Τhe picturesque Sissi by-the-sea, 45 kilometers east of Heraklion in eastern Crete, is a pleasant surprise, well hidden at the end of a narrow, winding road after turning off from the main, national highway.

Arriving at Sissi, you immediately realise that everything here is much different than neighbouring Malia or nearby Hersonissos. What’s missing are the thousands of tourists and multitude of bars and clubs that result in a more hectic atmosphere. In Sissi, life flows at a much more easy and calm pace.

Sissi’s main road reveals none of its particular beauty and character. It’s a sort of haphazard affair, with a collection of small hotels and rent-rooms, a sprinkling of tourist shops and fast-food snack bars scattered about and many cars disorderly parked this way and that. But don’t get discouraged. The real Sissi, its inner soul, becomes apparent when you reach the end of that road and come face-to-face with the lovely little port in the rich, blue sea. You immediately want to stop and fill yourself with this idyllic vision, and well you should. However, parking at this point is limited, and you may have to continue to the right for several metres to the clearing surrounded by many beach tavernas. You may leave your car there, then double back to Sissi’s charming port.

The harbourage, which is literally a work of art by Mother Nature, was created by the sea burrowing deep far into the land, forming a long and narrow bay, protected by a small stone wave-breaker. This bay is so deep that it’s easy for someone to think it’s an estuary of some mysterious river, which, of course, it isn’t.

When you get to know this lovely little port you’ll discover it’s not “just another pretty face” – it also has a personality and history all its own. During the Cretan revolution, it was strategic spot for unloading guns and munitions for the daring Lassithi rebels. Today, there is a pier on one side of the harbour where the local fishing boats are secured, and a common, picturesque site is one of the fishermen’s women cleaning the catch of the day by the shore. This fresh fish, and the other edibles of the sea, is what lures many local residents from Heraklion to Sissi’s tavernas, which are built high on the port’s pier. And, of course, every new visitor should remember the golden rule of dining: “If the locals eat there, you know the food is good!”

On the shore across from the port there is a small sandy beach for anyone who can’t resist taking a dip in the crystal clear Mediterranean, which is always calm here, thanks to the wave-breaker. Immediately after the beach, there is a beautiful hotel garden, with numerous flowing palms and colourful flowers. It is certainly one of Crete’s most picturesque sights, which makes Sissi’s special little port even more unique.