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".
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.
One of the highlights of ancient Ierapetra was the Naumachia (naval battle), a maritime theater where bloody battles were performed by prisoners and slaves of the Roman Empire. This was the transfer of arenas to the marine environment. The Naumachia was inspired by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.
The double aisled temple of Jesus Christ our Savior (Afendis Christos) and Saint Charalambos is located in the district of Kato Mera, near the port of Ierapetra and very close to the fortress of Kales. It is the oldest temple in the city, which has taken its present form as a result of successive interventions.