Agios Nikolaos is a gem of a town situated beside the Gulf of Mirabello on the northeast coast of Crete. It is the second largest town in Lassithi Prefecture but has a cozy yet charming feeling of a small town. It is ideal for all travelers because it is home to all kinds of interests. Since it is less busy than major towns such as Heraklion and Chania, you can get the opportunity to do activities that are less touristy. Neighboring towns such as Elounda houses some of Crete’s most luxurious resorts.
History of Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos was inhabited in the late Bronze Age by Dorian occupants of Lato. It holds the ancient city of ‘Lato pros Kamara’ which was the main harbor of the city of ‘Lato pros Etera.’ ‘Lato pros Etera’ grew specifically in the Archaic and Classical Age, it served as the central port for commercial activities. ‘Lato pros Kamara’ flourished around 800-700 B.C. when it had power over its neighboring area. Agios Nikolaos unfolded after the fall of the Byzantine Empire when Crete was handed to the Venetians. It continued to be a port of significance even under the Venetians, who renamed it Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) after a church of the same name. In 1206, Enrico Pescatore established a fortress on top of a hill with a view of the gulf and called it ‘Mirabello’ meaning ‘beautiful view,’ and this is still used up till now to describe the whole region. Unfortunately, this fortress was ruined by the Ottomans.
Top 4 things to do in Agios Nikolaos:
1. Wander around Lake Voulismeni
Located right in the heart of the town, Lake Voulismeni is not to be missed. This sweetwater lake is set side by side to the sea. It is surrounded by steep rocky cliffs, cafes and restaurants.
The lake even becomes more impressive at night time when the surrounding rocky walls are lit up, reflecting the lively panorama across the water. There are lots of restaurants and cafes to choose from offering a nice view of the lake, some even situated on top of the rocky cliffs.
2. Get a glimpse into Cretan Village Life at Kritsa
Located 11km southwest of Agios Nikolaos, Kritsa is a great small village to visit if you want a taste of traditional Cretan life. This village is built on a rock hill, called Kastellos, enclosed by olive groves. Here you can see old Cretan houses and narrow walking paths, great for curious wanderers. Its main street is lined with small stores selling local crafts and goods, such as embroideries, ceramics, and leather products. There are also quaint cafes and tavernas with alfresco seating to complete your Cretan village experience.
3. Visit the Cretan Olive Farm
If you’re looking for an interactive activity, then head down to the Cretan Olive Farm. In here, you can get an insider overview as to how olive oil is made. A visit here includes a tour of the farm, where you can also learn about the process of olive farming. There are also activities that you can do with a fee, such as cooking lessons, cheese making and pottery class. This will surely make your trip worthwhile, especially for families and groups looking to bond together.
You can check them out here: https://www.cretanoliveoilfarm.com/
4. Visit the town’s best beaches
Tourists who visit Crete expect to be immersed in beautiful beaches, and Agios Nikolaos is also a great starting point to reach some of the most stunning beaches in Crete. Here we listed our top three beaches you can get to from Agios Nikolaos:
- Voulisma Beach
Located 15km away from Agios Nikolaos on the way to Sitia, Voulisma is a stunning scenery to add to your list during your stay. Shallow beach with crystal clear turquoise water, makes this a perfect spot for a dip. Voulisma has been certified with a Blue Flag for the quality of the beach. However, due to the popularity of this beach, it could get quite crowded so we recommend to walk far left of the main beach to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere.
- Kolokytha Beach
If you opt for a remote location, Kolokytha Beach is a great stop especially if you’re on the way to Elounda. This small lovely beach has crystal clear waters but with a view of the island of Spinalonga. Here you can experience less crowds but on the downside, there are no umbrellas or sunbeds.
- Almyros Beach
Just 2.5km south of Agios Nikolaos, Almyros Beach is the perfect beach for families. This long stretched beach is bordered by the Almiros River. Expect a sandy beach and shallow waters ideal for young children. There are options for water sports, sunbed rentals and food kiosks, so you could easily spend the whole day here.