Agios Nikolaos

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Agios Nikolaos with its exceptional climatic conditions, offers a temperate climate with a mild winter.

That is why many holidaymakers visit our town for a long period, or make our town their second home. Its natural landscape and mild weather is incomparably one of the most attractive areas of southeast Europe.

The town takes its name from the small Byzantine church of Saint Nicholas, situated on a small peninsula near the Venetian harbor called Mantraki. The church is a beautiful example of classic Byzantine architecture and was built between the 7th and 9th century, during the Iconoclastic period. Many of the original frescos decorate the interior.

Agios Nikolaos and the surrounding area has more "Blue Flag" beaches than anywhere in Greece. The clear, crystal water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming and the beaches range from long sandy beaches such as Almyros, to small rocky coves where you can enjoy total solitude. The nearby resort of Istron has three wonderful beaches and is only a short distance from the town by car or bus.

When weather conditions permit Istron, Kalo Horio is also a popular wind surfing destination. Istron is a small resort 9km from the centre of Agios Nikolaos. Istron still holds the feel of a traditional village and has some of the best sandy beaches in the area. The villages of Kalo Chorio and Pirgos lead up to a mountain back drop and enjoy fabulous views of sea and mountain ranges. There are many wonderful walking trails to be found around this area.

Swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling in the idyllic surroundings of eastern Crete are not reserved for holidaymakers. The traditional "siesta" time is often substituted for a few hours on the beach in the height of summer. The nature reserve at the southern end of Almyros beach is the source of a cold water spring which flows out into the sea.

The town is famous for the "Bottomless" Lake, "Voulismeni", which is surrounded by friendly tavernas and restaurants. The Lake is the legendary bathing place of Artemis & Athena in Greek Mythology. One theory suggests that the lake is joined by an underwater passage to the island of Santorini or Thera which was partially destroyed by a volcano in around 1450 B.C.
The lake is just a short walk from Mantraki. It was thought to be bottomless but was measured at 64 meters deep by the famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau and his team. It is reputed to contain WW2 tanks and is the focal point of the town. At Easter, there is a spectacular firework display at midnight and every person around the lake lights a candle until the entire area is bathed in light. It has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

The area of Agios Nikolaos covers a long stretch of the north eastern coast and a hinterland that rises to the tremendous rocky ranges of the Dhikti Mountains. The actual town of Agios Nikolaos is the administrative capital of the region of Lassithi, and has a population of Agios Nikolaos became the first real tourist resort in the early 1970's, on the island, and was known for being a noisy and lively resort. Times have changed, and Agios Nikolaos now enjoys the reputation of being an up market destination for many nationalities and its romantic setting and lake area make it a perfect place for couples of all ages. There has been much "beautifying" of the town in the past few years, and a large well equipped marina has been constructed, which hosts many national and international sailing competitions.

The church is open to visitors all year round. The town also houses an archaeological museum, folklore museum, cinema, and many cultural events are held in the summer months.

Traditional Cretan Cuisine

The Cretan kitchen of today is based on the many traditions of Crete and the locally produced ingredients.

The Cretan diet is not only aromatic and tasteful, but also extremely healthy. The food has already taken the right place in our culture, equivalent to our monumental identity and our sun and sea. The most important product that gave so much credit to Cretan Diet is our virgin olive oil. The contribution of the local wine, vegetables, meat, dairy products is also significant.

For the Cretans, the secret of good health and long living is very simple. They eat all that their rich solid gives them. Many fruits, vegetables, groceries, legumes, varieties of cheese, olive oil and bread. They scent the taste with marvelous herbs like oregano, they make desserts with natural sweetening materials, honey and molasses, and accompany their meal with excellent local wine.

The local cuisine has to offer a lot of traditional dishes: Ntakos (traditional dried bread coated with olive oil and crushed tomato), Ksigalo (a kind sour milk), Gamopilafo (traditional wedding pilaf), Apaki (smoked preserved meat), Dolmadakia (wine leaves with a rice filling), Kolokithanthoi (stuffed courgette flowers), Katsikaki me Stamnagkathi (goat with spiny chicory), Sigklino (pork preserved meat), Bamies me kotopoulo (okra with chicken), Chohli Boubouristi (Snails with rosemary and wine), Gida vrasti me hilopites (goat stew with hand-made square noodles), Mavromatika fasolia (black-eye beans with wild greens), Horta (wild, generally, greens, served with olive oil and lemon), Kolokithia me avga (zuchinni with eggs), Hontros me chochlius (ground wheat with snails), Agkinares me koukia (artichokes with beans), Kokoras Kokinistos (rooster stewed with tomatoes), Giahni (stewed aromatic greens and potatoes), Mizithropitakia (small sweet cheese pies, sometimes with honey), Arni me giaourti (lamb with yogurt), Nerates pites (cheese pies), Kserotigana (honey-dipped spiral pastries), Kaltsounia (sweet cheese pastries), and many more.

Horiatiki, the usual Greek salad, consists of tomato, cucumber, slices, olives and feta cheese dressed with virgin oil and/or vinegar.
Seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes (aginares), beans (fasolia), peas (arakas), carrots (karota), zucchini (kolokithia), greens (horta), are often cooked and served together in the casserole dishes.

Greek and Cretan wines are of the best in quality and taste. You can also enjoy the bulk wine ("hima krassi" in Greek), which is own production and quite economical.
The Cretan traditional spirit (raki), is quite strong and served in small glasses. Combination of raki with honey ("rakomelo"), is a must.

In the summer, sweets give way to fresh fruits, such as large peaches (rodakina), melon (peponi), watermelon (karpouzi), grapes (stafilia), pears (ahladia).
Greek coffee has its own aroma and taste. The important thing when ordering is to mension quantity of sugar required: sketo (no sugar), metrio (semi-sweet), and gliko (sweet). Coffee is usually served with a glass of water, free of charge.


The music of Greece is as diverse and celebrated as its history. Greek music is frequently played at festivals, with children and adults both partaking in traditional Greek dancing.

In Crete, the Lira (first photo) is the dominant instrument, which is often accompanied by the Laouto (second photo), which resembles a mandolin.

It is interesting to note, that Lira is played by a unique way, different from all other string instruments: The player does not push the strings (as for example, in guitar), but touches each string at the side, with one hand, while with the other hand, the bow is used in same way as in violin.

The Cretan musical tradition in its pure form is followed today by several contemporary artists. Cretan dancers, both men and women in their local traditional dresses, will pleasantly surprise you with their virtuosity and the variety of Cretan dances. You can find them either in organised music tavernas, or in festivals, and also in Cretan marriages.