Lasithi plateau(updated August 4, 2007)
The Lasithi plateau is a plain in the interior of Crete at around 35 kilometers east of Heraklion. It is known for its many small windmills which in former times were found everywhere on the plain. The plateau is surrounded by mountains. The ground of the plain is very fertile; corn and potatoes grow on it. The plain lies at about 800 meters above sea level. Therefore it is always about 5 degrees colder on the plain than along the coast.
View on the plateau
Excursions to the plateau are organized, but you can also come up with a rental car or even on a bicycle. Although this is not recommended for inexperienced cyclists, certainly not in the summer.
The plateau is best accessible from the main road (New National Road). Halfway Chersonissos and Malia (shortly after Stalida from Chersonissos) you branch off to Mochos. The road goes around many twists and hairpins until you reach the village of Mochos. This is a traditionally cozy town with a few shops and restaurants.
From Mochos you follow your way towards Krasi. To reach Krasi you have to turn left on the first crossing. In the little town of Krasi you'll find the largest plane-tree on the island of Crete. It is said that the size of the trunk is so large that there are twelve men needed to span around it. There is also a water source in the village. The water is drinkable, as almost all the water from natural sources on the island. There are also some small cafes with terraces in the village.
After Krasi you continue on the road towards the at a height of 1050 meters located Seli - Ambelou, which offers access to the actual plateau. Here is another restaurant and are the remnants of old windmills. You can climb the hill from which you have a nice view.
The road continues on the plateau. Because the road forms a circle on the plain it does not matter in which direction you drive. Most people choose, however, to follow the way anti-clockwise. The advantage of this is if everyone does this you don't have to go to the side of the narrow road each time you meet an upcoming vehicle.
Along the road on the plain you will find a number of small villages. It is worthwhile to make a number of visits. Although, most of them don't have much to offer. On the plain itself you can see that agriculture is conducted. Yet you can hardly see the characteristic windmills which the plain is famous for. For the irrigation of the land modern machines are used nowadays. The government has introduced a subsidy for farmers who want to use the traditional windmills again. Whether the windmills will return however remains a question.
Near the town Psichro you can turn towards the Dikti cave. According to Greek mythology, this is the birth cave of Zeus. In the cave Rhea hided him from Cronos. From the parking lot, you can make the climb to the cave in the 2148 meters high Dikti Mountain. On the pretty bad passable path the trip lasts about a quarter of an hour. You can also use a donkey to go up. This is not really fun. The ride is very uncomfortable, and the rest of the day you will smell like a donkey yourself. The trip on the donkeys' back costs about 10 euro's. On the mountain there is a possibility to make photographs. You have a great view on the plateau. At the end of the path is the entrance to the cave. The entrance costs about three and a half euro's. For students the access is for free. The cave was uncovered in 1900 by the Briton David George Hogarth. He made several interesting discoveries in the cave, which showed that the cave had a religious significance. The walk through the cave is short; you walk down and back up. Except for stalactites there is basically nothing to see. However, the hike up the mountain is worthwhile. On the way back you can use a better way to go down. On the parking lot are a number of small restaurants where you can recover from the walk.
The route on the plateau continues to the village of Agios Georgios. Here you will find a church and some small restaurants. There is also a folklore museum and a museum about Eleftherios Venizelos, a major Greek politician.
At the moment you almost accomplished the entire round on the plain you will arrive in the town of Tzermiado. This is the biggest village on the plains. There are shops where people try to sell a variety of crafts. To the Northeast (badly indicated) of the town lies the Trapeza cave. This cave was discovered by John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury in 1937. He made important archaeological founding's in the cave.
You can leave the plain in two directions. You can continue to Seli - Ambelou to leave the plain on the road you used to drive up. You can also ride a bit back towards Agios Georgios. Halfway Tzermiado and Agios Georgios you can turn left towards Neapoli. You leave the plateau via the Selia pass and then go down in the direction of Neapoli. The environment here is very beautiful. The road winds through the mountains, along precipices of up to 100 meters deep. In Neapoli you can turn onto the main road in the direction of Chersonissos, Malia and Heraklion.