52 Incredible Things to Do in Lasithi Region for a Top Vacation in Crete

Things to Do in Lasithi

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!

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The Best Things to Do in Lasithi Region, Crete

things to do in Lasithi

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Situated on the eastern part of the island, Lasithi is a region where life seems to run 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 tourist town on the northern coast of Lasithi is Agios Nikolaos, nestled in the Mirabello Gulf, on the Cretan Sea, and also the region’s capital.

However, the southern city of Ierapetra and the coastal Sitia are other lively settlements with remarkable economic importance for the region.

things to do in lasithi
Sitia, Lasithi.

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, interesting archaeological sites and museums, fortresses, and other attractions.

If you plan to spend time in the region, this post is for you. Keep reading to discover all the things to do in Lasithi!

What to Do in the Region of Lasithi, Crete

Stone windmills from 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

things to do in lasithi

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. This sweetwater lake is connected to the sea and surrounded by bars and restaurants, making the place lively and animated at night.

Legends and myths surround the history of the lake. A local legend described the lake as bottomless, as it was believed to be a passage to communicate with evil spirits. However, in 1853, it was discovered that the lake was 64 m deep at the center.

things to do in lasithi

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 bordering the upper part of the lake.

2. Check Out Agios Nikolaos’ Museums

things to do in lasithi

The Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos hosts ancient finds discovered around the region of Lasithi from different periods in history, with a prevalent collection of Minoan artifacts.

Among the findings 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 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 for 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

Street art, painting, public 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 by decorating stairs and steps with murals and fascinating street art. The project promotes the architectural and cultural heritage of Agios Nikolaos.

things to do in lasithi

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 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

Almyros beach, Agios Nikolaos. Crete
Almyros Beach, Agios Nikolaos.

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 is calm and shallow, making it an excellent choice for families with small kids, not only because the bay is safe but also because kids love the scenic little river that flows into the sea.

The river is cold and clean in contrast to the warmer temperature of the sea. This feels refreshing on the hottest days of summer. This beach is one of the most popular shores in Agios Nikolaos

5. Pay a Visit to Agios Nikolaos in Ormos Church

Byzantine church, church made of tone, Agios Nikolaos

Located near the beach or Ormos, about 5 minutes by car from the center of Agios, this Byzantine church gives the city its name.

The beautiful church of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) is worth a visit. It faces 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.

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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 to 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

things to do in lasithi
(Courtesy Get Your Guide).

This incredible boat trip is an interesting experience for adults and kids alike. It will allow you to discover the incredible bottom of the Cretan Sea along the Mirabello Gulf.

During the experience, you might even be lucky 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 to discover the local submarine flora and fauna.

Later, you can also sit on the main deck to admire the spectacular views of Agios Nikolaos Bay.

To save time and secure a seat on board, you can book the tour online before the visit.

7. Go Fishing on Mirabello Bay

Another popular activity in the area is fishing in the calm waters of the Mirabello Gulf, which faces 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 a coastal highlight.

Imagine using professional equipment and trying 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

Church Panagia Kera, Crete

Considered one of Crete’s most important religious centers, Panagia Kera is a well-known Byzantine church located a few minutes from Agios Nikolaos, on the road to 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, many miracles relate to the icon of Panagia Kera, which is believed to have been transferred to Constantinople. However, it is said that the icon 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 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

things to do in lasithi

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. Kritsa houses two important museums that you cannot miss!

First, head to the Krisotopoula Museum, which honors the local heroine. 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.

things to do in lasithi

Krisotopoula, as she was known in the village, was a martyr in the hands of the Turkish during the Ottoman period and one of the many heroes who fought for the independence of the island.

Another interesting place is the Rodanthi Museum, home to a rare collection of plants, herbs, and fossils dating back millions of years.

A note on the names: 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

things to do in lasithi

This charming old village is a few minutes from Kritsa, located on a hill at 520 meters. 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.

things to do in lasithi
Skiufichta pasta ready to be cooked.

Finally, don’t miss a good dish of skiufichta pasta with stationed anthotyro cheese grated on top or an abundant serving of aiga vrasti (tender boiled goat) with wild greens (xorta).

11. Explore the Ancient Dorian City of Lato

things to do in lasithi

Lato was a settlement and city-state that flourished on the island during the Dorian period, 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, not far from Kritsa, is believed to have been in continuous border conflict 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

Katharo, Lasithi day trips
(Katharo Plateau – via Felis Silvestris Cretensis – Wikipedia.)

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.

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 to the spectacular Havgas Gorge, home to 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.

Day trips from Agios Nikolaos

Since the hike can be difficult, joining an organized hiking group offers the chance to explore with an expert guide for further safety.

