Kritsa, Crete: Complete Guide by a Local

Kritsa Crete

Blending history, culture, and natural beauty, Kritsa is a Cretan village a few minutes from the center of Agios Nikolaos in the peaceful region of Lasithi in east Crete.

Overlooking the Mirabello Bay from a distance, this incredible settlement’s history is closely intertwined with the past of the island and its fights for freedom from the Turkish.

Whether visiting for the day or planning to spend a few days, this article has all the info you need about Kritsa Crete.

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Things to Do in Kritsa Crete

Kritsa crete

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Basic Things to Know about Kritsa

kritsa crete
Kritsa village.

Kritsa is a traditional village in Lasithi, situated about 10 kilometers southwest of Agios Nikolaos, the region’s capital. It is known for its charming atmosphere, traditional architecture, and rich cultural heritage.

Nestled on the slopes of a hill, Kritsa offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

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Kritsa village.

The village features narrow streets lined with picturesque houses with small courtyards, trees, and colorful bougainvillea climbing up the walls.

Exploring the village on foot is a delightful experience. You can wander through its winding alleys, discover hidden corners, and encounter local artisans practicing traditional embroidery techniques.

kritsa crete
Kritsa village.

Kritsa is also famous for its historical significance. One of its most remarkable buildings is the Church of Panagia Kera, a Byzantine church known for its beautiful frescoes dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

These well-preserved frescoes depict scenes from the life of Christ and various saints, making it a popular destination for art and history enthusiasts. You can visit other churches and two important museums.

kritsa crete
Kritsa, Crete.

Kritsa has earned a reputation for its traditional Cretan embroidery and weaving.

Visitors can find local shops selling handmade textiles. So, don’t miss the chance to take home a unique piece of local craftsmanship.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Kritsa is surrounded by natural beauty. The area offers hiking opportunities, with trails leading to scenic viewpoints and ancient ruins.

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Kritsa village.

Nearby, you can visit the imposing Kritsa Gorge, a picturesque canyon known for its rugged landscapes and breathtaking views.

This charming village offers a blend of cultural heritage, traditional crafts, and natural beauty. It’s an ideal destination for those seeking an authentic Cretan experience away from the summer crowds.

Where is Kritsa

kritsa crete
Kritsa village.

Kritsa is a traditional village in Lasithi, situated about 10 kilometers southwest of Agios Nikolaos, the region’s capital. Another important city in the area is Neapoli, located about 23 km to the west.

Kritsa is known for its charming atmosphere, traditional architecture, and rich cultural heritage.

How to Get to There

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Road Agios-Kritsa (Google Maps 2024).

The best way to get from Agios to Kritsa is by car. The journey takes about 20 minutes (10 km), and the road is quite straightforward. You must follow the signs or even use a navigation app.

It’s also possible to reach Kritsa from Agios by bus. An hourly service connects Agios to Kroustas and has a stop in Kritsa. The journey is about 25 minutes, and the ticket is around €2.

There is a bus stop at Panagia Kera Church and another one in the center of Kritsa. The frequency is reduced during the rest of the year.

Finally, you can also hire a taxi from Agios to Kritsa, although the price will be somewhat higher (from €15 to €25).

Which car rental service is the best to choose? If you want to rent a car for your trip, consider Discover Cars, a worldwide car rental booking service.

Best Things to Do in Kritsa, Crete

Although Kritsa is a quiet village, there are a few things to do during the visit. Let’s see!

Visit the Panagia Kera Church

Church Panagia Kera, Crete
Panagia Kera, Crete.

Arguably one of the most famous churches on the island, Panagia Kera is an ancient Byzantine Church located a few minutes from Agios Nikolaos and around 5 minutes from the center of Kritsa,

The church is dedicated to the Holy Virgin and has some of the oldest (and finest) Byzantine frescoes on the island. These frescoes have been astonishingly well-preserved.

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Panagia Kera church.

According to the locals, many miracles relate to the Panagia Kera icon, which is believed to have been transferred to Constantinople (although the icon is said to have found its way back to the temple).

However, the original icon was stolen from the church during the Venetian period and was replaced by a copy (the original icon is now in the Roman Church of Saint Alfonso, in Rome). The icon at Panagia Kera is said to work miracles.

About Panagia Kera

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Panagia Kera.

The founding date of the church remains uncertain, yet many scholars believe that the oldest parts of the church, the central nave, its roof, and its dome, date back to the thirteenth century.

On the other hand, the side isles, the belfry, and the support (buttresses) might have been built at least a century later.

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(C. Messier, Wikipedia Commons).

