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Vai

Itanos

A beautiful sandy beach surrounded by the palm tree forest, situated in a valley next to the ancient city of of Itanos. It is 28 km away from Sitia, 8 km from Palekastro and 6km from the monastery "Toplou". 
It covers 200 hectares and it consists of agrestal Phoenix Theofrasti palm trees. It is a unique in size forest, not only in Greece but also in Europe. 
Except in the beach of Vai, this type of palm tree is also found in units or clusters in other parts of Crete (Preveli, Aghios Nikitas, ect), in other islands of the north-east Aegean, in Cyprus and Turkey. 
There are many legends around the origin of the palm tree forest. It is said that it was created by the Phoenicians who, according to a theory, first inhabited the area of Itanos. According to other legends, the palm tree was created by the seeds of dates consumed by the Epyptian soldiers of Ptolemeos or of the King of Pontus, Mithridatis, who in the framework of alliances had settled in the area, or by Saracen pirates. Whatever the cause of its creation, the sure thing is that the palm tree forest of Vai is preserved by the dry and warm climate, as well as the underground water of the valley. Palm trees existed in Crete since antiquity, according to the testimonies of Theofrastos and Plinios and considering their representation on coins and vessels. Clusters of palm trees are also found at the beach of Itanos. Apart from palm trees, other kinds of African vegetation grow in the area, making it a place of unique biodiversity. 
The area is also a passage of migrating birds. The landscape is adorned with the pale lines on the horizon, the harmonious interchange of hills and lowlands, the vineyards and the olive plantations, the exotic colors and the dazzling light, while the existence of ancient cities and the "Toplou" monastery assign a unique historical and cultural importance to the region. Due to its unique value and beauty, Vai is protected by the Greek state, the European community and by international conventions.

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