13. Discover the Cosmopolitan Elounda

2 days in agios nikolaos crete

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.

things to do in lasithi
Elounda Catamaran (Courtesy Get Your Guide).

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 for visiting Mirabello Bay and the coast of Plaka and Elounda.

14. Have a Fish Lunch by the Sea in Plaka

Plaka, Crete

Plaka is a humble fishing village with a very traditional atmosphere. It’s a short drive 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 a lavish fish lunch by the sea. Although, there isn’t a lot to do in Plaka, the unique traditional settlement is another unmissable place to visit in Lasithi.

15. Sail to Spinalonga Island

Spinalonga, the Leper colony and Fortified island, Crete

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 tourist destinations, the fortified island can be seen in about one hour. There are different options for reaching Spinalonga. Boats depart from the nearby small village of Plaka and the ports of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos

The beach of Spinalonga, close to the second entrance to the island.

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 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 that houses a museum.


Opening Hours:
– 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.
Entrance Fee: Full ticket €8.00, reduced €4.00. This fee is paid on the island.
Boats: The day’s first boat departs from Plaka around 9.00 am.

>> Read more in this thorough guide to visiting Spinalonga.

16. Discover the Sunken Olous

Sunken city of 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 era.

They minted their own coins bearing the images of Artemis and Zeus, usually holding a dolphin or an eagle.

Today, the city’s ruins lie under the sea, and parts are visible from the surface on sunny days. Some local companies also organize immersions to explore the ancient settlement, so check out in town for more information.

17. Savor a Traditional Barbecue in Kolokitha Peninsula

Kolokitha beach
Kolokitha Beach.

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 Kolokitha Beach (also known as Agios Lukas) can be difficult, the place has a fantastic sandy beach facing Mirabello Bay.

Since driving there can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, different companies offer a boat trip that includes a visit to Spinalonga and a barbecue lunch on this beach.

This has become a popular day trip, so I suggest booking in advance because it’s often difficult to find a spot in summer.

18. Explore the Beaches in Sisi

things to do in lasithi
The main port beach. 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. To the east, you can visit BoufosAvlaki, 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

Voulisma Beach Crete - Best places in Crete for Families

One of the most impressive beaches in Lasithi is the incredibly beautiful Voulisma Beach, about 12 km from the center of Agios Nikolaos.

The place is popular thanks to its bright turquoise waters and stunning green landscape. 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.

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

things to do in lasithi

Famous for hosting a coast that shelters the magnificent Voulisma Beach, Kalo Chorio is a quiet settlement near Agios 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

Map, Lasithi plateau, Greece

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 fields dotted with the famous sails of the local windmills. Once upon a time, these were the landmarks of the plateau.

The plateau stands surrounded by the imposing heights of the Dikti Mountains, at 850 meters. 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 bike. The plains are among the most fertile lands on Crete.

Things to do in Crete - Visit the Lasithi Plateau and its windmills

Lasithi Windmills: Only a few are still standing, but they can still be described as the plateau’s most typical sights. 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.

>> Find more details in this full guide to the Lasithi Plateau.

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 is 1025 meters above sea level, and it covers an area of more than 2200 meters.

A comfortable staircase leads down inside the cave while the paths and chambers have nice, suggestive lights that allow visitors to appreciate every detail inside.

The cave was an ancient Minoan worship site discovered at the end of the 1800s. The first excavations in Psychro revealed a collection of ritual objects, which led to the conclusion that the cave was sacred to the Minoans.

>> For details, this guide to the Psychro Cave has all the information you need.

If you’d 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:

23. Wander the Alleys of Tzermiado Village

Tzermiado village, Lasithi Plateau. A traditional kafenion
A traditional corner in Tzermiado.

Tzermiado is one of the villages you should visit on a day trip to the Lasithi Plateau. This small old town is ideal for walking around, meeting locals, tasting amazing dishes, and marveingl at the views of the mountains in the distance.

On the main road, visit 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

things to do in lasithi

Gournias is a late Minoan town and archaeological site that has been fully excavated. Although the settlement’s original name 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). It stands on the narrowest and easiest point to cross the island from north to south.

According to archaeologists, the town can be divided into different neighborhoods. Two roads surrounded the lower and upper areas. 

>> Opening hours: from 8.30 am to 3 pm.

25. Learn about Olive Trees in Kavousi

Ancient olive tree

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.

The tree’s impressive trunk is 4.9 meters in diameter. Its circumference is 14.2 meters. And the best part? It is still producing olives!

26. Check Out the Fishing Village of Mochlos

things to do in lasithi

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 combines mountain views with the turquoise waters of the Mirabello Gulf.

27. Explore Hamezi and its Minoan Mansion

things to do in lasithi
Ancient Minoan House and modern Hamezi town in the background.

