A popular day trip if you’re staying East Crete is to drive around the wonderful Lasithi Plateau. The adventure will take you exploring the forgotten Cretan villages in this mountainous scenario. The trip can include a stop to discover a stunning cave, the famous sails of the local windmills, and marvel at the inspiring panorama of the region.
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The Lasithi Plateau
The silent area of the Lasithi Plateau, surrounded by the imposing heights of the Dikti Mountains, stands over 850 meters above the level of the sea. All around the highland, there are different traditional villages (about 18), some of them with a small population, others almost forgotten.
The plains that extend at the foot of the mountain range are among the most fertile lands on Crete. Potatoes, apples, and even grapes are some of the crops that you can find in the area.
The plateau can be thought of as a circuit over 23-kilometer long following a road that links each of these villages. Driving along this road, or even cycling around is a popular day trip in the Lasithi region.
You can access the Plateau driving from Heraklion, or from Agios Nikolaos, which is the way I prefer. If you take this road, you will access the highlands from the area of Mesa Lasithi.
Unfortunately, you won’t find an impressive quantity of white windmills as there used to be in the past. Only a few of them are still standing but they can still be rightfully included among the most typical sights of the plateau.
In the past, those windmills were key to irrigating the fields and providing water for animals and plants. As time went by, though, modern technologies prevailed and the more modern devices for irrigation replaces the windmills.
>> Check these organized tours to explore the Plateau without worrying about driving!
Villages in the Lasithi Plateau
The plateau usually remains closed during winter, when the first snowflakes cover the villages and make the main road almost impossible to access. However, as from the very first weeks of spring, the area turns into a popular destination to indulge in the local gastronomy, dance, sing, and drink one glass of tsikoudia after the other.
This is the local way to celebrate religious occasions or to participate in the many gastronomic festivals that take place in these small hamlets. One of those celebrations is the well-known Diktaion Games, which most important event is a long-distance race along the Lasithi Plateau.
Tzermiado and Agios Giorgos
Tzermiado is one of the villages you should visit on a day trip to the Lasithi Plateau. A fantastic old town where time does not seem to pass anymore. Just jump off your car and walk around to discover the views of the mountains in the distance.
On the main road, pay a visit to the beautiful church, the abandoned houses, and the several traditional cafés where old men still sit for hours to end, playing tavli (a local game similar to backgammon) and drinking Greek coffee.
Tzermiado is the seat of the Lasithi municipality, however, it’s not the biggest of the villages in the area. The most important town is Agios Giorgos. A stop in the village is worth not only to step into the most authentic Cretan atmosphere, but also to Despite discover the Cretan Folk Museum.
In the museum, two different areas showcase the style and decoration of two different types of houses, the traditional Cretan mountain house, and the Neoclassical houses that belong to the splendorous past of the post Turkish rule period.
|Cretan Folk Museum|
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 10.30 am – 5 pm (from May to October).
Entrance fee: € 3.
The most important reason behind a visit to this village is to explore the magnificent Psychro Cave. Also known as the Cave of Zeus, or the Diktaion Andron is in a central position in the Lasithi Plateau.
Standing over 1025 meter high, the cave extends for over 2200 meters. Although it’s fairly easy to descend into the heart of Psychro Cave, reaching the entrance can be a bit of a steep hike, certainly not easy during the peak hours of the day in summer.
Besides, since the famous cave is usually jam-packed with tourists during summer, it’s a great idea to visit very early in the day and then drive to the other attractions you can check in the plateau.
|If you’re interested in exploring the cave or if you want to organize your visit, read this guide to visit Zeus Cave.|
Stone windmills of Lasithi
Almost at the end of the circuit, if you’re driving from Agios Nikolaos (or at the very beginning, when you access the plateau from Heraklion), you will easily spot the huge stone mills right next to the Kera village.
These mills were build during the 1800s and worked until the end of WWII.
The massive windmills stand opposite in a magnificent observation point that reaches all the way to the sea, and from where you can easily stop the abandoned and fascinating Dam of Aposelemis.
Just across the road from the mills, it’s possible to view the magnificent landscape of Crete’s mountains as well as to spot in the distance the forgotten sunken village of Sfendyli which lies at the bottom of the Aposelemis Dam.
