I have the unusual luxury of having plenty of time to explore the resort of Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete, Greece. Many trips involve racing around often attempting to fit as much into the visit as possible, with very little leisuretime. They are often roadtrips stopping off at several cities or towns, fitting in walking tours, visiting museums and getting well fed at stylish restaurants.
It’s doubtful that any of you are feeling much sympathy for me right now but that is not the intention anyway. Getting to really know a destination requires at least a week and often much longer. Being able to share a little of a place is part of the challenge , it is an enjoyable one but it is a great pleasure to be able to really explore a destination.
I am staying on Crete is as a guest of Jet2 Holidays and they have been kind enough to allow me to look after myself and apart from a one day excursion I can get lost in the backstreets of the resort.
This allows for a relaxed approach to exploring and today starting as I mean to go on meant spending the whole day merely walking around the small harbour area.
It is a pretty little resort built into Mirabello Bay and the harbour is effectively divided into two parts, the outside area where large cruise ships and ferry liners moor allowing their passengers to disembark and spend sometime in the resort or explore the rest of the island. The inner harbour hosts the pleasure craft and tour boats, their moorings providing a safe haven. The inner harbour also appears to be the best place to book an excursion.
There is a selection of chic bars, restaurants or more tradtional tavernas to choose from, many of which fill up quickly in the evening. Locals and tourists alike dress up in their designer clothing and sip cocktails in the most trendy bars which overlook the quayside. Despite their obvious attractions the tavernas appear to be more my scene.
Beyond the harbour is Lake Voulismeni which is lined with small tree covered cliffs and dozens more tavernas or restaurants. Sea birds make their nests in the red rock of the cliffs and vibrantly coloured kingfishers can be sometimes seen at the lakeside. They unfortunately seldom seem to stay still long enough to pose for their picture.
A multitude of small boats, either fishing vessels or pleasure craft are moored around here adding greatly to the charm. All manner of shapes, the mini-armada is colourfully quaint and helps make this a particularly appealing resort.The lake is rumoured to be bottomless but unfortunately I am currently unable to confirm or dispute this despite my dawdling around it.
I spent well over an hour just wandering along the edge admiring the little craft and taking pictures before relaxing with a Greek coffee and dessert in one of the taverns.
The crisis is also biting hard here and tourism money is obviously vital to these bars and restaurants. The ushers however are always polite, friendly and never over aggressive. They merely greet passers-by, offer their menu though also attempting to connect usually enquiring where the tourist is from. Unsurprisingly they always seem to love the particular nationality of the potential guest. I found this quite charming and often caught myself smiling at these consumer overtures.
Tucked away amongst the trees is a small chapel. On closer inspection is really tiny, pristine and washed white with a small belltower. It is yet another quirky and attractive feature of the resort.
Making the effort taken to climb the numerous steps from the lakeside is well worth it. The view of the lake, harbour and surrounding area including the nearby Sitia Mountains which seem to dominate the view from the resort will surely compensate. However the climb may not be the only cause of a loss of breath and there are plenty of more opportunities to rehydrate after burning all those calories.
This is just the start of a small adventure in Crete, if the remainder of the island has as much to offer as this tiny but important part of this resort I am really going to enjoy this Greek Odyssey.