Near 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. Archaeologists found clay figurines, an altar, farming utensils, and other bronze objects.

If you decide to explore Hamezi, don’t hesitate to visit the modern village. Here, you can check out the most unique folklore museum on the island 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

Places to visit in Crete by Car: Richtis Gorge

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 that starts outside the Exo Mouliana village and ends on the small Richtis Beach.

The hike can take 2 to 3 hours and it will surprise walkers with its beautiful stream and a waterfall along the way.

things to do in lasithi
Entrance to Richtis Gorge through Laxanas Bridge.

Although it is quite a safe hiking trail, it can be truly rewarding to join a group to hike Richtis and make new friends sharing your passion for walks in nature.

29. Spend a Day in Sitia

sitia - crete - things to do in sitia

Small yet extremely picturesque and with a laid-back vibe, Sitia is a port town in East Crete and is 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).

Sitia town: Things to do in Sitia

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. Life revolves mostly around agricultural activities rather than tourism, and it’s still possible to experience the authentic lifestyle of the island. 

>> This useful guide includes all the details you should know before visiting Sitia.

30. Visit the Isolated Cape Sideros

things to do in lasithi
(Via C Messier – Commons Wikipedia).

Cape Sidero (also Sideros) is one of the least visited places on the island. And it’s also one of the most interesting despitnations in Lasithi, especially if you’re interested in curious facts about languages!

This peninsula is adjacent to a strategic maritime crossroad, on the path 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. The lighthouse was built by the French Company of Lighthouses during the Ottoman rule. It has been in operation since 1880.

31. Learn About the Past at the Petsophas Peak Sanctuary

things to do in lasithi
(Photo via Olaf Tausch – Commos Wikimedia).

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 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

Kazarma - Fortress Sitia - Things to do in Sitia

Once you’re in town, one of the most important places to visit is the Venetian fortress 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. It dates to the thirteenth century. It has been badly damaged by hostile invading forces and frequent pirate raids that Crete underwent through the centuries.

Kazarma Fortress - Sitia, Lasithi - Crete - Things to do in Sitia

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, dance performances, different cultural exhibitions, sports events, and a lot more.

33. Pay a Visit to Toplou Monastery

things to do in lasithi

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 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.

things to do in lasithi

The monastery offered secure protection thanks to the impressive fortified 10-meter-high walls surrounding the structure. Inside the monastery, the gorgeous stone-made inner courts with flowers and plants offer some of the most beautiful sights of Toplou.

Today, the monastery is also home to one of the most important wineries in Crete. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all year.

>> Check out this visit guide to Toplou Monastery to get ready for a visit!

34. Swim at the Wonderful Vai Pam Beach

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai 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 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.

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai beach

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 thick and ancient, granting plenty of natural shade and a cooler atmosphere even during the very hot summers typical of eastern Crete.

>> Get ready to visit Vai Beach with this complete guide.

35. Explore the Ancient Site of Itanos

things to do in lasithi

Itanos Beach is home to a beautiful beach and 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, and a secluded naturist area.

36. Palekastro and the Beaches of Chiona and Kouremenos

things to do in lasithi

Palekastro is one of the most important villages on the Eastern Coast of Crete. At the same time, the gorgeous beaches of Chiona and Kouremenos are just a few minutes from Palekastro.

The town is 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 area’s highlight 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

things to do in lasithi

Divided into 9 different districts, this ancient Minoan town features an impressive sewage network, which speaks of its advanced organization, and 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 which was probably destroyed in the fourth century.

Located near the fantastic Chiona Beach, Roussolakos was an important Minoan settlement near the ruins of Palekastro 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

things to do in lasithi

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, the walk features low bushes and oak trees while the path is enclosed by 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

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 you can visit in Crete.

The place features well-preserved ruins surrounded by a truly spectacular landscape. Thanks to its isolated and 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, there is 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 probably a commercial outlet to the East, also had access to a port through its main gate at the northeastern side.

Among the ruins, there 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 in the palace are home to turtles, which children love to spot when they visit.

>> Check out this Guide to Visit the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros to learn more.

40. Swim at Kato Zakros Beach

things to do in lasithi

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 several beaches, trees for shade, and a couple of simple taverns.

It is a great idea to rest at this beach after exploring the archaeological site or hiking down 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

Makrigialos Crete

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. 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.

>> Check out this complete guide to Makrigialos to plan the perfect visit.

43. Have a Fish Dinner on Ierapetra Town’s Waterfront

seafront ierapetra

Cretan dishes are mainly made from ingredients that come from the local mountains, including lamb and goat, 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.

In Ierapetra, there are many affordable fish taverns on the waterfront to enjoy fresh calamari, octopus, and other delicacies from the Libyan Sea.

