Chrissi Island: a Jewel South of Crete

Chrissi Island or Gaidouronisi in Crete

Chrissi lies 8 miles away from Ierapetra’s coasts, in the Libyan sea. One of the 81 uninhabited islands of Crete is Chrissi or Gaidouronisi (donkey island in Greek). It is 7 km long and has an average width of 2 km and an average height of 10m.

chrissi island in crete

Chrissi Island: A jewel south of Crete

Located 8 nautical miles (15 km) south of Ierapetra, Crete, the enchanting Chrissi Island emerges as a haven of natural beauty. The island’s landscape is characterized by a large Lebanon cedar forest, shimmering golden sands and clear aquamarine waters, offering a picturesque view that leaves every visitor in awe. More than just a visual treat, a trip to Chrissi Island offers visitors a sense of liberation and relaxation. It is the perfect destination for those seeking a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

To preserve its natural splendor, the island is protected by the European program Natura 2000. This protection underscores its importance as an area of intense natural beauty and a refuge for wildlife. In addition, the island boasts the largest naturally formed Lebanon cedar forest in Europe. This unique feature is an incredible testament to the island’s rich biodiversity and its commitment to conservation.

The island is almost flat, boasting an elevation of only 30 meters at its highest point. This low-lying topography gives the island a unique charm and makes it easily navigable for visitors of all ages.

Despite its small size, Chrissi Island boasts a diverse landscape ranging from sandy beaches to rocky hills. This varied geography provides visitors with an array of visual delights and exploration opportunities. Whether you want to lounge on the beach or hike in the hills, Chrissi Island has something for every type of traveler.

How to get to Chrissi Island

Access to Chrissi Island is easy with regular boat services during the tourist season. Small boats depart daily from Ierapetra and Makrigialos to the island from mid-May to the end of October. Ierapetra is the main departure point, but boats also depart from Makrigialos and Myrtos. This flexibility in transportation makes the island easily accessible to visitors from different parts of Crete.

According to the latest conservation regulations, activities on Chrissi Island are restricted to protect its habitat. Visitors are allowed to swim, but are not allowed to hike or enter the juniper forest areas.

In a recent development that has excited many adventure seekers, from July 31, 2023, visitors will also be able to swim to Chrissi Island. Boats from Ierapetra will be able to anchor close to the shore of the island and visitors will be able to swim to the beach. This unique way of reaching the island adds a thrill to the journey and promises an unforgettable experience for the brave.

Practical Information for Visitors

Visitors to Chrissi Island must follow certain rules to preserve the natural beauty of the island. The collection of shells and ancient artifacts is strictly prohibited, as are overnight stays and fires. This is to ensure the preservation of the island’s unique ecosystem.

For a comfortable visit, it’s recommended to bring swimwear, towels, extra water and sunscreen. Given the island’s remote location, it’s also a good idea to bring snacks or a picnic lunch.

Seasonal variations and best time to visit

Chrissi Island’s hours of operation vary by season to preserve its natural splendor. The island is closed between November and April. However, the peak season is from June to September when the natural beauty of the island is at its most vibrant. For those who prefer milder temperatures and a quieter atmosphere, May and October are ideal times to visit.

Booking and excursion information

Regular ferry services from the port of Ierapetra provide convenient access to Chrissi Island.

Attractions & Activities on Chrissi

Chrissi Island is a treasure trove of unspoiled beauty, pristine beaches and captivating attractions. The island’s beaches include Vougiou Mati Beach, Belegrina/Golden Sand Beach, Chatzivolakas Beach, Kataprosopo Beach, Kendra Beach and Vages Beach. Each beach, with its clear waters and beautiful views, is a perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling.

In addition to its beautiful beaches, Chrissi Island also offers a rich historical experience. Landmarks such as the Church of Agios Nikolaos and an ancient Minoan settlement provide a glimpse into the island’s rich past.

According to the latest conservation regulations, activities on Chrissi Island are restricted to protect its habitat. Visitors are allowed to swim, but are not allowed to hike or enter the juniper forest areas.

Nature and Wildlife on Chrissi Island

cedar trees on chrissi island in crete

For nature lovers, Chrissi Island is a paradise. The island is home to a variety of wildlife including snakes, lizards and sea turtles. Bird watchers can also see a variety of bird species that call this island home. The highlight of the island’s biodiversity is the Lebanon cedar forest, which is 200-300 years old and the largest naturally formed forest of its kind in Europe.

Chrissi Island’s commitment to environmental protection is evident in its inclusion in the NATURA 2000 program. This program aims to protect areas of natural beauty and ecological interest throughout Europe. Visitors to Chrissi Island can experience an unspoiled piece of nature, a privilege that is becoming increasingly rare in our fast-paced world.

Historical and Geological Aspects of Chrissi Island

The history and geology of Chrissi Island are as fascinating as its natural beauty. The island was formed from solidified lava and is home to 49 species of fossils dating back between 350,000 and 70,000 years. For geology enthusiasts, these fossils provide a tangible link to the island’s ancient past.

The island is also home to several historical sites worth exploring, including the 13th-century church of Agios Nikolaos, Roman tombs, and an ancient lighthouse. These sites provide evidence that people have been visiting the island since Minoan times, attesting to its long-standing appeal.

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