Ierapetra is located 30km south of Agios Nikolaos, in the narrowest part of Crete, and is the southernmost city of Greece. It is a modern city of 12,500 residents, who mainly deal with agriculture, as Ierapetra produces vast quantities of vegetables that are exported mainly to Europe. The city is also very well organized touristically with large and small hotels along its beaches, many facilities for eating and entertainment. Most cafés and taverns are located in the city's seafront promenade, bustling throughout the summer.
Ierapetra is built in the location of the ancient city Ierapytna. In the past it was called with other names such as Kyrva, Kamiros, Pytna and Ierapytna. Ierapytna was located in the narrowest part of Crete (12km), having a strategic location for trading. The city’s main opponent was Presos town (on the east), which was destroyed in the 155BC. Thus Ierapytna acquired the largest territory in Crete, which in 150BC covered the area from Tsoutsouras till the cape of Xerokambos. After Presos, the main rival was Itanos, near the present Vai.
In the Roman Era, Ierapytna flourished and became one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the Roman Empire. Its port was particularly important because of its easy access to Egypt. Ierapytna maintained its importance during the first Byzantine period, but was later destroyed by the Arabs. During the Venetian occupation, the Venetians gave great importance to the town and decided to fortify it by building the castle.
The most famous attraction of the city is definitely the Venetian fortress Kalés, located at the entrance of the old harbor. It was built in the 13th century and is now used for cultural events. A walk along the beachside road in the afternoon to the fort is a “must”.
Moreover, if you come in Ierapetra you must visit the small, but picturesque, old town in the area called Kato Mera. One of the weirdest attractions in the old city is the "Home of Napoleon”, where according to the tradition, Napoleon stayed for one night in July 1798, during his campaign against the Mamelukes (Egypt). Bonaparte is told to have asked a family to host him, without telling them who he was. When he got up this morning, he left a note saying in French: "If you want to know who your stranger was, I am Napoleon Bonaparte. Thus, this house carries an unknown history and has now been restored.
The archaeological collection of Ierapetra began to be formed in the late 19th century, when its antiquities-loving residents founded the Educational Association of Ierapetra, whose purpose was to gather and preserve the region’s antiquities, as well as to create a museum collection.
The Monastery of Panagia Faneromeni (i.e. Revealed Holy Mary) or Virgin Mary of Gournia is located northwest of Pachia Ammos, 24km south of Agios Nikolaos. It is a male monastery built on a steep slope at an altitude of 540 meters with stunning sea views. The monastery church is built inside a cave.
The monastery of Ayiasmenos (Hallowed, Sanctified) is located 2km north of Ierapetra, near the main road connecting the town with Pahia Ammos. The church of the monastery is dedicated to Agii Pantes (All Saints) and in the late 19th century it hosted the home of the Bishop of Ierapetra and Sitia.
The fort Kales was built by the Venetians in the 13th century AD, to protect the town of Ierapetra from its enemies. In 1508 it was destroyed by an earthquake and the Turkish raids. The damage was not repaired, perhaps because it was very serious and there was no funding.
The east end of the long Ierapetra beach is called Livadia, and beyond this, is called Peristeras. This is a secluded area with high cliffs surrounding it. The beach is sandy and has several smooth rocks in places. You can reach the easternmost part of Saint Andrew by walking from the road. However, there is a second sandy beach in Peristeras, just behind the rocky end of the long beach, that can be accessed by the road. This is very well protected by prying eyes, but there are many rocks.
Ierapetra is located 35km southeast of Agios Nikolaos and is the southernmost city of Greece. It is built on one of the warmest areas of Crete, which makes it very popular for holidays, even until the end of autumn. The wider area of Ierapetra is famous for its beaches, stretching along a vast beachfront. Almost all of them are covered by the characteristic fine black pebbles, which do not stick in the leg, and the sea is usually flat.
Gra Ligia is a seaside village located just 5km west of Ierapetra and 39km south of Agios Nikolaos. It is situated at the exit of a large fertile valley, which is full with greenhouses with early vegetables. Locals were the first to grow vegetables in greenhouses and this was later extended throughout the area of Ierapetra. There are so many greenhouses, that locals call Gra Ligia as “Silicon Valley of Greece”.
The mosque was built in the old city (Kato Mera) at the end of the 19th century, when the Turks conquered Ierapetra and modified the church of Agios Ioannis for their religious purposes. It is held to date in a pretty good condition.
In the summer of 1798 the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte conducted his campaign against the Mamluks in Egypt to protect the French trade in the region and to block the access of the Brits in India. During his trip to the east it is said to have stayed for a night in a house in Ierapetra.