The largest island in Greece, and the fifth-largest in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete is renowned for its wild beauty, delicious food and thousands of years of culture and history. On a visit, admire the remnants of ancient civilisations, explore the glorious beaches, and hike the fertile valleys and mountains. Of course diving to the depths of the clear blue waters, is an absolute must too.
Popular Elounda is made up of three picturesque villages – Ano and Kato Elounda which sit above the port, and Skisma at the head of the bay with views of the beautiful Venetian castle on the island of Kalydon, and towards Spinalonga. Once a fortress island that protected the port of Olous from marauding pirates, in the 20th century it was used to exile patients suffering from leprosy. Nowadays, the island is home to high-end hotels and resorts only accessed by boat. The local capital is Aghios Nikolaos or St. Nicholas. At its heart is Lake Vouliagmeni – a sunken lake where Greek mythology says the goddesses Athena and Artemis washed their hair. Explorations into it have revealed a winding system of endless underwater caves which add to the mystique. Stroll through the many shops in the city and sit down for a meal in one of the busy cafes and eateries.
Wherever it may be, Crete is an island that paints a thousand images, with an open-hearted spirit and hospitable people. Unsurprisingly, this charming, pure and generous island captures the spirit of Greece and enchants all who visit.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best luxury hotels in Crete:
Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas - 9/10
Located in a private cove on Crete’s northeastern coast, Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas is ideal for travellers seeking indulgent accommodation in a dramatic setting. The impressive architecture seamlessly blends with the rugged surroundings, and the exclusive setting plays to the natural theme. Made from the rocks which were excavated from the cove – the resort combines wood, rattan, rough stone and linen to max effect. Deluxe rooms are open-plan, with a bedroom and living area, as well as a balcony looking out to the Mediterranean. Bathrooms are lined with marble and have a separate bath and shower. Upgrade to a room type to have your heated pool. Designed by esteemed architecture firm 3SK Stylianidis, the resort and villas evoke the intimate charm found in traditional villages throughout the Greek isles. All 300 spacious rooms have spectacular views.
At the Pangea, guests can enjoy breakfast each morning. At night it turns into an international food bazaar. Lighter fare is served at the Ocean Club. The Greek Tavern is found at the water's edge and serves local specialities and the ‘daily catch’. The beach is accessible by wooden walkway and stairs, or by using the hotel’s funicular. Activities include two tennis courts, two outdoor pools, water sports from your doorstep, and a kids club. Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas is 20 minutes from the fishing village of Elounda, and just 10 minutes from Agios Nikolaos.
Blue Palace Elounda, a Luxury Collection Resort - 9/10
Wild beauty and timeless Greece. Blue Palace Elounda perfectly blends into a landscape of pink stone and earthy tones within a fragrant garden dotted with bungalows, suites, and villas – personal sanctuaries with spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and Spinalonga Island. Designed for discerning travellers who want time relaxing in their own space is The Haven, the hotel’s most exclusive accommodation. Every room is luxurious and elegant with exclusive services. The Island Luxury Suites feature large private pools, beautiful spacious outdoor areas, contemporary furnishings, VIP amenities and unique Cretan décor. Complete with a private gate, the Grand Villa offers a world of refined Greek living around a private courtyard. In the two bedrooms, natural colours offset the spectacular sea views. The expansive Elounda Spa covers a 2,000m² area and has indoor pools, 24 treatment rooms, 2 hammams, saunas and hot tubs. A fitness centre and a beauty salon are also available, meaning that all can be kept in-house. As for activities, there’s a water sports centre and tennis courts. Guests can start their day with the Greek Breakfast – the yoghurt is a must!
While Cretan, Italian, Asian and Greek dining options curated by the celebrated Greek Chef Athinagoras Kostakos and Blue Palace’s Executive Chef Giannis Kallivretakis are available. A Moroccan-style bar, a pool bar and a beach bar serve exotic cocktails and tapas. A private boat can take couples around the Gulf of Elounda, or families can enjoy a barbeque lunch on an isolated beach after snorkelling. Take cooking classes or enjoy a Cretan Wine Tasting. The resort is 5 kilometres from Elounda and just 500m from the fishing village of Plaka, from where boats depart to Spinaloga.
It’s all about the spectacular sea views at Elounda Peninsula All-Suite Hotel. Overlooking the bay of Elounda, the hotel is perched on a stretch of land above Mirabello Bay and features 59 elegantly decorated suites laid out like a classic Greek whitewashed waterside village. Each suite has its private saltwater pool on a spacious terrace, with generous living space and top-quality design, making it a celebrity magnet – Tom Hanks and Charlize Theron have stayed here. White and blue furniture upholstered in natural materials is designed for lingering as you gaze through the floor to ceiling windows at the turquoise pool and sea. Giant bathrooms have dark concrete with walk-in showers and soaking baths.
