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 about 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 (to the east), which was destroyed in 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 the 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 great idea.
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 Bonaparte stayed for one night in July 1798, during his campaign against the Mamelukes (in 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".
The thousands of visitors arriving daily by boat from Ierapetra to Chrissi island mainly swim on the beach of Belegrina or Golden Beach. Bright blue waters, white sand with pink shades from the thousands of broken shells, and the junipers that hold the sand with their huge roots are the backdrop that makes anyone fall in love with this place.
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.
16km west of the Ierapetra is the traditional village of Mythi. At a short distance from the village, the small Sarakina Gorge starts, which ends near the Mirtos. The length of the canyon reaches 1.5km and its width ranges from 3 to 10 meters, with only a few points exceeding that.
The Gorge of Mylonas or Agios Ioannis is located 18km east of Ierapetra. It starts near the village Agios Ioannis, at an altitude of 500m, and ends at the beach of Kakia Skala.