Chrissi island or Gaidouronisi is located 8 miles south of Ierapetra city, in the open South Cretan Sea. It is a flat islet very famous for its tropical blue water that cover all possible palette hues of blue and green, the protected forest with large juniper trees and the thousands of broken shells that make the sand pinkish. The residents of Ierapetra love this island and call it simply "the Island". It is said that years ago by Gianni Agnelli, the chairman of Ferrari, wanted to buy the island to make it a tourist attraction.
Chrissi takes its name (golden in Greek) after the white sand that covers the entire island and comes mainly from shell debris. The tropical beaches are crowded by many visitors who come by the excursion boats that leave Ierapetra in the morning and return in the afternoon. Chrissi has been declared as an area of natural beauty and it is strictly prohibited to camp and spend your night here. You must keep away from the fragile juniper trees and avoid not collecting sand or shells.
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.
An important settlement of the Minoan and Roman period has been found in the island Chrysea of ancient Greeks, the present island of Chrissi or Gaidouronisi. Buildings and at least three carved tombs have been identified near the church of Agios Nikolaos and the lighthouse on the island. The settlement was probably used for the production of Tyrian purple from the shells of Murex brandaris, exactly like the neighboring isle of Koufonissi.
The dunes of the central narrowest part of the island of Chryssi, we meet one of the most important juniper wood (sp. Juniperus macrocarpa) in Greece, which has prevailed (erroneously) with the name cedarwood. In other parts of the island, such as west and east, we encounter vegetation with Juniperus phoenicea being the main plant.
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.
Next to the only house of Chrissi island, at position Spilios, we meet the old saltpan where salt was produced in the past. In winter the spot turns into a small pond with brackish water and it attracts many migratory birds. This is not the only pond on the island, as a smaller one is formed in the location of Kaki Alyki.
Chrissi can be considered a paradise for geology enthusiasts. One of the most spectacular geological sights of the island can be seen east of Belerinina beach, where you will meet thousands of fossils, mainly bivalves. The fossils form a so-called thanatocoenosis, that is, dead shells that have been gathered there by the streams and have fossilized over time.
The church of Agios Nikolaos is located on the northern side of the island Chrissi, at the site where Tyrian purple was produced and graves are located. It dates back to the 13th century, although it has undergone more recent interventions. The temple is built on the site of an ancient building.