Agios Nikolaos in Crete – A fashionable resort with an ancient history
Agios Nikolaos, Crete is a cozy and very colorful town located at the eastern tip of the island. Thanks to the unique Mediterranean atmosphere, the wonderful views and the plethora of attractions, it is a favorite destination for tourists. We can join them in a short virtual excursion through one of the most famous resorts in Greece.
The town of Agios Nikolaos is the administrative center of Lassithi region, located 62km from Heraklion, on the picturesque bay of Mirabello. Because of its bustle and abundance of buildings, which are not typical of Greece, it is often compared to Saint-Tropez of France. However, Agios Nikolaos has not always been a popular resort area. Its history started with an unremarkable fortress, which was destroyed and rebuilt several times during the long years of its existence. Not only that, in a certain period, the ancient settlement, which emerged next to the fort, finally fell into decay, and over time was abandoned by local residents. The only place in which any life survived was the seaport.
Since then, many years had passed during which the ancient settlement was gradually restored and it became one of the most important localities of Crete. Even though in 1881 its population was just over 90, by the end of the 20th century it was not only the capital of Lassithi Nomad but also a luxurious resort, with a lot of life round the clock.
What to see in Agios Nikolaos?
The sights of Agios Nikolaos in Crete in Greece include a fairly large number of natural and architectural sites. Today we will take a look at only a few of them.
The Voulismeni Lake, which is located right in the heart of the city, can be called a landmark not only of Agios Nikolaos, but of the whole Crete. Having a volcanic origin, it is quite deep and almost perfectly round. Around the water are the huge rocks, the fishermen’s houses and the small Greek taverns, where you can taste the local specialties. Seafood and fresh fish, bought from local merchants, are especially in demand.
Along the entire coastline of Voulismeni you can see beautiful wooden boats, designed for romantic walks. In the evening, many lights are lit on them, which makes the lake seem to glow from within. Currently, between the sea and Vulismeni lies a narrow canal, so the water in it mixes and remains fresh only at great depths. Across it is a beautiful bridge, on which tourists who come here like to be photographed.
And there are many legends associated with this attraction. According to one of them, the supreme goddesses of Greek mythology – Athena and Aphrodite once swam in its waters. According to the second legend, the reservoir has no bottom at all. But we have to doubt the veracity of the latter statement, because during World War II, a lot of German equipment sank in its abysses. They say it still lies at a depth of 64 meters.
If you look carefully at the photos of Agios Nikolaos in Greece, which decorate the tourist avenues, you will notice another important landmark of this resort. We are talking about the “Kidnapping of Europe”, an unusual sculpture that stands in the middle of the city waterfront.
The appearance of this statue completely corresponds to an old legend, which tells how the supreme god Zeus turned into a white bull, kidnapped the beautiful Europa and took her to the island of Crete, where they had three sons. However, it is not all so simple! Nikos Koundouros, the famous Greek director and author of this ten-meter sculpture, claims to have given it a completely different meaning. He not only presented one of the largest parts of the world as a young woman, but also put in her hands a staff of heralds, capable of reconciling the warring parties and serving as a kind of threshold between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death.
Another popular attraction of Agios Nikolaos on Crete is the island of Spinalonga, where most of the tourist routes lead.
The main highlight of this place is considered to be the massive defensive fortress, which was built in the middle of the 16th century and survived until today.
Excursion to Spinalonga takes about 10 hours. It includes not only a tour of the fort, but also a walk through the reserve. As a bonus are the many myths and legends associated with the history of this fort. Learn about them in this article.
The tour of Agios Nikolaos in Greece (Crete) involves a visit to another memorable place – the ruins of Doric village Lato, which can be found 15 km from the resort area near the village of Kritsa. Once it was one of the most important island settlements. Built in the 7th century BC, Lato produced its own money and had a large trading port. It was also the birthplace of Nearchus, the friend and battle buddy of A. Macedonian.
Despite the fact that in 200 BC the settlement was almost completely destroyed, its harbor continued to be actively used, first by the Romans and then by the Byzantines and Venetians. This resulted in the modern town of Agios Nikolaos.
The first excavations in Lato started in 1898. French archaeologists discovered the ruins of the main gate, the staircase leading to the sanctuary and the remains of the rock foundations from which scientists were able to reconstruct the layout of the ancient city. Today the location of residential buildings, the main temple, workshops and antique theater was established.
- Entrance to the historical site is open from 08:30 to 14:30.
- The price of admission is about 2 €.
Advertising photos of Agios Nikolaos in Crete, Greece, often feature images of another local landmark, the Panagheia Kera Church, considered the most famous Byzantine architectural monument on the island. The Cathedral of the Assumption, built in the 13th century and surrounded by an olive grove, is located 20 km from the city.
