Agios Nikolaos (Crete)


The Cretan town of Agios Nikolaos has always served as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of the municipality of Lassithi. Agios Nikolaos takes its name from Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Kamara. The town was settled in the late Bronze Age by Dorian occupants of Lato, at a time when the security of the Lato hillfort became a lesser concern and easy access to the harbor at Agios Nikolaos became more important.

Size doesn't always matter, and when it comes to sightseeing Agios Nikolaos can go toe to toe with some of the biggest cities in the region. Best known as a tourist town, some of the main attractions include the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni, beaches like Almyros and Voulisma, the tiny island Agioi Pantes, the town's archaeological museum, the local flora exhibition “Iris” and numerous fairs. Just a short ferry ride away from Agios Nikolaos is the island of Spinalonga, an old Venetian fortress turned leper colony in the beginning of the 20th century. Near the town there's an archaeological site of ancient Priniatikos Pyrgos. It appears to have been first settled in the Final Neolithic, circa 3000 BC. Activity on the site continued throughout the Minoan Bronze Age and the Classical Greek and Roman periods, spanning a total of up to 4,000 years. Other significant sights include the Cretan olive farm, the Mirabello Bay, the Monastery of Kremasta and numerous spots within the town, where one can see local artwork exhibited.

Perhaps the best reason to visit Agios Nikolaos is authentic Cretan cuisine. Mediterranean ingredients locally grown in a unique way combine to create a majestic culinary experience. Soft Cretan cheeses, honey, green vegetables and a pallet of spices underused everywhere else, become a bridge that connects Greek food with Anatolia.

The best time to visit Agios Nikolaos is during the summer, when the town is lively with locals and tourists alike and the sea is at its warmest. For those who would like to focus on the cultural and local life of the island but are prepared to risk some rainy, windy days and an colder weather with fewer tourists, November to April is a great period, with December to February being the coldest months. It should be noted that during the winter a lot of the shops and restaurants are closed.

Agios Nikolaos  is not very easy to reach directly, but the town is only an hour away from either Heraklion or Chania which can be reached quite easily either by ferry or plane. That makes Agios Nikolaos a great choice to be combined with an island hopping cruise or a tour of Crete.

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crete aegean Islands