White-washed houses and beautiful buildings in Agios Nikolaos have the sea as background.
The lovely serene little town of Agios Nikolaos is the cosmopolitan capital of the prefecture of Lasithi with around 20000 permanent residents. The town is built on the site Mandraki, on the west side of the Gulf of Mirabello, but the current name comes from the Byzantine church of Saint Nikolaos located west of the city.
Here was the site of the Minoan "Lato pros Kamara", the seaport of Lato town near Kritsa. Later, in the Byzantine era, it was known as the Diocese (Episkopi) of Kamara, but was never developed. Because Venetians never gave importance to the region, Agios Nikolaos was not fortified and remained a small fishing village until when the capital of Lassithi was moved here (early 20th century). Since then, the city transformed into a picturesque resort with the main pillars of development being its tranquility and the beautiful beaches.
Trademark of Saint Nicholas is the picturesque Lake Voulismeni, a small lagoon in the center of the town, used as a small harbor where fishing boats stop. Dozens of legends are associated with it, mainly because of its very deep waters. At the bottom of the lake the Germans disposed of all their war material before leaving Crete in 1944. A walk around the lake is a very nice experience indeed.
Other sights of Agios Nikolaos include the neoclassical buildings, the marina (the first marina in Crete), the island of All Saints (Agii Pantes) where many endangered Cretan wild goats are protected, Kitroplatia square with the taverns, and the pedestrian road with the cafes. Moreover, you'll be impressed by the stairs that are almost everywhere, as the city is built in an area with very steep slopes and roads could not be constructed.
The Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos was founded in 1970 and houses findings from the Neolithic Age, the Minoan Era and the Graeco-Roman Times from the Lassithi prefecture.
One of the most popular Byzantine monuments in Crete (13th- 14th A.D.) is located in Logari, one kilometre east of Kritsa. This triple-nave Byzantine church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to Saint Anthony and Saint Anna. It is adorned with superb wall paintings on particular themes like the representation of Saint Anna, other icons of the saints, and the fourteen scenes depicting the secret life of the Virgin Mary.
The Early Byzantine Chapel of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Greek sailors, has given its name to the entire city (Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicholas in Greek). The chapel was built on the edge of Cape Nissi by Katholiko beach, after the seventh century and is one of the oldest ones in Crete.
The church of the Virgin ‘Panagia Vrefotrofos’ (the protector of infants) is located in the center of the city of Agios Nikolaos, near the sea. It's construction dates back from the 12th century and it bears frescoes of the 14th century.
At village Exo Lakonia since 2005 operates an excellent exhibition with over 110 classic vehicles of special interest from all over Crete. The Pancretan Association of Classical Vehicles also houses a permanent exhibition of old photographs with cars and motorcycles from the wider region of Agios Nikolaos.
Kritsa Gorge starts near the picturesque village of Kritsa, 9.5km southwest of Agios Nikolaos, and ends at the village Tapes. It’s 4km long, reaching a width of only 1.5m in some places. It is easily accessible with a few points that need attention, where you have to climb over some big rocks (not too hard). The only time you should not visit the gorge is when it has rained previously and there are ponds in the gorge, which block the passages.
The Folklore Museum of Agios Nikolaos was founded in 1978 and is housed in the Old Port Service by Lake Voulismeni. Most of the exhibited objects were donated by the Touring Club of Agios Nikolaos.
After leaving the sheltered beach of Amoudi behind you and taking the road leading to Elounda, you will soon meet one bay 1km north of the center of Agios Nikolaos, next to Hotel Minos Palace. It is a small pebbly and sandy cove, called Katholiko shaped in a very well protected narrow bay, which is mainly used as a harbor for boats (and thus is not organized).