Agios Nikolaos & Elounda
Agios Nikolaos is a shoreline town on the North coast of the island of Crete, east of the island’s capital Heraklion, 45′ drive from Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport. Capital of Lasithi region, Agios Nikolaos lies on the northwest side of the peaceful bay of Mirabello, upon the ruins of the ancient city of “Lato to Kamara”, port of ancient Lato.
Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors in all Greece. Agios, as it is referred to by all locals, retains a traditional, quaint and tranquil fishing town lifestyle which hasn’t lost its magic within its busy tourist infrastructure.
The small, well attended port of Agios Nikolaos, has its own charm, as it is surrounded by picturesque tile-roofed houses and is illuminated in the evenings by the lights of shops and fishing boats moored at the big dock; the starting point of their day trips to Spinalonga, Elounda and the picturesque Mirabello Bay.
Agios Nikolaos is best known as a tourist resort. Its main attraction is the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni (in which, according to the mythology, goddess Athena used to take her bath), with many open-air cafes and restaurants along its bank. Other attractions include the Venetian fortress of Spinaloga, the tiny island Agioi Pantes, the archaeological museum, the local flora exhibition “Iris” and numerous fairs.
Every summer the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos organizes cultural events, music and dance events, theatrical performances, exhibitions, shows etc. Also, during the Naval week, artistic swimming, water skiing and wind-surfing contests are organized.
Elounda is a world renowned resort located 10 km to the north of Agios Nikolaos, having an indented coastline, shaded beaches, crystal clear seas, a tranquil and heavenly environment with good hotels, apartments and studios. The cutting along the side of the Agios Nikolaos – Elounda road affords you the opportunity to admire the spectacular view of Mirabello Bay. The village is built on the southern coast of the bay of Elounda, 1 km east of the ancient settlement of Olous (Olounda), from which it has taken its name.
On the south western entrance to the bay of Elounda lies the fortress island of Spinalonga. On the rocky island, a fortress was built even from ancient ages to protect the port of ancient Olous. Christians from surrounding villages took refuge in the ruins during the time that the Saracens overtook Crete. In 1579, the Venetian rulers of Crete built a mighty fortress for the safety of the port of Elounda. In 1715, Kapoudan Pasha, the Turkish captain, besieged the fortress forcing Venetian to surrendered. During the 1821 Revolution, Spinalonga served as a safe haven for many Turks. In 1903, a leper colony was established on Spinalonga, to isolate people suffering from Hansen’s Disease from the healthy population. The colony remained until 1957, when the last 20 patients were moved to a leper hospital in Athens. From 1948 onwards, when the cure for Hansen’s Disease was discovered, many others had recovered and gone home.