The southern Cretan town of Ierápetra can boast about receiving more hours of sunshine per year than any other location in Europe. Its particularities do not end here, as it also is the most southern of all European cities, and the largest town on the South East coast of Crete. That said, if it is sunshine that you are after, Ierápetra is the ideal holiday destination to go for!
Founded as a Greek Dorian settlement under the name Ierápytna around the eight century BC, six centuries later it had already become the largest city on the island: a city with a tough character, proven by the fact that its inhabitants did not surrender to the Roman legions until the very last moment. This strong personality has been preserved to the present day:
Ierápetra is a great location when it comes to experiencing the authenticity of everyday Cretan life, for neither has it surrendered to the ever-so-common Mediterranean “sun and beach” combo but rather maintains its original farming and craftmanship activities. A mere thirty-two kilometer drive or bus ride from Agios Nikolaos, Ierápetra features some of the most spectacular Cretan seaside scenery, including beaches of soft yellow sandy areas and crystal clear waters. Aware of its privileged landscape, the local council in Ierápetra have recently dedicated a fair amount of effort to refurbishing and restoring its streets, squares and buildings in order to make of it an excellent tourist destination.
Ierápetra’s old town – Kato Mera -, is a labyrinthine maze of narrow shady streets where getting lost and letting oneself be taken by the layout of the architectural fabric is joyful to say the least. If willing to explore downtown Ierápetra, Irene Apartments, located at a stone’s throw of Kato Mera, are an excellent option for accommodation. Furnished with traditional Cretan country furniture, and featuring a large pool, recreation area and playground for children, they are an ideal location in order not to miss urban attractions such as the Archaeological Museum, the restored Venetian fortress that still to this day overlooks Ierápetra’s harbour, or the Turkish Mosque, now converted into a church.
Ierápetra’s Markópoulou and Samouíl promenades are full of vibrant tavernas and fancy cafés where alfresco dining is a must: sit back and enjoy a refreshing drink or energising meal overlooking the peaceful beauty of the Libyan sea. Alternative accommodation options carefully picked and brought to you by Amazing Crete are located in the areas surrounding Ierápetra, all easily accessible by road from the centre of town. Smaragda House, a 1920s country house sleeping up to four people; and Pasiphae Village House , which sleeps up to eight; both combine the lost qualities of traditional Mediterranean houses with state-of-the art facilities.
A little further away lies the town of Makry Gialos, where the Pine Valley Cottages and the Ocean View Villas are located – the former a cluster of candle-lit, alternative and eco-holiday houses; the latter spectacular villas complete with private swimming pools and gardens. MakryGialos is one of those destinations where time no longer matters: all that is important is the humming sound of the mighty blue sea. The activities available in and around Ierápetra are countless: a remarkable day trip consists in travelling by kaïki to Gaidhouronisi, also known as Chrissi or Donkey Island, located roughly 10km from Ierápetra’s seafront. There is an excellent walking route around the island for those who love hiking and enjoying nature as well the singing of southern birds amidst cedar trees.
July and August are good months to visit Ierápetra, as the Kyrvia Festival is organised by the local council. This festival consists of a series of cultural events which include free performances of Cretan dancers and lyra musicians, staged at an open-air theatre: a superb experience which will provide you with a genuine and unforgettable flavour of Cretan culture!