There is a fine dining Calypso Restaurant plus the pan-Asian Koh, and an impressive Kellari wine cellar to visit and sample. Breakfast includes a buffet of yoghurt, pastries, cheeses plus eggs cooked in any style. Be sure to take a meal at one of the neighbouring sister hotels, including the award-winning Old Mill, at Mare, and waterside Yacht Club. There’s a private beach, cinema with exclusive screenings, tennis courts, a golf course and water sports facilities to keep you entertained during your stay. Elounda is a short walk away and like stepping into a postcard thanks to its colourful streets and attractive harbour. Spinalonga, the former leper’s island is just offshore, and the charming village of Plaka is within easy reach. The ancient restored ruins of Knossos are an hour’s drive to the west, where you’ll also find Heraklion airport.
Elounda Gulf Villas - 9/10
Just a short walk from the coast in Elounda, Elounda Gulf Villas offers stylish accommodation with private pools, and sea or garden views. Positioned on a steep hillside and sheltered by palm trees and exotic plants, the resort is particularly popular with dignitaries and celebrities wanting to escape the public eye. Designed by dad Dimitris, run by daughter Charitini and overseen with perfection by mother Anna Kadianakis, this is a family-run operation. The modern suites have floor-to-ceiling windows and marble details. There are iPod docking stations, Nespresso machines and large comfortable beds. Some have big bed frames and sparkling chandeliers, while others have classic blue and white.
The villas have bathrooms with high ceilings, sofas covered with Italian fabrics, and antiques on the parquet floors. Superior suites at the top of the resort have open plan living areas and heated lap pools, as well as their spa treatment rooms. Guests can dine in the Argo restaurant, whilst the Daphni restaurant next to the pool has a good selection of classic Greek dishes. The resort’s private beach club can be reached by hotel shuttle, where loungers and beach service await you. Services like a massage in the privacy of your suite or the Elixir Spa Gallery and diving lessons can be arranged. It’s just a few minutes away from Elounda’s shops and restaurants.
Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas - 9/10
As the first hotel on Crete’s northeast coast, Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas, a Member of the Leading Hotels of the World, is considered one of Greece's finest. Made up of numerous resort-like clusters, such as the Yachting Club, whose state-of-the-art bungalows have electric sliding glass doors and retractable television screens, and the Ambassador’s Bungalows, with private gyms. Classic Rooms are in the main building. Villas are right on the beach, many with private pools and gardens. There are also multi-room villa options for families, Wellness Island Suites, Ambassador Bungalow Suites and a Presidential Bungalow. Decor varies across categories, some rooms have a more traditional look, and others have a more contemporary style.
The resort has a supervised kid's program, a wealth of water sports and open-air movies. The hotel has five tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts and a gym. Enjoy a meal at one of the hotel’s nine world-class restaurants. Offering a wide range of body and facial treatments, the Chenot SPA is an oasis of tranquillity for the body and soul and has a medical, hydro, aesthetic and wellness department. The seaside town of Agios Nikolaos is 7 kilometres away and Elounda Village a short walk. Crete's many offerings are within easy reach, but you’d be forgiven for not wanting to leave the property.
CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa - 9/10
Sophisticated and stylish, CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa is one of Elounda’s elegant design hotels. The 74 rooms, suites and villas – most with their pools – are scattered over a steep slope, and reached via two small funiculars. Villas on the top level have the best views of Spinalonga, but rooms on all levels have sea views. Décor is sleek and airy with light wooden floors, iron tables, chunky stone washbasins and marble walls. Villas have modern touches. Open-plan Superior rooms are surprisingly spacious with chunky Coco-Mat beds and room-sized terraces. The three-floor villas are ideal for families. There is a boutique selling Greek designer goods, and countless personal touches at this stylish resort overlooking Mirabello Bay. The spa has three treatment rooms and a small spa menu, including anti-ageing and after-sun treatments.
Ambrosia is the main restaurant. Kelari, the à la carte option by Executive Chef Lefteris Lazarou, who was awarded Greece’s first Michelin Star. Sage & Thyme serves pizza, pasta and light meals. CAYO’s Stone Beach restaurant is just a few meters from the water and has a menu filled with unique cocktails. As well as the resort’s private Plaka beach. There’s a choice of water sports, including kayaking, windsurfing, water-skiing, wakeboarding, and scuba diving. If enjoying hiking or cycling, you’ll find a network of more than 100 routes through evergreen forests and deep gorges. At Cayo, sustainable practices are a priority.
A cluster of white cottages overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mirabello Bay in northern Crete, Elounda Mare Relais & Châteaux Hotel feels like a dreamy Greek village – there's even a small chapel and a few beautifully set restaurants. The spacious, rooms and suites are decorated in soft tones to enhance the serene atmosphere. Surrounded by bougainvillaea-filled courtyards, they have private swimming pools, and embroidered wall hangings that complement the unique mix of antiques and blue-and-white upholstery – all creating a warm and homely Greek seaside feel.
The Deck restaurant in the main hotel has a lovely terrace with sea views and serves breakfast. The Yacht Club overlooks the beach and serves Mediterranean-influenced seafood. The award-winning Old Mill is surrounded by ancient-looking olive trees and serves modern Cretan food. The hotel has a large outdoor pool, as well as a private Blue Flag beach, where sun-loungers and umbrellas await you. There is an AstroTurf tennis court with instructors and a gym. The Sea Sports Centre offers water skiing and scuba diving lessons. Other water sports such as canoeing, wakeboarding and windsurfing can be booked. The Six Senses Spa, situated in the sister property Porto Elounda Golf & Spa is just minutes away. Elounda Mare organises regular clean-up campaigns around the hotel, applying itself to the island's protection. The location is perfect from which to discover Crete and its legends, monasteries and chapels dating back to the Byzantine civilisation.
Kapsaliana Village Hotel - 9/10
Surrounded by the largest olive grove on the island, Kapsaliana Village is in a peaceful location with excellent views of the countryside and the sea. A beautifully renovated cluster of stone village houses, which once belonged to the Arkadi monastery and are centred around a good-sized pool. A work in progress by owner Myron Toupogianis who has been buying up houses in what was once an abandoned village, and lovingly restoring them. In total there are now 22 houses that were built between the 17th and 19th centuries. Linked by stone-paved lanes and lined by herb and fruit orchards. Each house is different, with plenty of original features. They have the same stone walls, floors and historic arches, wooden ceilings, and bathrooms with turquoise and jade tiled showers. Most have a fireplace.
An excellent breakfast is served on the raised terrace and the evening meal is equally delicious, mostly organic and traditionally inspired. The privately-owned Olive Press has been transformed into a lounge area for guests, with comfy armchairs and sofas, books and magazines. The Kapsaliana Village Restaurant & Café serves delicious meals and drinks by the fireplace or on the outside terrace. You’ll need a car to reach the hotel. Surrounded by wild country it’s an ideal area for hiking and just 10 minutes from the Eleftherna Archaeological Museum.
St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas is a village-style, stone-built resort with lawns, mature gardens, and spectacular sea views towards a string of little islands. Conveniently situated in Eastern Crete, on the way from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda, and close to the island’s most renowned sites and attractions – including the archaeological museum and ‘bottomless’ lake of Agios Nikolaos. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the entrance resembles an old Greek home with white plastered walls and antique furnishings. Low stone walls fringed by plants and flowers lead to the main pool and a small private sandy beach.
There are 107 rooms in several categories. Standard doubles are similar to Junior suites in size and amenities, with Korres and Molton Brown amenities in the bathrooms. The 30 suites have oversized showers and saltwater infinity pools, balconies or terraces. The Poseidon Spa has a jet pool, there’s a sauna and steam room and treatments with Elemis and Cinq Mondes. Two medium-sized pools overlook the beach. Breakfast is served on the tree-shaded pool terrace. The Minotaur restaurant serves tasty international fare, and the Greek Kafeneion café is in a lovely spot next to the church. This is the epitome of sophisticated island luxury.
Located on a private beach in Hersonissos, Nana Princess Suites Villas & Spa guests can choose from 112 suites and villas in 10 different categories, each with a unique design and all modern amenities considered. Almost all the rooms have terraces with private heated swimming pools from where to enjoy sea views. The Harmony suites even come with a sauna, steam room or private gym area. Bathrooms have a rain shower and separate bath. The vast two-bed, two-bath Royal Villa has an entire downstairs room packed with vintage games. Housed in black stone buildings and linked by a sunken pathway reminiscent of a traditional village, with rooftop gardens, water features, two large pools and original artwork softening the design.
Eternal Blue serves fresh seafood and Meat-In Point hearty meat dishes. Signature cocktails and refreshing drinks can be enjoyed at the on-site bar, cigar lounge and shisha bar. The Royal Wellness Club and Royal Fitness Club is probably the most upmarket in Crete and encourages indulgence in a very discreet environment. Beauty treatments and hairdressing services are available. A wide collection of luxury goods are on sale at the ‘Good Life’ mini-mall. The hotel is easy to find along with the main Malia to Hersonissos road. Nearby is the Aquaworld and Acqua Plus waterpark- great for kids, as well as the 18-hole Crete Golf Club and Heraklion’s archaeological museum.
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