Port Town in Crete
is the capital of the governmental district of Lassithi which obtains its name from the high plateau in the district's West, and also covers the two townships of Ierapetra on the south coast and Sitia in the east of the north coast. Counting some 11,000 inhabitants, it is Crete's fifth biggest town after Heraklion, Chania, Rethymnon and Ierapetra.
The town's name traces back to the church of St. Nicolaos which was raised on a spit of land north of the town in the 10th century, and today ranks as one of the oldest churches in Greece which are still in use. The town center is located on a small peninsula which spreads into the Mirambelou bay in eastward direction. At its southern edge there is a small fishing port and marina.
The true port of Agios Nicolaos is however located by the peninsula's northern edge. From here, ferry boats travel to Piraeus, Rhodes, Heraklion and Sitia several times per week. The excursion boats which head towards the former lepers' island of Spinalonga several times per day moor here as well.
Voulismeni lake which is a small sweetwater lake is located at the side behind the port, and connected to the harbour basin via a channel. It is being used as a berth for many small fishing boats. Around the port and the lake, numerous restaurants, tavernas, kafenions and souvenir shops line up.
The larger hotel resorts are located outside the town by the beaches both in northward and southward directions, and since some years there are also many well equipped holiday villas. Inside the town there are several smaller hotels and apartment houses with a rather private atmosphere. North of the port there are a short pebble beach, and a longer sandy beach which is roofed by shady plane-trees.
Agios Nicolaos perfectly suits for relaxed holidays as things here run less hectically and noisy than in most of the other tourism centers in Crete. The inhabitants managed to preserve the original Mediterranean lifestyle, which mainly determines the character of the tavernas and kafenions around lake Voulismeni. Even being a visitor, one can sit and watch for hours how time goes by.
Furthermore, the geographic location makes the town a perfect base for exploring the island's eastern half. The Lassithi high plateau which is most scenic, as well as the picturesque towns of Sitia and Ierapetra each are less than a one hour's drive away. It is well recommended to order a rental car, to be delivered at the airport e.g. by Eurocars Car Rental, in order to be independent from the first moment on even during the transfers to the hotel and back.
Text and photos: Ingo H. Dietrich
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