Sitia is the main town of East Crete with about 10.000 inhabitants. The name Sitia is derived from the ancient city of Itia, birthplace of one of the seven wise-men of the antiquity, Mison. The small and pleasant sea side town is built in a semicircle on the western side of the Bay of Sitia, a typical, peaceful Mediterranean port in East Crete. It is the capital of the Sitia Municipality and one of the most pleasant and attractive towns in Lassithi, sited 69 km east of Agios Nikolaos. It is the seat of the administrative and public services for the county and has good road and sea connections with various places in the island and with Pireaus and other Aegean islands. Since January 2015 the East of Crete can also be reached by the new Sitia International airport with connections to Athens and charters from main land Europe.
SITIA THE VILLAGE
The village of Sitia itself has a wonderful feel and climate, is spic, span and spotless and lovely to visit, it’s one of those few places on earth where nature and myth have been so beautifully mingled. Walking around the large harbour and promenade, along to the marina and further to the beach you will stroll along a wide promenade with lovely lanterns, lush palms, park benches and mosaics. All along the water’s edge are excellent tavernas, restaurants and cafés. The region of Sitia East Crete by its physiography and climate helped in the development of a special an unique flora and fauna. The small and large gorges, the 300 strange stone shaped caves which evidence of human habitation before Minoans as well as the sandy beaches complete a perfect puzzle of beauty and culture.
Sitia is also the birth place of the great poet Vintsenzos Kornaros, who wrote the Medieval poetry, "Erotokritos". The poem narrates the story of the princess Aretousa, daughter of the king of Athens Hercules, and Erotokritos, son of Pezostratos, member of the king's court. This proud artistic tradition has given the name to a cultural festival Kournareia held each summer with concerts, theatre, speakers and fine art displays. The area in and around Sitia is also also world famous for the miraculous olive oil cultivated in this area, honoured with several gold medals and international awards every year. For wine lovers, they have to try the local red and white, the wines produced by the local monastery of Toplou and the essential Cretan drink tsikoudia, with the label Varvaki.
Or go inland for the best, after 17 km on the Ziros Plateau is the Economou Winery where tastings are available by appointment. The wines of domain Economou are among the top best wines in Greece and the red wine of this domain is recognised internationally as one of the top wines in Europe. Next to other culinary wonders in the region, the town of Sitia itself possesses an excellent library and an important Folklore Museum, with many exhibits, handwoven materials, embroideries, local costumes and furniture. There is also an Archaeological Museum where significant archaeological finds of the area are exhibited. An event that should not be missed by the visitor, is the celebration of soultanina that takes place every August in Sitia. Sitia has an excellent long sandy and clean beach with many tavernas close by. The beach offers nice views of the town and is rarely overcrowded. When ordering a refreshment at one of the beach side tavernas, they offer umbrellas and parasols for free.
Sitia does have a beautiful promenade, decorated with many mature and tropical palm trees. Looking from this lovely promenade to above the town, you will find the ruins of Kazarma fortress on the top of the hill. Kazarma was one of the most important buildings of Medieval Sitia, and it served as soldier's barracks and army headquarters. The Kazarma and the imposing wall around it were originally built in the Late Byzantine period. The impressive walls were repaired by the Venetians many times and especially after the terrible earthquake in the year 1508 and the attack by the pirate Barbarosa in 1538. Sitia has had many incarnations and a turbulent history. Dating back to 3000 BC, it was active in Minoan times, it has survived earthquakes, several pirate attacks and invasions by the Turks, only to fall into disuse and finally was rebuilt in 1870. Sitia was an important centre during Byzantine times, and acquired much wealth and power under Venetian rule in the middle ages.
Nowadays the town of Sitia is ideal for exploration and a good starting point for visiting the 45 villages in the East of Crete. In and around Sitia you will find the experience of the world famous East Cretan hospitality and discover that every corner hides a historical treasure that verifies the cultural values and traditions of this place. Sitia and its wider region is characterised by a plain landscape with green and fertile valleys and beautiful villages. It is a region that combines the traditional and the modern character of the beautiful and peaceful city of Sitia. Two areas of the Sitia province are integrated to the "NATURA 2000" network (EU guide 92/43/ EOK) which are of great interest in terms of natural environment. The region of Sitia is all of Crete in one but still retains its unique identity. Its geographical position on the eastern extremity of Crete, its natural environment and its long historical tradition, makes Sitia a place of natural beauty.
Palekastro is situated about 19km away from Sitia, close to Vai and inhabited by about 1300 residents. It is conveniently located and close to historical and archaeological areas. There is also folklore museum. In Minoan times the region was a centre of trade. Many kilometers of beautiful seashores can be discovered with the famous blue waters of East Crete. Hiona beach is beautiful and the taverna’s around this beach are fabulous and very traditional. A bit outside of Palekastro, on the road towards the palm beach of Vai, Maridati beach is worth a visit, its a small scenic beach with a restaurant close by.
In between Palekastro and Vai you will find Kouremenos. It has A long sandy beach with shallow turquoise waters, a few good beach tavernas can be found half way the beach. The end of the beach is world famous by wind and kite surfers across Europe, it is the most wind-certain spot in Europe with world class windsurfing conditions. Flat waters and guaranteed wind in the summer months, to world class conditions for freestyle windsurfing and wave surfing all year round. A windsurfing school rents equipment at reasonable prices for all levels of windsurfers at the end of the beach.
ERIMOUPOLI - ITANOS
Erimoupolis or Ancient Itanos consists of three small picturesque beaches, nicely secluded, with crystal clear and turquoise waters, located 26 kilometres eastern to Sitia. It’s in front of the ancient site of Itanos where some archaeological building foundations can be found. One of interesting attractions is the fascinating seabed which is in fact a sunken ancient city, once prosperous, but now inhabited by thousands of small and bigger fishes, a perfect place to snorkel. The beach is not organised with sun beds or umbrellas and only a 5 minutes drive a way from the excellent Metohi taverna.