The lovely serene little town of Agios Nikolaos is the cosmopolitan capital of the prefecture of Lasithi with 20000 permanent residents. The town is built on the west side of the Gulf of Mirabello.Trademark of St. Nicholas is the picturesque Lake Voulismeni, a small lagoon in the center of the town, used as a small harbor where fishing boats stop. Dozens of legends are associated with it, mainly because of its very deep waters (e.g. that it has no bottom). At the bottom of the lake the Germans disposed all their war material before leaving Crete in 1944. A walk around the lake is a very nice experience indeed.
Elounda is located in east Crete, north of Agios Nikolaos and south of the seaside resort of Plaka. Once Elounda was a picturesque fishing village in the beautiful Gulf of Mirabello. Its inhabitants lived from agriculture, fishing, salt production in the Venetian saltpans and mining of whetting stones. In the hills around Elounda mined a unique stone in Greece, the whetstone, a kind of fine emery of which are known whetstone, used for sharpening tools for many different tasks. The grindstone Elounda was known in Europe from old called "Turkish stone" or "stone Naxia". When tourism discovered, Elounda evolved into a resort known for its beautiful scenery and luxurious hotels were built and continue to be built around it. It said to be the region of Greece with most 5 star hotels.
Spinalonga is a small island near Elounda in East Crete. Spinalonga is also known as the Leper Island, as that is where lepers from Crete and the rest of Greece were quarantined until 1957.Today thousands of tourists visit Spinalonga each summer by boat from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka, for a tour of its ruined buildings, which the Archaeological Service is laboriously trying to maintain. According to the data for 2009, Spinalonga has 1200-1500 visitors daily during the summer months and is the most popular archaeological site in Crete after Knossos.The strategic position of the rocky islet for the control and defence of Elounda harbour could not but mark Spinalonga with a turbulent history of fierce battles and much human suffering.
History of Elounda - From Ancient Olous to Modern Elounda
Elounda has a rich history beginning with the ancient city of Olous or Olounda. Archaeological finds have shown that the Elounda area has been inhabited since Minoan times, while the city-state of Olous, mentioned in Homer’s epics, arose here later, in historical times. Ancient Olous was located on the site known as Poros, around the narrow strip of land connecting Elounda to the peninsula of Κolokytha opposite. At some point the ancient city sank into the sea, and its ruins are still visible on calm days .The name of Olous is probably Prehellenic, meaning that it dates from prehistoric times. It may even have been the name of Minoan Elounda, the prehistoric settlement on the site of the later city. Olous was the most powerful city-state near Lato, one of the greatest on the island, with a sanctuary, harbour and its own coinage. In ancient times, around the 2nd c. AD, it was famous for its wooden statue of the goddess Artemis Britomartys, and Zeus Tallaeus was also worshipped here.