The main attraction of the site are the authentic frescos from the 13th-14th century depicting religious scenes and the icon of the Virgin Mary that can heal various ailments. It is to this icon that many pilgrims come, wishing to beg God for health for themselves and their loved ones.
- The temple is open from 08:30 till 15:00.
- The price of the entrance ticket is 2 €.
- You can get here by bus, which runs between Agios Nikolaos and Kritsa every 2 hours. The last return trip is at 20:15.
The list of the main attractions of Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete (Greece) is completed by the olive oil farm located near the Mirabello Hotel. Here you can see the unusual press, developed more than 130 years ago, learn all about the technology of making the main Greek product and buy any goods produced by the farm. Also on the farm there is a pottery workshop where every tourist over the age of five can make his own pot and take it away with him.
The resort of Agios Nikolaos in Greece has several public beaches equipped with everything you need for a good holiday – restaurants, cafes, water fun rentals, as well as separate areas with playgrounds and small pools. You don’t have to pay for the entrance – you are charged only for renting the deck chairs and umbrellas. It should also be noted that all the beaches are crowded, so if you are looking for a quieter place, go to one of the neighboring villages.
The beaches themselves are clean and most are surrounded by hotels, where you can play tennis, mini golf, basketball and soccer. In addition, some of them have tall trees that provide natural shade.
Here is an overview of the most popular beaches of Agios Nikolaos.
A beautiful place, with a winding coastline and a picturesque landscape. The water here is clean and clear, and the sea is warm and calm. In the distance you can see the outlines of the city buildings, combining elements of antiquity and modern life. And the beaches of the bay are not as crowded as others.
Almyros Beach, 2 km north of the center, is a favorite destination not only for visitors, but also for locals. The beach is large and crowded. Because of the proximity to the cold mountain river, the water here can be quite cool, but in the heat it is not so bad.Next to the beach there is a tropical forest, in the shade of which you can also take shelter from the sun.
Another feature of Almiros is a long coastline covered with fine sand. The water entry is shallow, and the infrastructure is well developed. You can get here on foot or by car. To get here you must follow the road that runs parallel to the rocky coast.
The list of the best beaches of Agios Nikolaos in Crete in Greece continues with Voulisma Beach, located 12 km from the city (east side of the resort). The azure sea, the wide coastline, the golden sand and the availability of basic infrastructure have made it a good place for a beach holiday. Vulisma is well equipped – in addition to sunbeds, umbrellas, changing rooms, toilets and showers there is a tavern, a small bar and its own parking lot.
Ammoudi is located within the city limits in a small and quiet bay with bright green water. The beach is sandy and the entrance is shallow. The infrastructure of Ammoudi Beach includes all the basic elements, the most important of which is the scuba diving center. Thanks to the rocky seabed this area is perfect for snorkeling, diving and other water sports.
Those who want to eat and hide from the hot sun of Greece will find tall tamarisk trees and numerous cafes offering Mediterranean cuisine. The path that leads to the neighboring hotel leads to the most ancient landmark of Crete, the chapel of St. Nicholas, after whom Agios Nikolaos is named.
Kitroplatia, whose name comes from the Greek word for citrus, is considered the most important beach of Agios Nikolaos resort in Crete, Greece. It is a 10 minute walk from the main square, on the site of former citrus groves, which were cleared because of low yields. Municipal Beach Kitroplatia is famous not only for its well-developed infrastructure, but also for the exciting night parties.
The surface of Kitroplatia is made up of fine pebbles. The entrance to the water is comfortable, but the depth increases quickly enough. On the territory there are umbrellas, sun loungers, sports equipment rental, changing room, free showers, several cafes and bars. It itself is not too big, and there are a lot of people on it, so it is better to come here in the morning.
On a side note! The beaches of Agios Nikolaos in Greece have been awarded several times with the blue flag of Europe for their cleanliness and good quality.
As one of the most visited resorts in Greece, Agios Nikolaos in Crete offers a wide range of accommodation for all tastes and budgets. The most booked hotels are:
– The popular resort hotel, located 2 km from the city center. It has a salt water pool, spa, landscaped garden, and a separate beach area where you can do a variety of sports. The rating on booking.com is 8.9. The daily rate for a double room is 330€; Double Room at Minos Palace Hotel is a comfortable hotel located in close proximity to Kitroplataea. The room stock consists of spacious apartments and cozy studios, from the windows of which you can see the mountains of Sitia and the Gulf of Mirabello. The rating on booking.com is 9.3. The daily rate for a double room is €120; – A luxury hotel built right on the sea’s edge. There is free parking, its own park, outdoor swimming pool, and a health and beauty center. But the main attraction of the hotel are considered to be the art gallery and the nearby promenade. The rating on booking.com is 9.2. The cost of a daily stay in a double room is 280 €.
