Discover Mirtos... on Foot
The sixth book in the serie Discover...on Foot has 8 easy country walks in the area of Mirtos in the Prefecture of Lasithi. Walking in the area of Mirtos with this book gives you also lot of extra information about the villages, history and the area. Many beautiful pictures and detailed walking maps make this book complete.
This walking guidebook is locally available in different shops and hotels in Mirtos. You can also order the book through this website (Webshop).
The village of Mirtos
Main street of Mirtos
View on Mirtos
Boulevard of Mirtos
Towards Pyros Minoan Site
A lot of extra information about this beautiful village in South East Crete you find on the website:
If you like to do guided walks in this beautiful area, ask Angela!! She is an experienced guide who knows this area extremely well. Have a look on her website:
Walking with Angela!
The village of Mirtos, in the municipality of Ierapetra is located on the south coast of the Prefecture of Lasithi. Situated 14 km west of the city of Ierapetra, it has magnificent views over the Libyan Sea. It is a small seaside village with about 600 permanent inhabitants.The village is built at the exit of the imposing Sarakina Gorge (see Walk 6) and the River Kryos. It has experienced a small amount of development in recent years, which fortunately has not affected its traditional style.Mirtos is primarily an agricultural community but also a quaint holiday destination, with friendly, hospitable locals. This is a reason that many people from so many different countries like to come back time and again. They have a very warm welcome in Mirtos!Mirtos has a wonderful climate. It lies on the Libyan sea, in a coastal area, with a microclimate similar to a subtropical country, due largely to the protection of the Dikti Mountains behind it. In the mild winter months the plants and trees gets its vital rain and in between plenty sunny days occur. The summer months are sunny, hot and dry.
Signs of an organised community in the area, where the village stands today, dates back to the Minoan period, with evidence from the excavations carried out by the English Archaeological School of Athens in cooperation with the University of Cambridge, between 1967 and 1970. Two Minoan settlements have been discovered, early Minoan in the area of Fournou Korifi and late Minoan in the Pyrgos area. More information about these settlements can be found in the next chapter.
From the Minoan period until the Roman occupation there is no evidence to indicate whether Myrtos was inhabited. But during Roman times, a settlement was established on the spot where the modern village of Mirtos lies. The settlement was a place for the nobles of that time and the rich Romans and underwent great development. Even today the remains of the civilisation of this time can be seen on the western side of the village (see Walk 2). The large number of Roman coins, pots and statues which have been found from time to time, proves that the place was thriving during that period.
During the Byzantine period and until 824AD, life continued as normal in the village, until Crete was invaded by the Saracens. Mirtos was looted and raised to the ground.In 961AD the Byzantine emperor Nikiforos Fokas freed Crete and life returned to normal until 1204AD, when Crete fell to the Venetians. The Venetians established themselves in Mirtos around 1212AD. They looted the village and built a wall around it with lookout towers. They began to develop trade and agriculture (particularly the cultivation of olive trees). The local population suffered during the Venetian Period from slavery and punishing taxation. Around 1580 the few inhabitants left from Mirtos moved from the beach to the higher location of Agios Vasilios (Saint Basil), as it offered more protection from the frequent raids of pirates. In the census of 1583 Mirtos had only 28 residents.Only in 1580 did the Venetian government allow the Cretans to build churches and monasteries. Around that time the church of Agios Vasilios was built on the south east of the village. This church was destroyed either by the Turks or from the big earthquake of 1780. Much later, in 1818, the Agios Vasilios church that still survives today was built.
