Discover the Unknown Side of Crete

The eastern quarter of Crete is known as Lasithi (or occasionally Sitia) and is an area of such wide diversity, one could spend months here and still have barely touched the surface of the place. The variety of things to do and places to see is quite incredible, from the lush plateaus of Lasithi and Katharo to the sparkling seas that lap Lasithi’s three coastlines. Archaeological sites abound while gorges tear through the predominantly limestone hinterland, affording visitors the opportunity to escape the more beaten track and become one with nature. The birdlife, especially in the more mountainous districts and on the east coast, is superb, and sightings include vultures, eagles and Eleanora’s falcons (see Bird Watching).

The plateau of Lasithi itself, is the highest such place in Crete (817-850 metres), populated year round. Even higher lies the Katharo plateau (around 1150 metres) where winters are too harsh for permanent habitation. There are 17 villages on the Lasithi plateau and quite a few of them offering accommodation. A centre of revolution against Venetian rule in the 13th century, the Venetians depopulated the Lasithi Plateau in 1263 and forbade cultivation due the rebellious nature of the locals; a couple of centuries later and with Venice’s desperate need for corn, the plateau was allowed to be resettled. The ditches (or ‘linies’), still in use today for drainage are almost certainly from Venetian times, though the watercourse may follow a previous Roman built system. In the 16th century, people of the Peloponnese settled here to escape the Ottomans who had taken mainland Greece. Of course, by the end of the following century, Crete too was under Ottoman rule, and the plateau was destroyed twice under its new overlords in the 19th century. Sadly, most of Lasithi’s 10,000 cloth-sailed windmills, which used to punctuate the skyline here have all but disappeared, other than as tourist attractions. Windmills now are of the alternative sort, supplying an alternative source of energy, and whilst these towering metallic structures may not quite have the charm of the old mills, they are ecologically important.

If you want to discover more about Lasithi and its history and more info about the attractions and activities of this beautiful destination, click here.


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