One of the wildest regions on the island, off the beaten track, and many times underrated, Lasithi is one of the most amazing places in Greece for a truly relaxing holiday.
The southern coast of Lasithi enjoys dry weather, seeing less rain in winter and warmer temperatures than the rest of the island. All these details make it a perfect place for a vacation any time of the year.
Featuring incredible beaches, solitary monasteries, and unique traditional villages, there are plenty of great things to do in Lasithi, and this article brings you more than 50 incredible attractions and activities to enjoy!
Disclaimer: Posts include affiliate links to products or services. I might earn a commission if you make a purchase.
The Best Things to Do in Lasithi Region, Crete
ARE YOU PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO CRETE LAST MINUTE?
Be sure to book accommodation and tours in Crete ahead of time to ensure availability!
📍 Top tours in Crete:
– Full-day Samaria Gorge trek (#1 tour in Crete!)
– Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa (another top-selling tour!)
– Boat Trip to Spinalonga with swim stop (most popular in Agios!)
– Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site (top tour in Heraklion)
– Day trip to Elafonisi (a must in Chania!)
🛌 Top picks for places to stay in Crete:
– Lyttos Beach (top beachfront hotel in Hersonissos)
– SanSal Boutique Hotel (in Chania Old Town with a pool!)
– Grecotel Lux Me White Palace (the best resort in Rethymnon)
🚗 Looking for the best way to get around Crete? Check rental car rates for Crete now!
💳 Use WISE as a digital card and top-up from the app no matter where you are. Wise is one of the best cards for overseas travel!
Situated in the east of Crete, Lasithi is a place where life runs at a different pace. Tranquil and relaxing, the region offers a variety of surprising landscapes and some of the most isolated destinations on the island.
The main touristic town on the northern coast of Lasithi, is Agios Nikolaos, nestled in the Mirabello Gulf, on the Cretan Sea, and also the capital of the region.
However, the southern city of Ierapetra and the coastal Sitia are two other lively settlements with remarkable economic importance for the region.
Surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Dikti range, the Lasithi Plateau is a fertile highland where visitors can witness the authentic rural character of inland Crete.
In Lasithi, you will find amazing beaches and gorgeous villages, but also interesting archaeological sites and museums, fortresses, and other interesting attractions.
If you’re planning to spend some time exploring the region, then this post is right for you, keep reading to discover all the things to do in the region of Lasithi!
What to Do in the Region of Lasithi, Crete
In this article, I share everything you need to know to spend a magnificent time exploring the Lasithi region. As usual, I’ve included the best places I’ve discovered in these six (or more) years on the island.
This is my list of the best things to do in the region of Lasithi, the journey starts by featuring 5 fantastic things to do in the capital of the region, Agios Nikolaos, and it then takes you on an exploration trip in other parts of the region.
1. Spend Time at Lake Voulismeni
Probably the most recognizable landmark in Agios Nikolaos is the lake. And no visit to the area can be considered complete without a stop for a drink right by the lakeside.
Lake Voulismeni is located right in the heart of Agios, it’s a sweetwater lake connected to the sea and surrounded by bars and restaurants which make the place pretty animated at night.
The history of Lake Voulismeni is surrounded by several legends. For instance, a local legend described the lake to be bottomless, as it was believed that it was a passage to communicate with evil spirits. However, in 1853, it was discovered that the lake is 64 m deep at the center.
The lake is surrounded by a rocky wall on one of its sides and it’s a traditional place of gathering for locals and tourists alike
To get the best view of the lake and the sea, it’s better to reach the street that borders the upper part of the lake.
2. Check Out Agios Nikolaos’ Museums
The Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos hosts ancient finds discovered around the region of Lasithi belonging to different periods in history with a prevalent collection of Minoan artifacts.
Among the findings, there are objects from the seaside cemetery of Agia Fotia (close to Ierapetra) and a remarkable skull of an athlete with a gold wreath and a coin in his mouth coming from the distant archaeological site in Polyrrinia, near Kissamos.
This coin was found in an Ancient cemetery in Lato, the best-preserved Cretan town from the Hellenistic period.
At the date of writing, the museum is currently undergoing renovation, so it might be a good idea to drive to the nearby Lato Archaeological Site if you’re interested in Crete’s Hellenistic past.
Check the official website periodically to get updated information if you plan to visit.
Another interesting exhibition in the city is hosted inside the Folk Art Museum of Agios Nikolaos, opposite Lake Voulismeni.
The place showcases authentic objects, part of the Cretan way of life including furniture, work utensils, textiles, and pottery. There are also religious icons and other crafts on display.
>> Admission fee: € 3 for adults, children free – Opening hours: 10.30 am-2.30 pm and 6 pm-8 pm. Closed on Mondays.
3. Walk Agios Nikolaos’ Stairs
Agios Nikolaos features an incredible network of stairs connecting the different levels of the city through over 70 staircases.
These stairs have been included in a contemporary art project called The Spirit of the Stairs which makes the city even more appealing through the decoration of stairs and steps with murals and fascinating street art. The project promotes the architectural and cultural heritage of Agios Nikolaos.
