Lithines - Moni Tuplou - Vai - Palaikastro
Vai is located 94km east of Agios Nikolaos and 24km east of Sitia. It is the most famous beach in east Crete, as its main feature is the large palm grove with the Cretan Date Palm (Phoenix theophrasti). Its name derives from the word vai, meaning palm in Greek. The palm grove is the largest in Europe with approximately 5000 trees.
The beach has whitish sand and flat turquoise waters. In a few places, there are slippery smooth rocks, while on the opposite there are small islets that beautify the landscape. The beach is slightly organized (whatever the protection scheme allows) with umbrellas, showers, water sports and a canteen.
The monastery was originally called Panagia Akrotiriani (Virgin Mary of the Cape), after the nearby Sidero cape. Its current name literally means "with the cannonball", thus called by the Turks for the cannon and cannonballs (Turkish: top) it had in its possession for defensive purposes.
It was founded probably on the ruins of an earlier convent. The monastery was plundered by the knights of Malta in 1530 and shattered in 1612 by a strong earthquake. Due to its strategic position, the senate of the Republic of Venice, then ruler of Crete, decided to financially aid in rebuilding it.
Palaikastro is a small village at the east end of the Mediterranean island Crete. The village remains free from mass tourism.
The main business of the approximately 1100 inhabitants continues to be agriculture. Olives and grape vines are cultivated and a few fisherman remain. Commercial fishing however is difficult these days because of the substantial over fishing of the Mediterranean Sea. Tourism is an important source of supplementary income and is likely to remain so.
At the east edge of the village, visible from a distance, there is a flat hill called Kastri(s). This hill gave Palaikastro its name in the Middle Ages, when Crete was ruled by the Republic of Venice. On its flat summit the Venetians established a fortress. In the course of the centuries the stones were cleared away and used by the people of the region to build houses.