In 1963, Walt Disney and his crew filmed “The Moon Spinners” at the magical, yet at the time unknown, Elounda, as well as at Aghios Nikolaos, Kritsa and Ferma in Ierapetra. A few years earlier, Mary Stewart had also visited Elounda, where she wrote the best seller the film was based on. In this way, through the eyes of a British author and an American big-time producer, the international travel audience was introduced to, and subsequently fell in love with, the easternmost prefecture of Crete, with its huge contrasts.
The traditions of centuries are condensed in Lasithi, as well as a snapshot of the tourist development over the last 50 years. It features unbelievable variety and changing landscapes – mountains with rare flora, tropical beaches, traditional villages, luxury tourist resorts (the first in Greece), myths, legends, simplicity and glam, as well as lovely people.
Villages of the Plateau
Begin from Aghios Giorgios, Tzermiado (seat of the Lasithi Plateau Municipality), Psychro (the Diktaion Andron is located nearby), and then continue to the lesser-known villages such as Marmaketo, Pinikiano, Lagou, Avrakontes. Villages with unusual names compose the micro-community of the Lasithi Plateau, located in the west of the prefecture near the border with Irakleio.
Here you will see Cretan ladies hiding their white hair under headscarves, and the men snacking on roasted chickpeas and sipping tsikoudia at 10 am; houses with wooden doors and windows, and half open coffee shops with maps yellowed by time. Do not expect a consistent architectural identity or classical village beauty – the essence of the Plateau is its people and its atmosphere, a living image of the old, good Crete. In addition to driving, you can also move from village to village by bicycle to get to know the natural beauty of the area.
From Elounda to Spinalonga
Elounda was a fishing village with salt ponds and grindstone mines before becoming a tourist resort; Spinalonga was a leper colony before becoming one of the most frequented archaeological sites of Crete, rivaling the Minoan palaces in visitor numbers. Swing by Elounda for a bite at a traditional taverna (or a spa session at one of the luxury hotels), and explore the unique Venetian fortress on Spinalonga.
The Magnificent Three
Eastern Lasithi is ideal for a beach safari. Begin at Vai beach, with a palm tree forest that gives this part of Crete its famous tropical landscape, and head towards Kouremeno (for windsurfing and reading under the tamarisk trees) and Xerokambos (a series of beaches with sand, pebbles and clay).
To Sitia for raki and meze
Low key, isolated, and small, and yet Sitia is the most special town in Crete, even if it lacks the grandeur of Hania or the liveliness of Irakleio. The homeland of Vitsentzo Kornaros has a sweetness of its own, undefined yet all-permeating. The summer sun pulses its scorching light and its prime time is at dusk, when the heat subsides and the horizon turns a shade of pink. Take a seat at one of the raki joints on the port for meze and some live music.
With lake views
The most emblematic landmark in the capital of Lasithi is Lake Voulismeni, a lagoon connected to the sea via a small canal. According to the myth, this is where the goddess Artemis took her bath, while in the town’s most recent history this is where the swimmers of the Pankrition Games competed until the 1970s. Take a long walk around its perimeter and then take a seat at one of the spots with great views over the lake and enjoy a coffee, brunch, an aperitif, or a cocktail.
In Greek mythology, the victory of Zeus over his father, Kronos, is clearly depicted in the caves of the Lasithi Plateau, the Diktaion Andro (where Zeus was raised) and Kronion Cave. Numerous coaches filled with tourists approach the former, while the latter is only visited by those in the know. If you want to visit Kronion, ask the locals for directions.
Those who love Cretan flora should take a walk to Katharo Plateau (at an altitude of 1150 meters), the jewel on the crown of the lovely mountains of Lasithi.
The dozens of steps of Aghios Nikolaos are an inextricable part of its architectural and cultural heritage. Ascend and descend at will to discover the different areas of town.
When driving to northern Lasithi make a stop at Mohlo, a small village on the sea known for its famed seafood tavernas.
One of the most well-known gorges in Greece is located in Lasithi – exploring the Ha Gorge requires skills and knowledge, so seek out the guidance of experienced canyon lovers.