Kritsa, Crete: Complete Guide by a Local

Kritsa Crete

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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 you’re visiting for the day or planning to spend a few days, this article has all the info you need to know 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 is a traditional village in Lasithi, situated about 10 kilometers southwest of Agios Nikolaos, the capital of the region. Kritsa 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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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, as you can wander through its winding alleys, discover hidden corners, and encounter local artisans practicing traditional embroidery techniques.

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Kritsa is also famous for its historical significance. Not far from the entrance to the village, you will encounter one of its most remarkable buildings, 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.

There are also other churches you can visit in the village as well as two important museums.

kritsa crete

As we mentioned before, 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 opportunities for hiking, with trails leading to scenic viewpoints and ancient ruins.

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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 is a traditional village in Lasithi, situated about 10 kilometers southwest of Agios Nikolaos, the capital of the region. 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 Kritsa, Lasithi

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Road Agios-Kritsa (Google Maps 2023).

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 just need to follow the signs or even use a navigation app.

It’s also possible to reach Kritsa from Agios by bus. There’s an hourly service that connects Agios to Kroustas and has a stop in Kritsa. The journey is about 25 minutes and the ticket is around €2. Bus stops are both in Panagia Kera Church and in the center of the village. 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 a bit higher (from €15 to €25, at least).

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If you want to rent a car for your trip and look for the best service, then I am here to help you! Consider choosing Discover Cars, an international car rental booking service present worldwide. This way, you will find the best car for your trip wherever you are!

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

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 it features some of the oldest (and finest) Byzantine frescoes on the island that have been astonishingly well-preserved.

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According to the locals, there are many miracles associated with the icon of Panagia Kera 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 it has been replaced by a copy of the original (which is now in the Roman Church of Saint Alfonso, in Rome) and is said to work miracles.

About Panagia Kera

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Even though the founding date of the church remains uncertain, 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, which probably date back to the so-called Paleologan Age (a time when the Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Palaiologos Dynasty, between 1261 and 1453).

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

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

During the time you spend 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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Along the way, take a look at the traits of local architecture and 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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On the main road of the village, 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 even traditional garments.

kritsa crete

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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The museum, one of the most important exhibitions in the Lasithi region, is dedicated to the local heroine known as 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 that fought for the independence of the island.

  • The museum is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm, and it closes at 12 am on Thursdays.

Discover the Rodanthi Museum

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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 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, her real name was Rodanthi, though. However, the Kritsotopoula and the Rodanthi museums se are two distinct exhibitions in the same village.

Hike the Kritsa Gorge

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Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy plenty of areas to walk 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.

In general, the gorge is easy to hike, with only a few difficult climbs in some spots. The gorge features 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 rain since several deep ponds form along the trail.

Head to Kroustas for Lunch

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

Over here, apart from the traditional charm of most traditional villages in Lasithi, 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 just to eat 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 tsigariato (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. At the end of the 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

kritsa crete

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

The main trait of the city is the beautiful Lake Voulismeni, located close to the port and connected to the sea.

In Agios, it is possible to enjoy incredible dining experiences, visit several churches or spend the day on some 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 fine sand and turquoise waters, and you can find organized structures for you to spend the whole day without worrying about packing a lunch or carrying an umbrella.

Lato Archaeological Site

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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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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.

However, the main reason why visitors 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 the whole story of Spinalonga in this article.

Vai Beach and Palm Forest

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai beach

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

The beach is surrounded by a unique landscape of palm trees that offer a tropical-like atmosphere. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area. Not far from the beach, it’s possible to visit the historic Toplou Monastery and its winery, as well as the coastal city of Sitia.

Where to Eat in Kritsa, Crete

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Tasting the delicious cuisine of Lasithi can be a feast in the mountain villages around Kritsa. Not far from the center of the settlement, another unique village, Kroustas, is home to some renowned tavernas in the region and the place 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 known as 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 of the village. Over here, you will find simple dishes full of flavor that will make you want to come back. You can read reviews here.
  • Taverna To Konaki is located at the entrance of the village. They serve fresh traditional Cretan dishes and the tavern is among the favorite places to eat for the locals too. You can read reviews here.

Where to Stay in Kritsa

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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 situated 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. The place has mountain views and a bedroom, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen. A private entrance leads guests into the cozy apartment that also features a fireplace.
    Click here for more information and the latest prices.
  • Christin P. Cute Home with Patio is right in the heart of Kritsa and it offers a comfortable bedroom, a patio, and a kitchen with an oven and fridge. Guests can take in the views of the mountain from the terrace, which also has outdoor furniture.
    Click here for more information and the latest prices.

Read more about Crete’s Villages

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Kritsa Crete

About my blog:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I moved to Crete in 2016. During these years, I learned much about the island.
In Crete, I juggle being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours, and writing for several travel blogs.
I’ve written for Greek Reporter, published travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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