Crete’s best kept secret
The town of Agios Nikolaos is the gem of Eastern Crete and offers all that visitors might wish for. Gorgeous beaches lap the shoreline, historical and archeological sites nearby that are awestriking, and a sweet-water lake where goddesses Athena and Artemis supposedly bathed. Today, this mythical lake, known as Vouliasmeni, is connected to the sea and a small harbor via a small inlet and forms the heart of relaxed city life in Agios Nikolaos. Numerous cafés and restaurants surround its shores, and the lake is best seen when you climb the hill and look down. The town actually has two beaches – Ammos and Kitroplatia – complete with umbrellas and sunbeds, within easy walking distance from the center.
A bit outside town lies the Cretan Olive Oil Farm which unveils the magic of olive oil production and offers Cretan cooking classes that will whet the appetite. Also near the town are the remains of the ancient city of Lato, as well as the Marnellides Windmills which are historic but of a much later age.
If you like hiking, head to the hills where some spectacular hiking paths are waiting to be discovered, such as in Prina forest, the Kroustas path in Kalo Chorio and the Kritsa Gorge. Nature lovers will also enjoy a trip to Bramiana, a Natura 2000 nature reserve that's also a birdwatcher's paradise. Finally, a trip to the island of Spinalonga off the coast of Agios Nikolaos offers an enchanting foray into the past, as the island features a Venetian fortress and was once a leper colony, in addition to being a refuge for rebels. The region of Agios Nikolaos in Crete may be quieter than Heraklion and Chania, but it is no less beautiful with its numerous attractions.