Agios Nikolaos is a small and picturesque city with unequaled beauty in the north-eastern coastline of Crete and constitutes the capital of Lasithi regional unit. The most important tourist attraction of the town concerns the reconstruction of buildings and heights dated from the Venetian era, while the lagoon lake Voulismeni is noteworthy, because many ancient and urban legends unfold in this place.
The Lasithi regional unit is ideal for the nature enthusiasts and excursions to archaeological sites, caves and olive groves, while at the same time there is a long tradition of high-quality tourism services. Hotels of international reputation are located sparsely in different regions of the prefecture so as to provide the island’s visitors with tranquility and relaxation. Elounda plays an important role in this, because you can see the island Spinalonga and its Venetian castle, which is known in history as a place of exile for lepers.
The promenade is extended along the city of Agios Nikolaos and busts with life during several months of each year. Many shops, restaurants, taverns, bars and hotels offer all the necessary comforts and whatever the visitors wish. The old lighthouse and the church of Agion Panton in the nearby islands decorate the city, while a marina of European standards includes private ships and boats of fishermen.
A unique atmosphere of peacefulness and relaxation prevails in Agios Nikolaos port, thanks to the meticulous lighting of the pedestrian precinct as well as the houses architecture. A walk is enough to explore the medieval monuments and feel the warm hospitality of Cretans in the numerous traditional tsipouradika (taverns).
History, Cities and Landmarks
Lasithi district includes some of the greatest cities of the antiquity and the Minoan period. According to the Greek mythology, the Psychro Cave was the site where the birth of Zeus took place. Moreover, the palace of Zakros constitutes the most famous landmark of the Minoan Civilization in the area. Signs of Minoan settlements were found as well in Ferma and Myrtos cities. On the contrast, holiday resorts and local taverns have replaced other ancient cities, such as the village of Istron, while an ancient Temple and Agora with the Prytaneum lie in the city of Lato.
As regards the modern history, you can find intense signs dated from he Ottoman period in the town of Ierapetra. A medieval mosque, a minaret, a reconstructed fountain were built there and a marble plaque with Koranic inscription was found as well. It is believed that the Fortress of Kale, located in the same city, was built by the pirate Enrico Pescatore or the Venetians for its protection. The fortress is still in good condition, while different events as well as cultural activities take place there. We leave behind the district’s cities and we wander around the Lasithi Plateau. You can admire a wide range of stone windmills, which are part of the cultural heritage, in a picturesque valley surrounded by high mountains and small mountain villages. Many people believe that the first wind farm of Europe is situated there.
Beach and Exotic Destinations
Plaka beach is located almost 16km far from the city of Agios Nikolaos and constitutes one of the most well-organized beaches in Elounda, providing a great variety of facilities. This pebble beach offers a view to the Spinalonga island. Mochlos beach distinguishes from the others in the central northern coastline of the district and its village offers a wide range of taverns and restaurants where you often meet famous habitues. On the other hand, Kouremenos beach, located in the eastern part of the district, is ideal for scuba diving, thanks to its seabed rich in fish, and appropriate for windsurfing because of the strong wind. Moreover, there is no lack of local beach bars, which provide visitors with an alternative form of entertainment.
A destination of exotic beauty with protected species of flora and fauna constitutes Chrissi island or Gaidouronisi. During the summer, daily cruises are offered continuously so that tourists could enjoy temporarily the island’s crystal water and the cedar forest, because the permanent residence and the hotel accommodation are prohibited in the island. Another distinctive destination in the southern part of Lasithi is Koufonisi or also known as Lefki island, which is exclusively accessible through the transport ships. This island was considered an important trade port in the past, while the excavations show us that there are an ancient theater and thousand years old ruins sparsely all along the island.
Points of Interest
Sitia is a city of a great importance, because it is built amphitheatrically and includes a Folklore Museum. It also constituted an important city of eastern Crete during the antiquity. In the past it was considered the birthplace of Vitsentzos Kornaros, the writer of the narrative poem “Erotokritos”, while today the city is characterized by an intense night life and entertainment. Moreover, there are historical monuments, taverns, cafes and a picturesque port. Lasithi district is indicated for external activities, such as hiking and climbing, because there are many gorges.
The most famous gorges are Richtis, where you can find waterfalls and totally green plane trees, as well as the impressive Ha gorge, which is very narrow between two extremely high mountains. Finally, you should not neglect a visit to the protected palm forest of Vai and its amazing beach. At a short distance, you will see Toplou Monastery that from the outside resembles a small fortress, but inside it houses icons, sculptures and a production installation of organic wine and oil.