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Cruising Article –09/12/2011

Six adventures in Aghios Nikolaos, on the Island of Crete

Crete, Aghios Nikolaos, Greece

As a coastal town on the island of Crete, Aghios Nikolaos, Greece, is an area with an interesting geography and fascinating culture. Crete was featured in many ancient stories such as the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which incorporated Daedalus' Labyrinth. It was from this island that Icarus flew too high and eventually plunged into the sea. Today, Aghios Nikolaos is still a center of culture and beauty where travelers can gaze from a mountain top into the wine dark sea.

Those who visit Aghios Nikolaos should make the Knosses Palace one of their first priorities. This Bronze Age structure is known as the Labyrinth due to its maze of rooms and spaces. Within the walls of this ancient structure are a number of images detailing the way of life from this time period. Historians believe that this building was the inspiration for the original myth of the mazelike structure built by Daedalus for King Minos.

Close by the Knosses Palace is the modern city of Heraklion. As the capital of the island, and fourth largest municipality in the country, Heraklion is worth a trip of a few days in order to experience a slice of island civilization. Here, vacationers can visit a number of interesting museums that feature objects like the Phaistos Disk, a piece of fired clay from the second millennium BC that is decorated with ancient hieroglyphs.

Traveling back to Aghios Nikolaos, guests of the island may wish to see the ancient ruins of Lato pros Kamara, a city that existed during the Bronze Age many thousands of years ago. It is thought that this city had been laid to waste by the many seafaring attacks that occurred during that time period.

Another site of interest in the area is the Kera Kardiotissa Monastery. This is a female monastery dating back to 1333 AD that was once part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the past, the area was ravaged by many different countries, but it is now a famous place of worship and fascination due to an icon of the Virgin Mary that many believe has performed miracles.

Aghios Nikolaos is a great jumping off point for visiting many of the smaller islands that exist around Crete. One of these, Spinalonga, was carved away from the mainland by the ancient Venetians for defense purposes. The fortifications and the island's unique history make for an excellent tour.

Those who wish to further their expiditions can visit the Plateau of Lassithi, where visitors can go to see the cave where the god, Zeus, was supposedly born. This area features many of the same characteristics of the land surrounding Aghio Nikolaos, craggy mountains overlooking the magnificence of the Mediterranean combined with rich history.