AND GREEK ISLANDS
ABOUT AGIOS NIKOLAOS
Different to all other towns in Crete, Agios
Nikolaos manages to mix - upon the three hills
which support its girth - an arty, leisurely,
sleepy and yet also bustling place. Built partly
atop ancient remains of bygone residents' homes.
Also known as Agios Nik or Ag Nik (but the whole
name is pronounced eye-yoss nikor-lowse).
The town has three faces to the sea: The Lake &
port, Kitroplatia beach and the Marina.
Its unique features, start with the lake ("Voulismeni"),
a folklore-inspiringly deep body of water which
is connected to the sea by a narrow inlet. It is
surrounded and overlooked by cafes and
restaurants - a busy gathering place for local
residents and visitors alike.
Cafes meander between those suited for talking,
meeting and lounging, to those playing
thump-dump music, nestled alongside more
scholarly hang-outs. Standard but good tavernas
are overlooked by fine-dining establishments. As
the lake joins the sea with a strip of water
under the tiny road bridge and becomes one with
it, the microscopic island of Agii Pandes (All
Saints) is in view - adding another facet to the
three sides of the town. Ferries come and go
from the open port area just beyond.
Next, the beach at Kitroplatia is one of the few
in Crete to provide that town-centre-by-the-sea
beach location, together with its own original
restaurant & cafes and a handful of hotels and
Then, stroll up to the square and down the other
side of the town, this gets you to the marina,
where another sea front offers its wares.
Take a walk around the marina to see if by
chance someone has arrived in a dazzling yacht
(a stop at the cafe by the first slipway is a
good idea for Crepes - savoury or sweet).
Many churches ply their trade, scattered within
the streets of Agios Nikolaos - including the
small church which lends its name to the town.
Shopping is fun in Agios Nikolaos - there are
shops with original items on offer, from woven
fabrics, to cups, mugs and china wear and a
miscellany of clothes, house decor and local
food products and delicacies.
Agios Nikolaos - apart from being a summer draw
for visitors - is for the most part open in
winter. Yes, people live, love and learn here,
grow up, function and work year round.
Beaches: Ammos (sandy public beach by the
marina), Kitroplatia is the town centre (shingle
& sand) beach, Ammoudi and Havania beaches (on
the way to Elounda).
In the area: Almiros & Ammoudara (sandy beaches
with organized facilities, about 2.5 km east of
Agios Nikolaos), Istron/Kalo Horio - 2 good
beaches (10 km), Elounda small sandy beach (10
km), Plaka pebble beach (16 km).
Marina details: One of the more organized
in Greece, 255 vessel capacity. Provides water,
electricity, showers, laundry facilities, fuel,
WiFi, car parking. Tel. 28410-82384/5.
Useful: Town's Tourist Information Office. By
the harbour, beside the bridge, open daily in
the summer 08:30-21:30 for maps & brochures.
Tel: 28410-22357 28410-22357 .
How to get there - Agios Nikolaos
Just over an hour (64 km) from Heraklion airport
or port by car or taxi. See flight information.
There is regular bus service from Heraklion (and
to Ierapetra & Sitia). The bus station is off
centre, near the hospital. See bus schedules.
The port is served by an irregular ferry from
Rhodes via Sitia and from Athens. See ferry
Where to stay - Agios Nikolaos
Hotel Du Lac. Right in the centre of town, has
some views to the lake. Ask to see a room, as
some are better than others. Simple, functional,
partially renovated hotel. Open year round.
Sgouros Hotel, Kitroplatia beach. Recently
renovated with "boutique" hints and some sea
views. Small rooms. Open year round.
Palazzo Apartments, Kitroplatia beach.
Beautifully restored hotel with splendid local
period architecture and sea views. It offers the
rare town centre & beach location. Burnished
wood, yacht-like fittings and chessboard mosaic
tiles are restored to pristine condition, full
kitchens and an almost grande epoque style. Good
restaurants and cafes start right next door.
Just on the edge of town (on the way towards
Elounda), by the sea:
St Nicolas Bay Hotel & Thalassa Villas. Small
luxury hotel with full resort facilities
(including spa & fine dining options). Sea
views, relaxation, comfort. The 6 villas are
self-contained, neighbouring the resort and have
convenient access to its facilities.
Luxury hotels & villas near Agios Nikolaos -
there are many! In Elounda mostly, but also in
or near Plaka, and near Istron/Kalo Horio. See
below for details.
Agios Nikolaos hotels:
-Elounda Gulf Suites: Ten sublime luxury suites,
intimate, boutique hotel, superb food. Just
-Elounda Gulf Villas: Deluxe villas with sea
views, all comforts and luxuries, impeccable
service. Just before Elounda..