On a side note! The oldest hotels of Agios Nikolaos are located on Eleftheria Square and the newer and modern hotels are located in the central part of the resort and along the coast. Almost all the buildings are decorated in the Greek style (blue-and-white palette and low walls), so that you can recognize them without much difficulty.
Weather and climate – when is the best time to visit?
Thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate and the high mountains, which protect the town from the north winds, the weather in Agios Nikolaos is always warm. The hottest days (+30°C) are in August and the coldest (+12-15°C during the day and +9°C at night) are during the winter months.
Even at the beginning of May the water temperature at the resort is +22 ° C and gradually increases to +25-28 ° C.
The only unfavorable period for a holiday at the resort is December. At this time there comes the rainy season, which plunges the city into a state of repose and does not allow you to enjoy sightseeing.
How to reach Agios Nikolaos from Heraklion Airport?
There are several ways to get to Agios Nikolaos on Crete from Heraklion Airport. Let’s look at each of them.
Comfortable air-conditioned buses run regularly between the airport and the resort area from 13.00 to 23.15. The trip takes about 1.5 hours. One way ticket costs 7,7 €. The interval of departures is from 15 minutes to half an hour.
The departure point and detailed schedule of the buses can be found on the official website of the carrier – www.ktelherlas.gr/en.
A cab will cost about 100€, but some cab drivers are willing to haggle. You can also hail a taxi on the spot or reserve one online in advance. You will have to pay about the same for ordering a transfer to the hotel.
Deciding to get acquainted with the sights of the resort of Agios Nikolaos in Greece, take note of the recommendations of experienced travelers:
- Many streets of the resort have the same names. A map or navigator will help you figure them out.
- Do not refuse treats offered by locals – it will offend them.
- The accident rate on the roads is quite high, so tourists who have decided to rent a car, should be careful.
- The main part of boutiques, jewelry shops, as well as souvenir and antique shops are located on the 28th October street.
- Do not postpone shopping on Sunday. On this day most retail outlets are not working.
- When you go to the store to take cash – so you can bargain and slightly lower the price. If you pay by credit card you will not have this opportunity.
- The best nightclubs and discos in the city are located on the 25th of March and Josef Kunduros streets. The fun doesn’t stop here until the morning.
- Sea urchins are often found on the shores of Mirabella Bay – don’t forget to bring special beach shoes.
- In summer, Agios Nikolaos hosts the Lato Festival, which brings together singers, actors and artists from all over the world.
- Never criticize Greece in the presence of the Greeks themselves – it can lead to scandal.
- It is customary to tip cab drivers and employees of local establishments. Their amount is 10-15% of the bill.
- In the Greek temples can not enter in the beach footwear and open clothing. And women should also cover their heads with a scarf.
Agios Nikolaos, Crete is truly a wonderful place, capable of giving an unforgettable vacation. Have a wonderful vacation!
A little video about the trip to Agios Nikolaos.
Author: Olga Sheiko
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Agios Nikolaos (aka Agios Nikolaos) has become famous in Crete as the local St. Tropez. It is one of the most comfortable resorts in the country, known for its busy nightlife. Interestingly, during the day this town is drowsy, but by night, the accumulated energy bursts out. With the onset of darkness comes the time of adventure, which is possible only at this time of day, landmark meetings, incendiary entertainment.
In this, a parallel can be drawn with the history of Agios Nikolaos. Originally it was built as a refuge: the people of Crete fled here from the oppression of the Turks. There was always a heavy atmosphere and the clouds hung over the settlement. But the Greeks are a merry people, and nothing can make them sink into despondency. So they turned the originally gloomy town into a famous outside Greece prestigious resort.
Standing on the Gulf of Mirabello, whose name speaks for itself (from the Italian for “bay with a beautiful view”), Agios Nikolaos magnetically attracts visitors from all over the world, with different tastes and preferences. Tourism here is developing by leaps and bounds, and the ever-improving infrastructure is only a spectacular addition to the pristine beauty of the resort. The turquoise waters of the bay, the crystal clear sands of the beaches and the mild climate turn Agios Nikolaos into an ideal holiday destination.
The climate of Agios Nikolaos
The Mediterranean climate of Agios Nikolaos shows its charms. The weather in Agios Nikolaos is always warm: the reliable mountains do not let in the cold north winds. August is the hottest month of the year: it can reach up to 35 degrees Celsius. Even during the “cold” winter nights, the thermometer will not show less than +11 degrees. The sea in Agios Nikolaos heats up to +22 degrees as early as May, and by the summer – up to +25 degrees. The rainy season starts in December and the sun is not shining so often. The city at this time of the day “sleeps”, and the activity is manifested in the evening. In general, the climate of the city is considered healthy; even the heat here is quite gentle.
