Discover a clandestine paradise for your holidays.
ato Zakros of Sitia in Crete, remains one of the most authentic, unspoilt and least exploited for touristic purposes destinations in Crete. A plethora of sights at close distance from the Terra Minoika resort await the wayfaring travelers to discover them, providing the integral travelling experience they seek.
Gorge of the Dead
A gorge of exceptional beauty full of caves on its steep cliff faces where Minoan tombs have been discovered and whence it derives its name. It begins at the village of Zakros and ends at the beach of Kato Zakros. The gorge is the last section of the international E4 trekking trail. Its centuries-old plane trees, the evergreen chaste trees, the blooming oleanders, the aromatic wild herbs, the crystalline waters from the fountain flowing through it in spring and the short time it takes to cross it (2 hrs), have made the gorge particularly inviting to thousands of trekkers each year.
At the northern edge of the Kato Zakros valley there lie the remains of the 4th Minoan Palace of Crete, which, however, holds first place regarding the archeological findings, since it was discovered intact and unlooted by Nikolaos Platon in 1961. The findings are considered among the most significant ones for the Minoan civilization.
One of the largest caves of Crete is located at an hour’s distance from Kato Zakros, along a rather smooth and clear path next to the sea. The cave is 310 m long and takes up an area of 4,500 sq.m. The lofty stalagmite pillars and the majestic stalactites adorn the path all the way to its bottom and the impressive sweet water lake. Its exploration requires basic speleological knowledge.
The village Zakros is located 38 km southeast of Sitia and 7 km away from the Minoan palace. The 700 inhabitants commonly occupy themselves with the cultivation of olive trees, and a smaller percentage with touristic activities. The area produces extra virgin olive oil, awarded numerous prizes for its quality. There are water fountains at various spots around the village, whose water was used to power the numerous watermills it used to have. The spring within the Mill, at the top of the village, wells up in a gorgeous plane tree grove, where you can have a picnic. The Water and Natural History museums of Zakros are worth a visit, as well as spending some time at the many cafes of the village, watching locals go about their everyday routine.
Xerokambos is an isolated settlement, 16 km south of Kato Zakros. The area can be reached from Kato Zakros (20’ drive) through Zakros and the Ziros plateau, along a breathtakingly spiraling road through hard, rocky terrain. The most celebrated feature of Xerokambos is its several sandy beaches with crystal clear turquoise waters, an ideal place for a cooling repose on hot summer days.
Vai – Ermoupoli
The palm tree forest at Vai is one of the most popular attractions in Crete and one of the most beautiful places in all of the Mediterranean. It has been proclaimed an ‘Aesthetic Forest’ with 4,500 Theophrastus’ palm trees, and a protected area (Natura 2000). It is 45’ away from Kato Zakros. Very close to Vai, at Ermoupoli, there is another beach and the remains of ancient Itanos, with archaeological site, sandy beaches and marvellous seabed.
The Toplou Monastery is one of the most important and beautiful monasteries in Crete. The building itself looms imposingly over its surroundings with its 33-metre bell-tower in the rough, nearly desolate landscape. It makes an impression from afar, looking like a small fortress surrounded as it is by high walls, about 10 meters tall. It is the only one that has survived among the numerous monasteries, big and small, that were once scattered throughout the area of Sitia, all destroyed by wars and pirate raids.
Gorge of Choclakies – Karoumes
The village Choclakies (15’ drive from Zakros) marks the beginning of a very interesting walking trail through the gorge of the same name, which leads to the isolated beach of Karoumes. It is only accessible via the gorge or by sea and it offers perfect isolation, a fantastic beach and a most serene landscape. The gorge of Choclakies with the beach of Karoumes and the Kato Zakros beach are linked via Georoute no 12 of the Sitia Geopark.
Sitia is a picturesque coastal town of 11,000 inhabitants. Sitia’s glorious past is buried in its more than 80 archaeological sites and over 100 recognized (but not yet excavated) sites of great archaeological interest. Sitia has not fallen prey to mass touristic development, it maintains its original identity and offers quality entertainment and traditional Cretan hospitality. The Kornareia festival is certainly an event worth attending.
Gorge of Richtis
The gorge of Richtis is located on the northern part of the Lasithi region. The trail that crosses it begins northeast of the village Exo Mouliana and descends to the rocky beach of Richtis. The full length of the trail is about 3 km, in a lush landscape along the river, an oasis of coolness in Eastern Crete. The plane trees, oleanders and sage bushes abound, and the aromas of the various herbs keep alternating. Another impressive feature –emblem of the past— is the old watermills that the visitor comes up to on the way. The jewel of the trail, though, is certainly the gorgeous Richtis waterfall.
Koufonisi is an islet of the South Cretan Sea, 10 miles southeast of Makriyalos. Its current name, Koufonisi, is said to derive from the many caverns and caves created by the sea and the rain corroding and shaping the soft rock. The island is not inhabited at present, but it is full of human activity remains, starting from Protominoan times and reaching the post-Byzantine era. The island features very beautiful sandy beaches and its greatest part is covered by thin sand, not very different from African deserts. The visitor will be amazed at the beauty of the white rocks next to the infinite blue and enjoy the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings while swimming in its turquoise waters. It is accessible by private boat or by organised boat trip from Makryialos.
Kouremenos – Chiona
The beach of Kouremenos is about 20 km from Sitia and 1 km from Palaikastro. Kouremenos is the longest beach of the area, extending to 1.5 km in length. It is sandy with pebbly patches here and there, with deep blue waters, tamarisks, and its seabed is ideal for diving. There is a windsurfing school at the far end of the beach, where you can rent equipment and get windsurfing lessons as well. The beach of Chiona is located 21 km east of Sitia and 2 km east of Palaikastro. It is a beautiful beach, about 300 m long, with white sand, a sandy seabed and shallow waters. There are picturesque tavernas (restaurants) offering Cretan cuisine.