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Lake Voulismeni: the Blue Heart of Agios Nikolaos

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The lake Volismani is one of the most iconic places in Crete, in the heart of the picturesque city of Agios Nikolaos.

This lake, which blends magically with the sea, is a landmark not only for its natural beauty but also for its fascinating legends and cultural heritage.
I remember the first time I saw Lake Voulismeni. I was travelling to Mochlos with my brother and niece, and passing through Agios Nikolaos, we asked Dimitris to show us the lake from above.
From that moment on, I kept a photo and the image of a small jewel embedded in colourful houses and surrounded by the city, with the port and the sea of the Gulf of Mirabello in the background.
In this article, we explore the history, culture, nature, and curiosities related to this charming place.

A Journey in Time: The History of Lake Voulismeni

Lake Voulismeni has a history dating back to antiquity. Local legends claim that the lake remained bottomless until the 19th century, when scientists measured its depth and found it to be approximately 64 metres deep. This myth of a bottomless lake has fed many fascinating stories over the centuries. Opinions vary, and listening to the locals makes you hear different interpretations of history and myth.
There is a claimed connection between the level of these waters and the eruptions of a Sicilian volcano. I did not understand the mechanism or if we were talking about Etna or something else, and I didn’t discover if there is something realistic or if it is a myth.

Mythology and Legends

According to Greek mythology, Lake Voulismeni was the place where the goddesses Athena and Artemide bathed. This divine connection gives the lake an aura of mystery and sacrality. Legends also tell of strange phenomena, such as the appearance of sudden vortices, which further nourish the mystical charm of the lake.

The Geology of the Lake

Complex geological phenomena naturally formed the Voulismeni Lake. Its almost circular shape and deep waters have always enthralled both locals and visitors. Its waters are fed by underground springs and connected to the sea through an artificial canal built in 1870.

The canal features a bridge, and small traditional boats stranded in the lake need to exercise caution when attempting to reach the sea. A friend owns one of these boats, and sometimes, in order to exit, he must completely submerge himself in the boat to avoid colliding with the bridge. Tidal conditions thus dictate the boat’s exit and entry. This too, for me, is very picturesque.

The lake ecosystem

The lake is home to a variety of aquatic species, both fresh and saltwater, thanks to its connection to the sea. This creates a unique ecosystem, rich in biodiversity. Among the most common species are mullets, eels, and a variety of aquatic plants. In addition, the lake can be an observation point for birdwatching enthusiasts, with migratory bird species occasionally visiting the area.

Lake Today: A Centre of Life and Activities

Today, Lake Voulismeni is a lively centre of cultural and tourist activities. Surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops, it is a pleasant place for relaxing walks along its shores. During the summer, the lake becomes the stage for events and festivals. It is advisable to look for a brochure of the events of the period in the shops of Agios Nikolaos or look at the lodgings that are hung around the country when there is an event scheduled.

Archaeology and discoveries

Around the lake, archaeological excavations have uncovered significant finds from Minoan and Roman times. These finds attest to the historical and cultural importance of the area since ancient times. The archaeological museum of Agios Nikolaos houses many of these finds, offering a fascinating look at the region’s past.

Curiosities and Anecdotes

One of the most interesting anecdotes relates to World War II, when German troops tried to blow up the lake, believing it hid a submarine arsenal. Fortunately, the lake did not suffer damage and remained intact, retaining its status as a natural gem in Crete.
A friend who has lived near Agios Nikolaos since he was born told me that the old men tell us that the Germans threw into the waters of the lake ammunition, weapons, and everything they didn’t want left in the hands of the Greeks.

The lake’s influence on local culture.

Lake Voulismeni plays a central role in Agios Nikolaos’s cultural life. Artists and photographers often use Lake Voulismeni as a subject, and it is believed to have influenced various works of art. In addition, it is a meeting place for the community, where ceremonies, celebrations, and social meetings take place.

For instance, I participated in a ceremony next to the lake on January 6, during which some courageous boys braved the waters of the lake’s harbor to retrieve a cross that an Orthodox priest had thrown into the water. Here, the doll of Judah was burned on Easter night this year from a platform located in the centre of Lake Voulismeni.

The Magic of the Lake of Night

At night, Lake Voulismeni turns into a charming place, with the city lights reflecting on its calm waters. The night walks along the lake offer a romantic and quiet experience, away from the day-to-day bustle.

A place to see in Crete

Lake Voulismeni is undoubtedly one of the places to see in Crete; it is a place where nature, history, and culture merge. It is a natural corner that has been embedded in the lives of the inhabitants of the place.

Whether you’re a lover of history, of myths, of nature, or simply a curious traveller, Lake Voulismeni offers something special for everyone.

To visit it means to immerse yourself in a world of legends and natural beauty.

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