Ancient Lato

Exploring Ancient Lato: A Doric jewel among Cretan states

The ancient city of Lato was a prominent Doric city-state located in the Lassithi region of Crete. Situated on a hilltop overlooking Mirabello Bay, Lato was inhabited from the late Bronze Age until the 7th century AD and was one of the most significant city-states in ancient Crete.

A City of Enduring Legacy

The ancient city of Lato, was named after the goddess Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, but the most important goddess of the city was Eileithyia, who was also depicted in the city’s currency.

Its strategic location, perched atop a hill north of the village of Kritsa, was no accident. It provided a natural fortification, allowing the city to control the surrounding area and the pass leading from central to eastern Crete.

The magnificent views from the hilltop encompass Mirabello Bay, with the modern town of Agios Nikolaos sparkling in the distance.

The port of Lato was named Kamara and was located at the current location of Agios Nikolaos. Kamara, like most coastal cities on Crete, took the lead from its mother-town Lato in the third and second centuries BC when maritime trade expanded, which led to the gradual abandonment of the hilltop city.

Lato was the birthplace of Nearchos, the admiral of Alexander the Great. Before the end of the 3rd century B.C., the inhabitants of Lato participated in the League of the Cretan Cities and shared the same laws.

It made many alliances with Rhodes, Teos, and King Eumenes of Pergamon.

However, it was in continuous conflict with the neighbouring city of Olous over the arrangement of the borders between them. In the second century BC, Lato raided the neighboring town of Istron (modern-day Kalo Chorio) and fought alongside Hierapytna and Olous (modern-day Elounda) to secure its borders.

Finally, it was attacked shortly thereafter by the Romans, whose presence did not appear to be particularly powerful.

A Walk Through Time

The ancient city of Lato was well fortified both naturally (it was built between two hills) and with walls.

The city walls are also visible and survived largely intact, despite their impressive height. In ancient times, sturdy towers would have been present between them.

About 100 meters past the ticket gate, you enter the site through the city gate, where a long, stepped roadway leads up to the agora (marketplace), passing a wall with two towers, homes, and buildings that housed shops and workshops.

At the top of the steps, as you approach the agora, you’ll notice the remains of a colonnaded portico (stoa).

Next to it, there are the ruins of a rectangular temple where many 6th-century BC figurines were discovered.

The deep ditch to the left of the temple served as Lato’s public cistern.

Behind it, a grand staircase leads to the Prytaneion (administrative center). At its centre, a hearth that burned 24/7 was surrounded by stepped benches where the city leaders held their meetings.

Climbing the slope south of the agora, you will find yourselves on a terrace with another sanctuary and a three-step altar.

The views of the entire site are stunning from here. To your right (east), you can see a theater area with seating for around 350 people on stone benches cut into the rock and an exedra (open portico with seats).

Ancient Lato: Prytaneion
Ancient Lato: Prytaneion
Ancient Lato: Temple
Ancient Lato: Temple

Additional informations for the site

11 kms from Agios Nikolaos.

Usually visitors stay in this area up to 1 hour.

Tickets: Adults 3€, Reduced 2€

Summer 08:30-15:30 closed on Tuesdays and Major Holidays

Winter 08:30 - 15:30 closed on Tuesdays and Major Holidays

No available W.C.

Unfortunately there are no infrastructures for the handicap.

Phone Number: +30 28410 22462, +30 28410 28361 & +30 28410 90511

No Available Wi - Fi.

How to Get There

There are three main ways to get to Ancient Lato:

By car: 

Lato is easily accessible by car from both Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion. The drive from Agios Nikolaos is about 20 minutes, while the drive from Heraklion is about an hour and a half. There is a parking lot located near the entrance to the archaeological site.

By bus:

There are no buses to Lato. The nearest stop is in Kritsa Village.
Public buses run from Agios Nikolaos to Kritsa several times a day. From Kritsa, you can take a taxi to Lato or a 3-kilometer walk north. The site is off Kritsa–Lakonion Rd. The bus ride is relatively inexpensive, but the taxi ride will be more expensive.

By taxi:

Taxis are readily available in both Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion. A taxi ride to Lato from either town will be more expensive than taking the bus, but it is a more convenient option if you are not comfortable driving or don’t have access to a car. We can’t be sure about the cost.


Today, Lato is a fascinating open-air museum, meticulously excavated and offering a window into ancient Cretan life. The well-preserved ruins, informative signage, and breathtaking panoramas make Lato a must-visit for history buffs and anyone seeking a unique cultural experience in Crete. So, if you find yourself in eastern Crete, take a step back in time and explore the captivating ruins of Lato. This ancient city, with its rich history and stunning setting, promises an unforgettable adventure. 


Plan Your Visit!
Plan your visit according to the archaeological site's opening hours. There's usually an entrance fee, so check ticket prices beforehand.
Comfortable Footwear!
Wear comfortable shoes with good grip for navigating uneven terrain. Opt for loose, breathable clothing suitable for the warm climate.
Sun Protection & Hydration!
There are no facilities at the site premises, so it will be a good idea to pack with you water to stay hydrated and maybe some snacks for energy. Also, if your visit is during the summer, we advise you to apply sunblock often!
Consider a guide!
For a more in-depth experience, join a guided tour. Local guides can provide fascinating insights and bring the ruins to life with storytelling.
Combine your visit with Kritsa!
The charming village of Kritsa is a short drive from Lato. Explore its traditional houses, narrow streets, and local shops before or after your visit to the ruins.
Respect the Site!
As with any historical site, it's important to be respectful. Avoid climbing on structures or removing any artifacts.

Destinations near Ancient lato

More options for nearby locations to plan your vacations better!


post a comment