Situated 64km east of Agios Nikolaos, Sitia is the furthest city to the east on the island of Crete. In the broader region of the Sitia province, there are numerous petite beaches that offer a delightful combination of sun and sea. For those who enjoy staying near the urban area, the city’s long beach is an attractive option. Situated to the east of the city, Sitia beach stretches from the port all the way to the Petras area. The beach, largely composed of sand with some pebbles scattered here and there, has shallow waters. It is well-equipped with amenities such as umbrellas, showers, lifeguards, beach/water sports, and beach bars. However, quiet spots can be found along its extensive shoreline, particularly towards the east. The east side also accommodates campervans and is dotted with a few trees.
Beyond the Petras area to the east, you can explore the ruins of an ancient city at Trypitos Cape, alleged to be Itia, the hometown of the Wise Myson. Moreover, archaeologists have discovered remnants from various phases of the Minoan era in Petras. West of Trypitos’s archaeological site, another small beach named Karavopetra is located. This name translates to “Ship Stone”, inspired by the sea boulder where ships would traditionally anchor.
Kato Zakros, a quaint fishing village, is nestled 107km east of Agios Nikolaos and 40km east of Sitia. It serves as the scenic port of Ano Zakros village, which is located 7km to the west, amidst a fertile valley bordered by rugged mountains and lush olive groves. This remote corner of Crete provides the perfect escape for those seeking tranquillity and an escape from the bustling city life, making it a favourite among families.
The village, though small, offers all the fundamental amenities without the trappings of luxury. The villagers primarily focus on the production of world-class olive oil. Rich in archaeological sites, including the renowned Minoan palace of Zakros, the village retains its natural beauty with limited construction. However, you will find a few accommodations, taverns, mini markets, pharmacies, and petrol stations. Regular bus services from Sitia also connect the village. The warm and welcoming locals will make you feel right at home.
The serene beach fringing the village is nestled within a large protected bay. Comprising mainly pebbles and occasional rocks, the beach boasts tranquil waters, offering a peaceful retreat even during the busy month of August. The rocky seabed is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts.
When in Kato Zakros, the famous Gorge of Zakros, ominously known as Deads’ Gorge, is a must-visit. Named after the many Minoan graves discovered within its cavernous sides, the gorge offers an adventurous hike from Zakros village that takes around two hours. The Minoan palace of Zakros, the fourth largest after Knossos, Phaestus, and Malia, is a significant archaeological site located near the gorge’s exit. It houses numerous artistic masterpieces from 1900BC and is open to the public, with the most significant findings displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
An old dirt road leading to Zakros, offering breathtaking views of the Gorge’s steep cliffs, is worth exploring if you have a car. Upon reaching the village, take a leisurely stroll through its narrow streets and visit its churches. The springs of Zakros, forming a small oasis amidst the wild landscape of Eastern Crete, are also worth a visit.
If time permits, a boat trip (or rigorous hike) to the secluded Cave of Pelekita could be an exciting expedition. As one of Crete’s largest caves, it has traces of Neolithic habitation. A nearby quarry, presumably used by the Minoans for constructing the palace of Zakros, is also an interesting sight.
Alona beach, also known as Krinakia, is located near the exit of the Katsounaki Gorge, to the east of the Xirokambos settlement. A torrent from the gorge flows onto the Potamos beach during winter, situated adjacent to the stunning sandy beach of Alona. The beach is dotted with sand dunes, which are blanketed by white sea daffodils in the fall season. Trekking through the canyon is fairly effortless, highlighting a wild landscape with imposing walls; a trek from the top to the bottom of Alona is possible.
To the west of Alona lies another beach, Potamos, accessible by car. It’s located at the mouth of the Katsounaki river, characterized by large round pebbles. One can reach it by driving along the river towards the sea. While it may not be particularly remarkable, it offers a serene and secluded atmosphere. This beach is also referred to as Italika, named after Italian houses located on the beach.
Located 500m east of Xerokambos, you will discover one of the most unique landscapes in Eastern Crete. A vast dried salt lake lies adjacent to the sea during the summer months, which may not seem particularly striking. However, visiting in the spring or winter months will reveal its true significance. During these seasons, the lake, known as Alatsolimni, or Salt Lake, fills with water and transforms into a miniature lagoon. This environment fosters the growth of thousands of microorganisms and serves as a sanctuary for migratory birds waiting for calmer winds. You may spot a variety of bird species such as herons, hawks, and flamingos.
A beautiful sandy beach with shallow waters extends in front of the lagoon, providing an ideal spot for solitude. The most opportune time to visit is early spring, when the lake is still flooded and the surrounding area is adorned with vibrant blossoms. Locals refer to this area as Alykes, which translates to saltpans, a name derived from the form of the shallow waters.
Opposite the bay, the islets of Kavali provide a suitable habitat for the Falco eleonorael. Other species in the area include the Falco peregrines, Aquila chrysaetos, and Hieraaetus fasciatus. During migration, the area is also frequented by the vulture Neoprhon percknopterus.
A 500-meter journey west from the Xerokambos settlement will lead you to the area’s initial hotels and the expansive beach of Mazida Ammos, the longest in Xerokambos. This stunning beach boasts white sands and crystal-clear shallow turquoise waters. To the east, it’s well shielded by Cape Trachilos, at whose tip you’ll find a sea cave named Fokiospilio. Across from Mazida Ammos, you’ll spot the minor islets known as Kavali.