Crete : Sightseeing
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Zakros Palace and Archaeological Site
Sitia, East Crete
at 1.4km (E)
Like the other Cretan palaces, the palace of Zakros, was first built in about 1900 B.C. The present ruins seen by the visitor belong to the second building phase, in about 1600 BC.
The total area of the palace, including ancillary buildings, is approximately 10,000 sq.m. It was not only the permanent residence of the royal family, but also the administrative, as well as commercial and religious centre of the surrounding area.
The long term excavations have yielded over 10,000 objects, many of them considered unique, which are now on display in the Iraklion and Sitia museums.
Palaikastro Archaeological site
Sitia, East Lassithi
at 10.9km (N)
At the northernmost edge of the eastern coast of Crete lie the ruins of a settlement which flourished during the Late Minoan period (1550-1220 B.C.). At the same site, however, are preserved remains of the Early and Middle Minoan periods (3000-1550 B.C.), mostly cemeteries with well-built ossuaries, and ruins of spacious houses. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 B.C.) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 B.C.). The city covered a total area of more than 50,000 sq.m., was densely inhabited but not fortified.
To the NE of one of the city's sectors lies the sanctuary of Diktaian Zeus, which belonged administratively to the city of Itanos. Cult practice was continuous from the Geometric period (8th century B.C.) until the Roman conquest. It seems that the sanctuary was plundered and destroyed by fanatic Christians at the end of the 4th century A.D.
Voila medieval settlement
Sitia, East Lassithi
at 12.8km (W)
The settlement of Voila (GR: Βόϊλα) is 1km away from the village of Handras. It is a medieval deserted village protected by the Greek Archaeological Authorities.
Passing through the village's alleys you can still see the ruins of old houses and their rooms, their venetian features and through this sacred silence of the place you have the impression that you hear the Byzantine king, the medieval knight or the Turk fighter gallop away.
The name of the village probably comes from the Byzantine word VOILAS or VOLIAS meaning the nobleman, the land owner.
In a census carried out by Kastrofilaka in 1583, the village of Voila had a population of 301. Many elements show that the village belonged to the venetian family of Zenos which during the Turkish occupation adopted the Ottoman religion and was renamed.The tradition says that he was the owner of a Castle in Voila which has an external inscription with the date 1153 equal to 1742 of the Christian diary. At the south of the castle there is a ruined church known as the church of Ginali.
Other attraction at the area is the old painted church of St. George dated back to the 15th century. From the inscription it is obvious that there is a family tomb of Salamons. The Solomons of the island of Zakynthos where our national poet Dionisios Solomos comes from, are believed to having been descended from the Salamons of Sitia.
At the top of the hill overlooking the village there is a fortress dated back to the Venetian occupation of the island of Crete.
at 13.7km (N)
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 residence 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. In the Monastery, there is also an interesting Museum.
Sitia Archaeological Museum
at 17.2km (NW)
Rich displays cover the periods 3500 B.C to 500 A.D. The oldest artifacts come from the wider region of Sitia. The museum is divided into five chronological parts and displays include a valuable collection of vases, clay tablets in Linear A script which were found in the archives at Zakros, figurines from peak sanctuaries, a wine press from the neo-palatial period and a Hellenistic wheat mill. Of special interest is the ivory and gold male figurine which was found in Roussolakkos near Palekastro.
Vái Palm grove & Beach
Sitia, East Lassithi
at 17.2km (N)
A palm tree forest stretching on a marvelous valley and sandy beach. It consists of self planted palm trees of Theophrastus (Phoenix Theophrasti). It is unique of its kind in Greece, Europe and probably the world. Vai because of its special value and beauty is protected by the Greek state, European Union and international contracts. The protected area covers 23.4 ha.
The sandy beach of Vai is amongst the most beautiful in Crete and Greece and attracts thousands of visitors every year since Vai is a top destinations especially for the new comers.
The small islets opposite the beach add a lot to the beauty of the place.
There is a parking area, a tavern, a canteen, umbrellas and seabeds.
There is regular public bus connection with the towns of Sitia and Palaikastro during the summer and many organised day trips by travel agencies.
If you don't like crowds, you can walk a little to the south from Vai to Psili Ammos a lovely small beach with fine gold sand which is nested in a small cove.
Sitia Folklore Museum
at 17.5km (NW)
The Folklore Museum of Sitia (Siteia, GR: Σητεία) displays items from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes some unique embroidery, examples of traditional weaving, wood carvings, local dress and household items, all displayed in an authentic Sitian house setting.
Address : 28, Kapetan Sifi Str., 72300 Sitia
Sitia, East Lassithi
at 19.6km (SW)
The Monastery of Kapsa is located 40 km from the town of Sitia at the exit of the Pervolakia Gorge built against the steep rocks overlooking the Libyan sea. The exact time of the foundation of the monastery is still unknown, while some believe that it was in the 15th century. Until 1841 there were only a small chapel dedicated to the Saint John the Baptist and a few cells.
