About Agios Nikolaos beaches
Agios Nikolaos (also known as Aghios Nikolaos and Ayios Nikolaos) on the island of Crete in Greece overlooks the calm, blue waters of Mirabello Bay. Founded as the ancient port of Lato, it lay abandoned for centuries and was only resettled as a fishing village in 1870. Today it is Crete’s largest holiday resort, and although it offers no monuments of major importance, it compensates for this with its awe-inspiring location, its decent mid-range hotels and pleasant workaday atmosphere. The town centres on Lake Voulismeni, a small circular lake, which according to local myth is bottomless. There are numerous beaches close by, many of which have been awarded the European Blue Flag for cleanliness. In 1994, a well-equipped yachting marina opened here. Many Brits have bought properties in the area, so it is not unusual to hear foreigners in town even during winter. Come summer, Agios Nikolaos gets very crowded and makes a perfect base for exploring the eastern part of the island.
There are several small sandy beaches close to the centre, the best being Kitriplatia, a five-minute walk south of Lake Voulismeni, and Ammoudi, a 10-minute walk north of the lake. However, the best bathing option is Almiros Beach, in front of the three-star Almiros Beach Hotel (2km/1 mile from the centre, on the road to Kalo Horio). This long, sandy beach lies in a sheltered bay, is open to non-residents, and has sunbeds and umbrellas for hire, a snack bar, beach volleyball and watersports facilities. Alternatively, regular taxi boats depart from Agios Nikolaos harbour, transporting bathers to numerous beaches in small coves along the coast, some of which can only be accessed from the water.
Beyond the beach:
The town centres on Lake Voulismeni, a small circular lake filled with blue-and-white wooden fishing boats, and ringed with open-air cafés and tavernas on one side, and steep rocky cliffs on the other. The lake connects to the harbour by a channel dug in 1870, which is crossed by a bridge. From the town harbour, daily excursion boats depart for the haunting island of Spinalonga, opposite Elounda, which was fortified by the Venetians in the 17th century to protect the Cretan coast against the Turks, then used as leper colony from 1913 to 1957.
Agios Nikolaos is a very family-friendly resort. Boat trips to the area’s sandy beaches offer hours of fun for kids. On the northeast side of Lake Voulismeni, a raised piazza is home to a small public playground with swings and a slide where the local children play.
Inland, 8km (5 miles) southwest of Agios Nikolaos, the village of Kritsa is renowned for weaving, embroidery and ceramics, which make great souvenirs. En route, 2km (1 mile) before Kritsa, visit the lovely whitewashed church of Panagia Kira, decorated with 14th-century Byzantine frescoes. Local agencies organise one-day jeep safaris to the Lasithi Plateau, which, at 1,025m (3,360ft), is home to some 20 small rural villages and noted for its old-fashioned windmills. Another popular excursion is Via Beach (also known as Finikodassos, meaning Palm Beach), a gently curving golden sand beach backed by Europe’s largest natural palm grove, giving it an exotic Caribbean vibe. It lies on Crete’s isolated east coast, 92km (58 miles) east of Agios Nikolaos.