Nikolai is located in Interior Alaska on the south fork of the Kuskokwim River. Nikolai is an Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan village, and has been relocated at least twice since the 1880s. Nikolai was the site of a trading post and roadhouse during the gold rush. The city was incorporated in 1970.
Access to Nikolai is by air or water. The village is a check point for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held annually in March.