44. Learn about Napoleon’s Visit to Crete

Napoleons house, house, Crete, Ierapetra
The house where Napoleon spent a night in Ierapetra, on his way to Egypt.

45. Take a Day Trip to Chrissi Island

things to do in lasithi

Chrissi Island is one of the most spectacular places you can discover on the Libyan Sea, so don’t miss a day trip!

Chrissi is about 14 km off the coast of Ierapetra. The island shelters a natural ecosystem with pristine beaches and incredibly white sand that has become quite a popular destination for a day trip (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. Its surface is about 2 km by 7 km. Since Chrissi is a protected territory, visitors cannot collect stones, shells, or plants.

>> Read this guide to plan a day trip to Chrissi from Ierapetra.

46. Sail to Koufonisi

Sea bottom, 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 south of Lasithi. You can get there from Makrigialos, a small village near Ierapetra. The island is about 5 square km and features a unique landscape of fine sand beaches and limestone caves.

things to do in lasithi
(Koufonisi Cruise – via Get Your Guide).

Since the islet lacks organization, you will need to pack drinks, food, sunscreen, and other necessities if you plan to spend the day.

>> Check out this Cruise to Koufonisi that offers a very affordable ticket to explore this small island

47. Discover Koutsouras and Ferma Beach

things to do in lasithi

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 ideal for a tranquil vacation.

Hiking enthusiasts will find enough entertainment walking through the nearby Butterfly Gorge, easily accessed from Koutsouras.

things to do in lasithi
Ferma Beach

If prefer to explore lesser-known beaches, then check out 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

things to do in lasithi

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.

Like many beaches near Ierapetra, the coast features coarse dark sand mixed with pebbles and cold, blue waters.

The beach is organized, so you can 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

where to stay in south crete

There’s 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. There are gorgeous souvenir shops, delicious family-run tavernas, and amazingly charming alleys to wander in the evening.

50. Visit the Archaeological Site of Pyrgos

things to do in lasithi
(Photo via Olaf Tausch, Wikipedia Commons).

One more Minoan settlement to discover on the island is located near the magnificent village of Myrtos, not far from Ierapetra.

This archaeological site was strategically located, 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 tell about an advanced Minoan society, such as drains andfootpaths.

Historians consider that Pyrgos was an administrative site. It’s often used as an example of what an administrative site during the Minoan civilization would have looked like.

51. Hike Sarakina Gorge

Sarakina - Gorges in Crete

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 and with 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. You will make the most of your day in total safety and enjoy the impressive waterfalls and ponds that form along the trail. The day trip also includes visits to Kritsa and Kroustas villages and a refreshing stop at the beach in Myrtos.

52. Take a Peaceful Walk Along the Butterfly Gorge

things to do in lasithi

Known as Orino Gorge or Red Butterfly Canyon (Kokkines Petaloudes Faragi), this is an amazing place to visit and is a great day out, no matter how experienced or old you are!

The hike is considered an easy route that takes over an hour and a half to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking and running, fairly crowded in May and September.

The total trail (out-and-back) is 4.8 km, and 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 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. You will find more details on this dedicated page.

General Information about Lasithi

Lasithi region in Crete_ Best day trips to discover this unique, untouched area in Crete island.

Lasithi is the easternmost region on the island, located next to the region of Heraklion. The region’s capital is Agios Nikolaos, the main transportation hub in Lasithi.

How to Get to Lasithi

You can get to Agios Nikolaos by car from Heraklion, the trip is about 1 hour. Alternatively, you can take the public bus at 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.

To give you an idea, a bus trip from Chania to Agios Nikolaos 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.

Want more info on how to reach Agios? Read this guide on how to get from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos

Where to Stay in Lasithi

elounda crete - best hotels in elounda

Although staying in Agios Nikolaos can be the obvious (and most comfortable choice), there are plenty of interesting villages and towns to stay in Lasithi, 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. I’ve also written several articles regarding accommodation in Crete, region by region.

These are some of the places to stay that I recommend in Lasithi’s most visited areas:

I publish new content about Crete almost every day! Bookmark my Crete and Practical Guides pages to learn more before your trip.

Are you dreaming of a getaway to Crete but feeling overwhelmed with planning?

  • You can join my Facebook Group, Things to Do in Crete, a friendly gathering of Crete enthusiasts.
  • With my consultation call services, I have assisted countless travelers in crafting the perfect Crete experience. Email me for more information!

Don’t forget travel insurance!

Although Crete is a safe destination, consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself and your loved ones from unexpected situations.

>> Join our Facebook Group!

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.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin This Super Guide to the Best Things to Do in the Lasithi Region for Your Next Trip to Crete!

things to do in Lasithi

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 island. 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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