CRETE ON THE ROAD:
IERAPETRA (Ιεράπετρα). This small tired city, also known as the southernmost European town, the bride of the Libyan sea, seems to live a life of its own. Wrapped in a perennial state of siesta. Quiet, with its own times and rhythms, where minutes last eternally and sunsets are pacific.
The Sacred Stone, a Dragon’s Cave and the legend of the desert island. After a short trip from Elounda, we arrived tired but with enough energy left for a stroll down the promenade by the sea. Ierapetra has the colors of an old-time town. Cafés and bars line up one after the other on a wide street facing the ocean. All you have to do is choose where to sit for a glass of cold Greek coffee. Your afternoon goes by that way, one glass after the other, with the breeze playing with your hair and the sun going down. Then it’s time to choose the right tavern for dinner.
If you walk a bit more towards the Fortress (or Kales), bars turn into traditional restaurants. Simple, wide areas where food is served in a generous way. It is not hard to find luxury yachts of Arabian magnates in the port of Ierapetra, its owners happily eating side by side with you. Dishes are always fresh, immense, boasting the luxury of grandma tastes. All types of seafood cooked with knowledge and extreme care. It looks good and tastes better. Be confident and ask for suggestions, they will always treat you as a friend.
Makrigialos and Dragon’s Cave
Makrigialos actually means long beach. Just over 20 kilometers away from Ierapetra you will find this cosy little fishing harbour with a small shallow beach suitable for children.
A long promenade with traditional taverns along the infinite sandy beach, runs all the way into the next village. Unspoiled area, traditional Cretan landscape, ideal to spend the morning before heading more to the East. There you reach a point of wild beauty, empty and of difficult access (remember to bring closed shoes to hike down and up the hills).
You are in the Dragon’s Cave, a tiny beach down a steep hill, protected from the strong winds. Incredibly transparent waters in front of you and the shape of a dragon all around. He will be peacefully sleeping, protecting you from the outer world. Spend the afternoon there before going back to Ierapetra, with its calcareous limestone cover your body to make a natural mask for your skin. Enjoy the colors of the nature, the peaceful loneliness of this harsh retreat. Descend towards this area right in front of a restaurant named The Cave of the Dragon.
Gaidouronisi, the legend of no man’s land
Chrissi (Χρυσή “golden”) Island or also Gaidoruronisi (Γαϊδουρονήσι “donkey”), is a small, uninhabited Greek island off the southern coast of Crete, about 14 kilometres south of Ierapetra, on the Libyan sea. The people of Ierapetra simply call it “the Island“, and it has turned into the most important reason for tourists to stop by in Ierapetra. A pity, because there is so much more to visit, see and do, mainly from the gourmet point of view.
One can arrive to Chrissi (also spelt Chrisi/Chryssi, etc.) by sea from the port of Ierapetra (as well as from the nearby tiny Myrtos). On the north coast there is a nudist beach as well. The highest point on the island is Kefala (head), over 3o m above sea-level. On the west area there is a chapel from the 13th century. Due to the shallow waters, snorkelling and diving are common for visitors. Different ferryboats and private ships reach the coast between May and October.
There is no drinking water and just a couple of seasonal bars. Take your own provisions for the day and, of course, take good care of the environment: it is a protected area of intense natural beauty.
When you reach the island, walk through the unique forest of Junipers (cypress) for about five minutes to get to the opposite side and just relax in an authentic paradise.
If possible, spend a few extra days in Ierapetra, there are plenty of typical towns nearby to visit. This because visiting Chrissi strongly depends on the weather. Ierapetra has the lowest average rainfall in Crete, but it is also true that the only day it rained during our whole time in Crete was the day we spent in Chrissi. We were lucky though, our boat left the port early and the sun was still shinning in Ierapetra. However, at midday and from the sunny Chrissi we could see all the Cretan coastline covered in dark clouds and heavy rain.
Do you want to see Chrissi Island? Find Accommodation in Ierapetra!