Ierapetra is the largest city in the prefecture of Lassithi. It
is also the fourth largest city in Crete and the southernmost major
economic and political center of Greece and the European continent.
It is located 100 km southeast of Heraklion, 242 km from Chania and
36 km south of Agios Nikolaos. It was the seat of the homonymous
province, which is the largest part of the current Municipality of
Ierapetra. According to the 2011 census, the population of the city
center was 12,355, while together with its suburban settlements it
For the last decade, Ierapetra has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete and an attraction for Greek, Russian, Italian and German tourists, due to its award-winning beaches (2nd European Beach Award). The intense night life starts from the beach rakadika and ends in the bars in the narrow streets of the city. During the summer months, the cultural events "Kyrveia" take place, with a variety of concerts and theater performances.
Today the city is the only urban center in southern Crete, while it is an important commercial center for the export of agricultural products to Europe and is the main economic and commercial center of the prefecture of Lassithi.
Its area includes some of the most important ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean, such as the island of Chrysi, the forest of Selakanos which is the largest and most important in Crete, and the mountains of Thripti. The tourist settlement of Makry Gialos is located 24 km east of the city. With Government Gazette A 239 - 07.11.2011 the Local Communities of Pefka, Chrysopigi, Lithina and Pervolakia left the Municipality of Ierapetra and joined the neighboring Municipality of Sitia.
With the implementation of the Kallikratis program, the only hospital in the city, which serves more than 40,000 people, is degraded, causing the reactions of the population.
The foundation of the city is lost in the mythical years, when it was founded by the Koryvantes, who came to Ierapytna from Rhodes (hence the name Kamiros, which was an ancient Rhodesian city). The city is located on the site of the ancient city of Ierapytna in southeastern Crete. Older names of Ierapytna were Kyrva (from the first settler who had the same name), Kamiros, Pytna (= hill) and was one of the most important cities of Crete, especially during the Roman period. The site of ancient Ierapytna, which was destroyed (probably by the earthquake of 796) was at a distance of one kilometer from the current city, at Viglia.
The current name of the city comes from the adjective "sanctuary" and the word stone. The name Ierapytna is older and refers to Strabo (who mistakenly placed it on a hill of Mount Idi) in the 1st century BC. and in Stephen the Byzantine in the 6th AD. century (in his Dictionary, where he also mentions the national "Ierapytnios"). With the same name (Ierapytna, from the sanctuary and the pytna = hill in Pelasgian) it refers to Pliny, Ptolemy, the Synecdoche of Hierocles and in the catalogs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The city is also located in the southern part of Crete, in the Gulf of Libya, by the geographers Jerome and Artemis. During the Middle Ages, Ierapetra was called Hierapolis or Holy City (with this name it also refers to Buodelmodi, a monk from Florence, in his book A Round of Crete in 1415. The Greek scholar Michael Apostolis mentions Ierapetra as Iera P letter to the student of Atramytinos, in 1469. In a naval book of Byzantine times there is a reference to the city called Iera Pydna, with references to Samonion (today's Cape Sideros and the islet of Chrysi. According to other traditions, the city was built by The Semites, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians and the Dorians.
Little is known about the city during this period. However, the city developed rapidly both economically (due to trade with Egypt) and culturally. In the following centuries the inhabitants began to engage in trade, handicrafts and fishing.
Ancient and Roman years
From the 4th century BC. the Doric city of Ierapytna began to emerge as a military and economic power. It established close political, social and economic relations with abroad (the rest of Greece, Asia Minor, North Africa) and gradually established itself as the only power in Eastern Crete, together with Itano. After the conquest by the Romans, Ierapetra continued to prosper.
The coin of ancient Ierapetra
In ancient Ierapytna a silver didrachm was used as a coin. One such dates from the 2nd - 1st c. e.g. and is kept in the British Museum. It depicts a female head in right profile, adorned with a crown. The crown is well-groomed and compact, while the neck is covered with curls. The back has the inscriptions IERAPY and ARIST | AGORA | S, while it depicts a palm tree with fruits. On the left an eagle in right profile flies. The whole back is surrounded by a laurel wreath. It has a diameter of 23 mm and weighs 7.54 g.
The Romans subjugated Ierapytna after a first failed attempt by Mark Antonios. In the last battle fought in the city in 67 BC. General Aristion was defeated by Quinto Metellos. The severity of the battle and the difficult conditions for the Ierapytni were also recorded by the historian Valerios Maximos, who stated that the inhabitants were forced to drink their urine due to the lack of water. Aristion escaped with his fleet, but due to bad weather his ships were destroyed and he was arrested. The city was eventually destroyed by the Romans and later rebuilt. The conquest of Ierapytna meant the final subjugation of Crete to the Romans. Crete then became a province of Rome along with Cyrenaica and with a Deputy Governor and based in Gortyna.
The new Ierapytna developed into a naval base, with its port serving the wider area but also because of its geographical location. The consequence of these was to develop in population, economically and culturally, to expand and become one of the richest Cretan cities. Due to its location and development, the city retained the right to mint its own coins, as can be seen from the coins found in the area and depicting the heads of Tiberius, Caligula and Augustus, among others. At the same time, the city was adorned with many statues, baths and works of art, some of which were found and are kept today in the Museum of Ierapetra (Archaeological Collection).
According to the traveler Onorio Beli, Ierapytna was adorned with
two theaters: the "small" (which was allegedly located near the
junction of the current streets Kondylaki and Afxentiou) and the
"big", which was probably located in Viglia, on the left side of the
road to the Gra-Lygia.
During the first Byzantine years (330-824) Ierapetra was not in the center of interest of the Byzantine Empire. However, as mentioned in the list of Hierocles (6th century) it was the seat of a diocese.
