Agios Nikolaos is the capital of the Prefecture of Lassithi and
seat of the municipality of Agios Nikolaos. It is located on the
northern coastline of Crete, on the west side of the Gulf of
Mirabello. The permanent residents according to the 2011 census were
11,421 for the city, 12,638 for the municipal unit and 27,074 for
the enlarged municipality of Agios Nikolaos.
The area of Agios Nikolaos was inhabited in antiquity, when it was called Kamara. During the Venetian period it had a castle, also known as Mirabello Castle, but the settlement was deserted during the Ottoman era, to begin to be inhabited again in the 19th century. The name of the city came from the Byzantine church located in the bay of Agios Nikolaos. It used to be called Mandraki, as there were many yards with goats that overwintered. Another well-known name, still used by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, is Gialos.
Agios Nikolaos is the seat of the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos. Since 2000, due to the Kapodistrias plan, the communities of Kritsa, Elounda, Limnon, Kalo Chorio, Vrouha, Skinia, Louma, Zenion, Exo Potamon, Krousta, Exo Laconia, Mesa Laconia and Prina were merged in the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos. From 2011 and after the law of Kallikratis, the Municipality of Neapolis and the Community of Vrachasi were merged in the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos.
The climate of the region according to the Köppen – Geiger climate classification system is characterized as Csa, ie temperate (C), with dry (s) and hot (a) summers. From the climatic data of the region it seems that the most frequent wind is the northwest, the average daily temperature ranges from 15 to 34 degrees Celsius and the average night temperature from 7 to 20 degrees Celsius.
The economy of the area is based on tourism, olive growing and non-stable livestock. A feature of the city is Lake Voulismeni and its many beaches, which are often certified for their cleanliness and facilities.
The current city is built on the site of ancient Latos to Kamara, port of Latos Etera (important mountain town of the Dorians, 3.5 km north of Kritsa). The two cities were an administrative unit in the 3rd century BC, worshiped the same deity, Eilithia, patroness of childbirth and had single coins that on one side depicted Eilithia or Artemis and on the other Hermes with the word LATION . The citizens of Latos to Kamara called themselves Kamarites.
Lato to Kamara, as a port, developed during this period in terms of population and economy, while on the contrary Lato began to decline. Statues, inscriptions and many tombs have been found in the river area since this period. The tombstones, several of which are interesting, are on display at the Archaeological Museum.
In the first Byzantine period, the Diocese of Kamara still existed as a remarkable city, as mentioned in the Synekdimos by Hierocles.
At the beginning of the 13th century, probably in 1206, a fortress was built on the hill where the prefecture is today, probably by the Genoese Enrico Pescatore. The fortress was named Mirabello and gave its name to the province of Mirabello and the bay. The fortress was destroyed by a strong earthquake in 1303, but the Venetians rebuilt it. In 1374 it is referred to as Castro Mirabelli and had a salt depot from the Elounda salt flats, which was then exported to Europe. The fortress was abandoned and became a warehouse when the revolts against the Venetians stopped.
Mirabello Fortress was destroyed in 1537 by Turkish pirates, but was rebuilt to the design of Michele Samicelli. A settlement (vourgos) developed around the fortress. In the census of Kastrofylakas (K97) the settlement is mentioned as Mirabello proprio with 753 inhabitants, mainly fishermen. In 1630 it is mentioned by Francesco Basilicata as Mirabello Castello and that in Greek the settlement was called Voulismeni, by the lake.
In 1646, during the Great Cretan War, the guard Colonel Baldella immediately handed over the fortress to the Turks who surrounded it. This act was considered treason and Baldella was hanged. The Venetians recaptured the fortress, but because they could not keep it in their possession, they destroyed it, since the fortress of Spinalonga met their needs.
In 1671 it is mentioned in the Turkish census as Nefs Meranblo with 42 excavations, which means that it was inhabited. It is not mentioned in the Egyptian census of 1834 and the area was uninhabited. But the port was used to export provincial products such as locusts. In 1845 Victor Raulin reports that there were four ruined churches used as locust bean storages.
The modern settlement was created with the revolution of 1866, by residents of Fourni, Kritsa, Heraklion and Sfakia. The ruins of the Venetian fortress were used as building materials for the new buildings. It is first mentioned in the 1881 census, when it had 87 Christians and 8 Turks. It was originally called Mandraki but took its name from Agios Nikolaos after the small 9th century Byzantine church located on the Ammoudi peninsula, about 2 km north of the city. In 1900 Agios Nikolaos became the seat of the Municipality of Kritsa. In 1904 the seat of the Municipality of Lassithi was moved from Naples to Agios Nikolaos.
In 1928 Agios Nikolaos had 1,124 inhabitants and since then there has been a continuous increase in population: 2,481 (1940), 3,167 (1951), 3,709 (1961), 5,002 (1971), 8,130 (1981). tourist destination.
The Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni ('Lake' for the people of Agionikoli) is a small lagoon in the city center. The lake is connected to the port of the city by a canal that opened in 1870. Many ancient legends mention the Lake, the oldest of which want the goddesses Athena and Artemis to bathe in it. Two urban myths are associated with the Lake, that there is no bottom, and that the Lake is connected to the volcano of Santorini. The latest myth is that during the last eruption of the volcano, the waters of the Lake swelled and flooded the surrounding warehouses. At the bottom of the lake there is ammunition left behind by German soldiers before they left at the end of World War II.
A park with pines and tamarisk trees above the
Lake offers panoramic views of the city. From this park a stone path
starts, meanders between the trees and ends on the South side of the
Lake, where small fishing boats moor.
Spinalonga, a fortified island which was used as a leprosarium. Now some of its buildings and houses are preserved as archeological sites and there are tourist offices that transport tourists by boat to the island from Elounda, Plaka and Agios Nikolaos and there they are guided to the specific parts of the island that are allowed access.
The Marina of the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos where sailing competitions are organized.
The horn of Amalthea, a sculpture made by the locals, recognized artists brothers Sotiriadis, has been erected on a stone-built patio on the sidewalk, so as to have the bay of Mirabello and the island of Agios Pantos as a background.
The Rapture of Europe, a statue - 4 meters high, designed by award-winning director Nikos Koundouros and created by sculptors Nikos and Pantelis Sotiriadis. It is located at the new pier of the port of Agios Nikolaos. It is made of bronze, steel and glass, completely forged by hand, while its weight is close to 6 tons.
Nearchou Square, as the older KTEL Square is called, is designed with mosaic marine motifs, by the architect Maro Dagianti.
The stairs of the city are quite interesting. As the city is built on hills the stairs are a feature of it, with several local architects having designed one.
Kitroplatia, a square with a small beach, from which begins a stone-built pedestrian street that follows the coastline and ends at the Marina. Its name comes from the citrus trade as from this beach and because of its depth, commercial boats could be loaded before the city even acquired a port.
The hill of Agios Charalambos, next to the homonymous church, a thicket of pine trees with an old water tank on the roof of which two pines grow. From the hill you have a panoramic view of the city and the bay. Also the hill of the museum with the church of Agios Andreas and the adjacent thicket.
The islets of Agios Pantos and Faros are an example in Natural History as while they are a few meters apart from each other the species of fauna and flora that they host have evolved differently. Kri Kri, in order to keep the species clean.