The department of Lassithi

and

the province of Sitia

  The province of Sitia is located at the eastern end of the island anddepartment of Lasithi.

It was there that the last of the Minoans found refuge, oreteocretan, after being driven from the rest of the island by the Achaeans and the Dorians. An important Hellenistic city was discovered in 1987 2.5 km from the present city and it is believed to have been ancient Sitia. The first traces of settlement in the province date back to 3500 BC The peak of the province is during the Minoan period, and a multitude of archaeological sites attest to the importance of the province and its commercial and cultural relations with the countries of the Near East and North Africa. The most important remains are the domed tombs (Akhladia), the rural villas (in Sitia, Zou, Makry Yalos...). But the most famous archaeological sites are located in the small island of Psira, on the northern coast of the province, the sheltered Minoan city on the coast of Paleskastro and the famous palace of Kato Zakros whose excavations have not yet been completed. This Palace occupies 1.5 hectares, includes 250 rooms and two floors. More than 10,000 precious objects were found there. The invasion of the Dorian warriors interrupted the cultural boom for several centuries. 

The current city of Sitia was founded during the first Byzantine period and was the seat of a bishopric. It was in the second Byzantine period that was builtToplu Monastery. Sitia has long been nicknamed "the EASTERN GATE".The inhabitants of Sitia took part in all the insurrections against the Venetian occupier. In 1508 a violent earthquake weakened the defense of the city against the Ottomans. In 1538, the Turkish pirate BARBAROSSA profoundly marked the city with his assaults. The most important vestige of the Venetian period is the Villa of the Lords De Mezzo, in Etia.The year 1870 is important for the history of Sitia, because it was during this period that it was chosen by the administrator of Crete HUSSEIN AVNI Pasha to be the capital of the province.

Sitia is now undergoing the effects of modernization. Modern, poorly regulated constructions, mass tourism due to the installation of large financial groups, which sometimes abandon ugly and environmentally aggressive concrete constructions.

This does not detract from the quality of the hospitality of the REAL CRETOIS, and it is preferable to spend your stay in a bed and breakfast, in a small hotel or a small rental apartment or house, rather than accepting the very attractive but ultimately disappointing offers of tour operators, offering hotel accommodation with 300 rooms and tasteless food.

flora and fauna:

Archaeological finds, historical data and place names show that there were large mammals in this province, now extinct. Fossils of hippos and elephants have been found in the soils of coastal and plateau regions. Carcasses of deer and wild goats have been found in the caves. The Cretan wildcat (Félis Silvestris Cretensis), the Cretan workhorse, the Cretan "tracer" (track dog), the "bristly" mouse, the "migalis" mouse (insectivore), the bat are some of the typical animals of this region.

Among the 412 species of birds living or passing through Crete, a very large number of eagles, buzzards and falcons, such as the kokalas, (expaetus foulvus), the chrisaetos, golden eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos) or the falcon pilgrim (falco Peregrinus) have chosen this region as their homeland. The fidaetos, serpent eagle (Girgaetus Gallicus), the Kalamorikos (Circus aeroginus), the red jackdaw (Phyorcorax phyrocorax) have chosen to pass through this region during their migration.

I Falco Eleonorae (falconidae species)

In the region of the Aegean, it is found under the name of peregrin or sea falcon. It owes its name to a princess of the Middle Ages. It is one of the rarest birds of prey to live in groups on the rocky islets of the Mediterranean. It migrates in winter to Madagascar.

I Sitia vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in Europe. Many utensils were found and are now exhibited in the museum of Sitia, attesting to the region's long winemaking tradition.

Lassithi is the southernmost part of Crete in Europe and therefore the driest. Here you can find local native plants, which are not found in other parts of the island: Selekano and its pine forest, Katharo and its cypress forest, the Vai Palm Grove, the Cha ravine, 40 gorges and nearly 1300 listed caves.

It is in this department that the literature (Vitsentzos Kornaros) and art, especially woodcarving (icons, thrones, church ornaments) developed. It is in Piskokefalo that the most important remains of the Kornaros family have been found (house, mill, emblazoned gate, etc.). 

There are more than 50 monasteries to visit in the Lasithi region.

It is in the department of Lassithi that endsthe famous E4 trail. It will not be a high level of high mountains, such as the path from Kostamonitsa to Selekano or the one from Vassiliki to Papagianades. The trail crosses the province from east to west, it bypasses the Kha Gorge, the crossing of which requires high-level climbing skills, and it leads to the hamlet of Thrifti, in a steep valley between two peaks.