Ierapytna was destroyed, according to the prevailing theory, by the great earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, that struck Crete in 796. The Saracen pirates looted the city in the 9th century and completed its destruction.
After the occupation of Crete by the Genoese, the Venetians occupied the island in 1212. According to the population census by Kastrofylakas in 1583, Ierapetra is not inadvertently mentioned, although reference is made to the population of its villages. However, in the list of priests, 7 priests are mentioned in the city. The Venetian rule lasted in Ierapetra from the 13th to the 17th century. The Venetians at that time had appointed their own bishops of Latin descent. Ierapetra received its current name at that time and ceased to be an administrative center, as the interest of the Venetians shifted to Sitia. Thus, the provinces of Ierapetra and Sitia were merged into one territory, based in Sitia, with borders starting from Kalo Chorio and reaching up to Myrtos, while a part of the current province of Ierapetra west of the river Sarandapich was the administrative part of of the territory of Chandakas (today's Heraklion).
The Castle of Calais was built during the first years of Venetian rule and was strengthened by Francesco Morosini (the destroyer of the Acropolis) in 1626 to protect the small port, although according to local tradition it was built by Genoese Admiral Enrico Pescatore in 1212.
In 1293 the revolutionaries gathered during the Revolution of Alexios Kallergis against the Venetians in the Monastery of Faneromeni. During the same period, other uprisings took place, such as those of Agios Stefanitos (1212) and the Revolution of Kapsokalyves, in 1370.
Eleftherios Platakis mentions that the whole of Ierapetra was leveled by an earthquake on May 29, 1508 and rebuilt after several years, in the middle of the 16th century as a small village with a small fortress. The quake was estimated at 7.2 on the Richter scale and caused significant damage beyond Ierapetra to Chandakas (present-day Heraklion), where only 4-5 houses remained habitable, and to Sitia.
Shortly before the Turkish occupation, a disinfectant was founded in Ierapetra (1619). At that hospital, the ships that arrived at the port of the city were disinfected and the Hansen and other patients with infectious diseases were treated.
Regarding the cultural and sporting events in the city, the traveler Belly mentions that at that time there were naval battles, which were sailing competitions and took place in a specially designed port. The place where the games took place was Megali Alyki, west of today's Ierapetra.
The city fell to the Turks in 1647, as a result of which it was again degraded into a simple settlement, as reported by the French botanist and traveler Joseph Piton de Tournefort (1717). On June 26, 1798, Napoleon the Great, after his failed expedition to Egypt, abandoned his defeated army and, according to tradition, spent the night in Ierapetra. The house that hosted him (which belonged to the prominent Gerepetritis Andreas Peroulios) still exists. Peroulios did not understand that the stranger who had spent the night at his house was Napoleon, until his wife found under the pillow a note that wrote that the person who had catalyzed for one night in their home was Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon's house as it is called today belongs to the Municipality of Ierapetra, which bought it from the last heir Haridimos Tzortzakakis, a descendant of Eugenia Perouliou, daughter of Andreas. During the Turkish occupation a mosque was built which also still exists in the old town. An excerpt from the Koran is inscribed on the marble lintel of its entrance. The Municipal Philharmonic Orchestra is housed there and opposite is the fountain of the Turkish Mayor Karakasis. The building known as Mehtepi or Ottoman School was built in 1899 for the Turkish children. It is located in the Town Hall Square and today is the property of the Municipality of Ierapetra and houses the Archaeological Collection. Formerly it hosted the Municipal Philharmonic and was the seat of the Housekeeping School.
Liberation struggles and union with Greece
During the 19th century Ierapetra took part in all the national liberation struggles. In 1897 the Cretan revolutionaries Michael Korakas and Emmanuel Kokkinis together with 3,000 Greek revolutionaries attacked with their cannons against the Turkish forces, trying to occupy the city walls. Kokkinis was killed by an Italian bomber who was chartering at the port, but the following year the Turks surrendered the city in the presence of French Admiral Potier. The Greek flag was raised in Kale and in 1905 the Union of Crete with Greece was proclaimed in the central square in front of the District.
Settlement of Asia Minor
After the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 and the subsequent exchange of populations, many Asia Minor families settled in Ierapetra, which gave cultural and economic prosperity to the region. It is indicative that the people of Asia Minor were the first growers of fruits and especially tomatoes in winter. From the mid-30s, the production of tomatoes gradually started from the area of Tzanides, on estates suitable for winter cultivation.
Ierapetra has some of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in Crete. For this reason it has been awarded by the Association of Marine and Coastal Areas (EUCC), based in Leiden, the Netherlands, with the International Prize for High Quality of beaches. This means that Ierapetra, now with international recognition, is included in the list of the 50 most attractive areas of Southern Europe.
The East beach of Ierapetra is the largest beach in the city, length of one (1) kilometer. It starts at the open municipal gym and continues to the rocks, where the city limits are. Then continues the nearest beach outside the city, referred to as Agios Andreas beach, due to the homonymous church located there. Almost the entire length of the beach there is a pedestrian street above the beach. Agios Andreas is a sandy beach, with rocky shores and is suitable for free diving.
The South beach of Ierapetra, is one of the three beaches located in the city. The beach is located next to the fortress of Kales. It is an organized municipal beach with fine pebbles. Also, very close to the beach, there are several cafes and taverns.
Other beaches in the Municipality of Ierapetra
Tholos (in Kavousi)
Meadow (in Ferma)
Makry-Gialos, Katovigli / Lagoufa
Agios Andreas Beach
Myrtos Beach in Myrtos
Port of New East
Pacheia Ammos beach
The old woman's leap
Other beaches near Ierapetra