Visit the only palmforest in Europe with its clean waters and beautiful beach. It is situated on the northern edge of the region on the headland of Sidero. The palm trees grow naturally here and their fronds cover the banks of the small stream that leads to the sea, and its surrounding area. Quite apart from its beauty, Vai is also of significant ecological worth. The wetlands created between the edge of the palmforest and the beach are home to a wide variety of birdlife and the ocean is teaming with sea creatures


This archaeological site is situated 500m from the coastal settlement of Kato Zakros and 9 kms from the village of Pano Zakros (45 kms from Sitia). The first excavations of this site were carried out at the end of the 19th century by the archeologists Halbherr and Mariani. The palace was built in 1600 BC and is thought to have been destroyed in 1450 BC by the eruption of the volcano in Santorini. In the years following this sudden and complete destruction, no other palace was built in its place. The palace remained undisturbed, covered in bits of lava and pumice, until it yielded its treasures during the first excavations. Prehistoric tombs have also been found in the surrounding areas of Traostalo and in the Gorge of the Dead.

The palace covers over 8000 m2 and and is spread around a central courtyard as in the other Minoan palaces of Crete. Although the palace is similar in many ways to the other Minoan palaces it also has a few fascinating architectural anomalies. There are many clues as to the way of life in the ruling families as well as the relations between Eastern Crete, Egypt and the Middle East. This is convincing evidence that Zakros used to be a major trading centre in Crete and a transit port for ships travelling to Africa. Main exports to Egypt and other countries were cedar wood, oil and wine.

The castle of "Kazarma"

The castle fortress known today as "Kazarma" (Casa di arma), is the most imposing historical monument in Sitia. The Kazarma used to be a military and administrative centre which consisted of a Medieval dwelling surrounded by walls. The fortification of the town and of the Kazarma can be dated to the late Byzantine period.However, pirate raids, the continual uprisings against the Venetian occupation by the local people and the great earthquake all led to the partial destruction of the fortifications until the Venetians themselves were forced to completely destroy them with the intention of rebuilding them. This never happened and in 1651 the town was razed and then occupied by the Turks.

During the Turkish occupation it would appear that the walls were never rebuilt but the Kazarma was restored and evidence of the Turkish extensions can be seen today, for example in the cupolas ("koubedes") on the battlements that form the watch towers. The Kazarma has since been carefully restored and is open to the public offering a panoramic view across the bay of Sitia.

Village of Presos

The first excavations of this site were carried out at the end of the 19th century by the archeologists Halbherr and Mariani. Ancient Presos extends in an area of over 3 hilltops and is located 1km to the north of the village of Presos. A significant find was a series of four domed tombs, containing a range of items buried with the dead.


The remains of ancient Itanos are situated 27 kms to the East of Sitia near Vai Palm Forest. This area is known as Erimoupli or Ermoupoli. The founding of Itanos can be traced back to the prehistoric era and Homer provides the first written evidence of its existence. It was an important commercial hub on the trading routes between Europe and the Middle East and exported porphyry, sponges, glass and fish. Today the visitor can wander through the ruins noting the remains of a large guard tower made from black stone to the west, the ancient Christian church on the east side, the Hellenistic settlement, two Christian churches at the foot of the hills leading to Vai and the cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The city was destroyed by the Byzantines but is believed to have been resettled in Venetian times.

AlsoThe sandy beach of Erimoupolis is situated slightly to the north of the magnificent palmforest of Vai. The visitor can combine a swim in the sea with a visit to the ruins of ancient Itanos, which used to be the one remaining Heteocretan city. This city was engaged for centuries in rivalry with the powerful city of Presos until it secured its destruction by turning the military might of Ierapetra on it. The ruins of two early Christian churches prove that it remained an important trading centre up until the early Byzantine period when it was overshadowed by the ever growing city of Sitia.


In the area surrounding the the village of Hamezi on the conical hill known as Souvlito Mouri, archaeologists discovered a unique elliptical building of the MMIa period. It is considered one of the most significant remains of Minoan civilisation. It was excavated in 1903 by S. Xanthoulis who believed the building to be a large farm dwelling. However, N. Platon, considered the building part of a Minoan hill-top worship site and that the well in the courtyard was actually used as a receptacle for sacred artefacts. Archaeological circles are still discussing these unanswered questions, especially those regarding the use, function and shape of the construction.


This small island is situated off the northern coast of the region of Sitia and is 150m from the small picturesque fishing village of the same name on the mainland. In the Bronze Age it would appear that the island was connected to the mainland forming two natural harbours to the east and west. It is owing to these geographical features that the Minoans favoured Mochlos. The American archaeologist R Seager discovered rectangular tombs on the north west side of the island in 1908 which belonged to aristocratic families. In the same spot they also found remarkable pieces of gold jewellery, diadems, stone seals, unique stone vases and double axes, all of which can be seen in the first room of the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion

Monastery of Toplou

It is an historical monastery of the 15th century, which collapsed in the earthquake of 1612 and was rebuilt with the financial aid of the Venetians. During the Ottoman conquest of Crete, the monastery was destroyed and devastated by the Turks. In 1704 the monastery was declared stauropegion. During the Ottoman occupation there was a school in the monastery, while, after 1870, it was founded there a school of mutual teaching. The Monastery is a stauropegion fortress. The main building of 800 m2 has three floors, which are divided into cells, guest - houses, kitchens, the abbot' s residense and warehouses.

The katholicon is a two-aisled church; the northern aisle is dedicated to the Virgin, and the southern posterior aisle, to St John the Theologian. The monastery' s characteristic bell tower bears relief crowns and crosses with inscriptions and the date 1558. The 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities carried out works of consolidation and restoration. In the Monastery, there is also an interesting Museum.

The gorge of Zakros

The gorge of Kato Zakros is also known as "The Gorge of the Dead" because the Minoans used to bury their dead here in small crevasses high up in the walls of the gorge. It forms part of the E4 walking trail and you can easily walk through it in about an hour. You can enjoy a swim in cool, clear waters on the beach in the small, picturesque fishing village of Mochlos or in any one of the small coves scattered to the east and to the west. The ruins of an important Minoan settlement can clearly be seen on the island of Agios Nikolaos 150 metres off the mainland opposite Mochlos. This settlem

The gorge of Lamnoniou

This gorge takes its name from the village of Lamnoniou and ends at the beautiful beaches of Kserokambos. The walker will notice the strange stone shapes formed by the constant wind battering the sides of this barren gorge. It will take you about 5 hours to walk.

The cave of Pelekiton

Pelekiton is one of the best-known caves of Sitia as it is rich in stone formation and is the deepest cave in Crete. It is situated in Pelekita (Sikia) near Kato Zakros. The cave has a depth of 310 metres and traces of habitation from the Neolithic era have been found.

The cave of Pefkon

To the north of Makriyialos near the village of Pefki, there are two cavess of interest. One is the cave of Apaloustres which is relatively easy to visit and the other is Latsida Vrikou where traces of Neolithic habitation have been discovered recently. There are however other well known cave formations in the area of Sitia such as: - the cave of Peristera, 540m above sea level and two kilometres east of the picturesque village of Karidi. - the caves at Mikro Katofigi and Megalo Katofigi which are 425 and 450 metres above sea level. - the cave of Exo Latsidi, one of the deepest in Crete, near Sitano at a height of 610 metres.