The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect: Γεράπετρο Gerapetro) is located on the southeast 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 16,139 inhabitants (in 2011) it is the most populous town in the regional unit of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is nicknamed "bride of the Libyan Sea" because of its position as the 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 Hierapytna was on the same site as present day Ierapetra. In the Classical Age Hierapytna became the strongest town of eastern Crete and as a Dorian city in continual rivalry with Praisos, the last Minoan city in the island. Later, in the 3rd century BC, Hierapytna was notorious for its tendency to piracy and took part in the Cretan War along with other Cretan cities in the side of Philip V of Macedon against Knossos and Rhodes. Its importance as independent state ended when it was conquered by the Romans in 67 BC (the last free city in Crete) and was surpassed by the city of Gortyn. The Roman conquest of Ierapetra occurred about the same time as that of Knossos, Cydonia and Lato. Today remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen in the shallow bay. In AD 824 it was destroyed by Arab invaders, only to be rebuilt as a base for pirates again.
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 the early years of Venetian rule and strengthened by Francesco Morosini 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 after the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt. The house where he stayed can still be seen. In the Ottoman period a mosque was built in the town. Finds from Ierapetra's past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities, formerly a school for Muslim children. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a well-preserved statue of Persephone.
Present 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, as can Aghios Georgios metropolitan church (built in 1856) in the town's center. It is considered one of the most interesting churches of Crete. The ceiling of the church has many "blind" domes. Those, as well as the central dome, are wooden (mainly cedar wood). 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, a port for fishing boats and ´Navmachia´ area, where sea fights among slaves for citizens´ entertainment were taking place during the Roman period. 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 environmental tribune.
In 2003 the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Marketing and Commerce was opened. In the wake of financial crisis, in early 2013 the government decided to merge or close down a number of schools (a plan named "Athena" after the Greek goddess of wisdom), including TEI of Marketing in Ierapetra. This sparked another round of protests. Around 7,000 people staged another peaceful protest on February 8, 2013, holding candles and torches. Local authorities and local media described that march as "the biggest rally in Ierapetra to date". On 12 February 2013 the town of Ierapetra witnessed another big protest rally, as thousands of people took to the streets once again demanding the TEI school to stay in the town and the hospital to be upgraded.
The local hospital (General Hospital of Ierapetra) was set up in 1955 with funds coming from Cretans who lived in the USA. In 2010 it was announced that under a government plan for new administrative divisions, called "the Kallikratis Project", the hospital was to shut down. This sparked an unprecedented wave of protests within the region, as the hospital serves 40,000 people, including some from the neighboring prefecture of Iraklion. The protests culminated in a march that took place on 25 January 2011. Another march from Ierapetra to Iraklion followed on the same day, where over 2,500 people from and around the town, participated and showed their anger for the decision by the central government to close the hospital. Protests included occupation of the building where the Decentralised Administration is located and an outdoors theatrical play by the protestors. Following those incidents, it was announced that the authorities had decided to halt the process of degrading and closing the hospital. Instead, the latter was funded with 1 mn euros and more doctors were to be sent.
However, despite the promises by the socialist government, problems loomed surrounding health services and the lack of staff in the one and only hospital in the region. As a result, a new round of protests commenced on 26 May 2011, with a rally outside the seat of the municipality, in Ierapetra. Around 1,000 people protested the latest developments demanding the upgrading of the hospital and came to storm the building of the town hall. The protest, which is regarded as with no precedent for the region, lasted for 16 days A row between the municipal authorities and the commission that advocated the upgrade of the hospital resulted in a standstill, with the prosecution of the people who led the storming of the town hall. The Head of the local Church, Evgenios, mediated and went to Athens, along with the mayor and other officials. This resulted in having the agreement for the upgrade of the hospital officially signed in. Following an order by the incumbent mayor, 14 citizens were put to trial for the occupation of the town hall and were unanimously found not guilty on 11 July 2011. It was the first such trial in the town to date. Another protest followed with a march by people from Ierapetra to Iraklion, on 20 July 2011 and yet another despite the rain in Heraklion, on 29 February 2012.
The hospital was rated "as an example for other hospitals in regional Greece" according to inspectors. However, it was merged by the government only two months before June 2012 Greek legislative elections. The merger caused yet more problems over the following months, having to do with bureaucracy, less food supplies and a lack of doctors, nurses, paramedics, oil and food for the hospital. On 30 January 2013, people staged another protest outside the hospital of Ierapetra. The hospital was in the centre of a fresh rally, again in Ierapetra, which took place on 12 February 2013 and another spreading to the entire prefecture of Lasithi. As a result, on 20 February 2013, thousands of people from Lasithi marched at Selinari, Lasithi and then to the neighboring city of Iraklion. Following the march, Cretans from Lasithi demanded access to health services, equally to the rest of Crete, and went on to storm the headquarters of the Regional Health in Crete, located in Iraklion. The storming ended on 22 February 2013, following an agreement with officials that TEI schools, hospitals and facilities will stay in the region.
The situation came worse in early 2014 and a new rally was held on 7 May 2014. At the same time, people from Ierapetra went to Heraklion, where they met with Antonios Grigorakis, the Head of the Prefecture in charge of Health, who committed to install a permanent pathologist (coming from another hospital in the Prefecture of Lasithi). Three people were injured before the meeting following clashes with the police.
