The city of Agios Nikolaos was named after the byzantine chapel in the area of Ormos outside the city, one of the most ancient temples in Crete. This is obvious by the rare wall paintings that date back to the period of the Byzantine Iconoclasm (9th century AC).
The homonymous saint was the patron saint of sailors and the sea, and the village is in one of the most privileged locations in the island, from a climatic and a touristic point of view.
The chapel of Agios Nikolaos
Historically, the city of Agios Nikolaos has been continuously inhabited since the late Minoan period as the seaport of Lato, named Kamara, and with an important development during the 4th century. During the period of the campaign of Alexander the Great, Lato and Kamara sent a fleet under the supervision of admiral “Nearchus” who actually made the first overseas voyage in the European navigation, founding “Alexander’s port” in the place of modern Karachi in Pakistan.
The ancient port was farther northern from the modern port of Agios Nikolaos, while the citadel of Kamara, which does no longer exist, was on the hill where the Headquarters of the Prefecture of Lasithi are nowadays predominant.
In 1206 AC, along with the Venetian occupation on the island, the Castle of Mirambello (Castelli di Mirabella), after which the whole bay was named, was built on the same hill at the place of the ancient citadel. In that same period Agios Nikolaos was called Mandraki (Mandracchio = small port in Italian). The castle was exploded by Venetians themselves in about 1645 AC.
Agios Nikolaos, despite its small size, and because of its privileged location managed, in an admirable way, to avoid the negative consequences of the various occupation periods and it was the only city in Crete to successfully prevent the invasion of Barbarossa in 1538 AC.
In 1903 AC it became the capital of Lasithi Prefecture. Finally, Agios, as friends call it, is one of the first Greek cities that obtained hotel infrastructures. Even nowadays it seems to be keeping its reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the country.