Ierapetra. The town of Ierapetra is located on the south coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional centre. With its 15,400 inhabitants (2001) it is the most populous town in the prefecture of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is popularly known as the southernmost town of Europe, nicknamed “bride of the Libyan Sea” because of its position as only town on the south coast of Crete.
Chrissi (Golden) or Gaidhouronisi (Donkey Island) is an uninhabited island some twelve kilometers off the coast of the town of Ierapetra. It is five kilometers long and on average one kilometer wide. The island’s average height above sea level is ten meters; Kefala, the highest point of the island, is 31 meters above sea level. The island is renowned for its white beaches, sand dunes and forest of pines and junipers. The western tip of the island has some remains of past settlement: a few Minoan ruins and a 13th century chapel dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). It was inhabited into Byzantine times. The main sources of wealth were fishing, salt export, and the export of porphyra (Tyrian purple), a scarlet dye made from shells. After the Byzantine period the island was abandoned, although later it was used as a hideout.
Nowadays the island is protected as an “area of intense natural beauty”. Especially in summer, the island attracts many tourists. As camping is forbidden on the island, only day trips are possible. Ferries leave the quay at Ierapetra daily at 10 A.M. and return at 5 P.M. Visitors are not allowed to roam freely over the island, but only on designated paths and some beaches close to the eastern tip of the island. There is a small tavern at the ferry landing. 700 meters to the east of Chrissi lies the rocky islet of Mikronisi (Small Island).