Ierapetra is based in the south east of Crete, and is the
most southerly town of Europe. The dry, warm winter climate attracts many
visitors in winter, some of whom stay for the entire winter. The town has a
lovely atmosphere, if somewhat muted and rural. There is no mass tourism here
comparable to that on the north coast, but you’ll find many expats from Britain
and Germany living in Ierapetra and the surrounding areas.
Sights in Ierapetra: It’s definitely worth taking a look around Ierapetra’s
charming old town. There are many small alleys, some of which are too small for
cars, and it’s easy to get lost.
The ‘must-sees’ of Ierapetra are the mosque,
the fishing port and the 17th century castle. There is also a small
Archaeological Museum (€2 in 2008, open 8.30 to 3pm, closed Mondays) in the old
town. The most famous exhibit in the museum is the 1.5m Madonna of Ierapetra.
This 1st century stature is well preserved. The Madonna was discovered by a
local farmer, who also uncovered many ancient vases, sarcophagi and pots.
Accommodation in Ierapetra: There is no
hostel in Ierapetra. The
nearest campsite can be found 8km to the east. You can reach it by taking the
bus for Sitia. It’s a fairly average campsite, complete with a small show and
simple restaurant. Cheap rooms can be found in Ierapetra around the old town and
near the bus station. I stayed at the Hotel Coral in the old town and I can
recommend it – we paid €25 for a double room with bath, TV and so on in 2007.
Castello is a good, cheap restaurant in Ierapetra that can be found on the waterfront close
to the old town. The Café and Teahouse Cactus sell a huge range of organic teas
from around the world for around €2 a cup. There’s also a bookshop, called
Fasma, which has a good selection of English books.
Buses Ierapetra: There are 6 buses daily to
Iraklio with a stop in
Agios Nikolaos. There
are another 6 buses in the other direction to
Sitia. The bus station is 1.5km to
the north of the old town.
Chrissi (Hrysi) Island: Chrissi is a 5km long island a few kilometres offshore
from Ierapetra. Chrissi is uninhabited in winter. It’s also a nature reserve.
The island makes for a wonderful day trip, with good hikes and great beaches.
All through the season, from May to October, there are daily boats from
Ierapetra to Chrissi. You can buy tickets at any travel agency, at the port or
directly from the ship.
Mirtos: Mirtos is a small, quiet village 16km west of Ierapetra. It has nice
dark-sanded beaches and cheap accommodation. There are six buses daily from
Ierapetra. The more remote seaside villages further East (Karatokambos, Arvi and
Tsoutsouros) are unreachable by bus. All of these places have simple rent rooms,
beaches and a scattering of tavernas.
Koutsouras: A small town 20km east of Ierapetra. Koutsouras has been discovered
by the tourist industry and is being developed. It’s well worth coming here in
spring to see the Valley of Butterflies – you’ll see a magical sight of millions
of butterflies. The Ierapetra-Sitia road passes through Koutsouras. Not far from
here is Pandeleimonas village which has a famous Byzantine church, one of the
oldest on Crete.