In the peak of summer when weekend breaks are a favorable escape from the sticky heat of home Greece is one of those perfect getaway destinations.
Agios Nikolaos is one of crete’s most gorgeous coastal towns with an enviable hilly terrain, beautiful architecture and outstanding views. The destination offers an authentic and genuine mix of true Cretan hospitality whilst offering something fun and adventurous for all ages. The pretty pastel buildings in the main town capture the emotional and social media hearts of those that visit.
The Greek island of Crete is a great destination for a British summer escape with short, frequent and affordable flights from the UK and beautifully warm weather from May through to October. Cretan cuisine is also world-renowned, lending a hand to the many bars and restaurants that make up the colourful town’s centre. A fresh Greek salad or just baked feta slice are available at every metre and the added ambience of marina views from 90% of the eateries is a delightful bonus!
The town is situated across three hills and a small drive up and down just one of them leaves visitors with polaroid perfect memories. It’s a fabulous European break and whilst the sun floods the island throughout June, July, August and September there’s so much more to do than relax on your hotel sun lounger!
Agios Nikolas is situated East of Heraklion. The drive from the airport to the town is roughly 50 minutes and taxis are available at the airport or you can usually pre-arrange a transfer with your hotel. Flights leave daily from numerous airports in the UK and if booked early, can be really affordable.
Exploring The Area
As with previous Greek islands I’ve had the luxury of exploring, discovering the true beauty of the destination is the most often found in solitude, away from the crowded tourist havens. So if you’re travelling to Crete this summer it would be, in my opinion, criminal not to spread your wings further than your hotel facilities allow. You can wander through the main town to grab a bite to eat or browse through the traditional shops but if you are wanting to discover more than this cluster of pastel buildings you’ll need a set of wheels!
Taxis are available to book via your hotel but it’s somewhat easier to rent a car, moped or quad bike whilst in town. We opted for the off -roaders to ensure our discoveries would stretch further than the main roads would allow and I would highly recommend you do the same! We drove fifteen minutes out of town to eat lunch in Elounda village most days and with a little help from the locals (always the best way to gather location info!) we ventured into and over the village hill to reach a completely untouched bay of beauty.
The Hidden Gem
I can’t tell you the name of this turquoise haven pictured below as I’m not even sure it has one but we drove our bikes across the small village bridge and then up the dusty hill towards a historic and tiny church. Here you can park up and if you are driving a car you will need to just that, if however, you fancy yourselves a little more adventurous you can off-road down the hill towards the sea. My brother and husband opted for the latter option but they are both very experienced riders. It’s not for everyone as the hill is very dirty and steep but it sure is a fun way to get you closer to the water!
When we arrived at the water the grassy dirt switches up to rocks and it’s here that we set ourselves up for the day. We left our bags and bits on the rocks and jumped into the inviting expanse of sea in front of us. The water visibility is brilliant and although the sea was a little nippy (as expected in Crete during the end of May) it was amazing to have what felt like an entire ocean to ourselves. We stayed here on the rocks and in the water and it was a good few hours until someone else joined us in our ‘secret spot’ so we definitely succeeded in our quest to find a hidden gem!
Elounda village itself is a pretty coastal hotspot for tourists and locals alike with open restaurants surrounding the waters edge and rustic traditional boats lending a hand with the perfect photographic backdrop! From here you can take a day trip to the famous Spinalonga island or hire a small fishing boat for the day. Having spent a day on the water a few weeks prior we opted to enjoy a long lunch in the sunshine instead. Read all about my day trip to Spinalonga here.
Authentic restaurants line the marina and entice you in with friendly faces and lengthy menus fully catering for UK guests with occasional international dishes and english written menus. Our favourite restaurant was Vritomartes Taverna which is right in the thick of things, we sat here for hours ordering Ntakos until our tummies were contently filled with the yummy Cretan dish of rusks topped with tomatoes and feta cheese.
Where to Stay
If you are looking for a great hotel to base yourself at when visiting Agios Nikolaos I would highly recommend Minos Beach Art Hotel. The boutique collection of spacious villas boast some of the best views in town and feature luxurious living for any length of stay. Most rooms have their own individual jetty into the sea and the location of the hotel couldn’t be more perfect for wandering down into town. I’ve written a full review of the hotel here.