Places to visit during your trip:

The Archaeological Museum ofAgios Nikolaosbrings together all the objects from the Neolithic period to the end of the Greco-Roman period. These are the offerings found on the site of Aghia Fotia which represent the largest part of the collection. (Minoan necropolis).

The archaeological site of Lato: is considered the best preserved city of the classical-Hellenistic period in Crete and Greece. The remains date from the 4th century BC It was fortified, the houses were built on terraces and there was an Agora and temples, as well as a theater carved into the rock.

Aghia Fotia: small habitat near the sea. An important Late Minoan necropolis, with more than 300 tombs. Here was found a rich funerary furniture, about 1800 objects, including many vases, exhibited in the Archaeological Museums of Sitia and Heraklio.

theToplu Monastery,one of the most important monasteries of the island.

The Itanos website: also called "Erimoupoli" (the deserted city); a site inhabited since prehistoric times, superb. A major port in the past, which maintained trade relations with the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Many remains of Byzantine churches, which testify to the importance of this place and this development.

The palm grove of Vai: very pleasant out of season. Unique in Europe, a superb beach in winter, an ecosystem of exotic beauty.

Palaikastro: one of the richest regions of the island from an archaeological point of view. This is where one of the largest Minoan cities was found (Roussolakos) and a perfect architectural organization and urban plan (division into nine districts). The city has a sewage disposal system, an oil press  and a grape press, as well as luxurious multi-storey buildings. It is an example of Minoan civilization at its peak. A burial cave dates from the Bronze Age, a Mycenaean offering table, a sanctuary on the hill of Petsofas, sarcophagi at Hagia Triada. It is in this region that the chryselephantine idol in gold and ivory was found, where the hymn aux Courètes was engraved.

Zakros: there again, many vestiges of the Minoan period, including a wine press exhibited in the museum of Sitia. To discover absolutely:the Gorge of the Dead, which leads to the famous Minoan palace of Kato-Zakros.This palace was built around 1600 BC and destroyed at the same time as the other Minoan palaces. 8000 m2 of surface, clearly presenting: the banquet hall, lustratory basins, workshops, warehouses...

The archaeological collection of Ierapetra: housed in the building built in 1899 of the Ottoman school. The exhibits date from the 3rd millennium to the 5th millennium AD. The oldest objects date from a PRO-MINOEN habitat, on the hill of Fournou Koryphi Pyrtos. A superb statue of Demeter has been found in excellent condition.

The archaeological collection of Neapoli: brings together all the objects found at Elounda, Dréros, Ellinika and a Minoan tomb excavated at Tourloti (Sitia) as well as a Hellenistic tomb  found at Kalo Xorio. A beautiful set of coins is worth seeing.

The archaeological site of Petra: at the top of the hill dominates the central palace complex, which was once the administrative, commercial and religious center for the hinterland of Sitia. It is here that one finds the most complete archives of Crete with regard to the hieroglyphic writings.

The archaeological site of Vassiliki: located on a hill near the village of Vassilki, it is the testimony of one of the first urban organization. Among the most important monuments: The House on the Hill, a large building considered a precursor of the Minoan palaces.

The archaeological site of Gournia: it is the best preserved Minoan city in the region. Built near the sea, it is nicknamed "POMPEI of Minoan Crete". Gournia describes the daily life of the Minoans, busy with agriculture, livestock, fishing, ceramics or weaving: the objects found strongly attest to this.

The Archaeological Museum of Sitia:  it is in this museum that all the objects found in the Palace of Zakros are grouped, which constitute the masterpieces of Minoan art.

Psychro's Cave: is on the slopes of Mount Dikté, a very old place of worship. It is there that Réa took refuge to give birth to Zeus, father of gods and men, far from his infanticidal father Kronos. Objects dating from 1800 BC have been found, as well as objects from medieval times. This cave was, for a very long time, a very important place of worship in Crete.

A superb primitive church dedicated to the Dormition is worth seeing in Krysta.The Panagia Kera,built in the Byzantine period and enlarged in the Venetian period. Inside, all surfaces are decorated with beautiful wall paintings dating from the 18th century.

Xerokambos: This region was probably inhabited as early as the Minoan period. A sanctuary, located on the hill of Kéfalas bears witness to this. The objects found in this region attest to the commercial exchanges established with the neighboring islands of Karpathos, Rhodes and Kalymnos. The beaches of Xerocampos are the most beautiful in eastern Crete.