The sights of Agios Nikolaos
It is worth starting a tour of this city with the Gulf of Mirabello. It was admired by seafarers more than a thousand years ago, but until now this amazing place has not lost its beauty. The enchanting curve of the coastlines divides the picturesque landscape into several zones. In the distance you can see the silhouette of the town, formed by an extraordinary combination of ancient architecture and modern buildings.
Inside Agios Nikolaos itself you won’t find many ancient monuments. Only the main church of the town, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the temple of Panagia Vrefotrofou, still retain traces of the influence of Byzantine culture.
You can see the ensemble of the city from the observation deck on the west side of Lake Voulismeni. But it’s better to walk through the streets, as it’s the only way to feel the uniqueness of the local terrain. Be prepared that a walk will turn you into a real athlete – you’ll go up and down, because Agios Nikolaos is far from being on a plain. Boat excursions are also very common, from the beautiful coastline, to the many coves, the towering mountains that rise out of the sea and the beautiful underwater archipelago. For those who are fond of photography, this city will be a real source of inspiration and a treasure trove of unusual shots.
For swimming, it is better to go outside Agios Nikolaos: in the east there are particularly attractive and comfortable beaches, where the sea is always calm and disposed to a measured relaxation. Even the most crowded beaches are always kept clean. Adventurers can go in search of the sunken city of Olus. Excursions to it are mostly underwater: after an earthquake in the second century, the city was almost completely submerged. Archaeologists learned about its history from the coins they found, which, like many other local relics, are kept in the Archaeological Museum.
It is impossible to walk through the town without paying attention to the islet of Ayia Pandes, a famous nature reserve, where they try to preserve the population of wild Cretan goats – Cri-Cri.
A legend brought to life
There are several interesting legends associated with the city of Agios Nikolaos. The island of Crete is considered the birthplace of Zeus, and in Agios Nikolaos there is a cave where the thunderer was born. And let the paganism has long ago disappeared into oblivion, this same cave still attracts people who like to get in touch with the antiquity and plunge into the mysteries of Greek mythology.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, also made her mark in this city. According to tradition, she was attracted by the lake Voulismeni, around which Agios Nikolaos was built – the goddess loved to take baths here. The lake is still considered a geological phenomenon. This freshwater body of water is striking for its perfect shape. It has the shape of a regular circle with a diameter of 137 meters. When a canal was dug in the 19th century to connect the lake to the sea the upper layers (about 30 meters) became saline, but the lower 34 meters were not affected. Until the middle of the last century, Voulismeni was considered bottomless, until the locals dumped there military equipment, and underwater explorers discovered it, and at the same time the bottom of this deep lake.
Entertainment in Agios Nikolaos
The main attractions of Agios Nikolaos as a Greek Saint-Tropez are its nightclubs and discos. You can find them both directly in the city and on the water. In the first case, the most noteworthy are St. Joseph Koundouros Street, where the most establishments for those who like to dance the night away, and 25th of March Street, which gathers the lovers of midnight dinners in cafes and bars. As for partying on the water, there are ships that ply between Crete and Spinalonga. For lovers of a more sophisticated pastime, there are restaurants with live music. Dinner in a restaurant on the pier will be especially romantic. National music can often be heard on the streets.
In the taverns you can feel all the friendliness, cheerful disposition and hospitality of the Greeks. Locals easily sit at the same table with tourists and enjoy the wonders of national cuisine. The crowds are varied: from super-crowded groups who can’t wait for the disco to romantic couples looking for an exhilarating evening and seafood lovers looking for a delicious seafood plate to enjoy the scenery.
At the height of the tourist season, the cultural program in Agios Nikolaos becomes quite intense. World-class celebrities drop by, and famous theater troupes give performances. The annual cultural festival “Lato” allows visitors to learn more about the Cretan folk arts and crafts. There are art exhibitions, local dance workshops, film screenings, and artistic swimming competitions.
Lovers of outdoor activities in Agios Nikolaos will certainly not sit idly by. Sea sports centers, badminton and tennis courts, squash courts and golf courses will welcome them.
Shopaholics will also be pleased with the many different formats of stores – from small grocery stores, which will soon become a thing of the past, to huge supermarkets. The stores range from everyday essentials to chic delicacies. The fashion boutiques of Agios Nikolaos also abound. You can buy clothes of famous European brands or something of the national attire. A good hostess will be delighted by the stores of Greek tableware, which will be a decoration of any table.
We should not forget that Greece is a country of museums, and in Agios Nikolaos is the second most popular Archaeological Museum of Crete. It tells the history of the island from the Minoan civilization to the early Middle Ages. Some of its exhibits date back to 3000 B.C. The “Goddess of Myrtos” vessel, which is a replica of a woman’s waist, or the skull of a man with a laurel wreath, are worth seeing.
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