Drive south from Elounda, across the mountain, and Agios Nikolaos is presented in all its glory from your vantage point several hundred feet up. You drop down on a switchback, but wide road, into the northern end of the town, and eventually find your way to the recently reconstructed harbour where you may park your car.
Agios Nikolaos is at the eastern end of the northern highway giving it fast, direct links to Heraklion, Rethymno, and Chania and, as such, has blossomed into a busy town with a resident population of around 9,000.
The town is very busy and quite unashamedly caters for the younger and more well-heeled tourist. It does not have the history or architecture of the other larger towns, but nevertheless has a good atmosphere and a huge variety of bars, discos, and tavernas.
Agios Nikolaos' principal tourist hot spot is the so-called bottomless Lake Voulismeni. During the German occupation in World War Two, the Germans dumped cars into the lake to restrict its use, but never succeeded in filling it up, thus beginning the "bottomless" legend. It is however reported to be well over 70m deep, amazing when you consider that it is less than that across.
Voulismeni's southern promenade is covered in restaurants, all employing touts who will extol the benefits and virtues of their particular establishment over those of their neighbours, and they can be a bit pushy. Best bet is to look at the water, and avoid eye contact as you stroll by! For a better, cheaper and more authentic meal, forego the view and explore the maze of little side streets where you will undoubtedly find a restaurant where the locals eat. This is the best recommendation you could have.
The lake is joined to the harbour by a recently excavated passage beneath the main road, but, as the clearance is only a meter or so, it severely restricts the size of craft that may enter the inner sanctum.
Agios Nikolaos is a good place to explore - take the steps up from the lake on the north side to see Voulismeni and the town in all its glory.
A cosmopolitan, vibrant little town that should be on every must-see list.