Ierapetra with around 13,000 inhabitants is a laid-back and small seafront town in South East Crete with hot and pleasant summers. It offers a low key authentic Cretan experience and is also the jumping off point for boat trips to the tropical Island of Chrissi. Though little is left, the town of Ierapetra has an impressive history with interludes as a Roman port and as a Venetian stronghold as attested to by the harbour fortress. In ancient times it was one of the most important cities of Crete. It originally brought the name Kyrva, then Pytna, Kamiros and then Ierapytna.
The narrow alleyways of the Turkish quarter still recall its Ottoman period. During the Hellenistic period (4th-1st century BC), the city minted its own coins.
At that time it had under control more land than any other city in Crete until the 2nd century BC. In 66 BC it was conquered and destroyed by Romans, but was reconstructed gaining back its former glory. It contained two theaters, an amphitheater, temples, an aqueduct and numerous statues that adorned the city. During Byzantine period it was the Episcopal headquarter that contained Sitia and Merabello. The Arab raid in 824 BC caused widespread destruction to the city marking the definitive end. Very interesting facts of Ierapetra’s historic route though time can be figured out visiting its great archaeological collection that is housed in the Ottoman school, where the most outstanding exhibit is the beautiful statue of the goddess Perse.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Also of interest is the Ierapetra Museum which consists of audiovisual content and interactive applications. In particular, LCD screens that display information about Ierapetra, the wider region, the trails, paths, exhibitions of holograms that reproduce digital copies of archaeological and other findings and an interactive table that contains digital applications and educational games. Impressive is the Central 3D projection that shows stereoscopic documentaries devoted to the Minoan and ancient period, Byzantine period, the newer period and the natural environment. Other places of interest are the Ottoman mosque at Kato Mera, the Venetian Kales Fortress which was built in the 13th century, with a lovely view of the harbour, the beach and the part of the town that is on the seafront.
Ierapetra has still the small winding streets in the old quarter, where even now you’ll see kids playing without a care, like in the old days. The sea was and is ever present, imposing itself on the landscape and dominating the constantly changing colours and hues that endow the city with a romantic but also languid air. Apovathra is the most famous beach in the city, stretched out in front of the historic fortress. Its waters are crystal clear and the beach covered with small pebbles and sand. Here you can indulge in water sports and taste the fresh fish and local food at famous taverns of Ierapetra. The sunsets, especially after the summer season do offer an incredible fiery spectacle, and the mid-August full moon is also a stunning sight.
The Church of Afentis Christos overlooking the harbour, built in the 14th century and still holds to the custom of burning an effigy of Judas at Easter.
A simple stroll through the snaking streets of the old town is also a lovely experience. Here you can find the home of the former and famous French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte. A two floor traditional architecture building located in the oldest district of Ierapetra, in Kato Mera. Upon tradition, Napoleon always stayed in the building during his one or few days stop in Crete during his return from Egypt. The building’s morphology is converging towards its date in late 18th or early 19th century, without excluding the construction of an earlier era.
For entertainment inside Ierapetra, there’s Veterano, a pastry shop that excels in coffee and cheese pies, Spyros’ raki and meze joint in the centre, and Vangelis’ raki place known as “Fysekas” to locals, down at the beach. For drinks and dancing, try Saxo, Priority, Peppermint Motel and Nuevo, all in the harbour area. As for eating out, recommended is Napoleon’s on the main promenade in Ierapetra, a local landmark with great food and nice wines. Favoured both by position and nature, Ierapetra has always been an important centre of the island of Crete. It is an ideal base for holidays and excursions in the South East of Crete and nowadays it is one of the most productive farming towns of fruit and vegetables in the whole of Greece!