Eleven out of the 70 stairs in town have taken part in the project and now feature paintings and sculptures that often refer to the identity of Agios Nikolaos while connecting the upper and lower parts of the town.
Artists use both the natural landscape and the culture of each neighborhood where the stairs are located while each staircase develops a unique theme, incorporating elements from yards and private gardens.
4. Sunbathe at Almyros Beach
Quite easy to reach from the center of Agios, even with public transport, Almyros is a gorgeous wide golden sand beach located no more than 2,5 km east of the city center.
The beach, calm and shallow, is an excellent choice for families with small kids, not only because the bay is really safe, but also because kids love the scenic little river that flows into the sea.
The river is cold and clean and it produces a weird hot-cold effect when it mixes with the sea that feels really refreshing on the hottest days of summer. This is one of the most popular beaches in Agios Nikolaos
5. Pay a Visit to Agios Nikolaos in Ormos Church
Located near the beach or Ormos, about 5 minutes by car from the center of Agios, this Byzantine church is the one that gives name to the city.
The beautiful church of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) is truly worth a visit. It’s located facing the nearby bay of Ormos, a shallow area not far from where ships would anchor during the Roman and Byzantine periods.
This single-naved church is one of the few remaining Early Byzantine churches in Crete, probably dating back to the pre-Arab conquest of the island in 827.
Get your copy now and unlock the secrets of Agios like a local!
There is a lot more to see and visit in the center of Agios Nikolaos, all activities that will let you explore the rest of the capital of Lasithi like a local.
For instance, you can check out this guide to the best things to do in Agios Nikolaos town. You can also read this article about the best free things to do in Agios and this post with activities for two-three days in Agios Nikolaos. You can also find out about the best restaurants in Agios here.
Let’s now see what else to do in the rest of the region.
6. Take a Semi Submarine Boat Trip
An interesting experience for adults and kids alike, this incredible boat trip will allow you to discover the incredible bottom of the Cretan Sea along the Mirabello Gulf.
During the experience, you might even be lucky enough to spot rare sea turtles, octopuses, and dolphins!
The vessel departs from the Port of Agios Nikolaos and travels to the coastal waters of Agioi Pantes Island for you to have fun while learning about the local submarine flora and fauna.
Later on, you will also be able to take a seat on the main deck of the boat to admire the spectacular views of Agios Nikolaos Bay.
7. Go Fishing on Mirabello Bay
Another popular activity to enjoy in the area is fishing on the calm waters of the Mirabello Gulf facing Agios Nikolaos.
You can join a fishing trip like this one and try different fishing techniques, swim, and even snorkel while enjoying the beautiful surroundings and calm waters that are the highlight of this coastal area.
Imagine being able to use professional equipment and try lots of different types of rod fishing… if you’re a fan of this sport, you will certainly have a great day at sea!
8. Explore the Byzantine Panagia Kera Church
Considered one of the most important religious centers in Crete, Panagia Kera is a well-known Byzantine church located a few minutes from Agios Nikolaos, on the road that takes you to the village of Kritsa.
Located on an elevated position in the Dikti Mountains (over 600 meters asl), the church dedicated to the Holy Virgin houses some of the oldest Byzantine frescoes on the island.
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.
9. Visit the Mountain Settlement of Kritsa
Considered one of the most beautiful traditional villages on the island, Kritsa is a popular settlement receiving hundreds of tourists each day, eager to purchase the incredibly beautiful textiles still made in the area.
However, there’s a lot more to learn about the history of Crete when visiting Kritsa. In fact, Kritsa houses two important museums that you cannot miss!
First of all, head to the Krisotopoula Museum 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.
Krisotopoula 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.
Also in Kritsa, Rodanthi Museum is the perfect place to explore a rare collection of plants, herbs, and fossils dating back millions of years. It also gives you the opportunity to participate in activities that will connect you with nature and the local species.
A note on the names: Used as a nickname for Rodanthi, Kritsotopoula roughly translates as the Daughter of Kritsa. However, these are two distinct museums, both in the same village. You can find more information on both museums in this guide to the best museums in the Lasthi region.
You will find Kritsa within a short car ride from Agios (about 11 km), in the Dikti Mountains, not far from a wonderful natural area in Lasithi, the Katharo Plateau.
10. Have a Late Lunch in Kroustas
This charming old village a few minutes from Kritsa is located on a hill about 520 meters asl. From certain areas of the village, you will be able to admire some spectacular views of the Mirabello Gulf.
However, the main reason to visit is their food. There are a couple of incredible tavernas that locals love and some unique dishes. Kroustas’ traditional cuisine includes myzithropites (special pies filled with local myzithra cheese), ftazymo bread, a traditional sourdough bread, sometimes made with barley flour, and typically baked all over Lasithi.
Finally, don’t miss a good dish of skiufichta pasta with stationed anthotyro cheese grated on top, or an abundant serving of aiga vrasti (a tender serving of boiled goat) served with boiled wild greens (xorta).
11. Explore the Ancient Dorian City of Lato
Lato was a settlement and city-state that flourished during the Dorian times on the island, between the fourth and fifth centuries BC. However, it is believed that other more ancient civilizations occupied the area in previous centuries.