-Carob Tree Valley Villas: Serene location,
views, between Elounda and Plaka.
-Pleiades Villas: 2 km only from Agios Nikolaos,
sea views, comfortable & well serviced.
-Istron Bay Hotel: Older, classic style hotel,
in unique location. Beautiful bay, long sandy
beach. Family-friendly. 13 km from Agios
-Istron Collection Villas: In the same beautiful
bay with Istron Bay Hotel, five independent
villas of style and open spaces (can also use
the hotel facilities).
-Nimfes Villas: In the heart of Istron village
(14 km from Agios Nikolaos), three bright &
modern villas with sea views.
(Phones: see Calling Crete).
For more Agios Nikolaos hotels, choices at all
price levels, look and book with booknrun.com
What to see/do - Agios Nikolaos
The Archaeological Museum, a small, easy to
navigate museum, exhibiting finds from the whole
of Eastern Crete, like the early Minoan cemetery
of Mochlos, the Zakros palace, Lato and Elounda.
Good collection of coins ranging from about
330-350 BC to 200 AD.
More than 1500 vases (!). On Konstantinou
Paleologou street, a little before the hospital.
Open 08:30-19:30 (15:00 in the winter), except
Monday. Tel. 28410-24943 28410-24943 .
The Folklore Museum with woven textiles,
embroideries, handicrafts and a model of an old
traditional Cretan house. Old photographs,
paintings and costumes...takes you back in time.
Overlooking the lake, at Kondylaki 2. Open
10:00-14:00 but erratically (call 28410-25093
28410-25093 to check). Closed Monday.
The Iris Museum, in a listed neoclassical
building on the 28th Oktovriou pedestrian
street, holds a local flora exhibition. Tel.
28410-25899 28410-25899 . Limited opening hours.
Back down by the lake, there is usually a mock
"Sir Francis Drake" style boat where you can
have a drink on board. The same harbour is also
the starting point for excursions to the famous
Spinalonga, recently featured in the novel "The
Island" (The Island at the UK Amazon store). Or
imagine, an island you can visit for its quiet
presence of palm trees and soothing watered
sandy beaches - then take a boat trip from here
to Chrissi Island.
You can book boat trips (and ferry tickets) at
Nostos Tours, up the road that leads to the
harbour (Roussou Koundourou 30). Tel.
28410-22819 28410-22819 .
In the area around Agios Nikolaos:
After a visit to Elounda & Spinalonga island,
Kritsa's tourist shops offer some local hand
woven linens, rugs, tablecloths and handicrafts;
visit the Katharo plateau above Kritsa and the
Lassithi Plateau for its starkly contrasting
climate, topography and geology. If excited by
caves, the Dikteon Cave is waiting for your
visit and has a rich foundation in mythology
(and much argued-about it is!).
Sitia town (70 km east of Agios Nikolaos - a
very winding and scenic coast route) is even
smaller than Agios Nikolaos, has a fortress, a
pleasing waterfront esplanade, some quaint
corners and a few really pleasant cafes. Sandy
Lato, 4th-2nd century BC settlement, nice
elevated location with views, a few km from
Kritsa village. Panagia Kera, a triple-nave
Byzantine church from the 13th century, with
wall paintings. In Logari, 1 km east of Kritsa.
Vrokastro and Gournia archaeological sites, near
Spinalonga island. The sunken ancient Olous,
across the causeway from Elounda, visible at the
sea bottom when the sea is calm.
Some villages of local colour worth seeing:
Limnes, Zenia, Exo Potami, Prina, Mesa & Exo
Faneromeni Monastery, inland from Gournia.
[There is also another Faneromeni Monastery just
outside Sitia, see our Sitia guide ]
Walking in the area:
There are lots of interesting routes and hikes,
going through villages, hills and beaches.
The suggested routes and maps on
www.agiosnikolaos.gr (Agios Nikolaos town
official site) are helpful.
Diving: Scuba-diving centre is about 250
m from the lake, on the seafront (of course!),
in front of the Coral and Hermes hotels. "Creta's
Happy Divers", tel. 28410-82546 28410-82546
(they also have 2 more sites towards Elounda).
Gym/Fitness club - "My Gym": On the
street that runs inland from the sea, Salaminos
street, near the dive centre. They will admit
visitors for daily or weekly exercise. Good
looking place, good equipment. Hours: Monday to
Friday 08:00-24:00, Saturday 10:00-20:00, Sunday
closed. Tel. 28410-82382 28410-82382 .
There are 2 golf courses in Crete.
A 9-hole course is available 10 km from Agios
Nikolaos, at the Porto Elounda resort (open to
outside guests, by appointment only). Tel.
