Map of the area
One of the jewels in Crete’s crown, Myrtos is a picturesque seaside village on the south east of the island. It is close to Ierapetra in Lasithi. There are two schools of thought as to how the village got its name. According to the first it comes from the plant Myrtus communis, or Myrthia, which is common to the area. The other tradition held in the village is that the name Myrtos comes from Myrtine or Myrto, the name of a woman from an aristocratic family which once lived in the area. However, the evidence would suggest that the name most likely comes from the myrtus, a bush which can be found all over the region.
According the 2001 census, Myrtos has a population of 500. It is the county town of the county of the same name, which includes another 4 settlements. Sarikampos Beach is 1.8km east of Myrtos on the way to Ierapetra, and takes its name from the beach it is built upon, Sarikampos.
Tourism and agriculture provide the basic sources of employment for the inhabitants of Myrtos. One sign of their involvement with agriculture are the large, green fields covered with fruit trees located outside the village, next to the area’s seasonal river.
Many tourists, both from Greece and abroad, chose Myrtos for their summer holidays. You will find rooms for rent, small hotels, restaurants, taverns, café-bars, a supermarket and a petrol station. The nearest chemist is in the village of Nea Anatoli (Stomio), 5km from Sarikampos Beach. Branches of all Greek banks and cash points can be found in Ierapetra, which is 13km from Sarikampos Beach.
You can get to Ierapetra either by car, or by the Heraklion-Lasithi bus, which passes in front of Sarikampos Beach every 2 hours. (http://www.ktelcrete.gr/)
Over the last few years, Myrtos has seen a significant increase in the development of tourism, always showing respect for the traditions and natural beauty of the area. There is also a unique orange grove, which, in combination with the surrounding mountains and seasonal river comprises a unique view for the visitor.
In summer, the presence of tourists, who come to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and the well-known Cretan hospitality of the locals, is really intense. During the winter months, the locals are involved in agriculture.
The relatively high temperature maintained in the region all year round (it never falls below 12°C), means that Myrtos serves as a winter ‘refuge’ for swallows, until the difficult winter months have passed.
Visitors to Myrtos will find colours, aromas and flavours which will remain unforgettable. If one is looking for peace and quiet, Myrtos is the perfect place to relax and get away from the stress and pace of life in big cities. The beautiful beach and quaint taverns serving good food and wines provide the scenery for a place which once visited will become a favourite destination forever.
How to get to Sarikampos Beach
If starting from Heraklion Airport N. Kazantzakis (HER), there are two (2) routes to drive to Sarikampos Beach.
A – route via Arkalochori – Short route 80 Km – 1h 16 min Duration
B – route via Aghios Nikolaos – Long route 107 Km – 1h 31 min Duration
For specific driving details by google map, please press the above route links.
If starting from Chania International Airport (CHQ), there are two (2) routes to drive to Sarikampos Beach.
A – route via Arkalochori – Long route 255 Km – 3h 20 min Duration
B – route via VOAK/E75 – Short route 225 Km – 2h 58 min Duration
For specific driving details by google map, please press the above route links.
During your stay in Myrtos you should take the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters of Myrtos beach, with its unique ash-like sand. One of the area’s advantages is that it is not affected by the etesian winds and the strong north winds, as happens to many other beaches on the south of Crete, such as those close to Ierapetra.
The main beach is in front of Myrtos’ taverns and cafés, and extends to the west, where it becomes wider. If you are a lover of camping, you should know that even further west you will find beaches where camping is allowed. Don’t forget to visit the beach at the hamlet of Tertsa, about 4km from Myrtos.
Things to do in Myrtos
* Take a walk through the narrow streets of Myrtos, where you will find many beautiful corners and the houses with courtyards that truly make the town beautiful. Stop and enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the traditional cafés. Time flows peacefully here and the locals get together for backgammon and prefa.