The ancient settlement, that’s not far from Kritsa, is believed to have been in continuous conflict for its borders with the neighboring city of Olous (now a sunken city near Elounda).
During a visit to Lato, don’t miss exploring the agora, an open space probably devoted to market activities, commerce, and trade, where it’s still possible to see the rest of an ancient square cistern and a small rectangular temple.
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.
12. Hike Through the Katharo Plateau
Quite off the beaten path, and certainly less popular than the Lasithi Plateau, the Katharo Plateau offers some of the most impressive landscapes in East Crete for you to discover.
The most comfortable way to reach the area is to start your trip from the small mountain village of Kritsa and then drive via the Epar. Od. Kritsas-Katharou rode for about 16 km more to reach Katharo.
Most visitors love to follow the route that takes you to the spectacular Havgas Gorge with abundant springs and a magical place that locals know as the Pool of the Fairy (Νεραιδακολυμπος) or also the Ball, a large swimming area where a huge round block diverts the water’s flow.
Since the hike is a bit difficult, joining an organized hiking group offers the chance to explore with an expert guide for further safety.
13. Discover the Cosmopolitan Elounda
Home to some of the most exclusive seaside resorts on the northern coast of the island, Elounda is a village of contrasts, featuring incredible hotels as well as an ancient settlement worth a visit, Pano Elounda (or Epano Elounda) where one of the most famous series ever made in Greece, The Island, was filmed.
Elounda is best known for its dramatic landscape and spectacular beaches. Although most visitors prefer to spend their day relaxing on a sunbed by the pool in a private resort, the nearby area is full of amazing sights.
For example, you can day trip to the picturesque Kolokitha Beach or take a boat to the famous Spinalonga Island, very easy to reach from the port of Elounda. Many visitors enjoy catamaran and sunset yacht trips in the area, perfect to visit Mirabello Bay and the coast of Plaka and Elounda.
14. Have a Fish Lunch by the Sea in Plaka
Plaka is a humble fishing village with a very traditional atmosphere only minutes from Agios Nikolaos and the perfect place to start exploring the nearby island of Spinalonga (see the next item on this list).
Ideal for a relaxing stay on the pebbled beach or for a lavish fish lunch by the sea, there’s not much to do in Plaka yet it is a unique traditional settlement that you don’t want to skip during your Lasithi adventure.
15. Sail to Spinalonga Island
Guarding a tragic but fascinating history, Spinalonga is better known for being home to the last leper colony in Greece. Opposite the small fishing village of Plaka and a short boat ride from Elounda, Spinalonga ’s tragic past inspired author Victoria Hislop to write The Island, a best-seller that tells the story of the colony.
One of Crete’s most popular touristic places, the fortified island can be seen in about one hour. There are different options to reach Spinalonga. Boats depart from the nearby small village of Plaka, but also from the port of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos.
The island of Spinalonga, now open to the public for daily visits, has also been the subject of several books, a best-seller novel, and a famous Greek TV series.
Although it was occupied during the Venetian and Ottoman rules of Crete, it mostly became famous for being the place where leper patients were confined during the last century (from 1903 until the late 1950s).
Despite the stigma, as time went by, residents of Spinalonga managed to lead a rather normal life. They organized and established shops, a school, an open market, a hospital, a cinema, and a kafenio. On the island, there were also churches and a cemetery.
The area is now a protected archaeological area also housing a museum.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT SPINALONGA:
– From April 1st until October 31st, 8.30 am – 8.30 pm, daily
– According to the official website, Spinalonga is closed in winter (from Nov. 1st to Mar. 31st) but opens on weekends with good weather conditions.
Entrance Fee: Full ticket €8.00, reduced €4.00. This fee is paid on the island.
Boats: The first boat of the day departs from Plaka at around 9.00 am.
16. Discover the Sunken Olous
If you’re staying close to Agios Nikolaos or Elounda, it is a good idea to visit the Sunken City of Olous
Olous was, in fact, one of the most important cities in Crete during the Minoan times. They minted their own coins bearing the images of Artemis and Zeus, usually holding a dolphin or an eagle.
Today, the remains of the city lie under the sea, and parts of them are visible from the surface on a clear day, some local companies also organize immersions to explore the ancient settlement, check out in town for more information.
17. Savor a Traditional Barbecue in Kolokitha Peninsula
Kolokitha Beach is located on a long peninsula facing the city of Elounda and a few steps from the sunken city of Olous.
Although driving towards the Kolokitha Beach (also known as Agios Lukas) can be a bit difficult, the place offers a fantastic sandy beach where to spend a whole day and enjoy the calm sea of Mirabello Bay.
Since driving there might be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, different companies offer a boat trip that also includes a visit to Spinalonga as well as a barbecue lunch on this beach.
This has become a truly popular day trip and booking in advance is recommended as it’s often difficult to find a spot during the high season.
18. Explore the Beaches in Sisi
There are a few organized beaches in and around the village of Sisi, a traditional settlement with a quiet vibe, great hotels, and a few options for entertainment.
