Agios Nikolaos is the capital of Lassithi, located on the eastern part of Crete. It occupies the western zone of the Gulf of Mirabello, 62 kilometers from Heraklion. In the 3rd century B.C. it was a large trading place, the welfare of which was shown by the coins produced here (its own money was a sign of prosperity). The name of the city is associated with the Byzantine church, which was erected in the IX century in honor of St. Nicholas. But it was actively built up only since 1870.
The rudiments of tourism began in the sixties of the 20th century, quickly covering all the cities. Over time, tourists from all over the world began to come here. In the summertime the city hosts the festival “Lato”. It is possible to see the various exhibitions, performances of artists from Greece and Europe, as well as folklore ensembles.
The sights of Agios Nikolaos in Crete, the clean beaches (many have received the Blue Flag Award), the scenery of the amazingly beautiful Gulf of Mirabello have allowed it to become a world-class resort city.
From the local airport of Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos there are regular buses. The trip takes about an hour and a half. You can also take a cab. For a comfortable transfer around Crete, you can rent a car, which is available to choose beforehand or take upon arrival.
Sightseeing in Agios Nikolaos, Crete
The town is jokingly referred to as the local Saint-Tropez. This has mainly to do with its location near Lake Voulismeni, which has fresh water and is 64 meters deep. Legend says that Athena and Artemis themselves bathed here.
Until the middle of the XIX century the lake was not connected to the sea. In 1867 the Turkish governor gave the order to build a canal, which was to connect them. But even so, the lower layers were still freshwater because of the large number of underground streams that feed the lake. And the upper approximately 30 meters became saline.
After the liberation of Crete from the Nazis, many German equipment was dumped at the bottom of Voulismeni Lake by the locals and is still there today. Today the lake is shrouded in an amazing atmosphere of romance, a large number of restaurants are full of relaxation. Here you can enjoy a delicious drink. Lunch is better in the local restaurants, where a full meal will cost 20% cheaper.
The photos and descriptions of the sights of Agios Nikolaos in Crete are impressive. But it is better to see and appreciate all the charms of the town with your own eyes. List of the most visited places:
The church of St. Nicholas in the north of the town is built on a small hill. The Byzantine church that gave its name to the city was built in the IX century. There are ancient paintings inside. On the day of St. Nicholas on December 6, it is especially eye-catching;
The ethnographic museum occupies the first floor of the Port Authority. It consists of only three rooms. The exhibits consist of national costumes, samples of materials and embroidery, household items. Museum opening days: all week except Monday. For admission must be paid;
archaeological museum north of the lake. There are only eight exhibition halls with a rich display of archaeological finds from eastern Crete. The finds belong to the Neolithic period, the civilization of the Roman and Minoan periods. In a separate room are exhibits from the Minoan burial place in Agia Fotia (numerous ceramic vessels, knives made of bronze, obsidian tools). The face of the goddess Myrtle is the sculpture for which the museum is famous. The large ceramic vessel has a female figure with a too small head, elongated neck, bell-shaped body. The goddess holds the vessel for sacrificial libations. The most impressive element of the museum remains the skull of a young athlete, which was discovered in the ruins of a Roman burial site. He has a laurel wreath of gold on his head, a silver coin in his mouth (according to ancient tradition, it is needed to pay for the passage to the realm of the dead). In summer, the museum can be visited any day except Monday. There is a fee for admission;
The church of Panagia Kera in Kritsa acts as the most popular monument of Byzantine architecture in Crete. It is located in an olive grove at the entrance of the village of Kritsa. The authentic, extraordinarily beautiful frescoes depict biblical scenes, including St. George. Victorious and Francis of Assisi. The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary attracts many pilgrims who believe in its healing properties. It is necessary to pay to enter the church. There are shuttle buses to the church;
The ruins of the town of Lato, three kilometers from the village of Kritsa and 15 km from Agios Nikolaos. The ancient town was a very important settlement of the whole island. Previously it was a major trading port with the production of coins depicting the goddess Ilithia. The city was destroyed, but the harbor continued to be actively used by the Romans, later by the Byzantines and the Venetians, until it became a full-fledged modern day Ayios Nikolaos. After the excavations, the remains of the city gate were discovered, as well as the steps of the staircase to the Agora to the sanctuary. The findings allowed the scientists to reconstruct a general urban plan with the location of the main temple, the ancient theater, residential houses and various workshops. You can admire the archaeological monument until 2:30 p.m., admission is chargeable;
Lasithi Plateau, covering a large area on the eastern part of the island at an altitude of 900 meters. In the eighteen villages on the plateau, the old way of life is still preserved. On the plateau there are many windmills, working continuously. The mountain range of Dikti with the cave of Zeus is particularly attractive to tourists;
The island of Spinalonga, which emerged after the earthquake that destroyed the ancient city of Olus. Through the clear waters you can see the sunken ruins. This place is especially attractive to divers from all over the world. In the 15th century, the Venetians discovered the salt deposits and began to actively exploit them. Nowadays, you can visit the church and museum on the island. You can get to Spinalonga by sightseeing boat. The tour lasts four hours with a stop for a swim. Walking around the island lasts an hour and a half, you can walk alone on the paths you like or join a guided tour;
The monastery of Our Lady of Faneromeni is not a very common tourist spot because it is high up in the mountains. You have to be especially careful on the road, but the local scenery is really striking. Inside, everything is arranged like a traditional Cretan village. The main cathedral is carved into the rock and there are small white houses, staircases made of stone and numerous flower balconies. The Mother of God gives a woman a child, so on August 15 a huge number of pilgrims from all over the world flock here;
The Diktei Cave of Zeus is known to all locals and visitors. It has five halls, one has an underwater lake and is accessed by special bridges. Here you can use the famous Cretan transport - donkeys to transfer things. You must bring comfortable shoes and a warm jacket. To enter you must pay only for adults. You are allowed to take photos without flash.
Photos of the sights of Agios Nikolaos in Crete do not allow you to fully realize the beauty of the area. People of all ages love to vacation here: whether it is an active holiday or a quiet and romantic trip. Even children will have a fun time, if you organize your leisure time properly.
Every year crowds of tourists come here to enjoy the amazing gifts of nature and appreciate the cultural and natural monuments. Thanks to the constantly running shuttle buses, you can explore not only the city, but also the surrounding area in a short time. It is worthwhile to get acquainted with the pricing policy, to consider possible excursion tours. With proper planning you can spend a minimum of time admiring the nature and appreciating local attractions. Read also about sights of Corfu and be inspired for further travels in Greece.