Agios Nikolaos is a cozy and picturesque town on the eastern end of the island right on the shores of Mirabello Bay. At least once, anyone interested in resting in Crete heard or met this name–Mirabello. It comes from the Italian word “mirabile”, which means “wonderful”.
The bay has bright turquoise water. Its entire coastal line is indented by inlets, forming wide or small beaches hidden from view behind the rocks. The bay with this romantic name, given to it by Venetians for its stunning views, is one of the most charming places on the island.
Due to the bustle of the resort and a large number of old buildings, uncharacteristic for Greece, tourists with a habit of assigning labels to the vibrant resorts of the world constantly compare Agios Nikolaos with Saint-Tropez in France and draw parallels between the French Riviera and the Cretan coast.
Life in Agios Nikolaos continues around the clock. Those who get tired of a beach holiday can walk through boutiques and souvenir shops during the day. Towards evening, when the sun begins to hide behind the horizon, Agios Nikolaos literally wakes up. The lights of numerous cafes and restaurants, discos and nightclubs, where many visitors always gather, are flashing. It is possible that at one of the parties you will unexpectedly meet a world celebrity: movie and show business stars love to relax here because only 15 minutes drive from Agios Nikolaos is Elounda–a favorite vacation spot for the elite. Helipads, green golf courses, well-maintained tennis courts, private swimming pools, pristine beaches with white sand and azure sea, luxury hotels are hidden from prying eyes. In the eyes of ordinary travelers, the stay of guests in the elite part of the Elounda resort is accompanied by the highest class service, which is offered at an exorbitant cost.
During the summer season, Agios Nikolaos hosts several festivals, the most famous of which is the Lato cultural festival in July and August, with concerts by local and foreign musicians, folk dances, theater performances, art exhibitions, and competitions.
Whatever preferences travelers have, when choosing a resort in Crete, the town and its surroundings are considered as a wonderful island’s corner for both vacation and sightseeing.
What to see in Agios Nikolaos
The hallmark of the city is the freshwater lake Voulismeni, which is connected to the sea by a small canal. According to ancient myths, even the goddesses Athena and Artemis enjoyed the coolness in the waters of Voulismeni.
The lake right in the heart of the city is a landmark not only of Agios Nikolaos but of all of Crete. Having a natural origin, it has a fairly large depth and an almost perfect round shape. On the northern shore of the lake are high cliffs of reddish color, and on the opposite side there are small hotels, cafes, restaurants and traditional Greek taverns offering national dishes. The most popular are seafood and fresh fish purchased from local fishermen.
You can see a part of the old town from the observation deck on the western side of Lake Voulismeni, but it’s better to walk along the surrounding streets: only in this way you will feel the uniqueness of the local relief. The city is built on hills, and a large number of staircases are its characteristic feature. Be prepared to a not easy walk: you will often go up and down.
There are not many ancient monuments inside Agios Nikolaos itself but are many old Venetian buildings and churches on the streets.
We recommend you to visit the Municipal Archaeological Museum, which houses the second largest exhibition of objects from the Minoan period. There are there a lot of artifacts found right in East Crete.
Walking along the embankment you will see the majestic 10-meter sculpture called “The Rape of Europa”. This is a favorite place for tourists taking photographs for memory on the shores of one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. The author of the project, which was opened in 2012, is the renowned Greek film director Nikos Koundouros. The appearance of the sculpture corresponds to a myth telling how the supreme god Zeus, having turned into a white bull, kidnapped the beautiful Europe and took her to the island of Crete, where they will have three sons. In the hands of the goddess is the so-called rod of heralds, which has the ability to reconcile the warring parties. It is also considered to be a key of a border between light and darkness, death and life, evil, and good.
Where to swim?
There are several well-equipped public beaches within Agios Nikolaos; and there is no need to pay for the entrance: money is charged only for the rental of sun loungers, and umbrellas. The infrastructure is very developed: next to cafes, restaurants, taverns, there are water activities as well as separate areas with playgrounds. Note that the beaches in the city are crowded; therefore, if you are looking for a quieter place for swimming, it is better to go outside Agios Nikolaos to the neighboring villages. You can go in any direction from the city: there are around numerous cozy and clean beaches, where the sea is calm. Located along the entire Bay of Mirabello, they are conducive to relaxation.
Crete is divided into four regions (peripheral units). Agios Nikolaos is the administrative center of the Lasithi region. It is located 63 km east of the island’s capital, so by car from Heraklion or the international airport you can reach it in 1.5 hours (leisurely, making stops). By the way, the same time will be required taking a bus, which regularly leaves for Agios Nikolaos from the Heraklion bus station.
The most interesting natural attraction of the Lasithi region is the plateau of the same name. The Lasithi Plateau is the largest one in Crete, more like a huge, perfectly flat saucer located at an altitude of 840 meters above sea level and surrounded by majestic mountains. It stretches 11 km from east to west and 6 km from north to south.
By the way, it is rather cold here in winter and snow can lie until spring. On the fertile plateau, vegetables, fruits, nuts and other agricultural crops are grown. Here you can find magnificent apple, pear, cherry and peach orchards. The main activity of residents is still agriculture and animal husbandry.
This unique, beautiful corner of Crete has a rich history and is better known as the “Valley of a Thousand Mills”, and a place where Zeus was born.
Earlier on the Plateau of Lasithi, there were many windmills (with linen blades), pumping mills, which were used for watering of land. Their number reached 10,000. It was an impressive sight when the white blades of all the mills fluttered in the wind like the sails. But today they are almost all abandoned, and water for irrigation is raised using electric and diesel pumps.
The main attraction for thousands of tourists on the plateau is the legendary Dikteon cave on the northern slope of the Dikti mountain range. The impressive cave with huge stalactites and stalagmites has played an important role as a place of worship since at least the Middle Minoan period. It is also called the Cave of Zeus: according to a myth, it was in it that the Olympian god Zeus was born.
Next to Agios Nikolaos
From Agios Nikolaos, you can go on other interesting trips. For example, go to sunbathe on the golden-white sand of the largest palm-beach in Europe–Vai, or visit the fortress island with a sad history–Spinalonga.
We also recommend visiting two other towns in the Lasithi region–Ierapetra and Sitia. Ierapetra is on the southern coast of Crete and due to its geographical location is the southernmost city in Europe. Sitia is known for its magnificent promenade and gorgeous views of the coast. The traditions of old Crete are still preserved here. On Sunday, many residents of Sitia dress up in smart clothes and go for an evening stroll along the city’s waterfront. This tradition, called the Volta, has survived since the Venetian rule.
Not taking advantage of such tempting opportunities while vacationing in Agios Nikolaos is an annoying omission for tourists who love the Cretan expanses. Take a car and go!
Professionals, the inhabitants of the island, will help you decide what to see, plan the best, interesting route and help you choose a car for traveling. Please contact «The New Crete»: https://www.thenewrentcar.com/thenewrent/en/home.html