However, the coast is rather rugged and rocky. Sisi is home to several popular beaches that receive visitors from all over Europe every summer.
Paralia Limani is the beach at the port while towards the east of Sisi, you can visit Boufos, Avlaki, and Spiliada.
The coast of Sisi (also written Sissi), is usually affected by the northern winds, making the sea quite wavy. Therefore, most tourists seek the calm waters of the port for a pleasant afternoon by the sea.
19. Head to Voulisma Beach
One of the most impressive beaches you will find in Lasithi is the incredibly beautiful Voulisma Beach, about 12 km from the center of Agios Nikolaos.
The place is a popular destination thanks to its bright turquoise waters and stunning green landscape all around. Also known as Golden Beach due to the color of the sand, is located on a very wide and shallow bay, with fine sand and every facility you need.
Over here, you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas or visit the beach bar above for lunch or a drink… Or even better, head to the nearby Kalo Chorio village and enjoy some of the best tavernas in Lasithi…
20. Splurge in Local Cuisine in Kalo Chorio
Famous for hosting a coast that shelters the magnificent Voulisma Beach, Kalo Chorio is a quiet settlement near Agio Nikolaos where you will find some of the best traditional Cretan food.
These are among the best places we recommend for an after-beach lunch:
21. Take on the Lasithi Plateau Circuit
A popular day trip if you’re staying in 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 takes you through the fields dotted with some of the famous sails of the local windmills that were once the landmark of the plateau.
The plateau stands surrounded by the imposing heights of the Dikti Mountains over 850 meters asl.
All around the highland, there are about 18 traditional villages you can visit. Many people enjoy hiking in the area while others prefer to discover the plateau by car or by bike. The plains are among the most fertile lands on Crete.
Lasithi Windmills: 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, windmills were key to irrigating the fields and providing water for animals and plants, however, they’ve been replaced by more modern technologies.
22. Descend Psychro Cave
Zeus Cave, Psychro Cave, and Dikteon Andron are three names given to this stunning cave located in the village of Psychro on the Lasithi Plateau.
The cave stands at 1025 meters above sea level, and it covers an area of more than 2200 meters.
A comfortable staircase leads you down inside the cave while the whole paths and chambers have nice, suggestive lights that allow visitors to appreciate every detail inside the cave.
The cave was an ancient Minoan site of worship that was discovered at the end of the 1800s. The first excavations in Psychro brought to light a collection of ritual objects which led to the conclusion that the cave was a sacred site to the Minoans.
If you’d really like to visit but dread the driving part, then check out these guided tours that for quite an affordable fee include a visit to Psychro Cave as well as an interesting tour of the Lasithi Plateau:
- Lasithi Plateau & Dictaean Cave Day Trip (approximate fee €30)
- Lasithi Plateau and the Cave of Zeus from Heraklion (approximate fee €25)
- Lasithi Plateau and Cave of Zeus Off-Road Safari Tour (approximate free €90)
- *** Prices are approximate and handled by each individual tour operator -not by this blog- therefore they are subject to change without notice.
23. Wander the Alleys of Tzermiado Village
Tzermiado is one of the villages you should visit on a day trip to the Lasithi Plateau. This small old town is ideal to walk around, meet the locals, discover amazing dishes, and marvel at 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.
24. Step Back in Time in the Archaeological Site of Gournias
Gournias is a late Minoan town that has been fully excavated. Although the original name of the settlement remains unknown, it gets its present name from the hollow vessels found on the site, some of which are still in place.
The settlement is very close to the sea, on Mirabello Bay (Lasithi), on the narrowest and easiest point to cross the island from north to south.
According to archaeologists, the town can be separated into different neighborhoods, while there were two roads surrounding both the lower and the upper areas of the settlement.
>> Opening hours: from 8.30 am to 3 pm.
25. Learn about Olive Trees in Kavousi
Not far from the beautiful Tholos Beach, on the northern coast of Lasithi, the small village of Kavousi shelters an ancient monumental olive tree worth a visit. Considered the biggest on the island, the tree has probably been standing on this spot since the Minoan Era.
This impressive tree has a trunk with a diameter of 4,9 meters while its circumference is 14,20 meters. And the best part? It is still producing olives!
26. Check Out the Fishing Village of Mochlos
Mochlos is a traditional fishing village with a beautiful beach and tranquil tavernas by the small shore. It is a popular destination for those wishing to rent a house by the sea in a place that’s not regularly hit by massive hordes of tourists.
Opposite the coast, there is an islet hosting an ancient Minoan site worth exploring.
Overall, the atmosphere is relaxed and it combines the views of the mountains with the turquoise waters of the Mirabello Gulf.
27. Explore Hamezi and its Minoan Mansion
Not far from the modern village of Hamezi, archaeological excavations brought to light an ancient Minoan Villa worth visiting.
The house (probably a farmhouse in Minoan times) features an original oval shape that arguably follows the shape of the hill where it stands. The ruins also feature remarkable defensive walls and might have been used as a sanctuary since, among the findings, archaeologists also found clay figurines and an altar as well as farming utensils and other bronze objects.