Lefki (Koufonissi) island
Sitia, East Crete
at 19.7km (SW)
Koufonisi is a small island in the Libyan Sea just off the South East coast of Crete and the Cape of Goudouras.
It is also named LEFKI and gave its name to the municipality.
There is a cluster of small islets in the area like Makroulo, Strogylo, Trahila and Marmara. The island is deserted and in many spots it is covered with sand reminding an African landscape.
Until 1976 the shepherds used to feed their sheep there but it was not inhabited.
Later the Archaeological Offices of Eastern Crete under the authority of N. Papadakis began the excavations and the island proved to be full of ancient sites.
A beautiful theater, made of stones, at the North West end of the island opposite the Marmaras islet was discovered. At the South East of the theater where a settlement was found, a villa with 8 rooms and a guest room was brought to light.
The excavations also showed a workshop where the famous purple robes of the Romans was made. They also dig out an astonishing building, the Public Baths, dated back to 1st and 4th A.D. and ruins of an old temple.
Boats depart daily from Makrygialos to Koufonissi (during the tourist season and only if the weather permits) offering day-trips.
A short description of Lefki, by the archaeologist Nikos Papadakis:
Koufonisi island covered today with sand and bushes, lies close to the southeast shore of Crete. From the Middle - Ages until today is nowhere referred that the island has ever been inhabited permanently. However scattered ancient remnants, drew the attention of the English admiral and traveller T B. Spratt in the mid - 19th century. His itinerary and visit was repeated by the English archaeologists Bosanquet and Curely in 1903 and by the American A. Leonard jr in 1970. The definite conclusion all the above travellers reached was that Koufonisi could be identified with the island Lefki of antiquity for which the people of Itanos and Hierapytna were contending as it is referred in the famous "Inscription of Magnetes" of 112 - 111 B.C.
Excavations and archaeological research have since 1976 taken the responsibility to answer to the questions almost innate and consequent to the above conclusion and the result is undoubtedly impressive: An entire theater that could have housed a thousand spectators: a temple still containing fragments from the colossal cult statue: two private houses with 17 rooms decorated with mosaics and colourful walls: a system supplying water to the city through a series of vaulted cisterns and built pipes: a Minoan acropolis: cemeteries and last but not least the city of Lefki itself. Thus, slowly but steadily is unveiled the short but impressive presence of this small island nearby east Crete. Judging from the so far finds we can say that Lefki being one of the major centers of processing and trading purple, a symbol of authority and economic power soon became the object of rivalry among its neighbours. A series of diplomatic intrigue and fighting had occurred over the dominance of this prolific island. Later when its sources of prosperity were depleted the people of Lefki were exterminated through arms and fire: an invasion in the 4th century A.D. turned the historic island into ashes. On the basis of the existing ruins the importance it had for its neighbours and the fact that it was never again inhabited after its destruction we may describe Koufonisi by quoting a western journalist as Delos of the Libyan Sea.
Makry Gialos Roman Villa
at 25.8km (W)
In Makry Gialos, at the place Katovigli, near the church of the Dormition of the Virgin, have been unearthed remains of a Roman Villa. Pendlebury (BSA XXXIII p. 100) had already noted the existence of a Roman settlement here. Excavations begun in 1977 (not yet completed), have shown that there were indeed large domestic establishments, dated from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD, but it is not possible at this stage of the excavations to draw definite conclusions. One room after another has been discovered and the whole excavation so far, covers an area of roughly 1500 sq.m.
Makry Gialos Minoan Villa
at 26.2km (W)
In 1971 systematic excavations were begun by the Ephor of Antiquities Kostis Davaras north-west of the village at Plakakia. Here he located an important villa of the lateminoan period. The dig was completed in 1977 having shown that the villa had been destroyed by fire.It had strong outer walls, inner courts, many rooms with thresholds, flagged floors and areas perhaps connected with the worship of the Sacred Tree. It must have been roofed with bamboo canes covered by a layer of clay (as a number of the older traditional village houses still are). Among the most important movable finds were vessels of pottery and stone, figurines and an amygdaloid seal-stone of steatite engraved with a representation of a Sacred Ship. On the ship a sacred precinct or altar is shown with a tall palm-like tree standing like a mast. On the prow of the ship a worshiper or a priestess stands facing the altar, clenched fist raised to the brow in the recognized Minoan attitude of worship. This is the first clear evidence of the existence of Sacred Ships or Boats connected with the Minoan religion; it has its parallels in the ancient religions of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Source: "Sitia" by Nikos Papadakis - archaeologist
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