The Gulf of Mirabello
The sweeping Mirabello Gulf has borne witness to many of Crete's invaders through the centuries, attracted by both it's beauty and natural resources, so it is no wonder that the most recent invaders, the tourists, began to arrive here in the 1960s. The wise citizens of Agios Nikolaos soon saw that this new invasion may not be entirely benign and by the end of the 1980s ensured that the masses were banished westwards to a less stunning stretch of coastline, where the islands economy could still benefit without ruining the special charm of Mirabello. Those who choose to visit the area today are free to relax and enjoy the natural resources or explore the Minoan and Classical sites without encountering the masses confined to their sunbeds by day and bars by night.
In the centre of the wide and indented gulf lies Agios Nikolaos a bustling, cosmopolitan town where day to day Cretan life co-exists with tourism and the atmosphere is sophisticated but relaxed. Restaurants, smart cafes and patisseries are centred around the harbour and supposedly bottomless Lake Voulismeni where everyone who is anyone is to be seen taking their evening stroll or 'volta'. The town is home to an excellent archaeological museum as well as enough shops of all kinds to satisfy the average shopaholic.
Some nine kilometres north of Agios Nikolaos, passing some of the island's most luxurious hotels, lies the village of Elounda with it's busy square and waterfront tavernas, small beach complete with a watersports school and even it's own sunken city, ancient Olous. A further four kilometres on is the hamlet of Plaka with a handful of simple fish tavernas and regular fishing boat trips to Spinalonga, the evocative island with its ruined fortifications made famous as a former leper-colony.
Travelling south east along the gulf from Agios Nikolaos after a few kilometres you pass the turning for Kritsa, famous for it's lace and local handicrafts and Lato a commanding hillside Classical site. A little further on is the reed-fringed Almyros beach, busy with all types of watersports activities and the sandy beach at the village of Ammoudara. Continuing eastwards along the coastal corniche the stark and haunting wall of the Thripti mountains seems to tumble into the sea and as the road flattens you come to the community of Kalo Chorio with it's beaches hidden beyond the olives and it's collection of low-key tavernas and stores. Beyond Kalo Chorio the road rises again above more sheltered sandy coves and passes the well-preserved ruins of the important Minoan town of Gournia before dropping again to the village of Pahia Ammos, known for it's excellent fish tavernas, at the southern tip of the gulf.
The Mirabello Gulf is ideal for family beach holidays as well as an excellent base for those visiting Crete's archaeological treasures and is the perfect solution for families or groups of friends with differing interests.