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Ierapetra (Greek: Ιεράπετρα, meaning Holy Stone;[1] ancient name: Ἱεράπυτνα Hierapytna[2]) is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.


The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect: Γεράπετρο Gerapetro) is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional centre. With its 15,323 inhabitants (2001) it is the most populous town in the prefecture of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is popularly known as the southernmost town of Europe, nicknamed "bride of the Libyan Sea" because of its position as the only town on the south coast of Crete.

Bronze statue of a young boy founded in Ierapetra (1st c. B.C.) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

Ierapetra has had a place in the history of Crete since the Minoan period. The Greek and later Roman town of Hierapytna was on the same site as present day Ierapetra. In the Classical Age Ierapytna became the strongest town of eastern Crete and as a Dorian city in continual rivalry with Praisos, the last Minoan city in the island. Later, in the 3rd century BC, Hierapytna was notorious for its tendency to piracy and took part in the Cretan War along with other Cretan cities in the side of Philip V of Macedon against Knossos and Rhodes.Its importance as independent state ended when it was conquered by the Romans in 67 BC (the last free city in Crete) and was surpassed by the city of Gortyn. The Roman conquest of Ierapetra occurred about the same time as that of Knossos, Cydonia and Lato.[3] Today remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen in the shallow bay. In AD 824 it was destroyed by Arab invaders, only to be rebuilt as a base for pirates again.

View over Ierapetra Bay

Venetian Era

The former mosque in Kato Mera [Source]

View of the old venetian fortress.
Napoleon's residence.

In the Venetian Age, from the 13th to the 17th centuries, Ierapetra - now known by its present name - became prosperous again. The Fortress of Kales, built in the early years of Venetian rule and strengthened by Francesco Morosini in 1626 [2] to protect the harbor, is a remnant of this period, although local myth says it was built by the Genoese pirate Pescatore in 1212. In July 1798 Ierapetra made a small step into world history: Napoleon stayed with a local family [3] after the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt. The house where he stayed can still be seen. In the Ottoman period a mosque was built in the town. Finds from Ierapetra's past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities, formerly a school for Muslim children. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a well preserved statue of Persephone.

Ierapetra Fortress

Modern Era
The church of Agia Fotini.

Present day Ierapetra consists of two quite distinct parts, Kato Mera and Pano Mera. Kato Mera is the old town on the southwestern headland. It is characterized by a medieval street layout with narrow alleyways, cul-de-sacs and small houses, creating a village-like atmosphere. The former mosque and the "house of Napoleon" can be found in this neighbourhood, as can Aghios Georgios metropolitan church (built in 1856) in the town's center. It is considered one of the most interesting churches of Crete. The ceiling of the church has many "blind" domes. Those, as well as the central dome, are wooden (mainly cedar wood). Pano Mera is the much bigger new town, with wider streets and three and four storey houses. Pano Mera is still expanding towards the west, north and east.

Ierapetra's main shopping street is Koundouriotou. In the centre the town hall, the museum and two cinemas can be found. The local hospital lies in Pano Mera. To the west is the southern headland with the fortress, a port for fishing boats and ´Navmachia´ area, where sea fights among slaves for citizens´ pleasure were taking place, during Roman period. Further east is a short beach with bars and restaurants, followed by the quay for ferries to Chrissi. Further on lies the main boulevard with hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. At its end a new promenade leads alongside Ierapetra Bay's long beach.

Chrissi [Source]

Ierapetra, view over the main boulevard



The local government has planned the development of a new international port. This plan is being opposed by some citizens who think it will destroy the local environment and scenery. They are supported by, the local environmental tribune.

In 2003 a Technical School for Marketing and Commerce was opened.[4]


The local hospital (General Hospital of Ierapetra) was set up in 1955 with funds coming from Cretans who lived in the USA. In 2010 it was announced that under a government plan for new administrative divisions, called "the Kallikratis Project", the hospital was to shut down. This sparked an unprecedented wave of protest within the region, as the hospital serves 40,000 people, including some from the neighboring prefecture of Iraklion. The protests were culminated to a march that took place on 25 January 2011. A march from Ierapetra to Iraklion followed, where over 2,500 people from and around the town, participated and showed their anger for the decision by the central government to close the hospital. Protests included occupation of the building where the Decentralised Administration is located and an outdoors theatrical play by the protestors. Following those incidents, it was announced that the authorities had decided to halt the process of degrading and closing the hospital. Instead, the latter was funded with 1 mn euros and more doctors were to be sent.[5]

