The Prefecture of Lassithi covers the Eastern part of Crete with ca. 77 .000 permanent residents. It is washed by the Cretan Sea at the North, by the Carpathian Sea at the East and by the Libyan sea at the South. The prefecture has four provinces: Mirabelo, Lassithi, Ierapetra, and Sitia. The major cities are Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, and Sitia.
Agios Nickolaos is the capital city of the prefecture.This lovely town retains a traditional, quaint and tranquil fishing town lifestyle, which hasn’t lost any of its charm despite the vibrant tourist industry. The history of Agios Nikolaos begins in ancient times when it was the port for Lato, a powerful city during Hellenistic times. The harbour was still used during Roman times and the first Byzantine period although its importance had diminished. After this, it disappeared from history only to reappear in 1206 when the Genoans built the fortress of Mirabelo and gave its name to the town and bay. An earthquake destroyed the fortress and no trace of it remains. In the sixteenth century, the Venetians gave the town its current name, taken from the chapel of Agios Nikolaos on the peninsula of Limena. During the Turks’ rule the town was uninhabited and only after 1870 did people move here, mainly to escape from Turkish persecution.
A famous central landmark of the town is Agios Nikolaos lake, known as “Voulismeni”. According to Greek Mythology, the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed in the lake that is supposedly bottomless.
It is an especially charming location with many open-air cafes and restaurants along the bank. Small fishing boats bob gently alongside ducks and geese on the lake and add character and atmosphere to this relaxng location.
Lassithi attracts many tourists. Mass tourism is served by places like Vai, well-known for its datepalm forest, Agios Nikolaos and the island of Chrissi. More off-beat tourism can be found in villages on the south coast like Myrtos, Makrys Gialos or Makrigialos, Xerokambos and Koutsouras. To the east of the village of Elounda lies the island of Spinalonga, formerly a Venetian fortress and a leper colony. The Dikteon Cave or Dikteon Andron is one of the most important and famous of the 3,000 caves in Crete and in Greece. It is in the impressive Dikteon Cave, rich in stalagmites and stalactites, that Zeus was born according to legend. This is why the Dikteon Cave was already famous in antiquity, dedicated to the worship of the greatest of the gods.
The windmills of Lassithi
It is the most significant group of windmills preserved on Crete. It occupies the northern entrance to the Lassithi plateau and is the landmark of the whole area. Today 24 windmills are preserved out of the original 26, 7 of which extend to the south of the road that enters the plateau while the rest are built to the north of it. All the mills belong to the one-sided type of windmill, that grinds in a standard position, always on the same direction of the wind. Windmills of this type are preserved on Crete and on Carpathos but the Cretan ones are generally more carefully built and more elegant.
The group of windmills has been declared a work of art since 1986. The mills belong to individuals and some of them have been restored while others still remain half-ruined.