We were looking for an early-December alternative winter holiday destination. We usually opt for European winter resorts or the mountainous northern Greece. Last year however we chose Crete, Agios Nikolaos in particular. Our stay was a truly pleasant surprise given that we had always considered the area to be a typical summer holiday destination.
At first we were amazed by the excellent weather. Springtime temperatures in December! It was the first time we had to carry both winter and summer clothes. On our first day Agios Nikolaos welcomed us with sunshine, calm and 25o C! The beaches were full of locals enjoying a swim and of course we joined them‼ There were just a handful of tourists walking around and the overall atmosphere was very relaxed. We immediately realised that the area and the climate are ideal for long walks in the nature and we easily got all the information we needed on the hiking trails. The E4 European long distance path crosses the area’s mountains and so, the following day, we went hiking to the plateau of Katharo and enjoyed the sunshine while walking on an amazing trail at an altitude of 1100m. We returned to the hotel really impressed by the beauty of Cretan nature.
On the next day we returned to the mountain and followed a different trail from an amazing small mountain village called Exo Potamoi (just a 40-min drive from Agios Nikolaos) to Selena summit (1559m). The view from the mountaintop was truly breathtaking and we also bought traditional products from the village.
On our fourth day we went once again to the mountain and walked on the famous Minoan paths next to the beautiful village of Kroustas. These ancient paths go through age old kermes oak forests and lead to the plateau of Katharo. On our way back we stopped at Kroustas to eat something and we tasted local cheese and the exquisite local spirit, raki. The villagers welcomed us warmheartedly and told us that in early December the mountain has a mellow beauty. It feels like winter, autumn and even spring on warm days. They also told us that visits from tourists during winter have become more frequent and that they are really pleased about it.
On the fifth day we went to one of the many gorges in the area. Crete in general is one of the most famous destinations for all canyoning enthusiasts and there is a particularly active local canyoning association which organises excursions and descents in Cretan gorges and canyons. We chose the gorge by the village of Adrianos, very close to Agios Nikolaos. The route was magnificent and we were more than satisfied. There are quite a few gorges in the area and most of them very near to Agios Nikolaos (Skinias, Patsopoulo, Skoteini, Chavgas) and one that is closer to Ierapetra (Sarakina).
Our last day coincided with the festivities for Agios (Saint) Nikolaos, the city’s patron saint. After all, the city is named after him. We also went for a last swim. Our friends were amazed when they saw us in our photos on the mountain in our hiking gear and in bathing suit by the sea! There only a few places in the world that provide such diversity and the area of Agios Nikolaos is most definitely one of them.