Sitia (sometimes spelt Siteia) lies in the far east of Crete, in the prefecture of Lassithi (sometimes spelt Lasithi!) east of Agios Nikolaos and northeast of Ierapetra.
The town is a pleasure to visit and to stay in. It has an uncrowded laid-back atmosphere to it and it is easy to feel really relaxed here.
The location of present day Sitia (pronounced Sit-EE-a) has been inhabited since Neolithic and Minoan times with many archaeological findings on sites close to the town. It became a thriving wealthy and powerful centre during Byzantine times under Venetian rule.
Despite earthquakes, pirate attacks led by the famed pirate Barbarossa, and periodic local uprisings the town continued to thrive until the Ottoman occupation in the mid-17th century. Sitia was largely deserted for two centuries until 1870 when it was settled again.
Close to Sitia, the monastery of Toplou is dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary). It was built at the end of the 15th century AD and is a ‘must do’ experience for the visitor to this part of the Greek Island of Crete. It is said that an icon of Virgin Mary was miraculously found in a cave nearby and that this prompted the inhabitants to build this magnificent monastery.
The monastery is one of the most important monuments of the province of Sitia. Its interior is very impressive with gold Byzantine icons throughout and is visited both by tourists and worshippers of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
Two museums of note are found in Sitia.
The Folklore Museum of Sitia gives an insight into the people and culture of Crete. The museum exhibits weavings, woodcuts, local costumes and artefacts from the daily life of the people of Sitia.
The Archaeological Museum of Sitia displays finds from an extensive area around Sitia, as well as many from the palace at Zakros. Many Minoan artefacts are to be found in this interesting museum. They include bronze objects, stone horns of consecration, and a four-cupped vase. An impressive group of vases from a shipwreck which occurred during Roman times is displayed in a tank of salinated water.
Whether you take a guided tour of a wine tasting or simply quaff a glass or three of the superb product of the surrounding vineyards, you taste buds will not be disappointed. Sitia wines are becoming more and more well known in the wine world and are rated very highly comparing favourably with the more famous wine regions of France and Italy for example.
Sitia harbour, with its small fishing boats bobbing on the water has a wide pretty waterfront promenade lined with palm trees, cafes and tavernas, and ends in a long stretch of clean sandy beach. Enjoy a stroll along the promenade, a cool drink at any one of the charming cafes, and feel the stress of everyday life slip away.
Some of the best beaches in Crete are found in and around the town including Sitia Beach and Vai Beach, which are included in our Best Beaches Guide.
The Byzantine castle of Kazarma is located above the port of Sitia. The Venetians restored and extended the Byzantine fortress and its walls and made the Kazarma (or Casa di Arma) their military and administrative base. The pirate Barbarossa (who now features in the film Pirates of the Caribbean) attacked the Kazarma in 1538 almost destroying it. Later the Venetians themselves destroyed it to prevent it falling into the hands of the invading Ottoman Turks.
The castle is now restored and is open to the public. During the summer months it is floodlit at night and is a very impressive sight on the hill above Sitia’s port. It also now plays host to local concerts and other festival art events throughout the year.
Sitia is accessible from the mainland and the whole of Europe through Nikos Kazantzakis airport. Sitia does have an airport but currently it can only take Greek internal flights.
Check out Flights to Crete.
You can access Sitia by ferry to and from Milos and Piraeus (Athens). There is a ferry from Agios Nikolaos which calls in at Sitia on its way to Rhodes.
Car Hire around the area of Lasithi
There are a number of really good car rental companies in and around the Sitia area that can give you the freedom to explore east Crete.
A brilliant and cheap bus service KTEL connects Sitia with many of the villages and towns of eastern Crete including Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, Makrigialos, Toplou, Vai, Palekastro and Zakros.
Staying in Sitia
The excellent and varied choice of accomodation in and around Sitia makes this beautiful town the perfect place to stay for a holiday in Crete. A wide range of top luxury hotels, waterside hotels, suites and comfortable apartments and studios are available in this stunning town.
Living in Crete
If you are thinking about living in Crete, and possibly buying a property in Crete, you will find some excellent real estate agencies to help you with your choice.
Check out our Crete Property Guides for property throughout the island.
Whether you are looking for a permanent home, thinking about buying a holiday home in Crete or an investment property there are some really good and inexpensive Crete properties for sale on this the biggest and best Greek Island.
Check out our What, Where and Why guide to Buying in Crete.
Take a look at our Crete Property Frequently Asked Questions
Here's links to other main towns/resorts:
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