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A few words about Ierapetra:
Ierapetra (ΙΕΡΑΠΕΤΡΑ in Greek) is a
municipality and a town in the east of the Greek island of Crete, in the
prefecture of Lasithi.
The municipaliy has an area of 394.774 square kilometres and a population of
21,025 (2001). The municipality consists of the town of Ierapetra, several
villages and hamlets and the island of Chrissi.
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. Mainly because of the greenhouse production the
inhabitants of Ierapetra are on average the richest on Crete.
Town of Ierapetra
The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect Gerapetro) is located on the south
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
11,450 inhabitants (1999) 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 only town on the south coast of Crete.
Ierapetra has had a place in the history of Crete since the Minoan period. The
Greek and later Roman town of Ierapytna was on the same sight as present day
Ierapetra. In the shallow bay remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen.
In the Classical Age Ierapytna became the strongest town of eastern Crete.
This ended when it was destroyed by the Romans in 67 BCE. It was rebuilt, but
was soon surpassed by the city of Gortyn. In 824 CE it was destroyed by Arab
invaders, only to be rebuilt as a base for pirates. 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 1626 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 during his voyage to
Egypt. The house where he stayed can still be seen. In the Ottoman period a
mosque was built in the town, which has now become the town music school.
Finds from Ierapetra's past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities,
formerly a school for Turkish children. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a
well preserved statue of Persephone.
The former mosque in Kato MeraPresent 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. 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 and a port for
fishing boats. 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.
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 Ecocrete.gr, the local
Villages and hamlets
Aghia Fotia, Agios Ioannis, Anatoli, Amoudares, Christos, Drakalevri, Episkopi,
Ferma, Gdochia, Gra Lighia, Kaimenos, Kalamafka, Kalogeri, Kamara, Karydi,
Kato Horio, Kavousi, Kentri, Koutsounari, Males, Mathokotsana, Melises,
Meseleri, Monastiraki, Minos, Mythi, Mournies, Myrtos, Nea Anatoli, Nea Myrtos,
Pachia Ammos, Panaghia, Pano Horio, Papadiana, Psathi, Riza, Selakano, Stavros,
Stomio, Sykia, Thrypti, Vainia, Vasiliki, Vatos, Xerambela, Xerokambos
The beachChrissi (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 porfira (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
Other natural and geographical features
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.
In the north on Mirambelo Gulf lie the ruins of the Minoan city of Gournia.
The Minoan settlement of Pyrgos lies between Myrtos and Nea Myrtos.
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.
The Greek composer Giannis Markopoulos (born 1939) lived in Ierapetra until he
left high school in 1956 to study music in Athens.
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