Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) is the patron saint of sailors, and this small but beautiful town on the shores of the picturesque Mirabello Bay hasn’t lost its tranquil fishing-community atmosphere, despite the arrival of tourism.
The modern town of Agios Nikolaos first rose to fame in the 1960s, when the famous cinema directors Walt Disney and Jules Dassin chose it as the location for their films. In fact, in 1963 Minos Beach art hotel (sister property to Minos Palace) had the pleasure of hosting Walt Disney and his team during the production of their movie ‘The Moon Spinners’. Meanwhile, Jules Dassin used Agios Nikolaos as his base whilst shooting his masterpiece ‘He Who Must Die’, starring famous Greek actress Melina Mercouri. Soon, Agios Nikolaos and the nearby resort of Elounda were inundated with the great and the good, from politicians and shipowners to film actors and models.
What to see in Agios Nikolaos
The are plenty sites to visit, whilst on holidays in Minos Palace. The main feature of the town is Lake Voulismeni, although it is actually a lagoon and connected to the sea by a narrow inlet. Lake Voulismeni’s immense depth has inspired countless myths and folktales, including the story that the goddess Athena used to bathe in its waters. In 1956, local residents reported seeing dead fish floating on the surface of the lake, at exactly the same time the Santorini volcano erupted 200km to the north, leading many to believe that subterranean channels exist, connecting the two islands. Nevertheless, the lake has a certain charm and is lined by dozens of cafes and tavernas — the perfect place to sit with a Greek coffee or ouzo.
Agios Nikolaos is rare for a Cretan town in having not one but two beaches — stoney Kitroplatia and sandy Ammos, both with calm, crystal clear waters. The town has a number of small shops and boutiques selling traditional items such as woven fabrics, ceramics, handmade clothes and regional delicacies. Make sure to visit the weekly laiki (farmers’ market) and try the local thyme honey, infused with subtle herby flavours — tiny jars make perfect souvenirs to stash in your hand luggage for the journey home!
When the midday heat gets too much, escape to the cool of the Agios Nikolaos Folklore Museum, where traditional woven textiles, embroideries and handcrafts are exhibited alongside old photographs and folk costumes.
Agios Nikolaos is located, 60km from Heraklion International airport and 70km from Sitia airport.