Aghios Nikolaos

Aghios Nikolaos, the capital of the prefecture Lasithi with the famous heart lake Voulismeni.
History, Sightseeing, Beaches, Hotels and practical hints.

Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni, the heart of Aghios Nikolaos.

Aghios Nikolaos (called Ag Nik by many British) is a nice city on the Gulf of Merabellou having a mild, dry conditions; it been the main city of the Prefecture of Lasi­thiou since 1904. Previously, it had been a tiny fishing settlement known as Mandraki.

History of Aghios Nikolaos

The raise of the village started in 1869 when it was colonized by families from Kritsa, Sfakia and elsewhere, achieving its existing advanced level with the support of tourism, having turn out to be probably the most remarkably established tourist towns with many hotels in Greece.

The treasure of the city, around which it has expanded, is the deep lake of Vromolimni or Voulismeni or Mandraki, in previous times. Earlier the lake was cut-off from the sea and folks believed that it was endless.
Spratt measured it and determined it to be Sixty-four meters deep. The edges of the lake are vertical therefore it couldn’t have been the crater of a volcano, however the hypothesis has been put forward that it could have been the mouth of a river whose waters left here. In our times, the lake is fed by an underground river.
The canal which connected it to the sea was made in 1867-1869.

In the northern area of the city is the harbor with its breakwater known since the Venetian times as Porto de San Nicolo. Left, toward the end of the small bay on a minimal slope, is the little 8th century church of Aghios Nikolaos, (from which the city acquired its name), covered with wall art.
Throughout ancient times the city of Lato pros Kamara, the main harbor of some other early city, Lato pros Etaira – which was on the location Goulas near Kritsa – had been on the location of Agios Nikolaos. It flourished in the 3rd century as a business harbor and a free and independent city having its unique coins. Throughout the Roman and the first Byzantine time it had been used as a harbor. During the Venetian times the Venetians constructed a fortress on the highest hill in the area which they called Mera­belle and from which the region and the gulf acquired their title.

Pictures from Aghios Nikolaos


Archeological Museum

The archeological Museum of Aghios Nikolaos is at 68 K. Palaio­logou Street and has a superb variety of archeological discovers from all over the Prefecture of Lasithi. Within the antechamber and the 7 exhibits anyone can check out the master­pieces of Minoan artwork.

A selection of offers from the graveyard of Ayia Photia, near Sitia, from the Neolithic and the Prepalatial period. Bird-shaped vases having incised decoration. Vases in the Vasiliki and Pyrgos kinds. A Cyeladie thing, the tigani (‘trying pan’) of unidentified use, tools, weapons and fishhooks of beginning Minoan craft.

The goddess of Myrtos is the main attraction, a libation vessel, keeping a little, beaked ewer, has a small head and a long neck.

Stone vases, small, clay discs and gold jewelry from the prepalatial time at Mochlos. Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic votive products from peak sanc­tuaries. A gold saw having insignia in Linear A. Sareophagi from the post-palatial time, vases in the Geometric pattern and heads and busts from Archaic, Classical and Roman periods.

Aghios Nikolaos church

The Byzantine church of Aghios Nikolaos, from which the present day city got its name, is, maybe suitably, trapped within the property of the five-star hotel Minos Palace. It is really worth the time to get there, though, to check out examples of the first fresco pieces located in Greece, dating back to the 8th or 9th century. The geometric designs as well as designs that make it through are the legacy of the Iconoclastic times, which prohibited the portrayal of divine pictures in christian artwork.

Ancient city of Kamara

ancient city of Kamara.
Parts of the ancient city of Kamara.

Lato pros Kamara, built on the place of recent Aghios Nikolaos, was the port of Lato pros Etaira, close to today’s Kritsa, and from the close of the Second century Before christ – following the abandonment of the inland town – the community of the Lato region.
In the heart of Aghios Nikolaos parts of 5 structures as well as streets have already been exposed. Four or five unique structures points reflection the history of the town for over 6 centuries, starting from around the Third century before Christ towards the Third century after Christ.

You will find there’s house of the Roman time. The principle constructing belongs to the Second century After Christ however it has been discovered that this section is constructed on top of more aged remnants. The well-built home consists of an atrium having a two-columned elevated structure with a drain at the middle, obviously where rainfall from the roof collected, and from there carried to the main drain in the street using a clay-based channel.
In a somewhat afterwards period of the building, possibly after some catastrophe most likely as a result of flames, rash and short-term maintenance took place; openings for example windows and doors had been enclosed, while some structural pieces were gathered together in a part of the atrium – a Corinthian column capital, a smaller marble column which had suffered temperature destruction creating cracks, and rock basins.

The rooms of the building, numbering a minimum of 8, had been situated around the atrium, however the property may resume under the nearby modern street. Interesting attractions are the doors with vertical jambs; the thresholds, created from plastered mud brick; the plaster attached to the wall structure, the various openings next to a construction associated with the use of water.
There exists one more building of the period which just a tiny portion is existing.

The next constructing was most likely in public use, with particularly solid wall structure, paved floor and huge rectangular rooms.
The 4th building are structural remains from the Hellenistic time. This part wasn’t created throughout the Roman time. Simply wall structure of the home preserve, at a reasonably depth.
On the higher level the fifth construction is conserved which as time passes has gone through numerous interventions. The discovers date to the least 3rd to 4th century after Christ.

