Ierapetra, Crete’s (and Europe’s) southernmost town, encapsulates everything that makes this part of Greece the perfect location for a truly wonderful holiday.
Situated on the island’s Libyan Sea coast, its sheltering snowcapped mountains mean that Ierapetra is also the sunniest destination in Europe. With an average annual temperature of 20°C, a visit here practically guarantees beautiful weather.
The fourth largest city in Crete, there’s a welcome contrast between the buzzing modern bars and restaurants that line the promenade and the traditional sleepy village feel of the old town.
You’ll find plenty of fascinating history to uncover. Standing guard at the edge of the ancient port is the famous Kales Fortress, built here by a Genoese pirate in 1212. There are also the well-preserved remnants of the Turkish occupation in the mosques and fountains of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the buildings now house impressive exhibitions of paintings and sculptures by local artists.
It’s the beaches at Ierapetra that attract the most visitors. Awarded the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness and safety, the stunning coastline is home to a vast beachfront with a calm, warm and wonderfully inviting sea. Perfect for relaxing and soaking up some of that endless sunshine or trying out one of the many water sports on offer, they make an ideal spot for the whole family.
Just an hour’s boat ride from Ierapetra, this protected island and wildlife refuge has a cedar forest, sands tinged pink by broken seashells and is surrounded by some of the clearest waters you can imagine. Declared an area of outstanding natural beauty, it’s a wonderful spot to visit and connect with the landscape. There are 10 kilometres of well-maintained paths to lead you around the island, with the whole circuit taking a leisurely two or three hours. If that all seems too much, just pick one of the beautiful beaches, lie back and unwind.
Rich in historical wonders and alive with the buzz of a capital city, Heraklion has plenty on offer to fascinate and delight. Wandering through the streets, you’ll come across towering mosques and minarets, grand Venetian mansions and imposing Byzantine monasteries. The fortress of Koules looks down over the ancient harbour and the whole of the old town is ringed with huge fortifying walls dating back to the 16th century. Complete with a sophisticated café culture and some world-class restaurants, Heraklion ticks all the boxes for an enchanting experience.
A big, brash and lively holiday resort on the north coast of Crete, Hersonissos dedicates itself to fun and entertainment. With a waterfront crammed with raucous bars and chic clubs, the party never stops, and some of the biggest dance DJs in the gameplay here.
Away from the nightlife, Hersonissos is also renowned for its beaches, with golden sands and crystal clear waters. There’s even the island’s only nudist beach if that’s your thing! Just next door are the high-octane thrills of Star Beach Water Park, with over four acres of splashtastic slides and daily foam parties.
Gournia lies just outside Ierapetra and remains one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe. Dating from the Late Bronze Age, it gives an incredible insight into what a Minoan era town must have looked like and has more than 50 houses, a palace, central court and a cemetery, all linked by a series of cobbled streets. Known as ‘The Pompeii of Minoan Crete’ because of how well its artefacts have been preserved, Gournia is a must-see for history buffs.
The Ancient Olive Tree of Azorias
It takes a lot for just one olive tree to stand out on an island that is home to more than 30 million of them! But the one growing on the outskirts of Ierapetra in the village of Kavousi is something special—it was planted nearly 3,500 years ago, making it the oldest olive tree in the world. Declared a natural monument, the colossal trunk measures almost five metres around at its widest point and it stands over 14 metres high.
Ierapetra’s fabulous climate makes it the ideal beach holiday destination. There are three within the town itself—our favourite being Kato beach. Starting at the Venetian Kale fortress at the western end of town, its calm waters make it perfect for scuba diving and swimming and there are plenty of nearby tavernas and cafes to escape the hottest part of the day. The fine sands and sparklingly clear sea are proud winners of Blue Flag status every year.
Celebrated the world over, the diet on Crete has survived the influences of its many invaders and remains essentially the same as the cuisine eaten thousands of years ago by the original Minoan civilisation. That means the freshest ingredients, grown in the nutrient-rich soil of the island and lovingly prepared into simple and delicious dishes—and with liberal amounts of the olive oil that’s made Crete so famous.
Ierapetra is located in one of the most fertile farming areas in Greece, and you’ll be able to spot vast greenhouses in the surrounding landscape where many of the locals grow fruit and vegetables to export to the rest of Europe. This means you get the freshest of everything when it comes to dining in any of the town’s excellent cafes, tavernas and restaurants. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the seafood here—the waters just off the coast are packed with tender octopus and lobster.
Peaceful and quiet, but with a wealth of fascinating sites to explore and enough entertainment for the whole family, Ierapetra is a wonderful place to visit. And with its year-round sunshine, it makes an ideal getaway at any time.
Save even more on your trip to Ierapetra when you book your flight and hotel together with easyJet holidays. Take a look at our other Crete destination guides for more holiday inspiration.