The southernmost city of Europe is also considered the sunniest holiday resort on the continent, with almost no rain and temperatures that rarely drop under 12 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Ierapetra is the capital of southern Crete and an enchanting travel destination, where you can find the perfect combination of superb beaches by the stunning Libyan Sea and centuries of historical and religious heritage. The ever-present sea with its changing hues and spectacular sunsets make Ierapetra a very romantic destination, while there are plenty of fascinating things to see and do while you enjoy a holiday here. With an old Venetian fortress, several monasteries and churches, a little museum and beautiful architecture in the old part of town, Ierapetra still preserves some of its old heritage, from ancient times when it was known by many names and considered a strategic point opposite Egypt. Today, the town is a travel destination with many accommodation options and restaurants, while it also has a bustling agriculture sector. Below you will find the most important information about Ierapetra and the surrounding area.
Where is Ierapetra
The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeastern coast of Crete, being the southernmost town of Europe. It is also one of the most important settlements on the island, being built on the site of the ancient city of Ierapytna, very important during the Roman times. The town is situated about 30 km south of Agios Nikolaos and almost 100 km to the southeast of the capital. From Heraklion, the route will pass along the northern coast until Agios Nikolaos and then south from Pacheia Ammos.
There is also an option to visit from Agios Nikolaos with a rental car.
How to Get to Ierapetra
Getting to Ierapetra by Car
You can easily reach Ierapetra with a rental car from Heraklion and its airport. The capital is located about 100 km away and the trip takes about 1.5 hours. The closest town to Ierapetra is Agios Nikolaos, located about 35 km to the north. A modern road runs along the northern coast and then continues towards Ierapetra, making the trip extremely pleasant. Considering how many splendid beaches and sights there are near the town, renting a car in Crete is the best choice for getting to Ierapetra and the southern coast. There are plenty of tourist services in town, as well as general services for any needs.
Getting to Ierapetra by Bus
There are daily buses from Heraklion towards Ierapetra and some of them will also pass by the airport, where most international travelers arrive. The bus trip takes a little over 2 hours and a ticket costs 12 Euros per person. If you wish for a more comfortable and private travel experience, renting a car from Heraklion airport is a much better choice.
Best Things to Do in Ierapetra
The town of Ierapetra is one of the most enchanting destinations in Crete, a sunny place that offer unforgettable summer holidays. Combining enchanting beaches with fascinating sights, Ierapetra is a complete experience. You will surely love the Paralia Ierapetras, the main beach that is located right next to the port. It’s a gorgeous and large black-pebble beach, well organized, although it can get quite crowded during the high season. There are several other small beaches spread along the seafront of Ierapetra. A simple stroll through the snaking streets of the old town is also a lovely experience, revealing other fascinating sights that are worth visiting.
The sites we recommend are the Ottoman Mosque at Kato Mera, the Church of Afentis Christos overlooking the harbor that was built in the 14th century and still holds to the custom of burning an effigy of Judas at Easter, the Ottoman School built in 1899 that is now home to the town’s Archaeological Collection, where the most outstanding exhibit is the beautiful statue of the goddess Persephone in a veil.
Still in the Kato Mera old town, a small building is known as the House of Napoleon and according to local legends, the emperor stayed here undercover during one of his trips to Egypt and upon leaving left a note stating his name. Other interesting landmarks of Ierapetra include several old monasteries and churches.
Visit the Venetian Fortress Kales
The old fortress of Ierapetra is located at the edge of the ancient port, being built at the beginning of the Venetian rule over Crete. Some locals even claim that it was built in 1212 by a Genovese pirate. After being renovated in 1626 following a previous earthquake, the fortress fell under Ottoman rule a few years later, thus also the name of Kales that it is known today. The fortress is the symbol of Ierapetra and during the summer, it also houses cultural events.
Discover other sights around Ierapetra
With a rental car in Crete or even a scooter, there are short excursions in the general vicinity and a particularly enchanting place is the picturesque seaside village of Myrtos, but also the beautiful Anatoli, Oreino, Psychro, Schinokapsala, Agios Ioannis and Pefkous villages high up in the mountains, offering fabulous views of the sea and the surrounding area.
Another fascinating discovery is Mount Thrypti, with the famous Ha Gorge near Kato Chorio, offering an unforgettable experience. Another favorite escape is the area between Makrigialos and Goudouras, home to the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsas, on a hillside near the exit to the Perivolakia Gorge, overlooking the Libyan Sea and the islet of Koufonisi.
The islet of Gaidouronisi or Chrissi – included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas for its natural beauty, its azure waters and wonderful beaches. There’s also the Minoan settlement of Gournia, one of the most important archeological sites in Europe, just 15 kilometers north of Ierapetra.
