Lighthouses are modern monuments that highlight the position of Greece in world naval history. On the shores of Crete there are some masterpieces of lighthouse architecture, unfortunately abandoned by local government, fading out due to salt and sea.
The most important lighthouses of the island are the lighthouses of Aforesmenos (Saint John), Gavdos, Elafonisi, Cape Drapanos, Cape Sidero and the lighthouses in the Venetian harbours of Chania and Rethymnon.
The lighthouse at the old harbor of Chania is the most recognizable part of the city, posing at all travel books of Crete. The story of the lighthouse starts a long ago, although its present form dates back since the Egyptian Occupation of Crete (in the early 19th century).
The lighthouse of the Venetian harbor of Rethymno is the second largest remaining Egyptian lighthouse in Crete, after the lighthouse of Chania harbor. It is built on the edge of the old sea wall of Rethymnon and it can be accessed very easily.
Elafonissi, the "Tomb of the ships" came to surface in February 1907 when the Austrian ship Imperatrix was sank here with 182 people (crew and passengers). During the event, 38 people were drowned and buried on the penisnula. If there were not the Russian ship Hivendis, the monks of Chrysoskalitissa monastery and some locals, who swam in the stormy sea to rescue the shipwrecked people, and then treated them, there would be more drowned passengers.
The lighthouse at Cape Drapano is located about 26km east of Chania and 2km north of Kokkino Horio. Near the Cape, you will find the amazing (submarine) cave of the Elephants, a very favored destination for scuba diving.
The lighthouse of Panormos is located east of the homonym coastal settlement. It can be accessed after walking 30 minutes a dirt road that starts from the local cemetery, passing through the arid pastures of the region, while having unique view on the northern shores of province Mylopotamos and Panormo. During the course, we get impressed by the geological formations of the phyllite rocks.
The lighthouse of Cape St John or Aforesmenos is located 27km north of Agios Nikolaos, next to the village Vrouchas and the wind farm of Baboura. The lighthouse can be accessed via a passable dirt track that starts from the wind farm and, then, a short trail that runs along the cliffs (some years ago there was only a trail). The rugged landscape is typical of Crete with bare mountains, rugged coastlines and too much wind!
At the west part of Chrissi islet you will meet the small lighthouse, powered by photovoltaic panel. The lighthouse is located close to the small chapel of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) and the dried lake of the island.
Cape Sidero (Kavos Sidero) is located at the northeastern corner of Crete, 32km east of Sitia and 99km east of Agios Nikolaos, near the Naval Station of Kyriamadi. The surrounding area is characterized by a unique landscape of wild natural beauty. At the tip of the Cape and very close to the church of Agios Isidoros (Saint Isidore), stands the imposing building of the lighthouse, 15m high, which still works.
The lighthouse of Gavdos is built a few meters south of the village Ambelos at an altitude of 368m, at the west coastline. Constructed in 1880 by the French Company for Lighthouses and was visible at a distance of 42 miles (the second longest distance in the world since then, after the lighthouse of Tierra del Fuego).
At the middle of the southeast shores of Lefki or Koufonissi island, at 75m altitude, we meet the ruined lighthouse of the island. There was found a temple, which unfortunately has suffered from predatory looting from the authorities (in 1920) in order to build the huge lighthouse, only 5m from the eastern short side of the temple where the entrance would have been, even though another stepped entrance was found on the north side.
The church and lighthouse of Agios Sozon is located on a steep site, at the tip of Cape Stavros, at the northernmost point of the entire central Crete. The Cape of Zeus (Dios Akron) of the Venetian maps is believed to have hosted a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus in the ancient past.