Eastern Crete (see map
You wouldn’t say
at first glance, but Ierapetra has the highest income
per capita in Greece. The source of this is not tourism
and the beautiful unspoiled beaches but …tomatoes
and other vegetables and fruits, grown in thousand of
greenhouses you can see all over the area, thanks to
the insight of a Dutch agriculturist who has foreseen
that the climate conditions are ideal to bring to our
table precocious, high-quality and highly-priced vegetables,
exported through out the whole world. Paul Coopers,
an invisible hero of contemporary Crete, hasn’t
lived long enough to see the success of his vision (he
was killed in a road accident in 1968), but the farmers
of Ierapetra have honored him with a statue, on the
site of his first greenhouse.
Besides the greenhouses, the virgin beaches and tropical
heat all year long (migrant birds do not leave for Africa,
as in the rest of Greece), this southernmost town of
Europe has a strange, quiet charm of a new society which
has to define it’s rules, though it’s history
goes as back in the past as in the rest of Crete.
Most of the city’s
eating joints are at or around General Samuel’s
St. NAPOLEON for instance, preferred by the President
of the Republic when he comes to town (happened once).
It’s specialty is rabbit stew with potatoes, a
delicacy. There are many tourist traps and visually
CASTELLO looks like one of those, it doesn’t happen
to be the case though (not if you don’t look too
much like a dollar - spending victim, I suppose, anyway).
Red mullets from Libyan sea were preferred by Neron
(the emperor of Rome, you know) who organized special
fishing expeditions to have them brought to him (in
a dubious state of freshness, presumably). The same
fish still has an exquisite taste, but we still prefer
"skaros", a parrot fish named scientifically
"scarus cretensis" as it only lives here in
the Mediterranean, often cooked as "stifado"
(stew with onions) or served with gumbos, a very exotic
dish. In spring and early summer you can order mini
artichokes from Gaidouronisi ("Donkey Island"),
a rare species endemic to this islet facing Ierapetra,
with a certainly very rare taste and texture. Some other
propositions: LAMBRAKIS for fresh fish, steaks and little
cheese pies with honey ("tyropitakia me meli").
More fresh fish at ARHODIKO TOU BABI near the Kale castle
at the port and "mezedes" accompanied by ouzo
at O KALLES. Out of town HAWAII at Makrys Gialos, ELENA
at Ferma, AHLIA at the beach with the same name and
NIKOS at Koutsounari. After dinner everybody seems to
enjoy a baklava or kadaifi at ORIENTAL, at the main
There is a neighborhood
called "Soho" by locals, as in Aghios Nikolaos,
where all the bars clubs are concentrated, neatly arranged,
those playing Greek music along the sea front, while
those with more international listenings a street inland.
You can try EXODOS, PRIORITY or FOUGARO
- GETTING AROUND
Some of the more scenic
routes in Crete begin from Ierapetra. From KOUTSOUNARI
to KOUTSOURA, the white beach is perfect and the water
swallow for several kilometers, a swimmer’s paradise.
Harder to access but less crowded are AGHIA FOTIA, GALINI
and AHLIA. Going west, MYRTOS used to be a backpacker’s
meeting point, less nowadays. The dirt trail to TERTSA
runs by a series of magical little bays and white rocks
carvened smoothly by the waves, to human-like forms.
Nice subjects for black and white arty pictures. Finally,
a visit to HRYSSI or GAIDOURONISSI is a must for any
visitor wishing to live for some hours in a tropical
paradise (protected by a usually rough sea and more
heat than Ierapetra, if that is possible). Sand dunes,
turquoise waters, two cantinas and - unfortunately -
some recently introduced chairs and umbrellas to rent.
Stigmes, Crete's magasine