If you decide to explore Hamezi, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the modern village. Over here, you can check out the most unique folklore museum on the island where to get an in-depth look at traditional life in Crete during the last century.
Among the many displays on the house, you cannot but admire the simplicity and raw beauty of common everyday items, such as the lovely set of chairs with a low dining table.
>> Entrance Fee €1.5.
28. Head to Richtis Gorge and Waterfall
The beautiful Richtis Gorge and its waterfall make one of the prettiest hikes on the island. Located on the northern coast halfway between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia, Richtis Gorge features a pleasant hiking trail starting outside the Exo Mouliana village and ending on the small Richtis Beach.
The hike can take from 2 to 3 hours and it will surprise walkers with its beautiful stream and a magnificent waterfall along the way.
Although it is quite a safe hiking trail, it can be truly rewarding to join a group to hike Richtis and make new friends that also share the passion for Crete and for walks in nature.
29. Spend a Day in Sitia
Small yet extremely picturesque and with a laid-back vibe, Sitia is a port town in East Crete as well as a great place to start an exploration journey if you enjoy lonely and remote locations.
A perfect destination all year round, Sitia lies on the western side of Sitia Bay and it features a pleasant climate all year round, mostly warm and dry, like most of eastern Crete.
The city also hosts the smallest airport on the island (JSH) — and the only airport in East Crete. The port of Sitia handles sea routes with ferries getting to Crete from Piraeus Port and some islands in the Dodecanese (such as Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kassos).
During a visit to Sitia, don’t miss a stop at the local Archaeological Museum, the Venetian Fortress, and some of the best beaches in East Crete.
Overall, Sitia is an unspoiled, quiet, and provincial town, with life revolving mostly around agricultural activities rather than tourism where it’s still possible to experience the authentic lifestyle of the island.
30. Visit the Isolated Cape Sideros
Cape Sidero (also Sideros) is one of the least visited places on the island as well as one of the most interesting ones – especially if you’re a language nerd just like me!
This peninsula is adjacent to a strategic maritime crossroads on the paths of traffic entering or leaving the Aegean Sea even when its coast is said to be dangerous for ships, as there are many reefs and shallow areas.
Anciently known as Samonion and Salmonion the cape shares the name with an island-like peninsula of which it is a projection. Although many believe that its name is related to the modern Greek sidero (meaning iron) the words have a different root and its current name remains a mystery since there is no trace of such mineral on the cape.
You can venture into the area with your car to admire the solitary landscape, however, keep in mind that part of the territory is off-limits since it belongs to a naval station managed by the Greek Navy.
Every February, during the Saint Isidoros feast, it’s possible to visit the ancient Lighthouse on Cape Sideros that was built by the French Company of Lighthouses during the Ottoman rule that has been in operation since 1880.
31. Learn About the Past at the Petsophas Peak Sanctuary
Known both as Petsophas and Petsofas, this archaeological site belonged to one of the several Minoan Peak sanctuaries located in Crete.
It stands opposite the ancient Minoan town of Palekastro and it holds a remarkable status as a sanctuary since many different objects for religious rituals were found in the area, including a great number of clay figurines, from 1400 to 1450 BC, some of them quite unique, such as the figures of curious animals, including weasels and tortoises.
32. Have Fun at the Kornaria Festival in Sitia’s Kazarma
Once you’re in town, one of the most important places to visit is the Venetian fortress located facing the bay of Sitia, very close to the waterfront promenade, the Kazarma (a word that clearly comes from Casa d’Arma – Italian for barracks).
Siatia’s Kazarma was the main defensive fortification of Sitia dating back from the thirteenth century, year, due to the frequent pirate raids that Crete underwent through the centuries, it was badly damaged by several hostile invading forces.
Remember that if you visit in the period that goes from June to August, the Kornaria Festival is a must-attend cultural event that celebrates the life and work of Vitsentzos Kornaros, a remarkable Cretan poet and author of the romantic epic poem Erotokritos as well as one of the most important figures of the so-called Cretan Renaissance.
The Kornaria celebrations boast music exhibitions, theater, and dance performances, but also different cultural exhibitions, sports events, and a lot more.
Everything takes place every year all over the city while the most important exhibitions are held in the Venetian Kazarma.
33. Pay a Visit to Toplou Monastery
One of the many monasteries that shaped the history of the island, taking part in the resistance against the Turkish and the subsequent Nazi occupation during WWII. The holy building is located in Lasithi and is one of the most attractive places to visit near Sitia.
The Holy Monastery of Toplou is nestled in the northeastern tip of Crete, the Holy Monastery of Toplou is home to an impressive church and an interesting museum that displays objects belonging to the German occupation of the island, a time when the monastery was a vital shelter for resistance fighters.
The monastery offered secure protection thanks to the impressive fortified 10-meter-high walls that surround the structure. Inside the monastery, the gorgeous stone-made inner courts with flowers and plants offer some of the most beautiful sights of Toplou.
The monastery today is home to one of the most important wineries in Crete, and it is open to the public during the whole year from 10 am to 6 pm.
