The city of Agios Nikolaos lies on the north seafront of Crete island, and is the capital of Lasithi county. It's a rather small sized city with 12.000 residents, built upon three hills, overlooking the gorgeous Mirabello bay with its beautiful beaches. The city's small scale makes it easy and fun to walk around and get familiar with the place.
The city is located close to the ruins of the ancient Dorian settlement known as Lato built around 400BC. When the safety of Lato became less important, the Dorians moved and inhabited the current location for easier access to the sea.
It remained inhabited during the Roman era and evolved financially and in population. In the Byzantine era the city was known as Episkopi Kamaras.
Around 1200 Venetians populated and fortified the city, building a castle named Mirambelo. The city remained under the Venetian rule until 1646 when it was seized by the Ottomans. For the next two centuries the city was abandoned and its infrastructures were used as storage room for exported products. After the Cretan Rebellion, in 1866, a few residents of Kritsa village decided it was time to move again and inhabit Agios Nikolaos and since then its population is rising constantly.
Things to do
The heart of the city is Voulismeni Lake, a small lake connected with the sea through a narrow canal. Around Voulismeni there are plenty of restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars and shopping stores. The lake has been connected with many urban legends. One of them suggests that the lake has an underground connection with the volcano in Santorini (not true of course!). One thing for sure, it aroused peoples imagination.
As said above, Agios Nikolaos is built upon hills, therefore many streets are connected with stairs to reach different levels on foot. The city is full of picturesque neighborhoods, streets and alleys with all sorts of pleasant surprises. It might be a local tavern or a humble chapel where you can sit take a breath and enjoy the silence.
It's not a commodity on Crete island for a city to offer an organized beach but luckily Agios Nikolaos has not one but two! Ammos beach, next to Kitroplateia, is not more than 600m far from Voulismeni Lake and Ammoudi beach doesn't need more than 15min walk to reach it. Both are equipped with sunbeds, umbrellas, showers and WC, offered by the cafe-bars around.
In addition, for the culture lovers, there's a Folklore museum, an Archeological museum with many findings not only from Lato but from all Eastern Crete and an open air cinema. Many events and concerts are hosted every summer at Voulismeni Lake and around the city. Also there are daily organized trips to Spinalonga for those who wish to visit and learn the history of the place that amazed Victoria Hislop and inspired her to write the acclaimed book The Island.
Accommodation can be found easily as there are plenty of hotels, apartments and rooms to let.Once you choose to stay in Agios Nikolaos, you can easily access the following places of interest:
Museums and archeological sites
- - Archeological site of Lato (10km, 20min driving)
- - The archeological site of Malia (35km northwest, 50min driving)
- - Elounda bay & Kolokytha beach (10km north, 20min driving)
- - Voulisma beach (13km south, 20min driving)
- - Mochlos village (36km east, 50min driving)
- - Agia Fotia beach (52km southeast, 1hr driving)
- - Tertsa and Psari Forada beach (51km southwest, 1hr 15min driving)
Places of interest
- - Plaka village & Spinalonga (15km north, 30min driving)
- - Ierapetra city (31km south, 45min driving)
- - Thripti village (42km southeast, 1hr driving)
- - Heraklion city (63km west, 1hr driving)
- - Diktaion Andron (Psychro Cave) at Lasithi plateau (46km west, 1hr 15min driving)
- - Sitia city (67km, 1hr 20min driving)
- - Selekano forest (47km southwest, 1hr 25min driving)
- - Kapsa monastery (71km southeast, 1hr 25min driving)
and so many other places that will draw your attention on the way. Agios Nikolaos is the ideal place for those who like changes of scenery. You can easily a fantastic beach or drive along its beautiful mountains and gaze the Libyan sea.
And the safest, easiest, most value for money way to explore all these places is renting a car with SunRise Car Rentals from Heraklion airport or Agios Nikolaos, delivered straight to the hotel you'll be staying!