Chrissi Island or Gaidouronisi
Some 12 km off the coast of the town of Ierapetra is the uninhabited island of Chrissi (Χρυσή=golden) or Gaidouronisi (Γαϊδουρονήσι=Donkey Island). It is 5 km long and 1 km wide in average. The island's average height above sea level is 10 m; Its highest point, Kefala, is 31 m above sea level.
The island is known for its white beaches, sand dunes and its pine and juniper forest.
The western tip of the island has some remains of past settlements: 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". The number of vegetal species of Chrissi Island is quite large compared to its extent of ground and corresponds to the 1/20 of the Cretan flora.
There are more than a hundred plant species which have been reported up to date. Of those, thirteen species are native of Greece, five of those are native of Crete and one is endemic of Chrissi, meaning it exists solely on this tiny island. It is called Colchicum costurieri. It was recently photographed for the first time, the picture taken by the academic Pavlos Dakalakis, of the Environmental Team of Ierapetra.
Especially in summer, the island attracts many tourists. As camping is forbidden on the island, only day trips are possible. 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 m to the east of Chrissi is the rocky islet of Mikronisi (Small Island).
Chrissi Map Gaidouronisi
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How to get there:
By boat from Ierapetra. From the middle of May until late October there are daily excursions to the island. The departure from Ierapetra is at 10.30 a.m. and the return around 16.00 p.m. Depending on the weather, the trip takes about 50 min. Passengers disembark at "Vougiou Mati" on the southern part.