Makry Gialos - History
The history of Makry Gialos begins in antiquity, is interrupted and continues from the late 20th century onwards. According to the available information, Makry Gialos was inhabited during the Bronze Age, meaning that there was a Minoan settlement here.
Makry Gialos in Minoan Crete
Excavations by archaeologist Kostas Davaras have brought to light the ruins of a rich Minoan house, a Minoan villa. The villa, dating to the Late Minoan period, was found on the site known as Plakakia in Makry Gialos.
The distinguishing features of the villa are its many rooms and paved floors. Moveable finds such as clay jugs and figurines were discovered here, along with a sealstone depicting a sacred ship.
The ship on the sealstone has an altar and a tree that resembles a mast. In the prow is a priestess, one hand raised in what looks like a fist. Experts say this is the most important find from the area, as it reveals the existence of sacred ships in the Minoan period, something hitherto known only in Egypt.
Makry Gialos in Roman times
Makry Gialos continued to be inhabited in the Roman period, as we can see from the Roman villa discovered in the Katovigli area, near the harbour.
The Roman villa consists of many rooms and includes a burial chamber, an outdoor cistern and a large bathhouse complex. Many marble slabs used to face the walls and floor have also been found in the area.
Historians say that the fact that no moveable finds have been discovered means that the area was probably raided by pirates, perhaps in Late Roman and Byzantine times.
The pirate raids forced the inhabitants to abandon the seaside settlement and seek refuge in the mountains, in villages like Agios Stefanos. Makry Gialos remained more-or-less abandoned for many centuries until the final decades of the 20th century. The only buildings on the beach were fishermen’s huts and a few storerooms for the agricultural goods exported from here by boat.
People began to move back to Makry Gialos after 1950, when the first local roads were built. The lovely beach began to attract visitors and many inhabitants of the nearby mountain villages moved to the seaside to try their luck.
Makry Gialos today
Older residents still remember when Makry Gialos was ruinous, and their reminiscences are very interesting. The first people to come and live in Makry Gialos were made fun of by those who stayed behind in Agios Stefanos, who thought they were crazy to leave their fertile fields and move down near the sea.
Makry Gialos has grown rapidly over the past few decades. The inhabitants mostly engage in farming and tourism. Makry Gialos is famous for its olive oil and fruit, while its greenhouses have made it the most productive farming municipality in the south of Lassithi Prefecture. If you climb partway up the mountain looming over the area, you will see a patchwork of fields and greenhouses. The nearby village of Goudouras, after Kapsa Monastery, is also full of greenhouses. It’s quite common for the owner of a seaside taverna to be a farmer and shepherd too, with large tracts of land and greenhouses.
Μakry Gialos is popular with tourists from all over Europe but the overwhelming majority are Scandinavians and Germans, followed by the British, mostly young people drawn here by the quiet landscape and busy nightlife of Makry Gialos and Koutsouras. Just a short distance away is Ierapetra, the largest tourist resort in southern Crete.
Northern Europeans are very interested in buying land and property in Makry Gialos, moving here for the sun and mild climate.