Lassithi Plateau, Crete, Greece

The fertile Lassithi plateau in the heart of Crete is mainly used for agriculture, but it also has some sights to offer. Among the most famous are its windmills and the birth cave of Zeus, the father of the gods. Otherwise, there is mainly peace, quiet and relaxation in the greenery here.

The Lassithi plateau at 830 metres above sea level is located about 70km west of Heraklion and is the most fertile region and the largest plateau in Crete. It is about 10km long and 7km wide and is home to about 20 villages with a population of about 5,000 people.


The ground of the plain has been used for agriculture since ancient times, so the houses were all built on the flanks of the surrounding mountains. Cereals, potatoes, beans, fruit and much more are cultivated here to this day. The so-called "linies" with which the Venetians divided the fields can still be seen today.

Approach to the Lassithi Plateau

From the top of the pass, a breathtaking view opens up over the Lassithi plateau framed by peaks in the heart of Crete, Greece - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The journey to the Lassithi plateau can be made via two mountain passes from Agios Nikolaos and Chersonissos. From here and also from Heraklion there are bus connections to the Lassithi plateau 1-2 times a day. Most hotels offer organised tours to the Lassithi plateau, which apart from the excursion by rental car, offer the most time on site.

From the top of the pass at around 1,100 metres, there is already a breathtaking view of the plain framed by peaks. A 23km ring road leads around the plain - ideal for exploring its many sights!

Sights on the Lassithi Plateau

If you want to spend the night on the Lassithi plateau, the best place is Tzermiadon. This small village with its small guesthouses and cosy tavernas is something like the tourist centre of the region. However, there is hardly ever much going on here.

Tip: At the beginning and end of the season, warm clothes should be packed for the Lassithi plateau, as the nights can already be very fresh. In winter, half a metre of snow is not uncommon at this altitude!

The sights of the Lassithi plateau can all be visited by car. There are no roads between the fields, but there are hiking trails. On the flat part of the plateau, however, there is hardly anything of interest to see apart from farmland. The real highlights of the Lassithi Plateau are on the mountain slopes, as are the settlements.

Cave of Psychro (Dictaean Cave) - Zeus' Birthplace

According to Greek mythology, the mighty father of the gods Zeus was born here to his mother Rhea and fed by the goat Amaltheia with the famous cornucopia (a cave on the Nida plateau also claims this). The famous Cretan king Minos, eponym of the Minoan culture, is also said to have been conceived here by Zeus and Europa.

There is evidence that the cave of Psychro was used as a place of worship by the Minoans, Europe's first advanced civilisation. Numerous votive offerings, bronze figures of god-like men and women and sacrificial altars have been found here.


The Dictaean Cave has its own (chargeable) car park, which is often hopelessly crowded in high season - Zeus' birth cave is now a massive tourist magnet! From the car park, a rather steep path leads for about 15 minutes to the entrance of the cave, where another entrance fee is charged. If you don't want to take this path, you can ride a mule - for a fee, of course.

Tip: If you want to avoid the biggest tourist rush in high season, you should visit Zeus Cave before 11:30 or after 17:00.

In the cave itself it is pleasantly cool, there is an artificial lake, stalactites hang from the ceiling, which is up to 15 m high, and small birds and bats whiz through the darkness. The tour lasts about 20 minutes, and then you have seen everything - Zeus is not likely to show himself...

Karfi - Seat of Ariadne

Also anchored in Greek mythology is the village of Karfi. Ariadne, princess and daughter of King Minos, is said to have lived here. She is said to have given Theseus the famous Ariadne thread so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth after his successful battle with the Minotaur. Today, Karfi is an interesting archaeological site of the Minoan culture and offers a dramatic view over the north coast of Crete.

Windmills of the Lassithi Plateau

Once there were around 8,000 windmills with their characteristic white canvas on the Lassithi plateau in Crete, Greece - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Once there were around 8,000 windmills with their characteristic white canvas on the Lassithi plateau. They operated the groundwater pumps to irrigate the extensive fields. Today, most of the pumps run electrically, yet some historic windmills are still preserved. Unfortunately, most of them are not particularly well maintained.

Kronos Cave

For amateur archaeologists, the Kronos Cave is also interesting. It is located about 2km from the village of Marmaketo and is the oldest religious cave on the Lassithi plateau. As findings of figurines and pottery prove, the cave was already inhabited in the Neolithic period and was also used as a burial place. Some Minoans were also buried here with elaborate grave goods.

The Kronos Cave is hardly accessible to visitors, and a torch is recommended on the slippery, makeshift floor. To discover the Stone Age and Minoan tombs, it also pays to have a guide.

Folklore Museum in Agios Georgios

Coming from Agios Nikolaos on the coast, a dirt road leads from the village of Kritsa to the Lassithi plateau, Crete, Greece - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Those interested in Crete's past should also make a stop at the folklore museum in Agios Georgios. In an original traditional farmhouse, the meagre life of the farmers on the Lassithi plateau in past centuries is presented. The museum is only open in the summer season.

Vidani Monastery

A wonderful place of peace and contemplation is the picturesque Vidani Monastery, built in 1841, near the village of Kato Metohi at the foot of Mount Louloudaki and dedicated to Zodoho pigi, the "life-giving spring".


Accordingly, its buildings are grouped around a cheerfully splashing fountain amid flowering beds and cypresses. A nice café invites you to linger and a small natural history museum, run by the University of Crete, provides information about the regional flora and fauna.

Kera Kardiotissa Monastery

The pretty monastery of the Virgin Mary, Kera Kardiotissa, nestles in the northern slope of the Dikti Mountains a few kilometres from the Lassithi plateau. The small monastery church dates back to the 14th century and impresses with its colourful frescoes, which are among the best preserved in Crete. During the Turkish rule, the monastery served as a secret meeting place and school for the Greeks.

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