34. Swim at the Wonderful Vai Pam Beach
Located on the remote easternmost coast of Crete, right before the peninsula leading to the solitary Cape Sideros and about 23 km from the city of Sitia, this particular place is home to one of the most beautiful and exotic beaches in Crete and a fantastic place to discover.
The beach is sheltered within a protected natural palm tree forest known as Finikodasos (Φοινικόδασος).
Home to the largest palm forest in Europe, the landscape in Vai is simply astonishing.
To keep the area safe, most of the forest is enclosed by a fence, giving you access only to the palms located by the sea, however, if you reach the lookout point on the extreme end of the beach, you can climb quite a few steps to get a great aerial view of the forest and the sea.
The palm trees in this grove are really thick and ancient, granting plenty of natural shade and a cooler atmosphere even during the very hot summers typical of eastern Crete.
35. Explore the Ancient Site of Itanos
Home to a beautiful beach as well as an archaeological site, Ancient Itanos.
Today, you can easily explore the ruins of the ancient town of Itanos, a remarkable Dorian settlement, very powerful in East Crete. The ruins include ancient temples and early Christian churches. Much of Itanos ruins continue underwater and can be explored with basic snorkeling equipment.
Itanos Beach is only a few minutes from the more famous Palm Tree Beach of Vai. In the area, you will find the main beach of Itanos, shallow and with fine sand, ideal for families, as well as a secluded naturist area.
36. Palekastro and the Beaches of Chiona and Kouremenos
Palekastro is one of the most important villages on the Eastern Coast of Crete while the gorgeous beaches of Chiona and Kouremenos are just a few minutes from the settlement.
The town stands about 20 km from the most important town in the area, Sitia, and remains an important economic center that also features interesting archaeological sites. Although the village is not a tourist attraction, it is a great place to stay if you’re looking to visit the surrounding area, including Vai Beach, Toplou Monastery, Kouremenos and Chiona Beaches, Zakros, and the ruins in Roussolakos.
The main highlight in the area is the Old Fortress (Paleo: old, Kastro: castle) on a hill that divides the beaches of Chiona and Kouremenos.
37. Check Out the Minoan Town of Roussolakos
Divided into 9 different districts, this ancient Minoan town features an impressive sewage network, which speaks of its advanced organization, as well as a collection of large rooms, storage areas, and curious olive and wine presses.
A highlight in the area is the rest of a shrine that honored Diktaean Zeus and that was probably destroyed back in the fourth century.
Located close to the fantastic Chiona Beach, Roussolakos was an important Minoan settlement near the ruins of Palekastro, and that thrived during the final years of the Minoan Age.
>> Visiting Hours: The archaeological site is open every day of the week from 8 am to 3 pm.
38. Hike the Valley of the Dead
When visiting the area of Zakros, other than exploring the imposing ruins of an important Minoan Palace (see below), you can spend some time discovering the wild local landscape while hiking through the incredible Gorge of Zakros.
If you prefer an odd visit, head to the Museum of Water and Hydraulics, a thematic museum that aims to showcase the importance of water in Cretan life through ordinary objects of the past.
You can walk the whole path in under an hour, surrounded by low bushes and oak trees and lined with steep, rocky walls that lead to the village of Kato Zakros and its beach.
The Zakros ravine is also known by the popular name of Gorge of the Dead, Caves of the Dead, or Valley of the Dead because, on the high walls of the gorge, there are big caves where archaeologists found tombs dating back to the Minoan era.
39. Visit the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Situated amidst a barren landscape of unspoiled charm, the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros is the fourth unearthed Minoan Palace that you can visit in Crete.
The place features well-preserved ruins surrounded by a truly spectacular landscape. Thanks to its isolated and quite remote location, the site was never looted until its discovery.
Thus, the finds in Kato Zakros are more significant in number and quality than any other Minoan site. Although objects are now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, you still have plenty to see when visiting the ruins of the former palace.
The structure includes a multi-store building with over 300 rooms spread around a typical Minoan central court. The palace, which was believed to operate as a commercial outlet to the East, also had access to a port through its main gate at the northeastern side.
One of the most popular areas you’ll find among the ruins is a unique Minoan structure named Basin Hall – an ample square space with an open-air basin previously used to collect spring water, besides, the freshwater wells of the palace are home to a variety of turtles, which children love to spot when they visit.
40. Swim at Kato Zakros Beach
The area is better known for being close to one of the four unearthed Minoan Palaces on the island, the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros. The seaside area has two beautiful small beaches and a fairly long and wide shore with tamarisk trees and a couple of simple taverns.
It is a great idea to rest at this beach after having explored the archaeological site, or once you’ve hiked down the Zakros Gorge, also known as the Valley of the Dead.
41. Drive along the Southern Coast in Xerokampos
The extensive region known as Xerokampos, in the southeastern area of Lasithi, features a collection of varied and beautiful beaches that are mostly hard to access and quite remote, making it an ideal place to go for complete isolation and total relaxation.
The biggest beach in the region is Mazida Ammos, also considered among the prettiest and most exotic bays in southern Crete. It has turquoise waters and the sand is clear and very fine. The place is perfect if you’re looking for calm waters as it is protected by Cape Trachilos, which makes the sea quite flat and calm, and Kavali, an islet standing opposite the shore.
