Agios Nikolaos the capital of Lassithi, Crete
Agios Nikolaos is the capital of the Lassithi, Crete with about 9.500 inhabitants, and is famous for its graphic, supposed bottomless lake, which lies near the port. Built around the picturesque lake at the north-western side of the Mirabello bay (named by the Venetians for "nice view"), the biggest bay in Crete, the beauty here is endless with the seasons succeeding one another. The climate is unique: Dry, without humidity.
Agios Nikolaos Crete Video
The area is inhabited since antiquity. Built on the ruins of the ancient city "Lato pros Kamara" and through the centuries it developed from an independent trade center in the 3rd AD century, into today's town, a place full of interest, throbbing with motion and life.
The history of Agios Nikolaos begins in ancient times when it was the port for Lato, a powerful city during Hellenistic times. The harbor was still used during Roman times and the first Byzantine period although its importance had diminished. After this, it disappeared from history only to reappear in 1206 when the Genoans built the fortress of Mirabello and gave its name to the town and bay. An earthquake destroyed the fortress and no trace of it remains.
In the sixteenth century, the Venetians gave the town its current name, taken from the charming chapel of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) on the peninsula of Limena on a spot called "Nissi" during the 7th AD century. The chapel has interesting old frescoes and rewards the visitor with a breathtaking view of the town and the bay. During the Turks' rule, the town was uninhabited and only after 1870 did people move here, mainly to escape from Turkish persecution.
Agios Nikolaos is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of Lasithi. Having a valuable 30 year experience of organized tourism, its infrastructure matches that of any other European resort, for ideal and interesting vacation together with the traditional Cretan hospitality and the excellent climate.
Thanks to the beautiful coasts, the great sights and the cosmopolitan life, this live city hosts thousands of visitors every year without losing one bit of its tranquility and traditional hospitality. The harbor area is pulsating with activity and restaurants and cafes providing a cosmopolitan atmosphere, though the town itself has maintained its traditional style.
At the extension of the coastal road within a naturally "gifted" landscape, a calm ancient anchorage still exists, while at the heart of the town one of the best marinas of the Aegean Sea was inaugurated in 1994.
The small, especially well attended port of Agios Nikolaos, Crete has its own charm, as it is surrounded by the picturesque tile-roofed houses and it is illuminated in the evenings by the lights of the shops and those of the kaikis and the boats moored at the big dock. This is the starting point of the fishing boats doing their day trips to Spinalonga, Elounda and the picturesque Mirabello Bay.
Two lovely islands, at the entrance of the port, complement the beautiful landscape. The little plays host to the town lighthouse, while the big island's main attraction is the Agion Panton (All Saints) chapels and the famous Kri-Kri goat, a protected species to which the island serves as a refuge.
The modern city of Agios Nikolaos, Crete became internationally well-known during the 60's, "discovered" by famous cinema directors (Jules Dassin, Walt Disney etc.), BBC producers and many others. It was then, that the rapid tourist development of the area started.
Today, Agios Nikolaos is an international, cosmopolitan tourist resort, able to accommodate, effectively and efficiently, thousands of visitors each year. Tourism is mainly west European with Greek tourism concentrating in mid August.
Lake Voulismeni is its most charming feature. Legend suggests that the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed in its waters. The lake is connected to the sea by a straight channel, while its natural surroundings of red rock and trees attract the visitor magnetically. It is a former sweet water small lake, later connected to the sea, located at the centre of the town. The locals refer to it as just "the lake". The lake connects to the harbor of the town by a channel dug in 1870.
Every year at midnight turning to Orthodox Christian Easter day, the majority of the population of the town gathers around the lake to celebrate with fireworks, and firecrackers thrown by the people attending that highlight event.
It was reported that the German army during their withdrawal from the area at WW2, disposed parts of their weaponry and/or vehicles into the deep lake. A panoramic view of the lake can be seen from a small park situated above it. Local urban legend has it that the lake is bottomless. The natives, unable to see the bottom, called it "bottomless" or "sunk", meaning that it had been created by a landslide, until the Christian commissioner Costas Adossidis Passa connected the lake to the sea in 1867 and its stagnant waters became clear. The English naval traveler Spratt, who was mapping the island, found its depth to be 210 feet (64 meters) and said that this might be the opening of an underground river.
The lagoon features a small park with a trail, traditional fishing boats, ducks, pigeons, an amphitheatre and many cafes.
Agios Nikolaos Map
How to get there:
Agios Nikolaos is accessible from the mainland and the whole of Europe through Nikos Kazantzakis airport and many daily ferry services in Heraklion. Two ships connect Agios Nikolaos with the ports of Piraeus and Dodecanese daily.
There is a scheduled ferryboat from Piraeus to Agios Nikolaos 6 times a week continuing daily to Sitia, Karpathos and Rhodes during summer months.
Scheduled bus service to Heraklion, Ierapetra, Sitia and many villages, is frequent and efficient, providing you the opportunity to visit the entire island and to live memorable experiences.
Tours may be arranged to Spinalonga Islet, to Lassithi Plateau, the town of Kritsa and its Byzantine churches. The best beaches are on the east side of the town, in the small protected bays, and may be reached by local bus service. Ask for details at the Tourist Office.