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Music & Culture

Traditional Music and Cultural Events

There the variety of music and the literal folk tradition is revealed. In every popular festival you will experience unknown emotions by taking part or watching the ancient local dances, the different kinds of live music, the Sitian “kontilies” (the mastery of the lyre) and “mantinades” the old or improvised folk Cretan couplets, traditions in which Sitians the born revellers are unrivalled. Usually simple or casual meetings of locals or foreigners turn out to become a party.


Cultural festival from the beginning of July until mid August. Events include concerts of music, dance and theatre, exhibitions of fine art and photography, talks and sports events (eg. “Kornarios ” road race, beach volley competition). Events take place outdoors in the Venetian fortress “Kazarma” and indoors at the “Polikendro”. Events are also organized in the villages, such as “Kazanemata” (raki festivals) and Klidonas. The Council of Sitia organizes these events in order to encourage the cultural development of Sitia and to provide foreign visitors with an opportunity to get to know the customs and traditions of Sitia.

Festival of Agia Ekaterini

Religious festival in honour of the patron saint of Sitia (St. Catherine) on 25 Nov. A road race around Sitia is traditionally organized after the event.

Corn Festival

A new event which takes place in June in the central square of Piskokefalo, with music and dancing.

“Despolo” Festival

Takes place in the central square of Tourloti in June. It includes music music concerts.

Maritime Week

Organized every two years in the last week of June. It includes boat racing and concerts of music and dance.

Village church festivals

The village festivals, which include traditional music and dance, take place every year on the following dates :

– St. Paraskevi 26/7 στη Ζiro and Agia Triada
– St. George 23/4 , in the ruins of the hamlet of Skalia, Sitanos
– St. Marina 17/7, Exo Mouliana and Mirsini.
– Prophet Ilias 20/7 Mesa Mouliana
– St. Panteleimona 27/7 Roussa Ekklisia, Hamezi, Schinokapsala.
– Metamorphoseos, 6/8, Exo Mouliana, Agio Stefano and Zakros.
– Panagia 15/8, Palekastro, Lastro, Piskokefalo, Tourloti, Sitanos.
– St. John 29/8 Ziros.
– Panagia 8/9 Lithines
– Holy Cross 14/9 Sfaka
– St. Sophia 17/9 Armenous
– St. Anna 9/12 Piskokefalo.
– Holy Trinity Palekastro and Agia Triada
– Holy Spirit Armenous

Sitia/Makrigialos/Itanos/Leyki Carnival

Organized every year on the last Sunday of Carnival, before the beginning of Lent.  Schools, clubs and societies all take part in the parade.

Traditional Music

Sitia is proud for its numerous traditional musicians that continue the region’s long music tradition. The rich Cretan music tradition has its roots in Greek antiquity and is greatly influenced by Byzantine music, but simultaneously it has been enriched by the music traditions of the wider Eastern Mediterranean. The Cretan music tradition begins with the birth of the greatest of the Gods, Zeus.

The Cretan music tradition is considered as one of the most vivid music traditions in Greece because, not only it continues to develop and to incorporate new creative musical elements, but also because it accomplished to express and comment on contemporary realities. Improvisation is one of the basic characteristics of Cretan music. Specifically, during the various feasts and festivals, the musicians do not limit themselves to the strict repetition of basic musical melodies, but they also enrich their music with improvisations that accompany the dancers in corresponding dancing improvisations.

Musical Instruments

The basic musical instruments of the traditional Cretan music are the lyra and the lute (“Laouto”). However, in the province of Sitia, as in western Crete, the use of violin instead of lyra is more common. In a lot of cases, a mandolin accompanies the lute and the lyra. The mandolin is also often used to sing serenades, the traditional love songs.

Wind instruments, such as the “hampioli” (Cretan flute) and “askomantoura” (the ancient “askaulos”) have an important place in the Cretan music tradition.


The basic Cretan dances are “Pentozalis” (which has its origins in the ancient dance “Pyrrihios”), “kastrinos pidixtos”, “sousta”, “siganos sirtos” and “haniotikos sirtos”. Cretan music and dancing form an integral part of weddings and christenings. These dances all have their local variations. Even in our days, traditional Cretan dances are very popular and most Cretans know how to dance. Cretan music and dancing form an integral part of weddings and christenings. The dancers form a circle and the first dancer (usually a man) has the opportunity to show his skills with impressive improvisations.

The songs

Traditional Cretan music includes primarily dancing rhythms. In a lot of cases, the music simply accompanies the songs, which are often rhythmic recitations of the Cretan poems-rimes “mantinades”, or serenades, that are often played at traditional feasts and festivals. The ease with which Cretan musicians compose the appropriate serenades for each occasion is proverbial. In Sitia, the Sitian “Kontylies” (lyra or violin playing skills) dominate and express in an exceptional manner the unique makeup of the Sitian people.

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