Take a boat to the little Chrissi Island
The gorgeous desert island of Chrissi (Golden Island) makes for an enchanting cruise trip from Ierapetra, being just under an hour away. Known by locals as simply the “Island”, this uninhabited and protected paradise offers superb white sand beaches and turquoise waters, a lonely church, a lighthouse, as well as a bar and a tavern.
There are some umbrellas on the north side of the island, but they are limited. There are only two ferries each day from Ierapetra, so make sure you catch it for your return trip or you might have to spend the night on the island.
Take a boat trip to Koufonissi Island
Located about 25 km away from Ierapetra, the marvelous island of Koufonissi is a protected wildlife refuge of unique beauty. It has over 30 mesmerising beaches with perfect sand and crystal clear waters, some of them considered among the best in Europe. A habitat for migratory birds and unique plant species, Koufonissi also features amazing ancient ruins that are worth exploring, with old theaters, temples and a little church.
There are cruise ships that go to the island during the summer season, although there are no tourist services there and it is uninhabited.
Discover Other Beaches Nearby
The beaches of Ierapetra, while quite pleasant, can get pretty crowded during the summer, there are many other superb beaches nearby that can be visited as day trips. Our favorite beaches are Agia Fotia, Peristera and Megali Paralia, below the settlement of Koutsounari, which has some spots that are packed with taverns and bars, while others are perfectly quiet.
The beaches of Myrtos, with its quaint taverns, as well as the beach at Tholos near the village of Kavousi, are also excellent choices. Of course there are lots of very small beaches that can be discovered by exploring the coast and which offer a more private experience as you bathe in the warm waters of southern Crete.
Check our articles about Cretan Beaches
– Most Exotic Beaches of Crete
– South Crete: Amazing sights, calming beaches & local villages
– Smart Guide to the Beaches of Crete
Where to Stay in Ierapetra, Crete
Ierapetra is the fourth settlement in Crete and the biggest town on its southern coast. It has plenty of tourist services, including excellent accommodation for a large number of people. However, during the peak of the tourist season, places can get fully booked and you might want to book your accommodation in advance. There are plenty of options, from private rooms to exclusive hotels and guesthouses. There are also plenty of other services in Ierapetra, including restaurants and shops.
El Greco Boutique Hotel 4*
One of the most prestigious and well-reviewed hotel in Ierapetra, it offers high quality services and amazing rooms fully equipped with all facilities. It has a great restaurant, a bar, internet access, bike rental and a great location right next to the beach.
☏ +30 28420 28471
Located just 50 meters from the main square and 5 minutes from the beach of Ierapetra, this hotel offers 47 comfortable fully-refurbished rooms, a bar, breakfast service and much more.
☏ +30 28420 26541
Located in the central part of Ierapetra, the hotel offers 66 rooms and suites completely renovated, with all the necessary facilities, including panoramic views, wi-fi, satellite TV and more.
☏ +30 28420 25114
Where to Eat in Ierapetra
One of the most popular and appreciated restaurants in Ierapetra, it is located right by the beach and close to the fortress. It offers delicious Mediterranean cuisine, with fresh seafood, fish and other Cretan recipes.
☏ +30 2842 022410
Located right next to the sea and the Venetian Fortress, this highly praised restaurants features amazing traditional recipes, with fresh fish, seafood, grilled food, vegetarian food and also has great views from the tables.
☏ +30 2842 028254
Zorbas Seaside Restaurant
One of the best restaurants in Ierapetra, it offers authentic Cretan food in an enchanting romantic ambiance by the sea. They serve regional Greek and local Cretan cuisine for lunch and dinner, with amazing seafood, fish, grills and other delicacies.
☏ +30 2842 028542
Check our articles about Cretan Food
– Top 10 Local Foods you Absolutely Must Try in Crete
– 8 restaurants with Authentic Cretan Cuisine
Other Recommendations of Ierapetra
Outside Ierapetra, Yanni’s Tavern in Monastirali for traditional “bourbouristous” snails or an omelet with jacked potatoes, as well as Piperia in Pefkous for really good food. Inside Ierapetra, there’s also Veterano, a pastry shop that excels in coffee and cheese pies, Spyro’s raki and meze joint in the center, and Vangelis’ raki place – known as “Fysekas” to locals – down at the beach. For drinks and dancing, try Saxo, Priority and Nuevo, all in the harbor area.
Best Time to Visit Ierapetra
The southernmost town of Europe has nice and warm weather year-round, the only problem being the strong winds that sometimes blow through. Temperatures can get pretty high during the summer and it would be advisable to avoid the peak season when the town and the beaches become crowded, while the prices can be higher. The best time to visit Ierapetra are the months of April – June and September – October.