* Learn about the history of Myrtos by visiting the renovated chapel of Aghios Antonios, which was built in 1853. The Myrtos Museum, which is located next door, was once a school. It contains archaeological finds from Mycenaean times, and also a folk collection with objects from the traditional life of Myrtos.
* Early in the morning or late in the afternoon take a walk to the Mycenaean settlement at Pyrgos. Follow the footpath which starts next to the river at the exit towards Ierapetra. After about half an hour, this will take you to the top of the hill. Travel back in time and see the ruins of the Mycenaean houses. The view of the sea and Myrtos from up here is breathtaking.
* Visit villages like Pefkos and Symi in the pine forests of South Dikti, or take a boat trip from Ierapetra to the island of Chrysi, or Gaidouronisi, and swim in the wonderful sea off exotic beaches of gleaming white sand.
* Discover Ierapetra: both its long history and its wonderful modern life. The city is a patchwork of elements of its Greek, Venetian and Muslim past, and is well worth taking the time to visit.
* Discover Chrissi island: Have a day trip to Chrissi island one of the most beautifull golden beaches arround Mediterenean sea. There is an option to get a ferry from Ierapetra port early in the morning and sailing back at the evening. There is also a VIP servise for a private day cruise. Chrissi Island is protected by Natura 2000. The island hosts the largest naturally formed Lebanon cedar forest in Europe.
The History of Myrtos
The appearance of an organised community in the area where the village stands today dates back to the Mycenaean period. This has been proved by the excavations carried out by the English Archaeological School of Athens in cooperation with the University of Cambridge, between 1967 and 1970. The Mycenaean civilisation is the first civilisation known in Europe, and it flourished in Crete about 2000 years before the birth of Christ. It evolved and dominated the whole of the Aegean becoming the richest and most admired civilisation of its time. It was as a part of this civilisation that the two Mycenaean settlements that have been discovered in the area developed. The one in the area of Fournou Koryfi is early Mycenaean (2600-2200BC) and the second in the Pyrgos area is late Mycenaean (1650-1600BC). Objects of great archaeological importance (jewels, pottery, etc) were found during the dig, a large number of which are now in the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion. Thanks to the efforts of George Dimitrianakis, the village teacher, a significant number of objects have remained in the small village museum, which he created with the help of other locals. Visitors can still see them there today.
From the time that followed, until the time of the Roman occupation of Crete, there is no evidence that indicates whether Myrtos was inhabited, or if there was an organised community in the area.
However during Roman times, and more specifically during the period from 2 to 4AD, a settlement was established on the exact spot where the modern village was built, which the English archaeologist, Sir Hood, called ‘Roman Polichni’. This settlement was a resort centre for the nobles of the time as well as rich Romans, and it underwent great development. The population during that period kept on growing. Even today the remains of the civilisation of this time can be seen on the western side of the village. The large number of Roman coins, pots and statues which have been found from time to time, bear witness to the heyday that the area enjoyed during Roman times.
During the Byzantine period and until 824AD, life continued as normal in the village, until Crete was invaded by the Saracens. Myrtos was looted and raised to the ground.
IN 961AD Nikiforos Fokas freed Crete and life returned to normal until 1204AD, when Crete fell to the Venetians. The Venetians established themselves in Myrtos in 1231AD; they looted the village and destroyed the Mycenaean settlement in Fournou Koryfi. They built a wall and lookout towers around the village and began to develop agriculture and trade. At the time Myrtos was part of the Venetian region called Belvedere. All through the Venetian period the local population was subject to a state of unendurable slavery and punishing taxation, which resulted in it declining. In a census taken in 1583 Myrtos is shown as having a population of 28. Despite this, Myrtos was one of the three most important centres in south east Crete, along with Viannos and Ierapetra.
The Venetian period was followed by the even harsher period of Ottoman occupation. The Ottoman Turks reached Myrtos in 1647 and destroyed it completely, eliminating its population. Throughout the whole period of the Ottoman occupation the region remained uninhabited and the few who survived their barbarity moved to nearby villages. It was not until 1880 that people slowly started returning to the area and building new settlements.