The church features impressive frescoes with vivid colors, probably dating back to the so-called Paleologan Age (between 1261 and 1453 when the Palaiologos Dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire).

Visiting Hours: The church can be visited from 8 am to 2.30 pm every day except on Tuesdays when it is closed.

Explore the Quaint Village

kritsa crete
Kritsa, Crete.

Kritsa is the perfect place for those interested in life in a traditional Cretan village, where time seems to move at a slower pace.

During your stay in Kritsa, you will certainly want to take more than just one leisurely stroll through the narrow streets and immerse yourself in its traditional charm.

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Kritsa village.

Along the way, discover the traits of local architecture. Admire the little stone houses with colorful flowers, decorated gardens, and small courtyards.

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A garden in Kritsa.

Check out some of the local small chapels and be amazed at the picturesque hidden corners that offer stunning opportunities for photography enthusiasts.

Discover the Local Crafts

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Main road in Kritsa.

On the Kritsa’s main road, you will find several artisan shops, often run by women, who are in charge of keeping the ancient embroidery craft alive.

Most shops display unique handmade textiles, intricate embroideries, woven rugs, and traditional garments.

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Local artisan in Kritsa.

Oftentimes, they will sit outside and chat with each other while crafting gorgeous textiles that you can purchase and take home as a souvenir while you also support the local artisans.

Visit the Krisotopoula Museum

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Kritsotopoula.

The museum, one of the most important exhibitions in the Lasithi region, is dedicated to the local heroine Kritsotopoula.

Her name was Rodanthi, and she was a village resident who killed a Turk politician during the Greek uprising in 1817 and joined the rebel group of Lasithi Plateau dressed as a man.

According to history, she was a martyr in the hands of the Turkish during the Ottoman period and one of the many heroes who fought for Crete’s independence.

  • The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It closes at 12 a.m. on Thursdays.

Discover the Rodanthi Museum

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Rodanthi Museum.

There’s one more museum to visit in the village, the Rodanthi Museum. Over here, you can explore a rare collection of plants, herbs, and fossils dating back millions of years, most of which were found in the area.

A visit to the Rodanthi Museum also allows you to participate in activities that will connect you with nature and the local species and learn more about Crete; this is one of the museums that kids love in the region.

  • The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, you can also check out the official site.

Something to remember: Kritsotopoula roughly translates as the Daughter of Kritsa, but her real name was Rodanthi. However, the Kritsotopoula and the Rodanthi museums are two distinct exhibitions in the same village.

Hike the Kritsa Gorge

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Kritsa Gorge.

Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy plenty of areas near Kritsa. One of them is Kritsa Gorge, which starts not far from the village and runs for about 4 kilometers to end in the village of Tapes.

There are two different trails to access the gorge, both departing from Kritsa.

The gorge is easy to hike, with only a few difficult climbs in some spots. The area has an impressive landscape with narrow passages, high walls, and plenty of bushes.

If you enjoy hiking, you can also visit the Katharo Plateau in the same area.

LOCALS KNOW: Avoid visiting the gorge immediately after it has rained since several deep ponds form along the trail.

Head to Kroustas for Lunch

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Kroustas village.

One of the best things you can do is to jump in your car and drive the small mountain road that separates the settlement from another small village, Kroustas.

Besides the charm of most traditional villages in Lasithi, here you will find one of the best taverns in the area.

So much so that many people drive from Agios to eat in Kroustas during the weekend to have dinner in the village!

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(Courtesy of the tavern).

What to eat? Try the local meat (lamb or goat), either grilled or cooked tsigariasto (a popular cooking method on the island with plenty of olive oil), try the wild greens (xorta) and the local cheeses, and indulge in a plate of Cretan pasta (skiufichta) with plenty of Anthotyro cheese grated on top.

You will love it!

Kroustas Taverna (Ταβέρνα ο Κρούστας): Secure a table and enjoy their meat, salads, and traditional Cretan dishes. When you finish your meal, don’t forget to make a toast with a shot of tsikoudia (raki). Read reviews here.

Day Trips and Excursions from Kritsa, Crete

These are some of the places you can visit while staying in Krisa, Lasithi:

Agios Nikolaos Town

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Agios Nikolaos.

If you’re staying in Kritsa, chances are that you’ve already visited Agios. This small but lively city on the island’s northern coast and capital of the Lasithi region can be a great day trip from Kritsa.

The city’s highlight is the beautiful Lake Voulismeni, located close to the port and connected to the sea.

In Agios, you can enjoy incredible dining experiences, visit several churches, or spend the day on one of its fantastic beaches.

Voulisma Beach

Voulisma, also known as Golden Beach. Crete.
Voulisma, also known as Golden Beach.

If you prefer beaches over hikes and would rather spend a day on a pristine shore than trekking in the mountains, then the nearby Voulisma Beach is a shore that will surprise you.

Considered one of the nicest shores in East Crete, Voulisma is a beach in the area of Istron, along the Mirabello Bay.

It features clear sand and turquoise waters, and you can find organized structures to spend the whole day without worrying about packing a lunch or carrying an umbrella.

Lato Archaeological Site

kritsa crete
Lato Archaeological Site.

Not far from Kritsa, it’s also possible to explore the ancient Dorian settlement and city-state of Lato, which thrived between the fourth and fifth centuries BC. It’s located on a hillside overlooking Mirabello Bay, providing scenic views of the surrounding landscape.

Lato is approximately 3 kilometers north of the village of Kritsa and about 15 kilometers southwest of Agios Nikolaos.

The ancient site is believed to have been in continuous conflict for its borders with the neighboring city of Olous (now a sunken city near Elounda).

Ancient Lato Visiting Hours: The site is open to the public from 8 am to 3 pm, from Mondays to Sundays, except on Tuesdays, when most archaeological sites on Crete remain closed.
This tour of the area includes a stop at the archaeological site.

Spinalonga Island

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Spinalonga Island.

A must-visit archaeological site in the Lasithi region, Spinalonga is an island on the Mirabello Bay, famous for being the last leper colony in the country, active until 1957.

The main reason to explore Spinalonga is because it was the location that inspired the best-selling book The Island by author Victoria Hislop.

A trip to Spinalonga will picture a different aspect of Crete. The island still shelters ancient structures such as the hospital, churches, a museum, and a cemetery. You can read Spinalonga’s history in this article.

Vai Beach and Palm Forest

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai beach
Vai Beach.

About 90 kilometers east of Kritsa, Vai is home to one of the largest palm forests in Europe and features one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

The beach is surrounded by a unique palm tree landscape, offering a tropical-like atmosphere. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the area’s natural beauty. Not far from the beach, you can visit the historic Toplou Monastery and its winery or the coastal city of Sitia.

Where to Eat in Kritsa, Crete

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Kritsa.

Tasting Lasithi’s delicious cuisine can be a feast in the mountain villages around Kritsa. Near the center of the settlement, another unique village, Kroustas, is home to renowned tavernas. Kroustas is quite easy to reach by car.

However, Kritsa’s cuisine has nothing to envy Kroustas. So keep this restaurant list at hand and check out some of these places to savor the best local dishes.

  • Paradeisos Taverna is one of the most popular places to eat in Kritsa. It’s located steps from the Panagia Kera Church, not far from the access to the village. Over here, don’t miss Greek classics such as moussaka or other Cretan delicacies, like lamb chops (paidakia) and Cretan salad. You can read reviews here.

  • Platanos is one of the best places to eat in the heart of Kritsa, right on the main road. Over here, you will find simple dishes full of flavor that will make you want to return. You can read reviews here.

  • Taverna To Konaki is located at the entrance of Kritsa. It serves fresh Cretan dishes, and the tavern is also among the favorite places for locals. You can read reviews here.

Where to Stay in Kritsa

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Kritsa village.

Kritsa offers a picturesque setting, traditional architecture, and easy access to nearby attractions, all characteristics that make it a great place to stay if you’re looking for a quiet settlement not far from an important town like Agios Nikolaos.

All these characteristics have made Kritsa a fantastic place to stay, and while Kritsa is a small village, there are a few options for accommodation. Here are some suggestions for places to stay in Kritsa:

  • Villa Kamari offers stunning views of the surrounding area. The small apartment can accommodate up to three guests and is about 12 kilometers from Agios. It has a garden and a terrace and comes with a bedroom, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen.
    Click here for more information and the latest prices.
  • Tsiboulas Cretan Cottage boasts an excellent location in Kritsa village. It has mountain views, a bedroom, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen. A private entrance leads guests into the cozy apartment with a fireplace.
    Click here for more information and the latest prices.
  • Christin P. Cute Home with Patio is in the heart of Kritsa and offers a comfortable bedroom, a patio, and a kitchen with an oven and fridge. Guests can enjoy views of the mountain from the terrace with outdoor furniture.
    Click here for more information and the latest prices.

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Remember to explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Lasithi or Heraklion, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Lasithi

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these places to stay:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service, while Discover Cars is the engine I use to find a rental car on the island.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin this Guide by a Local to Explore the Village of Kritsa in Crete!

Kritsa Crete

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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