The Monastery of Panagia Vriomeni (the Virgin) used to be one of the most important monastic centres of Ierapetra. Just like most monasteries in Crete, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
It is located in between Agios Nikolaos and Ierapetra with the Gulf of Mirabello on the northern side, the mountains of Thripti to the east and Lassithiotika Ori (or Dikti) to the west. The monastery is located on a hill, on the eastern side of a valley near the village of Messeleri. It was built before the 14th century, destroyed later, and then reconstructed in 1401. During the Cretan Revolution of 1866 the monastery was deserted. Partial restoration of the cells and the church began in 1990. It is currently not active but is open for services during its feast day on the 15th of August (Dekapentavgoustos) one of the most important Greek holidays.
The area offers itself to various excursions and is particularly suited to nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. Part of the E4 European long distance path crosses right outside the monastery, following a route towards the village of Vassiliki to the north and the equally impressive monastery of Faneromeni. Alternatively, you can move south towards Ierapetra and explore the southern coast and beaches. While in the area you may also want to catch a ferry to the island of Chryssi from Ierapetra. A great beach nearby is found in the coastal settlement of Gra Lygia that is slowly picking up in popularity but has retained its charming and laid back character. Further down the west coast, you will also find Myrtos that is of particular archaeological interest and has brought to light important findings from the Minoan period.
The Monastery of Panagia Vriomeni is located 24 km from Agios Nikolaos. A longer way to reach it that doesn’t follow the coastal road, will take you through the village of Kritsa, where you need to dine at a taverna and try the local cheeses.
*Please keep in mind that in all monasteries and churches in Crete you will have to cover your shoulders and legs to enter. Swimsuits, tank tops and shorts, or short skirts are not allowed. A loose scarf or towel can be used to cover up.