However, despite the promises by the socialist government, problems loomed surrounding health services and the lack of staff in the one and only hospital in the region. As a result, a new round of protests commenced on 26 May 2011, with a rally outside the seat of the municipality, in Ierapetra. Around 1,000 people protested the latest developments demanding the upgrading of the hospital and came to storm the building of the town hall. The protest, which is regarded as with no precedent for the region, lasted for 16 days[6] A row between the municipal authorities and the commission that advocated the upgrade of the hospital resulted in a standstill, with the prosecution of the people who led the storming of the town hall. The Head of the local Church, Evgenios, mediated and went to Athens, along with the mayor and other officials. This resulted in having the agreement for the upgrade of the hospital officially signed in.[7] Following an order by the incumbent mayor, 14 citizens were put to trial for the occupation of the town hall and were unanimously found not guilty on 11 July 2011.[8] It was the first such trial in the town to date. Another protest followed with a march by people from Ierapetra to Iraklion, on 20 July 2011.[9]


The municipality of Ierapetra was formed under the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 2 former municipalities, that became municipal units:[10]

Makry Gialos

The former municipality of Ierapetra, a municipal unit since January 2011, covers an area of 394.774 square kilometres, a population of 23,707 (2001), nearly twice that of the town, 15,323 (2001) and consisted of the town of Ierapetra, several villages and hamlets and the island of Chrissi. These settlements are: Agia Fotia, Agios Ioannis, Anatoli, Amoudares, Ano Simi, Christos, Drakalevri, Episkopi, Ferma, Gdochia, Gra Lygia, Kaimenos, Kalamafka, Kalogeri, Kamara, Kato Chorio, Kavousi, Kentri, Koutsounari, Males, Mathokotsana, Melises, Meseleri, Monastiraki, Minos, Mythi, Mournies, Myrtos, Nea Anatoli, Nea Myrtos, Pachia Ammos, Panagia, Pano Chorio, Psathi, Riza, Selakano, Stavros, Stomio, Sykia, Thrypti, Vainia, Vasiliki, Vatos, Xerambela and Xerokambos.

The municipal unit Makry Gialos, established as a municipality in 1998, with an area of 156.300 square kilometers and a population of 4,204 in 2001, consists of the communities of Schinokapsala, Oreino, Stavrochori, Chrysopigi, Agios Stefanos, Pefki, Lithines and Perivolakia.
Primary sector: 49%
Secondary sector: 14%
Tertiary sector: 37%

The area's main economic activities are agriculture in the winter and tourism in the summer. The agricultural production can be divided into two main parts. Whereas olive oil has been produced all over the municipality at least since Minoan times, for the last thirty years large quantities of fruit and vegetables have also been exported. These are grown in plastic greenhouses, which spread over an area of 13,000,000 square meters between the town of Ierapetra and Nea Myrtos. They were introduced by the Dutchman Paul Kuypers. Mainly because of the greenhouse production the inhabitants of Ierapetra are on average the richest on Crete.

Ha Gorge.

Bramiana Dam, an artificial dam and lake. The lake was made to supply the local greenhouses with water in the dry summer. The lake area is the biggest wetland on Crete, and has become a nature reserve known for its birdlife.
Mount Dikti
Mount Thryptis
Selakano Forest
Sarakina Gorge
Ha Gorge
Avgo Gorge
Ano Simi
Orino-Butterfly gorge
Pefki gorge
Pervolakia gorge


Ierapetra average annual temperature is 19.7°C (1956-1997 HNMS).[11] According to HNMS published material Ierapetra alongside Karpathos Island is Greece's warmest city with a mean annual temperature of 20.1°C.[12] Ierapetra has 3101 hours of sunshine per year and is again Greece's sunniest city according to HNMS[13]

Climate data for Ierapetra, Crete, Greece (1956-1997)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 16.1
Average low °C (°F) 8.9
Precipitation mm (inches) 133.8
Source: HNMS[24]


One can travel to Ierapetra by plane boarding onto domestic or charter flights to Sitia airport (59 km) or Heraklion airport (94 km). There are also frequent ferry departures from Piraeus to Sitia and Heraklion ports.
Main article: Chrissi
Chrissi beach.

