Lasithi Plateau Drive
This Lasithi Plateau drive on Crete starts in Neapoli and ends in Malia, covering a distance of 80 km (50 miles) and taking two to three hours.
View of the Lasithi Plateau on Crete
The Lasithi Plateau stands 850 meters (2,800ft) high in the Dhíkti mountains of eastern Crete, and is one of the most picturesque areas of the island. The floors and slopes of the plateau are filled with orchards and olive groves, all watered using countless windmills. Although the white-sailed mills are no longer present in their thousands, as they used to be, you will still see plenty of them, and much else besides.
Map (c) Google Maps
Start in Neapoli
From the main square in Neápoli, follow the signs to the south for the ‘Plateau of Lassithi’ (sometimes spelt ‘Lasithi’). The route is well signposted almost all the way. The good tarmac road quickly winds up through olive groves.
The road goes through the upper part of the village of Vríses (see our Olive Grove Walk), turning right, again signposted. Ahead of you are lovely views of the Selena Mountains. The road then descends, winding to irrigated olive groves, and up the other side of the little valley into a stark and rocky landscape.
12km (7.5 miles) from Neápoli you pass through the hamlet of Káto Amigdáli, and soon after its big brother, Áno Amigdali. After this you reach the delightful village of Zenía, a cluster of vine-covered houses, beehives, fig trees, goats and chickens.
Windmills on the Lasithi Plateau on Crete
The First Windmill
The road winds higher now. Soon you will see your first beautiful large stone-based windmill on your right as you round a bend. There then follows a series of small villages, with women in traditional dress, donkeys with pack saddles, and villagers by the side of the road keen to sell you their honey, apples and raki.
The Lasithi Plateau
The road gets increasingly steep as it crosses over the mountains, beyond which is the Lasithi Plateau itself. A good panoramic view can be had from the Taverna Skaranis, where few people can resist pulling over. As you descend there is a good view of the plots and fields on the flat central plain, and more villages to pass through where there are tavernas, shops and petrol stations.
A Goat on the Lasithi Plateau on Crete
After passing through Mésa Lasíthi you reach a t-junction. Turn left towards Áyios Geórgios. The first village after the t-junction is Áyios Konstandínos, where several shops sell weaving and textiles, and where windmills start to appear more regularly in the fields.
Cretan Folklore Museum
In Áyios Geórgios, drive up past the church and go to the left following the signs for the Diktean Cave and the Venizelos Museum. Look for a bend to the right where a sign points left to the Cretan Folklore Museum and the Venizelos Museum. Park on the main road and walk up, as there is not much space to park above. Both little museums are worth seeing, and look at the guidebook for the Folklore Museum to see an old photo showing hundreds of white-sailed windmills ranged across the plain.
The Diktean Cave
Drive on out of the village and turn left at the sign for the Diktean (Dhiktaean) Cave. The road passes through more villages but take care when driving. Numerous tour buses use this route and the drivers are notoriously aggressive.
Just beyond the town of Psichró, a sign points left up the hill 2 km (1.2 miles) to the Diktean Cave. There are more good views of the Lasithi Plateau from the official car park.
Drive back down to Psichró and turn left, continuing the drive around the plateau. Orchards and farms are still plentiful, with olive groves and cows grazing on the plain.
A few kilometres beyond the village of Káto Metóchi, the road splits. Ignore the left turn to Iráklio for the moment but carry straight on to Tzermiádo, the largest town in the region. It’s a pleasant old provincial town with handicrafts for sale and several restaurants.
The Seli Ambelou Pass
After a break you should return the way you came in, this time taking the road towards Iráklio. There follows one of the best parts of the drive, through the Seli Ambelou Pass. Windmills can be seen along the ridge, to which you can walk if you want close-up views.
About 2 km (1.2 miles) beyond the pass on the right of the road is the hideous-looking Homo Sapiens Museum, marring the otherwise magnificent views of mountains and valley. The road curves down the mountain, an exhilarating drive through trees and olive groves, but watch for the sharp right turn to Krássi. Look for the wonderful gnarled old plane tree in the village, and the nearby spring where locals fill their water bottles.
Taking a Break
This is a popular route and almost all the villages you pass
through have tavernas and cafés. In Tzermiádo the traditional taverna Kri Kri
has good local food. The Platanos
taverna, set beneath the giant plane tree at Krássi, is an atmospheric spot.
On to Malia
Carry on through the village and rejoin the main road, simply following signs now for Mália. The road curves back up over rocky hills, then switchbacks steeply back down again, a pretty and majestic drive through a dry rocky landscape.
Malia Archaeological Site
This road brings you into Mália a back way. Turn right at the stop sign towards Áyios Nikólaos, and this takes you to the entrance to Mália Palace archaeological site), a lovely place to end an impressive drive.
Where to Stay on Crete
Other Crete pages
Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.
The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.
Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.
The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.
Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.
Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.
The best Crete hotels include 5-star luxury hotels, historic and romantic Venetian palaces, and several hotels in Hania and Iraklion.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Western Crete with tavernas and restaurants in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
How to make Petimezi, the sweet Cretan syrup made from wine must, is explained to Greece Travel Secrets.
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
The Byzantine Church of Panagía Kerá near Kritsa and not far from Ayios Nikolaos is one of the most famous in Crete, and close by is the site of Ancient Lato.
Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,
Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.
Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.
For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.
Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.
These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...
Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?
- Click on the HTML link code below.
- Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment,
your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.
Greece welcomed three sculpture fragments from the Parthenon, which were returned following an intervention by Pope Francis by the Vatican Museums, during a reunification ceremony in Athens. The fragm…
Greeks will be going to the polls on May 21 after the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced the news on Tuesday.
Low-cost Dutch airline Transavia, part of the Air France-KLM group, this summer will operate direct flights between Paris and the Greek island of Kefalonia two times per week, according to the Greek N…
Greece is among the 10 most searched for destinations in Europe, according to travel intelligence provider ForwardKeys, as intra-European air seat capacity is set to recoup pre-pandemic levels this Ea…
The Archaeological Museum of Elefsina, one of the first archaeological museums in Greece, has reopened its doors to the public after completing maintenance and improvement works. The upgrade focused o…
The historic Lykavittos open-air theater atop Lycabettus Hill in central Athens, will be reopening to the public following a complete revamp, announced Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis this week. The po…
Thessaloniki “Makedonia” Airport has been named one of the top in Europe at the 2022 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards by the Airports Council International (ACI) World and travel technology compan…
Greece is among the top 20 countries for entrepreneurs and startups, according to a recent study conducted by Compare the Market, a UK-based insurance comparison website.
Demand from Poland is growing with 30 percent of Polish travelers having already booked their holidays to Greece, according to feedback collected by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) duri…
Demand for Airbnb-style rentals in Greece was the strongest in Europe last month despite historically being the least busy period of the year, marking a 60 percent increase compared to 2022, said anal…