Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town located 60 km (40 miles) from the main city of the Crete island – Heraklion and only 10 km from the Elounda resort. As we stayed in the hotel of Elounda resort, the first place we went to explore was Agios Nikolaos.
Agios Nikolaos was found on the shores of the picturesque Mirabello Bay after the fall of the Byzantine Empire (1204), when Crete was sold to the Venetians.
The town got its name in honor of Saint Nicholas. In Greece, he is considered the first patron and deputy of sailors.
It is a wonderful town to walk in the evening.
The most attractive place in Agios Nicolaos is Vulismeni lake in the very center of the town.
The mirror-blue surface of the lake reflects the buildings on one side, and rocks on the other.
The lake has the shape of a circle with a diameter of 137 m (450 ft) and a depth of 64 m (210 ft). Locals call it just “Lake”. Since 1870 the lake is connected to the port of the town and the sea itself by a channel.
According to legend, the goddess Athena bathed in this lake.
There is also a local legend that Vulsmeni has no bottom – this is due to the disproportionately large depth of the lake compared to its width.
The very Jacques-Yves Cousteau came to Agios Nikolaos to study the lake.
The German military equipment from the Second World War was discovered at the bottom of Vulismeni. Locals threw them from the cliff into the lake as a symbol of the liberation of the Crete island from German troops.
The most beautiful view of the lake is from the high cliff in the northeastern part of the shore.
This lake is the symbol of the city and every tourist souvenir is with its image. You can go around the lake. As the area around the lake is hilly, you will have to walk up some stairs.
And the whole Agios Nikolaos town is located on a hilly area, so you should be ready to go up and down the winding streets here.
There are many cafes and restaurants both on the hill and at the foot of Vulismeni Lake, where you can have some meal or a drink and admire amazing views of the lake and the sunset.
Such a small chapel is carved right in the rock,
It seems that time stops with the sunset: you want to sit in a cozy cafe with a glass of your favorite drink and watch the play of night lighting around you.
Cozy streets with souvenir shops and various restaurants come close up to the seaside.
We decided to walk from the channel along the central street Roussou Koundourou to Eleftheriou Venizelou Square.
As a result, we went deeper into the town and saw it as the local residents see it. And we were convinced again that it is always a good idea to go aside from the crowded tourist tracks. Who knows, maybe exciting adventures are waiting for you just around the corner, which can change you and even your entire life.
Night bars near the port, along the seashore are open closer to the evening. Loud music invites everyone who wants to have fun and drink some cocktails.
We are interested in everything related to Ancient Greek mythology, so we couldn’t pass by the Abduction of Europa monument. It was already late evening and it was high time to go back to the hotel, but we still decided to find this monument.
According to the myth, the father of the gods, Zeus, fell in love with a beautiful princess named Europa. Transforming into a white bull, he approached Europa, who was playing with her friends. The girls, enchanted by the beauty of the powerful and seemed to be a friendly beast, began to pet him and play with him, and Europa tried to sit on his back. The bull rushed to the sea with all his might and, despite the girl’s bitter tears, took her to Crete.
Today, the Stealing of Europa monument is one of the top visiting points of Agios Nikolaos town.
Nearby on the shore we also noticed the monument “Horn of Amalthea” (legendary horn of abundance, also called cornucopia (in Latin). This monument is connected with another interesting mythical story.
After the birth of Zeus, his mother Rhea hid him in a cave (Dikti Cave) in the Cretan mountain Ida so that his father Kronos would not eat him. Because he was told that his son would take his throne.
It was in that cave that the nymphs raised Zeus, and a goat named Amalthea nursed him with her own milk. Once, little Zeus accidentally broke off her horn, while playing with Amalthea. To soften his guilt, and also as a sign of gratitude, Zeus blessed the broken horn, which since then has been generously given to all who took it in their hands. The Horn of Amalthea became famous as the “Horn of Plenty”, which we know as an eternal symbol of wealth.
There are also archaeological and ethnographic museums in Agios Nikolaos, but for the first walk in this town, the locations we have mentioned will be quite enough.
Author (c): Iryna Melnyk
Photos (c): Nick Melnyk