Agios Nikolaos Island of Crete
(or Aghios Nikolaos, Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος) is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the years 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, including the surrounding villages, consists of around 19,000 inhabitants. The town is a municipality of Crete region, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato to Kamara
History of Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos was founded in the late Bronze Age by Dorian occupants of Lato, at a time when the security of the fortress of Lato had become a minor concern and the access to the harbour of Agios Nikolaos had become sufficiently attractive.
The name Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicolas, and its intonation lies on the second syllable of the word "Nikolaos". Agios Nikolaos or Ayios Nikolaos (alternative transliterations of the Greek Άγιος Νικόλαος) is observably a common place name in Greece and Cyprus, since Saint Nicholas is the main saint of sailors around Greece.
Lake Voulismeni (Greek: Λίμνη Βουλισμένη, Límni Voulisméni) is a former sweet water small lake, later connected to the sea, located at the center of the town of Agios Nikolaos on the Greek island of Crete. It has a circular shape, with diameter 137 m and depth 64 m. The locals refer to it as just "the lake". The lake connects to the harbor of the town by a channel dug in 1870. A panoramic view of the lake can be seen from a small park situated above it.
According to legend, the goddess Athena was bathing in it. Every year at midnight turning to Orthodox Christian Easter day, the majority of the population of the town gathers around the lake to celebrate with fireworks and firecrackers thrown by the people attending that highlight event.
It was reported that the German army during their withdrawal from the area at WW2, disposed parts of their weaponry and/or vehicles into the deep lake.
A local urban legend claims that the lake is bottomless. That notion is potentially based on its impressively disproportional high depth compared to its width (64m depth on only 134m width) or/and on locals noticing disturbances at the surface or also at the level of the water during the Santorini (Thera) earthquake of 1956. Because of the latter, many assume a possible geological relation between the two locations, but this claim has not been substantiated by known scientific surveys to date.
Modern Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lagoon “Lake Voulismeni”, small beaches in the town, the tiny island of Agioi Pantes, the archaeological museum, the local floral exhibition “Iris” and numerous fairs. Tourism is mainly West European, with Greek tourism concentrating in mid-August. In the lagoon features a small park with a trail, traditional fishing boats, ducks, pigeons, an amphitheater and many cafés. Recently the town became host to a department of a Technological Educational Institute (TEI), offering tourism-related courses.
Agios Nikolaos dominates the beautiful Merabello Bay, on the northeast coast of Lassithi Prefecture of East Crete.
The municipality of Agios Nikolaos was formed at a 2011 local government reform by the merge of the following 3 former municipalities that became municipal units:
- Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is accessible from the mainland and the whole of Europe through Nikos Kazantzakis airport, and the many daily ferry services to Heraklion (64km). You can also travel through Sitia airport boarding onto a domestic or charter flight or through its harbour (67 km).
By Ferry: Major ferry lines operate to the port of Heraklion, connecting with bus services at the main bus station near the port. Ferries run directly to the town via LANE lines from Pireaus and Rhodes. Frequent ferry lines operate to the port of Sitia as well.
Elounda, Kritsa, Sitia, Heraklion (and from there, Knossos), Mallia and Hersonissos are easily accessed with a regular bus service which is very good value.
Scooters: Readily available. Wearing of crash helmets is compulsory. Do not ruin your holiday by receiving a large fine.
Quads: Not designed for use on road. Cause traffic congestion and impatience leading to many accidents and occasional deaths. Think very carefully before hiring one and using it on the road.
Car Hire: You will not normally need a 4 x 4 to access roads, most of which are sealed. Some places and rental properties are less accessible. Beware of damage to the underside of the hired car on rough tracks.
Taxis: Excellent value and condition. Large, clean and air-conditioned Mercedes. Most drivers can communicate in basic English and have none of the bad habits of many Med taxi drivers (loud local music, smoking en route etc).
There are boat trips up the coast to see Barbarossa's cave and the old leper colony (formerly a Venetian fortress) of Spinalonga, which are fascinating and amazing sights (doesn’t cost more than 10 euros) and usually include an ocean swim.
Things to do:
Agios Nikolaos is ideal for everyone, young and old, singles, couples and families, explorers and those who would rather spend their holidays on the beaches of Agios Nikolaos and other places nearby, such as Elounda to the north or Ammoudara and Istron to the south.
Tourist development almost disappears away from the coast, with the exception of Kritsa, a village whose traditional atmosphere draws large numbers of visitors.
This means that there are many opportunities for people who come to Agios Nikolaos on holiday wanting to explore non-tourist areas of East Crete, either by rented car or on organized daytrips.
Go to Almyros beach, a long sandy beach with a cold water stream entering the sea at the southern end. Perfect for a cooling paddle, if the temperature is high. About 20 minutes’ walk from the town center but worths every step! Alternatively, a taxi from the town center will only cost about €8.
If it is windy, consider a pebble beach rather than a sand beach.
Shopping. Buy locally produced fruit and vegetables at the market. The tomatoes are superb.
Thyme honey. The bees here take the pollen from thyme and the subtle flavor is transferred to the honey.
Eating out. There is a great variety of restaurants and taverns in the town, ranging from the small and friendly "Grigoris" to the superb "Mediterraneo" on the harbor.
Meze restaurants worth visiting are "Barko" which provides a modern slant on traditional dishes and "Chyssofillis" on Kitroplatia. Just around the corner is "9 Muses", a modern restaurant /cafe bar which is popular to local residents. The recently opened "Piato" near Ammoudi beach is an excellent contemporary meze restaurant. Near the taxi rank by tourist information is "Embassy".
For more northern European tastes, "Obelix" is a Dutch operated restaurant near Ammoudi beach which serves large portions with a daily special for variety.
Psaraki (Ψαρακι), Lake Voulismeni, ☎ 28410-24025. 10am - 2:45 am. Opened in 2009, Psaraki is considered as one of Agios Nikolaos top new restaurants. Modern & minimalist style, Mediterranean-New Hellenic cuisine, extensive wine list and authentic & perfect cocktails.
Drink. Modern cafe bars on the right of the harbor include "Molto" and "En Plo". Yiannis Rock Bar is an institution and was formerly a must for rock stars such as Ozzie Osbourne, U2 and Jimmy Page.
"Puerto" is popular with the young locals and 25th March Street (25 Martiou) is busy at weekends with many of the local student population. Don't be misled by old tales about this street being the hub of the night life for tourists. It is entirely "Greek" and if you don't want to hear modern Greek music you will be in the wrong place.
The bars that have survived from alterations in tourist tastes over the last few years include "Aquarius", "Sorrento" and "Alexandros". The first two are "British" style tourist bars and the latter is a rooftop garden bar which has a small dance floor. Also Toedeledokie Bar-Cafe is 14 years open, situated in between Coral and Hermes Hotel, candle light and good music, a perfect place to meet friends.
If you enjoy sport coverage, the small but friendly "Sky Bar" is near to the Marina.
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