The Pediadha, as this region is known, is hilly farm country with the occasional village-away from the tourist hordes on the coast. Having your own car helps to see this area as public transport is limited.
Kastelli , to the south of Old Hersonissos (on main road just west of Hersonissos), is the main town in this region. Not an exciting place, the countryside around it is what draws one there with its narrow roads and their old oak and plane trees. There are smaller villages too, with frescoed medieval churches.
Some of these are Aghios Pandheleimon, near Piyi on a dirt road to the north of Kastelli. Ancient oak trees shade the church and there is a spring. A small taverna where locals hang out completes the pleasure of a side trip here. You may or may not find someone with a key, but if you do, you'll find this 13th century church interesting structurally. There is an aqueduct nearby that brought water to the ancient city. The 15th century church Isodhia Theokton has Byzantine frescoes, and is near the village of Sklaverohori to the west of Kastelli. Again to the west, on a side road past Apostoli is the Moni Angarathou, a monastery church with surrounding buildings from the 16th century, though the church itself was built during the 19th century. There is a courtyard with cypresses, palms and orange trees. Other churches in the area include Aghios Yioryios at Ksidhas (also known as Lyttos), 3 km/1.86 miles east of Kastelli. Lyttos was an important city in Classical times, was destroyed by Knossos, its rival, in 220 BC., but came to life again with the Romans and survived up to Byzantine times. The largest Roman theatre on the island of Crete may have been here.
The inland route towards Lasithi (the plateau in the easternmost Cretan province of that name) passes through lovely, increasingly mountainous scenery as one approaches the plateau. Large-canopied trees and old churches abound. Following the coast road east from Iraklio, you can turn inland toward Kastelli and then go east towards Potamies and Gonies through the Aposelemis valley. Near Potamies is the Byzantine chapel of Sotiros Christos (locked, unfortunately), and after this on a side road the 10th century monastery of Panayia Gouverniotissa (Assumption of the Virgin). There are huge ovens here where bread was baked for the monastery; a chapel and garden. Inside are 14th century frescoes. More frescoes are found in three churches farther on, in Avdhou.
Another approach to Lassithi is inland from Stalidha on the road to Mohos (reached alternatively either from Malia or from the east, from Aghios Nikolaos or from Neapoli). There is a big festival in Mohos on 15 August every year (dhekapendavgousto-one of the most important religious Greek holy-days). There is a nice leafy square in this town with cafes and tavernas, and a shrine to the Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme, murdered in Stockholm in 1986. It was his summer vacation house that was made into a shrine for him.