In this link, you can check a video telling the story of the village.
Homo Sapiens Museum
One more place to visit in the Plateau, quite close to the mills, is the unique Homo Sapiens Museum. Great if you’re traveling with kids, as it’s really educational and didactic, but also good for adults interested in the history of the island and of mankind.
You can spend an hour (or more) traveling back to the age of caves and follow the whole evolution of mankind until the present time. Once you’re done with the visit, enjoy a refreshment in the museum’s café while soaking in the spectacular views of the area. In fact, you will be standing over 800 meters above sea level.
The impression of Crete you will take from here is bound to remain impressed in your memory for years to come.
Are you ready to explore Crete? It can be the trip of your lifetime. Get in touch if you need extra help to plan your itinerary and join our Crete Travel Group on Facebook. Or check this guide if you’re touring West Crete. You’ll find detailed info about where to go, what to see, where to eat, and more!
Coming to Crete any time soon? These fantastic resources will help you organize the trip!
- Start by heading right to my post with helpful tips to plan a trip to Crete, which goes over every detail you need to know, from when it’s best to travel to what documents you need, or how to get a SIM card. You can also check my post to plan a Crete trip with kids!
- Probably, you’re also planning to spend some time at the beach on the island. Check my guide to the best beaches in Crete to choose the one you like the most. Read this article to decide what area suits best to stay in Crete, or check this post is you still don’t know all the things you can do in Crete.
- Finally, to have updated information about the island, join my private group on Facebook about Crete and download a copy of my West Crete Travel Guide to have it always with you on the island!
Finally, make sure you’ve got everything you for a hassle-free trip!
- I never move around the island with any of these… my Osprey backpack has been the most loyal travel partner over the last 5 years. It’s sturdy, light, roomy, and super comfortable! I just love it. To visit the old town, archaeological sites, and museums, this little crossbody bag is always around.
- When driving around Crete, I always pack my Michelin map, clear, accurate, and easy to read and my Nikon D7200, I’m lost without any of them. In summer I also carry good sunscreen lotion, the sun on the island can be pretty aggressive.
- Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, I’m sure you know that it’s always better to travel with an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads. Already left home? Buy your travel insurance online now!
- Always bring with you a good travel guide to Crete! The best Crete Travel Guide I’ve found so far is the one published by Lonely Planet. It has all the information you need.
- Airfares to Crete can vary immensely from one airline to the other, make sure you always compare ticket prices with a powerful search engine. Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. I always choose Direct Ferries to visit other Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete from Athens. It has a powerful search engine to get the right ticket you need!
- If I need to book accommodation in Crete or anywhere else, I personally use Booking.com. Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.
- Road trips in Crete are the most authentic way to explore the island. Find the cheapest rental car using a good car rental search engine. Discover Cars searches over 500 trusted rental companies for you to find the best deal. Compare prices for rental cars in Crete here.
- Sometimes, the best way to get to know a place better and make the most of your time on Crete is to join an organized tour. GetYourGuide has a great selection of proposals that help you save time and money. From cooking lessons to archaeological site tours, skip-the-line attractions, and even airport transfer!
Do you have everything you need? Then you just have to get ready to discover Crete, Greece’s most beautiful island!
- Further reading
If you’re curious about traveling on Crete and all the things you can do on the island, check the 50 unmissable things to do in Crete. For a better way to discover all those things, simply head to the 3-week itinerary on Crete, it can be easily adapted for 2 or even just 1 week on the island. Those wanting to explore more the Rethymnon region, it would be a great idea to check the best things to do in Rethymnon or to discover one of the best day trips in Rethymnon: Arkadi Monastery. If road trips are your thing, then check out this stunning day trip around the Lasithi Plateau, in East Crete, it tells you all you can do in the area.
Matala makes a great road trip if you’re staying in Heraklion, so why not check all the things to do in Matala? On your way there, don’t overlook the beautiful villages in Crete you could discover. Heraklion is known for being the capital of the island, but also for hosting Crete’s most important archaeological site, the wonderful Knossos Palace.
Have you ever been to the Lasithi Plateau?
Let me know in the comments below!
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About the Author
Hola! I’m Gabi. Welcome to The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog! I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round. I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete. I’m a beach freak and on this island I’ve found heaven on earth!