42. Visit the Tranquil Village of Makrigialos
The tranquil seaside settlement of Makrigialos is a fantastic destination on the southern coast of Lasithi if you’re looking for a quiet village with gorgeous beaches.
Makrigialos is approximately 25 kilometers east of Ierapetra and it is home to many safe sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters and a relaxed atmosphere. Although there’s not much to do in the village, the place is often chosen precisely for that reason.
While spending time in Makrigialos, you can also explore nearby gorges and attractions, and be amazed by the southern pace of life, made of hospitality, simplicity, and wild landscapes.
43. Have a Fish Dinner on Ierapetra Town’s Waterfront
We’ve many times said that food in Crete is mostly made of dishes that find ingredients in the mountains, including lamb and goat, but also wild greens, and different cheeses.
Yet, some coastal towns boats incredible restaurants that serve fish and seafood where you can enjoy the freshest catch of the day. The Ierapetra waterfront is one of those places.
Choose one of the many affordable fish taverns located on the waterfront and enjoy fresh calamari, octopus, sea beam, and other local delicacies from the Libyan Sea during your time in Ierapetra.
44. Learn about Napoleon’s Visit to Crete
45. Take a Day Trip to Chrissi Island
One of the most spectacular places you can discover on the Libyan Sea is Chrissi Island, so don’t miss a day trip!
Chrissi is a small island located about 14 km off the coast of Ierapetra, on the Libyan Sea. The small island is a natural ecosystem with pristine beaches and incredibly white sand that has become quite a popular destination for a day trip (as sleeping on the island is forbidden).
Chrissi’s bare geography features unique juniper trees, a rare cedarwood forest thought to be the largest in Europe. The coast boasts clear turquoise and it’s one of the last uninhabited spots in the Crete region.
Chrissi Island is a protected reserve part of the Natura 2000 Program, with a surface that’s about 2 km by 7 km. Since Chrissi is a protected territory, visitors are not allowed to collect stones, shells, or any kind of plant.
46. Sail to Koufonisi
Virtually unknown by most tourists (and often confused with Koufonisia, part of the Small Cyclades group), Koufonisi is a very small paradisiac island, completely uninhabited, located off the southern coast of Crete.
Koufonisi is an uninhabited tiny islet 3 nautical miles from the south of Lasithi reached often by boats that leave from Makrigialos, a small village not far from Ierapetra. This small island is about 5 square km big and it features a unique landscape made of fine sand beaches as limestone caves.
Since the islet lacks organization, you will need to pack drinks and food, but also sunscreen and other necessities if you plan to spend the day.
47. Discover Koutsouras and Ferma Beach
Located between Ierapetra and Makrigialos, Koutsouras, (but also Agia Fotia, and Ferma Beach) is a peaceful seaside village featuring a shallow beach with calm blue waters.
The beach in Koutsouras mainly features a coastline with pebbles and gravel, and it’s also quite safe. The village has not yet been hit by massive tourism, making it an ideal place for a tranquil vacation.
Hiking enthusiasts will find enough entertainment walking through the nearby Butterfly Gorge which can be easily accessed from Koutsouras.
If beaches are what you prefer, then explore the whole area! One of the highlights near Koutsouras is Ferma Beach, about 10 km from Koutsouras. This is a fantastic pebbled shore with shallow, safe waters, and unique rocky formations.
48. Beach Day at Agia Fotia
Located about 12 km east of Ierapetra, Agia Fotia is a popular bay on the southern coast of the Lasithi region located at the extreme of a small stream coming from the Tripiti Mountain, lined up with huge plane trees. This Self-Drive Jeep Tour to the Thripti Mountains and the surrounding small villages is perfect to visit the whole area.
As with many beaches near Ierapetra, the coast features coarse dark sand mixed with pebbles and cold, blue waters.
The beach is organized, so you will be able to rent an umbrella or even spend the night in one of the many rooms to rent and studios in the small Agia Fotia village.
49. Spend an Evening in Myrtos
Nothing like spending a night in a tranquil seaside village in southern Crete for the utmost relaxing experience. Trust me, Myrtos is the right place to do so!
Myrtos is a picturesque seaside village about 30 minutes from Ierapetra, home to a very quiet atmosphere.
The place is also an excellent base to explore the southeastern coast of the island and has gorgeous souvenir shops, delicious family-run tavernas, and amazingly charming alleys to wander in the evening.
50. Visit the Archaeological Site of Pyrgos
One more Minoan settlement you can discover on the island is located very near the magnificent village of Myrtos, not far from Ierapetra.
This archaeological site was set in a strategic position, not far from the valley of Myrtos, and protected by the mountains.
In Pyrgos, you can check out an ancient courtyard, many rooms, probably used for storage, a country house, and a Minoan tomb. Other interesting highlights that tell about an advanced Minoan society include a drain and footpaths.
Historians consider Pyrgos to be an administrative site and it’s often used as an example of what an administrative site during the Minoan civilization would look like.