Around 1647 the Ottoman Turks arrived at the area of Mirtos. They completely destroyed the village and killed all the people they found. During the whole period of the Turkish occupation the region of Mirtos remained uninhabited and the few survivors moved to neighbouring villages. It was finally around 1880 that people started to return to the area. Slowly trade had started again in Mirtos and some new warehouses and houses were built. The first returning residents of Mirtos were merchants. Later other people from the Agios Vasilios settlement and the surrounding villages, like Gdohia joined them. Slowly the village was transformed into a trade centre. All local products from inland (oil, carobs, coal, etc.) were taken to the existing harbour (karavostási), westerly in the bay at that time, in order to be shipped to Ierapetra. From there the goods were transported to domestic and foreign destinations. By 1896 eleven families had settled in Mirtos. In the census of 1920 Mirtos had a population of 237 and in 1940 of 397. Apart from trade, agriculture was the main source of income in Mirtos. The main products were oil, carobs and cereal. Only in 1917 was the first vine planted.
During WWII the German Army, which landed on Crete in 1941, wanted to set barring zones for strategic reasons especially on the south coast, but encountering much opposition from the partisans. A lot of fighters, but also ordinary civilians lost their lives in these struggles. Following the battle of Simi, on September 15, 1943, the Germans decided to burn down the village and gave a deadline of 2 hours for the village to be evacuated. Eighteen boys and men refused to leave and were executed. The houses were burned. This great loss of Mirtos is reflected on a simple pillar in the village (see also village walk). On it are engraved the names of the 18 who perished, and who are commemorated every year on September 15 with a church service and the laying of wreaths.
The name Mirtos
Most probably Mirtos got its name from the plant Myrtus communis, or Myrthia (myrtle), which is common to the area. Another theory in the village is that the name Mirtos comes from Myrtine or Myrto, the name of a woman from an aristocratic family who once lived in the area.
Starting of tourism
After the WWII, people were reluctant to return to the village. With the help and some pressure from the government, people eventually went back and started to rebuild their houses. It was a poor and simple life until the late 60s when the Dutchman Paul Kuypers introduced the greenhouses to Ierapetra, as Mirtos benefited with its share of the growth and more wealth. Tourism in Mirtos began slowly during the 70s, the first tourists were hippies. In the beginning of the 80s more tourists started to visit the south coast and in that period the government in Mirtos decided to build a boulevard as protection against the sea and more buildings were erected along this promenade. The boulevard along the beach with taverns and cafes is now a cosy attraction in Mirtos.
What makes Mirtos today such a special village? The main reason is that Mirtos is an "all year round village”, which does not turn into a ghost village during winter time. People actually live and work here, children go to school and elderly sit in front of their houses to keep in touch with fellow villagers. Mirtos is like a community and a big family where people take care of each other and keep their traditions and customs. It is a hospitable village with plenty of accommodation from very simple to very luxurious. Plenty of restaurants and cafes in the village centre and the promenade have been added over the years, with attractive terraces overlooking the sea or the bustling streets of Mirtos. No hectic crowds, but real everyday life!
Mirtos has many interesting shops were you find handmade jewellery, lots of fine artwork, oriental herbs and species but also hand-painted T-shirts, beautiful handbags from recycled magazines and lots of other stuff! Further there are two butchers, two supermarkets, a bakery and a hairdresser. Mind you, before you start shopping and go for drinks and food, make sure you have cash because the nearest ATM is in Ierapetra! Of course Mirtos is a perfect place to lie on the beach and take it easy, forgetting the time and relaxing. Over the years it is also becoming a location offering different activities like walking, biking and diving.
All together Mirtos is a small gem in the south of Crete that is absolutely worth a visit!
Where to stay?
In Mirtos there are several good accommodations where from you can discover the village and surrounding area on foot. There are simple rooms but also more luxury houses and hotels. An overview of accomodations you find on www.mirtoscrete.gr. Especially good accomodation for walkers is Villa Mertiza.
Quietly situated, on the edge of the village, lies our Villa Mertiza. The attractive, comfortably-appointed apartments and studios are situated around a lovely garden which has both sunny and shady areas. It’s only a couple of minutes walk to the little centre of Mirtos, to the boulevard and to the beach. Everything is nice and close.
From Villa Mertiza you can explore the beautiful surrounding area, either on foot or in a rental car.
The personal, informal atmosphere and the service of our Dutch/cretan team mean that our guests like coming back to stay with us. Website: www.mertiza.com