The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect: Γεράπετρο Gerapetro) is located on the southeast coast of Crete, situated on the beach of Ierapetra Bay. This town lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia, and is an important regional center. With 16,139 inhabitants (in 2011), Ierapetra is the most populous town in the regional unit of Lasithi and the fourth most populous town in Crete. Ierapetra is nicknamed “the bride of the Libyan Sea” because of its position as the only town on Crete’s southern coast.

Ierapetra has retained a prominent place in the history of Crete since the Minoan period. The Greek and later Roman town of Hierapytna was located on the same site as present-day Ierapetra.

In the Classical Age, Hierapytna became the most substantial Dorian city in eastern Crete and was in a continual rivalry with Praisos, the last Minoan city on the island.

In the 3rd century BC, Hierapytna was notorious for piracy and took part in the Cretan War with other Cretan cities, siding with Philip V of Macedon against Knossos and Rhodes.

The city of Gortyn surpassed Hierapytna’s importance as an independent state when Hierapytna was conquered by the Romans in 67 BC (the last free city in Crete). The Roman conquest of Hierapytna coincided with that of Knossos, Cydonia, and Lato. Today, the remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen in the shallow bay.

Modern era

During the Ottoman period, a mosque was built in Ierapetra.

Finds from Ierapetra’s past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities, formerly a school for Muslim children. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a well-preserved statue of Persephone.

tzami tourkish minaret

Present-day Ierapetra consists of two distinct areas, Kato Mera and Pano Mera. Kato Mera is the old town section located on the southwestern headland. It is characterized by a medieval street layout with narrow alleyways, cul-de-sacs, and small houses, which create a village-like atmosphere. The former mosque and the “house of Napoleon” can be found in this neighborhood, as well as the Aghios Georgios metropolitan church, built in the town center in 1856. Aghios Georgios is considered one of the most innovative churches in Crete. The church’s ceiling contains many “blind” domes. These domes and the central dome are constructed mainly from cedarwood. Pano Mera is a much larger new town section, containing wider streets and three to four-story houses. Pano Mera is still expanding towards the west, north, and east.

Ierapetra’s principal shopping street is Koundouriotou. In the central section of Pano Mera, there is a town hall, a museum, a cinema, and a hospital. To the west is the southern headland containing the fortress, a port for fishing boats, and the ‘Navmachia’ area, where sea fights among slaves for citizens’ entertainment occurred during the Roman occupation. Further east is a short beach with bars and restaurants, followed by the quay for ferries to Chrissi. Further on lies the main boulevard, which contains hotels, bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. At its end, a promenade runs parallel to Ierapetra Bay’s long beach