Vai Palm Forest lies in the eastern Crete prefecture of Lasithi. It is 20km away from Sitia village and 6km from Palaikastro. Should you choose the East side of the island as your destination, one opportunity which should’t be missed is the chance of seeing ‘Vai”. This place is known not only for the forest, which is the biggest in Europe, but also for its bewitching sandy beach just 200m away. It consists of 5.000 palm trees and it has an area of 250acres.
If you are there you may hear legends told about the existence of Vai! Some say that Phoenicians seamen or Arabian pirates came here and threw the seeds from a type of fruit they ate resulting in Palm Trees blooming in their place.
Vai is one of the 19 aesthetics forests in Greece because it hosts the Endemic Cretan Palm Tree ‘Phoenix Theofrasti’(from Minoan ages) as we learn from ancient sources and especially as the greek writer Plinios said. This point of Crete favors the conditions for palm tree development because of its warm and dry climate and some existed brooks it has. The palm trees you see around Vai can only be found in some other parts of Crete (Preveli, Agios Nikitas), islands of the South Aegean, Cyprus and Turkey.
If you visit this place at the end of the summer you may have the chance to witness the migration of the birds while they are flying from Crete to Africa; along their journey they are pass by the palm tree forest.
Vai was discovered by hippies in 1970’ when they were excommunicated from Matala, they found this forest as their new shelter. In 1980 the whole area was declared as a protected zone because of its particular value and beauty and it is protected by the Greek State and the Europian Union.
The scenery becomes magical with the views of hills, lowlands, vineyards and olive groves on the slope. If you visit Toplou Monastery which is 6km away from Vai and some ancient towns you are bound to encounter a particular historical and cultural value and charm.