, umbrellas and chaise longues, while others are fully-organized and have water sports facilities.
Off the southern coast of the Lassithi Prefecture are the small islands of Koufonissi and Chryssi, which are celebrated for their fine sand and shimmering azure waters.
Lassithi nightlife and events
Most nightlife venues in the Lassithi Prefecture are situated in Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Elounda, and Ierapetra, including a very good selection of clubs, bars and cafes, although most seaside settlements also offer a number of entertainment venues. In Lassithi there are traditional tavernas and restaurants everywhere, from the smallest village to the most popular resort, so visitors will find hundreds of place to eat in Agios Nikolaos, Crete, as well as elsewhere in the prefecture.
As Crete is especially well-known for its cuisine, we recommend trying some of the most popular dishes at Lassithi restaurants, such as potatoes oftes fried with the peel, choclious traditionally-cooked escargot, baked eggplant, dakos vinegar & water-soaked barley rusk with chopped tomato and feta cheese, raisin bread, olive bread, fresh seafood, and staka cheese, which is served either by itself or integrated into a dish. For dessert you may try the kaltsounia sweet cheese pastries and after, clean you palate with a small glass of raki, the traditional alcoholic drink of Crete that will make you hair stand on end!
Many traditional events are held in Lassithi, Crete, offering visitors a chance to experience local customs and celebrations. In Agios Nikolaos, during Easter, there is the celebration of the Resurrection and the Burning of Judas in Agios Nikolaos Port. Other Agios Nikolaos celebrations include the Lato cultural events during the summer and the festival of Agios Nikolaos Church on December 6. In Elounda, Crete you can participate in the summer cultural events and fish night in July, while in Ierapetra we suggest attending the Kyrveia cultural performances. Dance nights take place on the Lassithi Mountain Range in the summertime.
Gournia Village holds a celebration in honor of the Virgin Mary on August 15 in the Monastery of Faneromeni. There is also a Monastery of Faneromeni in Sitia, where they too hold a celebration in honor of the Virgin Mary on August 15. In July and August you can see the cultural events of Kornareia at the Sitia Port and the Kazarma Fortress, while the Soultanina Celebration is a five-day event that also takes place in Sitia, Lassithi. For more information about Lassithi events and their dates, ask your hotel or travel agency in Crete.
The windmills of Lassithi
It is the most significant group of windmills preserved on Crete. It occupies the northern entrance to the Lassithi plateau and is the landmark of the whole area. Today 24 windmills are preserved out of the original 26, 7 of which extend to the south of the road that enters the plateau while the rest are built to the north of it. All the mills belong to the one-sided type of windmill, that grinds in a standard position, always on the same direction of the wind. Windmills of this type are preserved on Crete and on Carpathos but the Cretan ones are generally more carefully built and more elegant.
The group of windmills has been declared a work of art since 1986. The mills belong to individuals and some of them have been restored while others still remain half-ruined.
Two of the twenty-four windmills have been restored by their owners.