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Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos, or simply “Agios” as the locals characteristically call it, towers over the westernmost coast of Mirabello Bay, on the northeastern coast of the Regional Unit of Lasithi, eastern Crete. It was named after the small Byzantine church at the shore of its sheltered haven and is situated 65 km east of Heraklion. Despite the fact that it’s small in size, Agios Nikolaos has one of the largest populations in Lasithi. It has been inhabited since ancient times when it was the port of Lato, a prominent city of the Hellenistic period which gradually declined during the Roman period and early Byzantine times.

In the centuries that followed, no other reference to Agios Nikolaos emerges until 1206 when it fell under Genoese rule and the Castle of Mirabello was built, giving its name to the bay it towered over and affording a marvelous view (mirabello). Nothing remains of that castle as a devastating earthquake razed it to the ground. Under Turkish rule, the town of Agios Nikolaos remained deserted until 1870 when Greek inhabitants, fleeing the Turks, began resettling in the area.

The history of Agios Nikolaos is interwoven with its port which, situated in the location of Ammoudi is the town’s commercial port. Ammoudi was chosen as a desirable port location because of the small isles of Agioi Pantes at its entrance which offered control of and protection against potential invasions. Those two small isles are the port’s natural wave breakers with their only inhabitants being a handful of Cretan (Ibex) wild goats, a species threatened with extinction. As Agios Nikolaos was one of the first Cretan towns to welcome tourism in the 1960’s, tourism developed there much earlier than in other parts of Crete. The lake of Agios Nikolaos around which the town’s downtown area is built, continues to impress visitors from around the world. Agios Nikolaos is a marvelous summer resort with great beaches of crystal blue waters and scenic surroundings that act as a pole of attraction. Outings from Agios Nikolaos to nearby areas are always fascinating whether visitors choose to go north to Elounda, south to Ammoudara and Istro, or to the semi-mountainous village of Kritsa whose traditional ambiance draws a great deal of attention.