The small coastal town of Sitia is located at the easternmost edge of Crete. It is known for its authenticity and pleasant atmosphere as it is not as “touristy'' as other towns and cities in Crete. This provides a great opportunity for visitors who want to connect to the local culture and enjoy a peaceful vacation.
Rent a car Sitia airport
Sitia has its own small airport and harbour. In the summer season there are almost daily flights to Athens and few charter flights from various European destinations. You can comfortably pick up and return your rental car from the airport in Sitia or rent a car in Heraklion airport and drive to Sitia. The port of Sitia connects with Athens (daily ferry) the Dodecanese and Cyclades islands.
The history of Sitia
Based on limited excavations, an ancient city, dating back to the Greco-Roman era, of the name “Iteia'', was built in the area where modern day Sitia is located. In addition excavations indicate that there were Neolithic settlements around Sitia and an important Minoan settlement at nearby Petras.
In Byzantine times Sitia flourished and became a bishopric, which was later on destroyed by the Saracens in the 9th Century.
During Venetian occupation Sitia became the most important port in eastern Crete.
It’s being said that the harbour, which was named “La Sitia” back then, gave the prefecture “Lasithi” its name.
In 1508 Sitia was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Few years later in 1538 it was destroyed again by the famous pirate Barbarossa. The turkish blockade in 1651 marked Sitias death knell. For two decades Sitia ceased to exist as a town, until 1869.
Crete’s most famous poet, Vitsentzos Kornaros, writer of the epic love poem ‘Erotokritos’, was born in Sitia in 1614.
4 Best things to do in Sitia 2021
1) Vai Beach
The Vai palm forest beach is definitely a must, especially if you are already staying in Sitia.
It is located 25 km from Sitia and covers an area of 250 square kilometres with approximately 5000 date palms, making it the biggest palm tree forest in Europe.
The beach features a parking area, sunbeds and umbrellas as well as water sports and a small restaurant for food and drinks. If you want to explore the area further climb up the right side of the beach to reach a more private beach called Psili Ammos.
2) Archeological Museum of Sitia
Although small in size the Archeological Museum of Sitia exhibits a great variety of finds from the wider area of Sitia and Lasithi prefecture. If you stay in Sitia and you have 3€ to spend (kids enter for free) we would definitely recommend it. The museum is divided in four sections:
- Exhibits from the Minoan Period
- Exhibits from Zakros
- Exhibits from the Geometric and Archaic periods
- Exhibits from the Greco-Roman period
Amongst the most impressive artefacts are a gold ivory statue from the Minoan era, described by many as an “masterpiece”. Other notable finds are a stone lamp and a wreathed bull, both found in Early and Middle Minoan tombs.
3) Toplou Monastery
The Toplou Monastery is located around 10 km east of Sitia and 6 km from Palaikastro, on the way to the palm forest of Vai (which makes for a great stop to or from the beach).
At the entrance you have to pay an admission fee of 3-4€ and then you will be able to wander through the small rooms and look at the fascinating items on display. Exquisite works of art, early printing and religious pieces. In the monastery you will also be able to find a small gift shop with beautiful painted pieces, fabulous books and selection of their own wines.
4) Richtis gorge and waterfall
If you are looking for a great activity to do around the Sitia we recommend the hike to the Richtis waterfall. First of all, we would like to clarify that this hike involves a little bit of rock climbing at certain areas and can be considered challenging for some. Now that we got this out of the way, let's get to the fun part.
There are two ways to reach the waterfall. Either you start from the top of the gorge or you can start from the beach(which is easier but not as impressive as starting from the top).
We recommend starting from the top which will take approximately 1-1.5 hours.
When the GPS tells you that you have arrived, do not park your rental car or motorbike on the main road but follow the small concrete road until you reach the small bridge. From there you can start your phenomenal walk down the Richtis Gorge. The beautiful path will take you through a jungle like environment , criss crossing small streams and climbing over small boulders.
After that you will reach the waterfall with its small crystal clear water pond in which you can take a refreshing dip. The area around the waterfall has some leafy trees under which you can take a break to gain back your strength. If you are feeling strong you can go further down the gorge until you reach the beach or go back up.