Baalbek, Temple of Jupiter Baal (Heliopolitan Zeus): Site of Worship of Canaanite God Baal. Ancient records have nothing at all to say about Baalbek, it seems, though human habitation there is quite old. Coming from Heraklion Province, instead of approaching the Lasithi Plain from the villages of Mohos, Krasi and Kera along the road that branches from Stalidha (as detailed in the Heraklion Prefecture treatise), you can continue along the coast road past Malia and will soon be on the northwestern edge of Lasithi Prefecture.
The main highway will have cut inland toward Neapoli and Aghios Nikolaos, but the old coast road will continue on to the resorts of Sisi and Milatos. In ancient times Milatos had been an important city mentioned by Homer in the Iliad as one of the seven Cretan cities that had sent soldiers to Troy.
Though many will take the paved road from here toward Neapolis, there are old dirt roads that go there as well, and others around the Aghios Ioannis peninsula. There is a ring of eighteen villages around and above the plateau, the largest of which is Tzermiado with a population of about 1500. These terra cotta figurines were strange idols, a full meter tall with long necks and removable feet, though with the familiar upraised arms. Up on these high mountain peaks you may get to see some fantastic birds of prey such as the griffon vulture or even the lammergeier (bearded vulture, which has been close to extinction). The Dhiktean Cave Legend has it that this cave (left) was the birthplace of Zeus, born there to Rhea, wife of the Titan Kronos, who had overthrown his own father, Ouranos (the Greek word for 'sky') and then eaten all of his own offspring so that he would not be overthrown in turn by a son, a fate of which he had been warned. A thirteenth-century monastery, Moni Kroustallenia (right) (meaning 'Crystal Monastery') is close by, with wonderful panoramic views. This is the largest little port town of eastern Crete has grown since the port expanded in 1965. Better beaches are farther afield, notably at Elounda the the north, with its Spinalonga islet, and there is some scenic countryside in that area to explore on foot or scooter. The islet fortress of Spinalonga (right) is a half-hour trip by caique from Elounda; from Agh.
There is an annual arts festival in Aghios Nikolaos, which usually runs from late July to early September, with Cretan traditional dance troupes, Cretan choral groups, classical and modern plays (usually in Greek), and various concerts by Greek musicians and singers. Going back down to the coast road, you come to Istro, a resort with a hotel that hangs on the edge of the cliff and has its own very nice sandy beach in a cove below. Many small houses with cobbled alleys and stairways surround a square, with one more luxurious house that was probably that of the town ruler, sometimes referred to as a palace, though the entire place is on a much smaller scale than the famous Palace complexes. The site was occupied as early as the third millennium BC, but the town is from the late Minoan period, around 1550 BC, the town was destroyed by fire around 1225 BC and never truly rebuilt, though there was some of this during Mycenaean times.


There was also a small theatre area and a Shrine of the Snake Goddess with tubular vases that resembled snakes. At this site was a pre-Palace settlement dating from 2650 to 2200 BC., abandoned after a fire destroyed it in 2200BC, which made it more accessible to excavation. Heading northeast towards Sitia, the scenery improves vastly and is one of the most exciting stretches of road in Crete, with precipitous drops to the sea, and then the road goes inland at Kavousi.
It is more of a fishing village than a resort, with some rooms (including fairly cheap ones) and some tavernas. It was a prosperous town built like an amphitheater around a harbor with steps leading upward to the houses, each of which had a hearth in one room There was a shrine here with a floor that had been built up with pumice that had drifted from Santorini (Thera). This main town and port of the eastern isthmus of Crete is also amphitheatrically-arranged, like Aghios Nikolaos, but unlike the latter, it has the reputation of a town that has not succumbed wholly to tourism, despite the fact that it has a long sandy beach (and one accorded the 'blue flag' of ecological purity).
There is a large cultural festival here on 24 June, and in mid-August a three-day wine and sultana festival (big products in this area), with traditional dancing. Behind its forbidding exterior you'll see how the monks really lived in a serene world of stone walled cloisters and flower filled courtyards (9am - 1pm, 2pm - 6pm daily, fee, tel: 28430) The monastery has undergone extensive repairs over the last few years.
A gorgeous beach (left) with silver sand famous for its palm trees, which are a species unique to Crete (Phoenix theophrastii) and Europe's only wild palm trees. To avoid the worst of all that, move onto to the smaller beaches to the north, which also have a few palms and the option of camping out.
Heading to the south coast from Sitia and then west towards Ierapetra, one comes across a fishing village with one of eastern Crete's nicest beaches, at Makryialos, but predictably it has gone the touristic path, and become a pricey place to stay. Ierapetra, which means 'sacred rock', is the largest city on the south coast of Crete, and the southernmost city in Europe. To the west of Ierapetra is a large recycling plant called Costa Plastica for all of the plastic that the vegetables grow under in the greenhouses. Myrtos is a resort, but of the laid-back type, with reasonable prices and some free camping .
Archaeological digs reveal evidence of human habitation at least back to 1600 BCE and possibly going to 2300 BCE. Some also have speculated that this is the site mentioned in 1 Kings: And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether, And Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land, And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.
The former has an upper and lower village, the lower on a little harbor with a sandy beach.
There are at least a couple of versions in mythology about King Minos' brother Sarpedon, with different reasons for his having left Crete for Asia Minor, where he founded the city of Miletus (whose name is almost the same as that of the city he left behind in Crete).


Touts ruin the atmosphere and will, much like lemmings encourage you to dine as you saunter around the lake which may be exited by stone stairways too so you don't have to run the gauntlet twice. This was also a Minoan port, excavated in 1907 by Richard Seager, an American archaeologist. The setting is dramatic, with an amphitheater-type village looking down on a round lake as well as the sea, and the stunning Mirabello Bay. The island was later used by the Romans, who had a lighthouse and military settlement at the highest point.
In 1646 the Turks captured it and devastated it for harboring rebels and it suffered again during the war of Independence in 1821.
Under the Romans, who conquered the entire island, with Ierapytna the last holdout (but which finally gave way as well), it became a big trade center in the eastern Mediterranean, with Crete now part of the province of Cyrenaica, which included northern Libya (where Cyrene was located).
There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. This would have been consistent with Roman efforts to blend the religions of conquered people with their own beliefs.
There was, in fact, a port here in ancient times, called Lato, over-looking the islet of Agios Pandes, where the indigenous kri-kri goats live. There is a wooden cult statue (supposedly made by Daedalos) of the Minoan moon goddess Britomartis here. Lake Voulismeni (left) (whose name comes from the Greek word for drowning), though often called 'bottomless' is actually 210 feet deep.
Important finds from these tombs were early seal stones including one from Mesopotamia, gold jewelry (in the Iraklion archaeological museum) and vases made from marble, rock crystal, and steatite (in the Aghios Nikolaos and Sitia archaeological museums). Certain geological features of the cave supposedly represent elements of the Zeus legend, such as stalagmites that resemble teats (above). Pot shards from Akrotiri (the destroyed village excavated on Santorini) were found here as well.



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