|Primary sector: 49%|
|Secondary sector: 14%|
|Tertiary sector: 37%|
The area's main economic activities are agriculture in the winter and tourism in the summer. The agricultural production can be divided into two main parts. Whereas olive oil has been produced all over the municipality at least since Minoan times, for the last thirty years large quantities of fruit and vegetables have also been exported. These are grown in plastic greenhouses, which spread over an area of 13,000,000 square meters between the town of Ierapetra and Nea Myrtos. They were introduced by the dutchman Paul Kuypers. Mainly because of the greenhouse production the inhabitants of Ierapetra are on average the richest on Crete.
Town of Ierapetra
Lat: 35:01N, Lon: 25:44E The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect Gerapetro) is located on the south coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional centre. With its 11,450 inhabitants (1999) it is the most populous town in the prefecture of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is popularly known as the southernmost town of Europe, nicknamed "bride of the Libyan Sea" because of its position as only town on the south coast of Crete.
Ierapetra has had a place in the history of Crete since the Minoan period. The Greek and later Roman town of Hierapytna was on the same sight as present day Ierapetra. In the Classical Age Ierapytna became the strongest town of eastern Crete. Later, in the 3rd century BC, Hierapytna was infamous for its tendency to piracy. Its importance ended when it was destroyed by the Romans in 67 BCE. It was soon rebuilt, but was soon surpassed by the city of Gortyn. Today remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen in the shallow bay. In 824 CE it was destroyed by Arab invaders, only to be rebuilt as a base for pirates (again!). In the Venetian Age, from the 13th to the 17th centuries, Ierapetra - now known by its present name - became prosperous again. The fortress of Kales, built in 1626 to protect the harbor, is a remnant of this period, although local myth says it was built by the Genoese pirate Pescatore in 1212. In July 1798 Ierapetra made a small step into world history: Napoleon stayed with a local family during his voyage to Egypt. The house where he stayed can still be seen. In the Ottoman period a mosque was built in the town. Finds from Ierapetra's past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities, formerly a school for Turkish children. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a well preserved statue of Persephone.
Present day Ierapetra consists of two quite distinct parts, Kato Mera and Pano Mera. Kato Mera is the old town on the southwestern headland. It is characterized by a medieval street layout with narrow alleyways, cul-de-sacs and small houses, creating a village-like atmosphere. The former mosque and the "house of Napoleon" can be found in this neighbourhood. Pano Mera is the much bigger new town, with wider streets and three and four storey houses. Pano Mera is still expanding towards the west, north and east.
Ierapetra's main shopping street is Koundouriotou. In the centre the town hall, the museum and two cinemas can be found. The local hospital lies in Pano Mera. To the west is the southern headland with the fortress and a port for fishing boats. Further east is a short beach with bars and restaurants, followed by the quay for ferries to Chrissi. Further on lies the main boulevard with hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. At its end a new promenade leads alongside Ierapetra Bay's long beach.
The local government has planned the development of a new international port. This plan is being opposed by some citizens who think it will destroy the local environment and scenery. They are supported by Ecocrete.gr, the local environmental tribune.
Villages and hamlets
- Agia Fotia,
- Agios Ioannis,
- Gra Lighia,
- Kato Horio,
- Nea Anatoli,
- Nea Myrtos,
- Pachia Ammos,
- Pano Horio,
Chrissi (Golden) or Gaidouronisi (Donkey Island) is an uninhabited island some twelve kilometers off the coast of the town of Ierapetra. It is five kilometers long and on average one kilometer wide. The island's average height above sea level is ten meters; Kefala, the highest point of the island, is 31 meters above sea level. The island is renowned for its white beaches, sand dunes and forest of pines and junipers.
The western tip of the island has some remains of past settlement: a few Minoan ruins and a 13th century chapel dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). It was inhabited into Byzantine times. The main sources of wealth were fishing, salt export, and the export of porfira (Tyrian purple), a scarlet dye made from shells. After the Byzantine period the island was abandoned, although later it was used as a hideout.
Nowadays the island is protected as an "area of intense natural beauty". Especially in summer, the island attracts many tourists. As camping is forbidden on the island, only day trips are possible. Ferries leave the quay at Ierapetra daily at 10 A.M. and return at 5 P.M. Visitors are not allowed to roam freely over the island, but only on designated paths and some beaches close to the eastern tip of the island. There is a small tavern at the ferry landing.
700 meters to the east of Chrissi lies the rocky islet of Mikronisi (Small Island).
Other natural and geographical features
- Bramiana Dam, an artificial dam and lake. The lake was made to supply the local greenhouses with water in the dry summer. The lake area is the biggest wetland on Crete, and has become a nature reserve known for its birdlife.
- Mount Dikti
- Mount Thryptis
- Selakano Forest
- Sarakina Gorge
- Ha Gorge
- Avgo Gorge
- In the north on Mirambelo Gulf lie the ruins of the Minoan city of Gournia.
- The Minoan settlement of Pyrgos lies between Myrtos and Nea Myrtos.
- In the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek the famous scene in which Anthony Quinn dances the Sirtaki on the beach was shot on Ierapetra Beach.
- The Greek composer Giannis Markopoulos (born 1939) lived in Ierapetra until he left high school in 1956 to study music in Athens.