Compared to the rest of Crete Lassithi, the eastern part of the island, is a bit of a world apart. The area takes its name from the Lassithi plateau on Mount Dikti famous for its 7,000 (or so) windmills used in the past for irrigation. The plateau, the mountains and the traditional villages are certainly worth exploring during your holidays.
Makrigialos is a small seaside village with a charming fishing harbour on the south coast of Crete, east of Ierapetra. The adjacent village Analipsi is touristy and not the kind of place I would normally suggest you go to, but thanks to the combination of excellent sandy beaches, the beautiful hinterland, and some great self-catering holiday accommodation, I do recommend it for your holidays in Greece. The beaches are sandy with shallow waters, perfect for families with small children. I was there in the first half of July and the beaches lining the village were reasonably quiet; there were some more beaches a few kilometres from the village that we had practically to ourselves.
The area around Makrigialos is also paradise for walkers and nature lovers: as soon as you move away from the coast you’re surrounded by beautiful nature with verdant valleys, beautiful mountains, gorges and caves. Small excursions should include the Kapsa Monastery above the gorge of Perivolakia (about 10 km east of Makrigialos) and the remains of the medieval village of Vóila.
On the northern coast of Lassithi, the area around Elounda is where you will find a bit of glamour. While the village itself is a pretty relaxed ‘happy place’ with some shops, restaurants and bars, to the south its coast is lined with five-star and all-suite luxury hotels with private pools, spa, butler service, yacht hire and sushi bars, making it a favourite destination among politicians, royals, celebs and plenty of others who can afford it.
There are some beaches in and around Elounda, but they get crowded in the summer. Fortunately, there’s better: you will also find little coves beautiful flat rocks from where you can dip into the clearest of sea waters and get some sunbathing done too. Cross over to the Kolokytha Peninsula, and you will find some amazing places to swim.
A little further to the south, Agios Nikolaos is a pretty little town which is great for a night out, while to the north, there is the little fisherman settlement of Plaka, that brings you back to traditional Crete. Across from it lies the islet of Spinalonga, where you can wander around the remains of the 500-year-old Venetian fortifications, while trying to imagine what it was like here in the first half of the 20th century, when it was a leper colony.
More to see and to in Lassithi
All the way to the east, the famous palm beach of Vaï is worth going to, but avoid it in July or August when it gets sadly crowded. The excavations of the Minoan palace at Kato Zakros and the so-called Gorge of the Death are worth a daytrip, and off the southern coast, the island of Koufonisi is amazing.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Lassithi