Chrissi (Golden) or Gaidhouronisi (Donkey Island) is an uninhabited island some twelve kilometers off the coast of the town of Ierapetra. It is five kilometers long and on average one kilometer wide. The island's average height above sea level is ten meters; Kefala, the highest point of the island, is 31 meters above sea level. The island is renowned for its white beaches, sand dunes and forest of pines and junipers. The western tip of the island has some remains of past settlement: a few Minoan ruins and a 13th century chapel dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). It was inhabited into Byzantine times. The main sources of wealth were fishing, salt export, and the export of porphyra (Tyrian purple), a scarlet dye made from shells. After the Byzantine period the island was abandoned, although later it was used as a hideout.

Nowadays the island is protected as an "area of intense natural beauty". Especially in summer, the island attracts many tourists. As camping is forbidden on the island, only day trips are possible. Ferries leave the quay at Ierapetra daily at 10 A.M. and return at 5 P.M. Visitors are not allowed to roam freely over the island, but only on designated paths and some beaches close to the eastern tip of the island. There is a small tavern at the ferry landing. 700 meters to the east of Chrissi lies the rocky islet of Mikronisi (Small Island).

Minoan sites

Gournia, Minoan city on Mirambelo (Mirabello) Gulf.
Pyrgos, between Myrtos and Nea Myrtos.
Vasiliki, near the village of the same name.
Makry Gialos minoan site

Ierapetra in popular culture

In the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek the famous scene in which Anthony Quinn dances the Sirtaki on the beach was shot on Ierapetra Beach.
In the 1994 movie, 'Legends of the Fall', Tristan Ludlow (Brad Pitt) returning from a long journey, gifts a ring from Ierapetra to his future wife, Isabelle 2.
In two of his books R. Graves refers the name of Ierapetra. In "King Jesus" and in the "Hercules, my shipmate"
Luis Sepulveda also mention the Ierapetra in the introduction of his book "Mundo del fin del mundo" (The World at the End of the World)


Ierapetra was chosen among 500 South European destinations by the QualityCoast International Certification Program of EUCC as one of the 50 most attractive tourist destinations for visitors interested in cultural heritage, environment and sustainability. .[19] In 2012 Ierapetra was one of the only three destinations in Greece that won the Gold QualityCoast award, ranking 2nd among the TOP 100 chosen European destinations.[20]
Golden coast

Chrysi island golden coast
Aghios Andreas Beach
Koutsounari Long Beach
Livadi Beach in Ferma
Agia Fotia Beach
Kakkos Beach
Galini Beach, Achlia
Mavros Kolymbos Beach
Koutsouras Beach
Kalamokanias Beach in Makry Gialos
Katovigli / Lagkoufa Beach in Makry Gialos
Kalamaki Beach
Tholos Beach in Kavousi
Pachia Ammos Beach
Myrtos Beach in Myrtos
Ammoudares Beach


^ C. Michael Hogan, Lato Fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian, January 10, 2008
^ ΤΕΙ of Marketing and Commerce of Ierapetra (in Greek)
^ Πορεία από Ιεράπετρα στο Ηράκλειο υπέρ του νοσοκομείου Ιεράπετρας, March from Iraklion to Ierapetra in support of Ierapetra Hospital, 104.4 FM Radio, 25-1-2011 (Greek).
^ Eleftherotypia, Ξεσηκωμός στην Ιεράπετρα, Ierapetra rises up, 27-5-2011 (Greek).
^ Anatoli Διαβεβαιώσεις ότι το νοσοκομείο Ιεράπετρας θα λειτουργεί με αυτόνομη διοίκηση (Assurances that the Hospital of Ierapetra will operate with its own administrator), daily newspaper of Lasithi, website, accessed 13 September 2011. (in Greek)
^ 104 Πανηγυρικά αθώοι όλοι για τη κατάληψη του Δημαρχείου Ιεράπετρας (All citizens not guilty for the occupation of Ierapetra town hall, retrieved 2011-07-11. (in Greek)
^ Το συλλαλητήριο των Ιεραπετριτών για το Νοσοκομείο τους (March by the people of Ierapetra defending their hospital), 2011-07-20, retrieved 2011-07-21. (in Greek)
^ Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
^ "The Climate of Magouliana of Arcadia". The Climate of Magouliana of Arcadia (in Greek). See table 4, page 19. Academy of Athens, Research centre for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
^ "Climatological Information for Ierapetra, Greece", HNMS climatological table, web: [1].

Municipalities of the Lasithi Prefecture

Agios Nikolaos | Ierapetra | Itanos | Lefki | Makrys Gialos | Neapoli | Oropedio Lasithiou | Sitia

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