The municipality of Ierapetra was formed under the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 2 former municipalities, that became municipal units:Ierapetra
The municipality Ierapetra has an area of 554.003 km2 (213.902 sq mi), the municipal unit Ierapetra 394.774 km2 (152.423 sq mi). The municipal unit has a population of 23,708 (2011) and consists of the town of Ierapetra (population 16,139 in 2011), several villages and hamlets and the island of Chrissi. These settlements are: Agia Fotia, Agios Ioannis, Anatoli, Amoudares, Ano Simi, Christos, Drakalevri, Episkopi, Ferma, Gdochia, Gra Lygia, Kaimenos, Kalamafka, Kalogeri, Kamara, Kato Chorio, Kavousi, Kentri, Koutsounari, Males, Mathokotsana, Melises, Meseleri, Monastiraki, Minos, Mythi, Mournies, Myrtos, Nea Anatoli, Nea Myrtos, Pachia Ammos, Panagia, Pano Chorio, Psathi, Riza, Selakano, Stavros, Stomio, Sykia, Thrypti, Vainia, Vasiliki, Vatos, Xerambela and Xerokambos.
The municipal unit Makry Gialos, established as a municipality in 1998, with an area of 159.229 square kilometres (61.479 sq mi) and a population of 3,894 in 2011, consists of the communities of Schinokapsala with the settlements of Achlia, Galini and Mavros Kolimbos, Oreino with the settlements of Agios Panteleimon, Andrianos and Kalyvitis, Stavrochori with the settlements of Koutsouras, Lapithos and Tsikalaria, Chrysopigi with the settlement of Mpemponas, Agios Stefanos with the settlement of Makry Gialos, Pefki with the settlements of Analipsi, Aspros Potamos and Pilalimata, Lithines with the settlements of Azali and Lagada, and finally Perivolakia with the settlements of Epano Pervolakia, Kalo Nero, Moni Kapsa and Pezoulas.
The province of Ierapetra (Greek: Επαρχία Ιεράπετρας) was one of the provinces of Lasithi. Its territory corresponded partial with that of the current municipal unit Ierapetra. It was abolished in 2006.
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 15,000,000 square meters between the town of Ierapetra, and Neos Myrtos- Psari Forada in the western part, as well as, in a lesser degree, between the town and Goudouras to the eastern part of the municipality. They were introduced by the Dutchman Paul Kuypers. Mainly because of the greenhouse production the inhabitants of Ierapetra used to be on average among the richest on Crete.Orino Gorge or Red Butterflies Gorge
Ierapetra was chosen among 500 South European destinations by the QualityCoast International Certification Program of EUCC as one of the 50 most attractive tourist destinations for visitors interested in cultural heritage, environment and sustainability. . In 2012 Ierapetra was one of the only three destinations in Greece that won the Gold QualityCoast award, ranking 2nd among the TOP 100 chosen European destinations.Chrysi island golden coast
Aghios Andreas Beach
Koutsounari Long Beach
Livadi Beach in Ferma
Agia Fotia Beach
Galini Beach, Achlia
Mavros Kolymbos Beach
Kalamokanias Beach in Makry Gialos
Katovigli / Lagkoufa Beach in Makry Gialos
Tholos Beach in Kavousi
Pachia Ammos Beach
Myrtos Beach in Myrtos
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.
Ierapetra average annual temperature is 19.7 °C (67 °F) (1956-1997 HNMS). According to HNMS published material Ierapetra alongside Karpathos Island is Greece's warmest city with a mean annual temperature of 20.1 °C (68 °F). Ierapetra has 3101 hours of sunshine per year and is again Greece's sunniest city according to HNMS
One can travel to Ierapetra by plane boarding onto domestic or charter flights to Sitia airport (59 km) or Heraklion airport (94 km). There are also frequent ferry departures from Piraeus to Sitia and Heraklion ports.
Chrysi (Golden) or Gaidhouronisi (Donkey Island) is an uninhabited island some twelve kilometres (7.5 miles) off the coast of the town of Ierapetra. It is 5 km (3 mi) long and on average one kilometre (0.62 miles) wide. The island's average height above sea level is 10 metres (33 feet); Kefala, the highest point of the island, is 31 metres (102 feet) 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 porphyra (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 landing. 700 metres (2,297 feet) to the east of Chrysi lies the rocky islet of Mikronisi (Small Island).Gournia, Minoan city on Mirambelo (Mirabello) Gulf.
Pyrgos, between Myrtos and Nea Myrtos.
Vasiliki, near the village of the same name.
Makry Gialos minoan site
Anatoli minoan site
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.
In the 1994 movie, 'Legends of the Fall', Tristan Ludlow (Brad Pitt) returning from a long journey, gifts a ring from Ierapetra to his future wife, Isabelle 2.
In two of his books R. Graves refers the name of Ierapetra. In "King Jesus" and in the "Hercules, my shipmate"
Luis Sepulveda also mention the Ierapetra in the introduction of his book "Mundo del fin del mundo" (The World at the End of the World)