The charming town of Agios Nikolaos Άγιος Νικόλαος is 70 km east of Iraklion on the north coast, and is the capital of Lasithi nomos prefecture in Crete, Greece.
It is said that this town is named after Saint Nicholas the patron saint of all sailors and of all of Greece, the modern town in built close to the site of the ancient city of Lato.
It is also said that the town was named after a Byzantine chapel built nearby in the 7th century AD.
With a colourful history and currently a population of nearly 20,000, set on the beautiful Mirabello Bay, the view across to the Sitia mountains is lovely and ever changing.
A unique and very pleasant town, with a character different again from the other towns of Crete, with its hilly streets winding back from the lake it begs to be explored.
After its 'discovery' by the jet set in late 20th century, this town developed one of the best tourism infrastructures on the island of Crete. Luckily the development has not ruined the charm of this delightful town.
Lasithi is also a very exciting area of Crete to explore, making a visit to the east of Crete very attractive.
Lake Voulismeni Limni Voulismeni sits just behind the harbour in the centre of the town, with a channel joining the two. Originally a fresh water lake, the channel was built in 1870. The lake is known as apatos bottomless. Is it? Come and have a look and you decide.
If you look closely enough, you might see the goddesses come down and wash their hair in the fresh waters of the lake.
There is a lovely promenade around most of the lake, the other side being steep walls of attractive red rock and creepers. There is a small outdoor theatre right on the shores of the lake and many, many cafes and tavernas making the most of the breezes off the water.
We enjoy strolling by the lake in the evenings, watching the stunning tiny kingfisher flashing azure as it darts around the lake and stops on the brightly coloured fishing boats.
There are quite a few birds nesting in the steep rock wall of the lake, and a gorgeous little chapel, it stands out in white against the rocks. You can climb up the steps to get a good view of the lake, the channel and the town from the little park.
The lake and harbour, and the endless beaches stretching west and east, ensure a summery holiday feel in Agios Nikolaos at just about any time of the year.
Next to the lake is the modern art gallery Art Sourcing which is an Internet arts resource and a vibrant art gallery. Throughout the year, with different artists, the gallery showcases contemporary artworks; paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures created by featured local and international artists. Curated by Mary-Jane Schumacher, who has married in Crete, started a family here and lived here for six years, the gallery is well worth a visit.
The wide harbour has plenty of room for pleasure craft and daily tour craft, and on the eastern shore is the large port, accepting large ferries and connecting Agios Nikolaos with the major Greek ports like Pireaus, Santorini and Rhodos.
The beaches of Agios Nikolaos all have Blue Flag status and are clean and organised; EOT, Almyros, Ammoudara, Havania, Ammos, Kitroplateia, Ammoudi. They extend from the town out along the coastline and some of them are more remote.
One of our favourite destinations for a coffee is Café du Lac with a wonderful view over Lake Voulismeni (see the picture).
This café bar is popular with locals and travellers and has internet, atmosphere and great music.
The Avli Ouzeri on Odos Pringipos Giorgiou serves fantastic traditional mezedes in a relaxing pebbly courtyard with a garden. It is the best of Cretan atmosphere with great food and service.
We also like the Zygos taverna, right next to the lake, relaxing with a few mesedes.
We suggest four hotels in town for their central location and service. Prices and styles vary from the budget to the sophisticated, but each of them will allow you to walk straight out of your door and explore this wonderful town.
Hotel du Lac looks over Lake Voulismeni.
Pergola Hotel overlooks the harbour and Mirabello Bay.
See the interactive map below for the location of these accommodation options in town...
Lasithi offers some of the most untouched and authentic villages, beaches, mountains and countryside to explore in Crete.
Sitia is a major town to the east, a thriving centre of olive and wine production.
Ierapetra, the largest town on the south coast of Crete, faces the Libyan sea and surrounded by beaches and mountains.
Wonderful beaches and international quality luxury can be found in and around Elounda, just 11 kms from town.
Towards the eastern tip of Crete is Palekastro Village, and the beaches of Chionia and Kouremenos.
Below are some beautiful images of Agios Nikolaos, her lake and harbour...