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The unexplored secret of Crete

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Sitia: The unexplored secret of Crete

Amphitheatrically Built around a beautiful bay in the northeast of Crete, Sitia is a "another Crete". Humble and romantic, the enchanting capital of eastern Lassithi is the most secret and unexplored face of Crete.

In Sitia, the homeland of Vitsentzos Kornaros, the great poet of the Renaissance, ancient Eteocretans (the true Minoans) found refuge from the war fury of the Dorians. The poetic tradition of "Erotokritos" and a special dialect that overflows with lyricism and images still flourish here.

Sitia will introduce you to the unpretending splendour of primordial Crete, but also to its pleasing "folly" that praises the joy of love and open-hearted hospitality, with an irresistible mood for "teasing" the visitor.

Routes & Attractions

In the city of Sitia, the historic Kazarma (Casa di Arma), the imposing Venetian fortress of the 13th century stands strong and testifies to the glamour of the medieval era.

The exceptional Archaeological Museum houses countless treasures from the Minoan era to the Greco-Roman period. Come to admire the magnificent gold and ivory statuette of the Minoan Kouros of Palaikastro, and then walk along the charming palm-tree waterfront, the favourite promenade of the locals and visitors. Here, you can feel the city’s beat in its traditional restaurants, bustling rakadika and atmospheric bars.

Outside the city, await unique routes and experiences weaved by nature and myth. Wander in the exotic Vai, the only palm forest in Europe and one of the most famous sights of Crete. The scenery resembles an African oasis next to a golden beach.

Walk through the ruins of the Phoenician colony of Itanos, one of the most powerful and wealthy cities of the ancient world, before diving into the emerald waters of Erimoupolis.

Visit the historic Toplou Monastery, the medieval monastery and castle of the 14th century, east of Sitia. The impressive building made of local pink stone stands in the middle of a magnificent plateau with vineyards and olive groves while the Monastery has its own winery and olive press.

Before leaving Sitia, pass through the village of Kato Zakros to admire the fourth largest palace of the Minoan civilization. The archaeological site is located next to one of the island’s most beautiful beaches and at the exit of the eerie Gorge of the Dead, the most famous natural monument in eastern Crete.

The abandoned medieval settlements of Sitia’s countryside hide several wonders. Walk around Voila with its beautiful fountains and the church of Agios Georgios where lies the family tomb of Greece’s national poet Dionysios Solomos. Visit Etia to admire the impressive, restored mansion of the feudal lord Pietrode Mezzo, one of the most characteristic examples of 15th century Venetian architecture in Crete.

Beaches & Activities

Sitia is endowed with some of the most beautiful beaches of Crete, in a rare combination of Mediterranean landscape and African colors. The beautiful beaches of eastern Lasithi form a turquoise symphony between the Cretan, the Carpathian and the Libyan Sea.

In the South, the organized Agia Fotia, Koutsouras, Makris Gialos and Goudouras are particularly popular while the secluded beaches of the east coast (Xerokampos, Zakros, Karoumes, Kouremenos, Chiona) are ideal for loners. If you like the waves and rocks, the triplet of Mochlos, Platani and Papadiokampos on the northern coastline is ideal for water sports.

The area of Lasithi is a paradise for hiking and excursions. The magnificent Richtis Gorge promises a lush three-hour walk through an exuberant forest with aromas of herbs, watermills and a fairytale lake formed by the waterfall. The descent from the village of Ziros to the pristine beaches of Xerokampos, through narrow serpentine streets and arid bare mountains, is also a marvellous route. The view of the rocky islets of Kavaloi and the exotic Koufonissi is breathtaking.

Tastes of Sitia

In line with Crete’s unparalleled gastronomic repertoire, Sitia offers unforgettable food experiences. The local cuisine is based on excellent products of the region such as the world award-winning Sitian olive oil with its spicy aftertaste, thyme honey, xigalo (a type of soft cheese) and the famous Sitian sweets.

Try the koukouvagia (rusk with tomato, galomizithra and olive oil), rafioli (pasta stuffed with cheese, meat or vegetables), goat in the oven, gamopilafo (rice cooked in meat broth), apaki (smoked pork) with honey, xerotigana with honey, cinnamon and walnuts, stafidota (grated biscuits filled with ground raisins and walnuts). And, of course, fresh fish and seafood from the Libyan Sea at the must-visit local tavernas of Mochlos and Chiona.

Sitia’s gastronomic tradition is intertwined with its customs and traditions, from folk festivals to Cretan feasts. There’s a celebration for each local agricultural product. The Sultana Festival is a top social event every September. The people of Sitia celebrate this famous raisins variety with exhibitions, tastings, plenty of wine and of course musical events.

"Kazanemata" in autumn (the ritual of raki production) takes on the character of a Dionysian feast with live music and dances where all locals and visitors are welcome to participate.

Excursions near Sitia

Take the boat to the exotic paradise of Chrissi (Gaidouronisi) and relax with thalassotherapy surrounded by shades of aquamarine and the scent of the cedars. Just 80 km west of Sitia, the dazzling bay of Mirabello reveals its emblematic ornaments. No words are needed for the famous Agios Nikolaos with the beautiful Voulismeni lagoon in its center the cosmopolitan Elounda, the luxurious seaside resort from the rich and famous from all over the world. Right across, the legendary Spinalonga invites you to an atmospheric tour of its Venetian castle town, one of the most important maritime strongholds of the Mediterranean.

Don’t miss...

Visit the barren exotic island of Lefki (Koufonisi), the "Delos of the Libyan Sea". The ruins of the ancient theater (1200 seats), the "royal" purple processing workshops and its 23 tropical beaches will leave you speechless.

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