The discovers consist of elements of clay and glass vessels, lights, coins, tiny bone items. A headstone inscription which was moved there in the ancient times describes a couple, people of Kamara, Apella and Roda Patronas who hope that their town Kamara should always prosper and forever.


Aghios Nikolaos
Beach of Kitroplatia in the heart of the center.

The beachfront nearest to the center is the shingle small cove of Kitroplatia, incredibly enjoyable even with being right in the heart of city, even though usually populated.

The primary municipal beach (with admittance charge), beyond the marina (yacht harbor) at the edge of the city, isn’t less occupied. Ahead of this point there is a frequent flow of folks travelling to the superb sandy beach at Almiros or Ammoudara, 2 km towards the south, or making use of bus or bike to get to the nice beaches at Kalo Horio and beyond.

In the other direction, heading north, a lot of natives just jump off the rocks along Akti Koundourou, though the earliest actual sandy beach in this way is at tree-shaded Ammoudi, one more municipally operate beachfront about 1 km from the center – once more, commonly busy.
Ahead of are even more tiny beaches on the way to Elounda.

Useful locations

Port boat trips
From the port various boat trips are starting.

The bus station is north of the center in the new town. There are local buses to the center roughly every 30 minutes. Bus destinations are Elounda, Ierapetra, Heraklion, Kritsa, Plaka, Sisi, and Sitia.
Within Aghios Nikolaos, city buses will now also operate on these routes (daily every half hour from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm) starting in 2023.

Here you could find the latest bus timetable.

city bus Aghios Nikolaos
A city bus at the bus station in Aghios Nikolaos.

The tourist office by the bridge is particularly helpful, if often busy. There are lots of maps and brochures, as well as currency exchange at good rates and cheap internet access.

Boat trips to point around the Gulf leave from all around the harbor. There are daily trips to Spinalonga, and various fishing, barbecue, beach and sunset tours, often with meals included.

Hotels in and around Aghios Nikolaos

Overview of available hotels in and around Aghios Nikolaos at the best price!

Other tips for Aghios Nikolaos

Weekly market:
At the weekly market, every Wednesday morning at the car park behind the hospital on the main road towards Heraklion, you can buy vegetables, fruits, etc., as well as other daily necessities at unbeatable prices. The weekly market is the cheapest way of shopping in Greece and is used intensively by the locals to save money.

Plenty of food:
Cheap and plenty of food you will find in the large Lidl market of Aghios Nikolaos. During the summer months it is also open on weekends and is located on the right side of the road towards Kritsa.

Cheap, good food right at the Marina:
Directly at the marina above the car park, ‘Al Dente’ offers a wide selection of food (gyros, pizza, chicken, etc.) at still very reasonable prices – both to take away and to eat on site with a view of the sea!


Great gyros, chicken and more:
On the arterial road in the direction of Lidl (Kritsa) you will find also on the left side the fast-food restaurant ‘Opaka’. There are very good gyros (chicken or pork) and fried chicken from the grill at reasonable prices.

Real Cretan products:
All sorts of typical Cretan olive oil and similar products can be found in the Bioaroma shop, which is easily reached when – just before Aghios Nikolaos – at the big crossroads with the traffic light turn right (towards Ierapetra and, moreover, right to Kritsa, where you first see Lidl right hand) and then again straight on the small street parallel on the right side. After a short stretch you will see ‘Bioaroma’ on the right.

Dog grooming salon:
Marianthi’s ‘Pets in the City‘ dog grooming salon also offers wellness for four-legged companions to enjoy their holiday freshly groomed. You can find it directly on the main road leading into Agios Nikolaos from Heraklion, just before the hospital.

Animal Shelter:
The largest animal shelter in the Aghios Nikolaos area is Fino Animal Rescue (near the small village of Finokalia on the nearby Aghios Ioannis peninsula), which is run by two German expatriates.
In the loneliness on the secluded Aghios Ioannis peninsula, the two are happy about every visit, donations of food or money and voluntary work at the shelter. Probably you will found your favorite dog from Crete for adoption there!

If you love dogs and especially puppies, you should take the opportunity to visit the shelter.
More information and exact directions to Fino Animal Rescue via these two links.

Video about Aghios Nikolaos

Video about the Lake Voulismeni, port, Kitroplatia beach, marina, center and main shopping streets of Aghios Nikolaos.

Map Aghios Nikolaos
Map Aghios Nikolaos

Important phone numbers:

call tointernational phone number
Tourist Information Office++30 28410-22 357
Tourist Police++30 28410-26 900
Police++30 28410-22 321
City Council++30 28410-28 286
Port Authority++30 28410-22 312
Post Office++30 28410-22 276
Fire Station199
Bus Station++30 28410-22 234
Taxi++30 28410-24 000
Museum++30 28410-22 462
Hospital++30 28410-25 224
Veterinary Clinic++30 2841-100 303 (Mobile 6945955860)
Olympic Airways++30 28410-28 929

Directions to Aghios Nikolaos

map creteLink to map with directions:
Click here: Directions Aghios Nikolaos.

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