The remains of ancient Itanos are situated 27 km to the East of Sitia near Vai Palm Forest. The area is known as Erimoupoli or Ermoupoli.
The founding of Itanos can be traced back to the prehistoric era. Homer provides the first written evidence of the city existence. It was an important commercial hub on the trading routes between Europe and the Middle East and exported porphyry, sponges, glass and fish.
Itanos dominated the Eastern coast of the region of Sitia and its boundaries extended from the headland of Samonio (Kavo-Sidero) to the headland of Erithreo (Goudouras). The trading links established using products from its territories, combined with the income assured by the Priesthood of Zeus in Palaikastro, meant that the town became extremely rich, proof of which can be seen in the remains of many temples and luxurious marble dwellings.
Of historical interest of this period is a stone tablet built into the walls in the left side of the temple of the Monastery of Toplou, known as “Arbitration of Magnets”. This stone tablet inform us that the people of Itanos in their constant conflict with the people of Presos, requested the aid of Ptolemy Filomitora, King of Egypt, in 146 BC, who is recorded as having sent military forces including guards, in the territory of Itanos. This help sent by the King of Egypt combined with the fact that Presos became embroiled in a conflict with Ierapetra, put an end to their conflicts. However, the people of Itanos were not to know peace. A neighbouring war lord invaded Presos and Ierapetra and set his sights on Itanos. These conflicts continued up until 67 AD.
During the Roman era Itanos regained its dominance. The Romans allowed Itanos to mint its own coins and to take part in the Cretan parliament.
Today the visitor can wander through the ruins noting the remains of a large guard tower made from black stone to the west, the ancient Christian church on the east side, the Hellenistic settlement, two Christian churches at the foot of the hills leading to Vai and the cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The city was destroyed by the Byzantines but is believed to have been resettled in Venetian times.