On a recent trip to Crete, I stayed on the east side of the island close by to the town of Agios Nikolaos. I stayed at the nearby Daios Cove Resort & Villas about ten minutes away by car with Classic Collection and on two days of our trip we ventured in to the town to explore the various restaurants, cafes and activities. Different to all other towns in Crete, Agios Nikolaos provides visitors with an arty, leisurely, sleepy and yet also bustling vibe throughout. The town is built partly atop ancient remains of bygone residents’ homes.
It is a medium-size town with a small-town feel, but a town that has lots to offer. You can walk and enjoy walking here, you have several distinct waterfronts – you can get to know it quickly and feel familiar with the place, like an old friend.
The town has three faces to the sea: The Lake and port, Kitroplatia beach and the Marina. Cafes meander around the town and along the sea front where you can grab a coffee, catch up with friends, listen to music and shop to your hearts delight.
How to get there
Fly from the UK for next to nothing with all of the major airlines in to Heraklion airport and then head by car or taxi to the east of the island which takes about an hour. There is also a regular bus service from Heraklion. The bus station is off centre, near the hospital.
Flights cost around £152 return for one adult and the journey takes around three and a half hours from London to Heraklion airport. Fly with Aegean, Easy Jet and Norwegian Airlines.
Where to stay
See my latest blog post about Daios Cove Resort & Villas where I stayed during my time in Agios Nikolaos.
What to see & do
Shopping: There are shops with original items on offer, from woven fabrics, to cups, mugs and china wear and a miscellany of clothes, house decor and local food products and delicacies.
Beaches: Ammos (sandy public beach by the marina), Kitroplatia is the town centre (shingle & sand) beach, Ammoudi and Havania beaches (on the way to Elounda). In the area: Almiros and Ammoudara (sandy beaches with organized facilities, about 2.5 km east of Agios Nikolaos), Istron/Kalo Horio – 2 good beaches (10 km), Elounda small sandy beach (10 km), Plaka pebble beach (16 km).
Diving: Scuba-diving centre is about 250 m from the lake, on the seafront (of course!), in front of the Coral and Hermes hotels. “Creta’s Happy Divers”, tel. 28410-82546 (they also have 2 more sites towards Elounda)
Attractions: The Archaeological Museum, a small, easy to navigate museum, exhibiting finds from the whole of Eastern Crete, like the early Minoan cemetery of Mochlos, the Zakros palace, Lato and Elounda.
Excursions: For excursions to the famous Spinalonga, recently featured in the novel “The Island” you can take boat trips from the town harbour. Or if you fancy an island you can visit for its quiet presence of palm trees and soothing watered sandy beaches – then take a boat trip from here to Chrissi Island.
Nightlife: Lively bars & clubs close to the as well as several restaurants and cafes on the waterfront which are open until the early hours.
Nearby: In the area around Agios Nikolaos you have Elounda and Spinalonga Island which you will need to access by boat. If excited by caves, the Dikteon Cave is waiting for your visit and has a rich foundation in mythology. Sitia town (70 km east of Agios Nikolaos – a very winding and scenic coast route) is even smaller than Agios Nikolaos, has a fortress, a pleasing waterfront esplanade, some quaint corners and a few really pleasant cafes. Plaka village, 15 km from Agios Nikolaos, is quieter than Elounda, although with the arrival of the Blue Palace luxury hotel (just before the village), it has become more visited. A few fish tavernas and cafes by the waterfront, with Spinalonga in view, and a crystal clear pebble beach.
Where to eat & drink
- Migomis has a grand view across the lake and harbour. The restaurant has an original menu and is a delight to dine at when something better beckons. Accomplished live piano performance is a regular feature.
- Barkorestaurant & café on Kitroplatia beach has extraordinary and delicious menu selections, everything has that extra touch and flavours are much more varied than standard tavernas.
- Pelagos has a relaxing garden which is shaded by extensive tree and shrub wood and leaves. A forested eatery that specialises in fish & sea food.
- Creta Embassyrestaurant, garden setting, fish & seafood, as well as meat & vegetable dishes.
- La Strada by the square is an old standard for pizzas, dishes with garlic (the aroma calls you as you walk past) and standard Italian fare.
- The Oriental coffee bar is great fun for its unusual decor which includes Turkish rugs, footrests and other paraphernalia. Also does great coffee!
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9323; classic-collection.co.uk) offers 7 nights at Daios Cove, Crete from £977 per person. Price based on 2 adults sharing on a bed & breakfast basis, return flights and private transfers.
*I stayed at Daios Cove Resort & Villas with Classic Collection but as always opinions are my own!