When you’re after sun, sea, and sand, you might be tempted by the siren call of Santorini or Corfu.
But it’s high time you give Crete a go – and the area of Agios Nikolaos, specifically.
Here, you can enjoy a getaway that seems to magically fit whatever you’re after.
Want a classic beach retreat where you can forget your troubles? This is the place for you.
Fancy something a bit bougie, with lobster dinners and boutique experiences? You can find that here too.
Or perhaps you’re just in it for the food – if you’re keen on the tastiest seafood, book that plane ticket, sharpish.
Cultural spots? Tick. Boat trips? Tick. Wandering around little shops? Tick, tick, tick.
Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the east side of the Greek island of Crete, meaning you really do get it all – a soothing seaside village feel but with the option of heading to trendy restaurants and bars.
It pairs stunning scenery with plenty of fun, and we’re here to help you navigate this must-visit destination.
Pondering a trip to Agios Nikolaos? Here’s what you need to do when you’re there.
Visit Lake Voulismeni
Before you go straight to the beach, take a moment to stroll around Lake Voulismeni.
By day, it’s a stunning spot for sightseeing and sipping a coffee. Lake Voulismeni (known simply as The Lake by locals) has got a rich history and – attention, fans of Greek mythology and secret stories – is shrouded in tales of the goddess Athena bathing in the waters, which are said by some to be bottomless (or connected to the underworld, or volcanic, take your pick of your preferred lore).
You can take a boat trip from here, or stay on land and simply enjoy being around the still waters.
By night, Lake Voulismeni is worth another visit – lit up by the surrounding restaurants, it’s equally gorgeous once the sun goes down.
Take a boat trip to Spinalonga
Few things make you feel more bougie than sipping champagne on a boat – so we reckon that’s a must-do.
Take a boat out to Spinalonga, which you might know better as ‘the island from The Island book’ or ‘the island of lepers’ or ‘the island of the living dead’, and hop off to take in the fascinating story of a place set up as a leper’s colony and then abandoned.
These days, there’s an open air museum to wander around and learn about the spot’s history, or you can simply sit by the water and look back at the main body of Crete.
On your way there or back, ask your boat’s driver if you can stop off for a swim.
Where to stay in Agios Nikolaos, Crete
We had a room at Niko Seaside Resort, a stunning newly-opened hotel owned by MGallery.
It’s a five-star, adult-only retreat, so feels miles away from the busy beaches you might be imagining when we mention a sunny Crete holiday, with beautiful pools (including your own plunge pool on the balcony of the majority of rooms), sun loungers with sea views, and luxurious rooms and suites where every detail has been carefully considered.
Make sure to book a dinner in Mira Restaurant, and prepare to let out some borderline inappropriate moans of pleasure the moment you tuck into the lobster linguine.
Drinks-wise, don’t leave without ordering the resort’s signature cocktail, the Basilando.
Book a stay here.
Enjoy some seafood
Love lobster, sea bass, prawns, octopus, and anything else that lives in the sea? Crete should be the top of your travel list.
Anywhere you go in this coastal town, you’ll find the freshest, tastiest fish, but we’d give a special shout out to Captain Nicolas Fish Tavern in the nearby town of Plaka (that’s also where the boat to Spinalonga departs from, so it’s worth stopping off) for a delicious seafood feast. Plus you’ll get to see the very cute local cat, who has his own table.
Make your own perfume
This is a bit of an unconventional holiday recommendation, we know, but trust us on this: it’s well worth doing.
Niko Seaside Resort, where we stayed, hooked us up with a perfume-making experience at Bioaroma Natural, so if you book a room there you can ask the concierge to do the same.
If you’re staying elsewhere, you can still book in a session at this special place, where you’ll be guided through a massive range of essential oils (including some that you can’t get anywhere else, such as dittany, which is a bit sage-ish) so you can carefully create your very own signature scent.
My fragrance is so heavenly it’s attracted compliments from strangers, and a few weeks after my return, I’ve nearly used the entire bottle – good thing the lovely owner of Bioaroma gave me a note of the exact makeup of the scent I so loved, so I can easily order another batch.
Visit the olive oil farm
Ever wondered how olive oil gets made?
See it first hand – and taste some delicious fresh-pressed oil – at the Cretan Olive Oil Farm, which also offers cheese-making and pottery sessions.
Make sure to pick up a bottle to take home – that alone is worth booking luggage for the hold for your trip back… then you can add some raki, too.
Go to one of the many beaches
A trip to Crete wouldn’t be complete without plenty of time spent on the beach, and thankfully, there are plenty of easily accessible options from Agios Nikolaos.
There are beaches in the main bit of Agios Nikolaos that feel peaceful and not too tourist trap-ish, or you can head along to Ammos beach, go up to Minos, or book in a trip up to Elounda beach, known as one of Crete’s prettiest seaside spots.
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