28410-68000 28410-68000 .
The Crete Golf Club, an 18-hole, full facilities
golf course, 45 km (about 30 minutes drive) from
Agios Nikolaos, between Hersonissos & Kastelli.
Has a very pleasant club house. Tel.
Elounda & Plaka:
Elounda is a smallish coastal town, 10 km from
Agios Nikolaos. Enjoys fine views of the
Mirabello gulf, a sandy beach, a harbour, a
speck of archaeology. Used to be a fishing
village; now Elounda's fame comes from being
home of the most luxurious and exclusive resorts
in Crete. Many of these are well designed,
sporting wonderful gardens and attractive areas,
pools and walkways. The renowned Elounda Beach,
Elounda Bay Palace, Elounda Mare, Elounda Gulf
Villas, Elounda Gulf Suites and the fine Porto
Elounda with its exclusive Peninsula. World
leaders and jet-setters arrive every year to
enjoy the blue sea views & the pampering
luxuries these hotels offer, including fine
restaurants and spa facilities. The luxury
Elounda hotels are on the outskirts of the town.
The town itself has some smaller hotels and
apartment units, quite a few tavernas, cafes &
shops, both on the only main street and the
waterfront. More of a watering-hole/local
shopping hang out than anything else. You can
walk across the causeway to Kolokytha island, to
enjoy the views, or see the remnants of the
ancient city of Olous in the sea.
Plaka village (15 km from Agios Nikolaos) is
much quieter than Elounda, although with the
arrival of the Blue Palace luxury hotel (just
before the village), it has become more visited.
A few fish tavernas and cafes by the waterfront,
with Spinalonga in view, and a crystal clear
pebble beach. Tiny.
Where to eat & drink - Agios Nikolaos
Perched above "the lake" with a grand view
across it, and part of the harbour with the sea
beyond, is Migomis - linen tablecloths announce
a smarter place to eat, the restaurant has an
original menu and is a delight to dine at when
something better beckons. Accomplished live
piano performance is a regular feature. N.
Plastira 20, tel. 28410- 24353 28410- 24353 .
Barko restaurant & cafe- on Kitroplatia
beach, below Palazzo Apartments. Has
extraordinary and delicious menu selections,
everything has that extra touch and flavours are
much more varied than standard tavernas.
Authentic. Genial service, spotless kitchen!
Akti Pagalou 8, Kitroplatia, tel. 28410-24610
Pelagos, has a relaxing garden which is shaded
by extensive tree and shrub wood and leaves. A
forested eatery! Specializes in fish & sea food.
Koraka 10, tel. 28410-25737 28410-25737 (This is
not far from the lake and the tourist info
office, it is a stand-alone neoclassical
building with a boat in front of it).
Creta Embassy restaurant, garden setting, fish &
seafood, as well as meat & vegetable dishes.
Ioannou Kondylaki 5, tel. 28410-83153
La Strada - by the square - is an old
standard for pizzas, dishes with garlic (the
aroma calls you as you walk past) and standard
N. Plastira 5, tel. 28410 25841 28410 25841 (and
Mediterranean restaurant has a choice of seating
on the balcony above the port/lake area (a
special view from this second floor restaurant)
and a charming enchanted garden at the rear.
Akti Iosif Koundourou 8, tel. 28410-28350
The Oriental coffee bar on the first floor of
the same building is great fun for its unusual
decor which includes turkish rugs, footrests,
hubble bubbles (hookahs) and other
paraphernalia. A place to "sprawl" and sip a
Archaeology and food in one! If you are visiting
or are nearby the Archaeological Museum, then
eating a bite or a meal at Mezedopoleio at the
Museum is an attractive (in most senses of the
Cafes and coffee with that added zest: Next to
the Migomis restaurant (mentioned above) the
cafe is charming and open (large windows) to the
very same view that tempts you to spend time
gazing! A similar view, but with a slightly
different angle is available at Chez Georges - a
long time fixture in the bar/cafe bunch - also
headily overlooking The Lake.
Polyhoros - entered from the 28th Oktovriou
pedestrian street (a little way down from the
Hotel & cafe Du Lac). It overlooks the lake. Has
good music, a tidy little selection of books.
Cafe corner, halfway up Roussou Koundourou
street (on your left, as you come up from the
harbour), serves a variety of crepes, good fresh
croissants, cheese pies and good coffee.
Nightlife: Lively bars & clubs (25th
Martiou street - starting from the harbour - as
well as Akti Iosif Koundourou (harbourfront).
Several restaurants and cafes on the waterfront,
on the way towards Elounda (walk west from the
lake) are welcome for a quieter moment's repast
if you find Agios Nikolaos a bit busy for your
liking one day.