Crete`s own mini Riviera, geographically, perfectly located within Mirabello Bay, boasting a fine Marina, busy harbour, copious shops, multitudes of establishments to indulge every tourist`s whim, with it`s cosmopolitan appeal, it`s all year round vibrancy, Agios Nikolaos continues to draw attention with it`s own individuality. Corner stone establishments, Du Lac Hotel, Alexandros Roof Garden, Asteria Cafeteria have been in existence for longer than most care to remember. Even the battered sign for the now defunct Lipstick Disco endures, high up on the hilt of it`s roof, a mental keepsake for us oldies, of indulgence within it`s dark interior.
Picturesque bays, sandy beaches, Voulismeni Lake (reputedly bottomless), various islands, all complete the package. Coupled with two conscientious Mayors, (past and present), Agios Nikolaos has been cared and loved for, occasionally refurbished, revamped and re-shuffled to keep in tune with it`s every day needs. It will, however, continue to evolve to cater for future demands on it`s character.
A firm favourite with all generations of tourists, some of whom have been returning here for decades, watching children of the Cretan families whom cared for them, mature into business people themselves, following in the steps of their parents.
Now, larger hotel chains provide for today`s new tourists. Whom seem happy to spend their holidays within the Hotel`s firm grip, allowing little or no chance for the “wrist-band toting” tourist to actually get out and meet the Cretans, explore the wild countryside, remote villages, ancient forests, eat lunch in a “true” Cretan kafenion, where produce comes straight from the garden at the rear, or experience the genuine Cretan hospitality. Ok, there are safari tours, whom do a rather good job of showing the beautiful island to their passengers, but pre-organised, and with no spontaneity.
Not wishing to be completely negative regarding the large hotel chains, as they do provide employment for thousands of locals. But it would be nice to know that the number of “all inclusive” hotels doesn`t increase, and that smaller, family run businesses regain the opportunity to thrive again. This model of tourism, after all, was the foundation of the industry here in Crete from the early 1970`s, when it became popular for Western Europeans to holiday abroad.