51. Hike Sarakina Gorge
Located on the southern coast of Lasithi, Sarakina Gorge is not far from the gorgeous Myrtos village and the city of Ierapetra. The canyon is not as long as other Cretan gorges, but it features imposing high walls, climbing up to 150 meters while there are narrow passages (from 10 to 3 meters wide).
Most of the gorge is accessible even if you’re not a highly experienced climber, however, some experience and equipment will be needed to pass certain points.
For this reason, it’s always better to take part in an organized tour like this one, led by expert guides to make the most of your day in total safety, being able to enjoy the impressive waterfalls and ponds that form along the trail. The day trip also includes a visit to Kritsa and Kroustas and a refreshing stop at the beach in Myrtos.
52. Take a Peaceful Walk Along the Butterfly Gorge
Known as Orino Gorge as well as Red Butterfly Canyon (Kokkines Petaloudes Faragi), this is an amazing place to visit and is a great day out no matter how experienced or how old you are!
In fact, the hike is considered an easy route that takes a bit more than an hour and a half to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking and running, quite popular at the beginning and the end of the hot season (especially in May and September).
The total trail (out-and-back) is 4.8 km while the elevation gain is minimal (about 135 meters), making it a really easy and enjoyable path.
The gorge gets its name from the red butterflies that live among the lush bushes and flowers that populate the gorge, although they are not as many as there used to be. Some unique waterfalls can be found during the walk, especially late in autumn or winter.
The route starts about one kilometer from Koutsouras village and you will find more details on this dedicated page of AllTrails.
General Information about Lasithi
Lasithi is the easternmost region on the island, located next to the region of Heraklion. The capital of the region is Agios Nikolaos which is also the main transportation hub in the region.
How to Get to Lasithi
You can get to Agios Nikolaos by car from Heraklion, the trip is about 1 hour. Alternatively, you can also take the public bus at the Ktel Station. If you’re traveling to Agios Nikolaos from Chania or Rethymnon, you must change the bus when you get to Heraklion’s Public Bus Station.
For you to have an idea, a complete trip Chania-Agios Nikolaos by bus can last up to 5 hours.
Distances from the main cities in Crete to Agios Nikolaos and journey time by car:
- Sitia – Agios Nikolaos: 66,5 km, 1 h 20 m.
- Heraklion – Agios Nikolaos: 62,4 km, 1 h.
- Rethymno – Agios Nikolaos: 139 km, 2 h.
- Chania – Agios Nikolaos: 202 km, 3 h.
Where to Stay in Lasithi
Although staying in Agios Nikolaos can be the obvious (and most comfortable choice), there are plenty of interesting villages and towns in Lasithi offering accommodation, either by the sea or in the mountains. For instance, you can choose the seaside resort of Elounda, for a luxury retreat by the sea or the solitary southern town of Ierapetra.
On the blog, you will find several articles regarding accommodation in Crete, region by region as well.
These are some of the places to stay that I recommend in Lasithi’s most visited areas:
- Where to Stay in Agios Nikolaos
Hotel Port 7- Boutique Collection: A place located at the entrance of the port and near the popular Kitroplatia Beach, the hotel offers rooms with direct views of Mirabello Bay and Voulismeni Lake, some with a fully equipped kitchenette or an outdoor hot tub. The hotel features also a terrace and an on-site bar.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
- Where to Stay in Ierapetra
El Greco Hotel: Set on Ierapetra’s seafront, the 4-star hotel offers modern and spacious suites with balconies, some with views of the bay. The hotel has a restaurant facing the Libyan Sea and serving Mediterranean dishes and traditional Cretan cuisine.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
- Where to Stay in Kalo Xorio
Vathi Bay 1: This top-rated property offers accommodation with a charming garden, a balcony, and free private parking. The vacation home has 3 comfy bedrooms, a seating area, a fireplace, and a fully equipped kitchen.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
- Where to Stay in Elounda
Naiades Village Elounda: A wonderful recently renovated apartment complex with units featuring family rooms, a hot tub, free Wifi, a seating area, a kitchenette, and a dining area.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
- More Places to Stay in Lasithi:
🛌 Suggested Accommodation in Lasithi:
- Affordable: Porto Maltese and Katia Apartment in town.
- Mid-range: Ostria Apartments in Ammoudara.
- Luxury: Elounda Peninsula in Elounda.
- Check also Rental Homes in Agios Nikolaos and Elounda Resorts.
🗺️ More resources to book your trip to Crete
- 🛫 Search for cheap flights with CheapOAir.
- 🛥️ Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
- 🚕 Book airport transfer with Welcome Pickups.
- 🚘 Rent a car in Crete with Discover Cars.
- 📍 Join adventures and cultural experiences with Get Your Guide.
- Never leave without travel insurance Safety Wing.
- 💳 Carry the best credit card for travel with Wise.
Read more about Lasithi
Pin This Super Guide to the Best Things to Do in Lasithi Region for Your Next Trip to Crete!
You might also want to read these blogs about Lasithi, Crete:
About my blog:
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 media.
I’ve written for Greek Reporter, published travel guides about Greece, co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.