The locals were mostly involved in agriculture. After 1890 the population increased rapidly and commercial activities began.
In the census of 1881 Myrtos had a population of 127, in 1920 237 and in 1940 397.
During the German occupation it suffered great damage at the hands of the occupying forces, only to continue to develop following WWII.
Over recent years a large number of Greek and foreign visitors have come to admire the natural beauty and peace of the village. Today, Myrtos is one of the most important tourist resorts in the area with serious tourist infrastructure and important places of interest. Above all, it is the perfect place to relax and rest.
Beaches and places of interest
(with distances from Sarikampos Beach)
1. Myrtos Beach – 1.8km (3.6 miles)
2. Aghios Nikolaos Archaeological Museum – 51km
3. Heraklion Archaeological Museum – 116km
4. Historical Museum of Crete – 116km
5. Lychnostatis Museum of Traditional Culture – 89km
6. Lasithi plateau – 95km
7. Aquarium Sea world – Cretaquarium – 77km
8. The monastery of Panaghia Kalyviani
9. Ierapetra Archaeological Museum – 14Km
10. Knossos Archaeological site – Tickets Price: Adults:15,00€ / Reduced: 8,00€ – 87,5Km
11. Phaistos Archaeological site – Tickets Price: Adults:8,00€ / Reduced: 4,00€ – 140Km
12. Kapsa Monastery – 47,5Km
13. Toplou Monastery -85,9Km
14. Milatos Caves – 70,4Km
15. Gortys – 78Km
16. Fornou Koryfi, Myrtos – 1Km
17. Pyrgos archaeological site, Myrtos – 2Km
18. Myrtos Museum – 2Km
19. Gournia Archaeological site – Tickets Price: Adults: 2,00€ / Reduced: 1,00€ – 30Km
20. The Venetian fort of Ierapetra and mosque, Kales – 15Km
21. Aghios Georgios, Ano Symi – 20,5Km
22. Kato Zakros Archaeological site – Tickets Price: Adults: 6,00€ / Reduced: 3,00€ – 90Km
23. Malia Archaeological site – Tickets Price: Adults: 6,00€ / Reduced: 3,00€ – 75Km
24. Vai – 95Km
25. Kritsa traditional village – 54Km
26. Agios Nikolaos – 50Km
27. Elounda – 58Km
28. Spinalonga – Tickets Price: Adults: 8,00€ / Reduced: 4,00€ & boat ticket aprox. 8,00€ per passenger – 57Km (Plus 10min by boat)
29. Exotic island of Chrysi or Gaidouronisi – 14Km to Ierapetra port then 1hour by boat
30. Sarakinas valley
31. Diktaion Andron
32. Idaion Androm
33. Cha valley – Thrypti
34. Mochlos and Platanos – Malavra
35. Omalos Plateau in Pano Symi
36. Bramiana dam and wetlands
38. Tertsa Beach
39. Psaris Foradas Beach
40. Makry Gialou Beach
41. Megali Paralia, Ierapetra
42. Keratokambo Beach
43. Tsoutsoura Beach
44. Vai Beach
45. Ammoudara Beach, Aghios Nikolaos
10 things to do on Crete
Top 10 Things to do on Crete:
1. Hike the longest Gorge in Europe, Samaria Gorge.
2. Taste dakos, kalitsounia, myzitra cheese while drinking tsikoudia.
3. See the city of Rethymnon, one of the best preserved medieval towns in Greece.
4. Discover the Diktaean Cave and the Cave of Ideon Andro.
5. Visit the Archeological Museum of Heraklion.
6. Follow the wine routes of Crete and taste its local wines.
7. Explore the Palm forest of Vai, the largest natural palm forest in Europe.
8. Take a romantic stroll at the Venetian Harbour of Chania.
9. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind evening walk or a family picnic at Lake Kournas.
10. Visit the Minoan Palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia.