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Special feature: Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites, Elounda, Crete, Greece

Equidistant from Europe, Asia and Africa, Greece’s largest island is 260 kilometres long and anything from 12 to 56 kilometres wide. It is mountainous in parts and offers huge variations in both landscape and climate. Welcome to the island of Crete where olive groves and vineyards are interspersed with short mountain ranges, and where the north of the island’s inviting bays and ports contrast with the more rugged coastline of the south. This was my seventh time on the island and my sixth visit to Elounda and on each previous visit I’d stayed somewhere different, such is the wealth of luxury accommodation in this idyllic enclave. But this time was different – I’d so loved my stay at Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites last year that I’d returned to enjoy it with family. Led by owner and Managing Director, Anna Kadianakis, and managed by Dimitris Lentzos, the hotel offers a very personal touch that eludes some of the bigger luxury hotels in the town. Elounda On this occasion, we stayed in two different places, both belonging to Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites. The bulk of the villas and suites are to be found at the main resort, but the hotel also has its own private beach just the other side of Elounda where they have another property which is where we spent our first few nights. Elounda Villa can sleep up to 8 people in 4 bedrooms. It’s spacious, with a contemporary design and layout, and just yards from the beach. Elounda Villa The master bedroom has a bold, striped feature wall behind the bedhead, its own lounge area and en suite bathroom. Elounda Villa master bedroom The bedspread, scatter cushions and ornaments offer a welcome splash of colour. Elounda Villa master bedroom living space Elounda Villa master bedroom bathroom Olivia toiletries are supplied. Elounda Villa bathroom amenities The accommodation has its own lounge and kitchen beyond. Elounda Villa living space and kitchen Additional seating can found next to a fireplace just off from the main lounge area. Elounda Villa living space There are four bedrooms in total, each beautifully presented and with the option for rooms to be configured as twin or double beds. Elounda Villa bedroom The living area comes complete with 3D TV – 3D glasses are provided and DVDs can be borrowed from reception. Elounda Villa 3D TV A mezzanine floor houses a study area and additional seating. It should be noted that WiFi works well on all floors within the accommodation as well as outside. (I’ve stayed at places before where less-than-reliable WiFi access has been blamed on archaic telephone systems on the island but this clearly can’t be the case as it was fine here!) Elounda Villa office Outside the villa has its own elevated terrace with a view of the beach and sea, and a private pool which is a great size and with lots of sun loungers around it. Elounda Villa pool There’s also an outdoor table and seating with optional shade. Although the restaurant is back at the main resort, you can order snacks here.  On our first morning, because we had arrived late the night before, we actually had breakfast brought to us at the villa which was a lovely way to start the holiday. Elounda Villa breakfast The beach is exclusively for the use of the guests but a handful of times each year it is used for weddings. It just so happened that our stay co-incided with one of these occasions. Beach wedding As you can see, they do a great job of dressing up the venue for the occasion. This is a great venue for small weddings and is able to cater for wedding parties with up to around 40 guests. Beach wedding from the ground So that you can get a feel for the layout and quality of the accommodation, I shot a short video to give you a more complete overview.
YouTube video
For the remainder of our stay, we stayed at an Aegean Villa back at the main site of the hotel – Villa Erato, with three bedrooms and sleeping up to six people. Villa Erato steps There are two double rooms and one twin, each with a slightly unique style. Villa Erato master bedroom A pillow menu is provided should you have particular requirements in that regard. Villa Erato bedroom Once again, there is an open plan kitchen, dining table and lounge area. Villa Erato living space And outside, there was a shady area that was perfect for when the sun just got a little too hot. Villa Erato outdoor space Alternatively, our own pool with a view was perfect for cooling off! Villa Erato pool As at Elounda Villa, there is free WiFi and air conditioning throughout and, once again, I put together a short video in order to provide readers with a better understanding of how everything is pieced together.
YouTube video
So which of the two accommodation options did we prefer, I hear you ask?  Well, we actually loved them both and it was really too close to call – we liked the space that Elounda Villa afforded us, along with the beach setting, but we also really appreciated the privacy and having all the amenities ‘on site’ when staying at Villa Erato. At full occupancy, the hotel can accommodate up to 120 guests but this rarely happens since families of four might accommodate a villa that can sleep up to six, or couples might seek the additional space that a villa sleeping four offers. At the time of our visit, occupancy was at around 70% but it felt much quieter. This is testament to the way that the hotel has been designed. Suites and villas are cleverly perched on the hillside in a way that it never feels as though you are overlooking someone else, or indeed being overlooked, and the main public spaces are all open plan. Combine this with the generous meal times (see below) and you’ll find it never feels busy, even in communal areas such as the restaurant and bar. Regardless of which you choose, make sure you stay a while and you’ll be treated to some local delicacies that will be left in your accommodation such as these Cretan cakes. In-room treats …which brings me nicely on to the food. The food at Elounda Gulf Villas was something that stood out for me on my last visit, and once again they delivered. Led by Executive Chef Manolis Kokolakis, most meals are served at the hotel’s Argo restaurant where you can dine al fresco. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here, though for those looking for fine dining, there is also the Daphni gourmet restaurant to sample. Elounda Gulf Villas al fresco dining Meal times are generous with breakfast served until 11.30am, lunch from 12pm until 4pm and dinner from 7.30pm to last orders at 10.30pm. Table d’hote and a la carte menus showcase regionally-inspired contemporary Greek and Mediterranean cuisine – simple dishes with an emphasis on flavour. The quality of the food is excellent and I’m here presenting you with pictures of a selection of the dishes so you can at least get a feel for at least the presentation, if not the taste! Trilogy – aubergine salad, beetroot salad and tzatziki with pita bread, Knossos cucumber and kalamata olives. Elounda Gulf Villas trilogy Sautéed scallops in hazelnut butter served with sweet and sour beetroot cream, Cretan Summer truffle and mushroom air. Elounda Gulf Villas scallops Grilled octopus with creamy houmos, tomato marmalade, spicy rocket leaves with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Octopus Fried calamari with fresh green salad and lemon marmalade. Calamari Greek salad with a Cretan twist with dakos. Cretan salad Warm cuttlefish leaves marinated in marjoram oil served with a refreshing couscous salad with homemade cuttlefish ink mayonnaise… one of my favourites! Cuttlefish Lobster spaghetti with carefully chosen tender lobster pieces and fresh tomato sauce. Lobster and spaghetti Steamed monkfish fillet in lemon thyme and lime with celery purée, tomato confit and basil oil. Elounda Gulf Villas monkfish Lamb fillet covered in a green crust of fresh Cretan herbs served with citrus fruit flavoured bean purée and thyme sauce. Elounda Gulf Villas lamb Chocolate fondant with ice cream. Elounda Gulf Villas chocolate dessert Creme brûlée with fresh vanilla and raspberry mousse. Elounda Gulf Villas creme brulee Special Greek dishes on the menu include moussaka, soutzoukakia (homemade meatballs with cumin and tomato sauce, served with a potato purée), gemista (another favourite of mine – tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice and vegetables), kebabs and souvlaki. There’s also a healthy children’s menu and choice of ‘mocktails’ – our boys loved the Little Manhattan (cranberry juice, orange juice, cherry juice, lemon juice, orange bitters and cherry) and the Mock Champagne, and were even given an impromptu lesson at the Argo bar and taught how to make them themselves! This was a lovely ‘extra touch’ and in line with our experience of the staff throughout our stay – always smiling and eager to please. Mocktail The hotel holds close relationships with regional farmers and winemakers, and the sommelier is only too happy to share his expertise with you. The wine list is extensive and includes some excellent Greek white wines including some from the island’s Lyrakis Estate where certain grape varieties have been saved from extinction. Stay a while and the chances are that you’ll get to enjoy a Cretan night with live music, dancing and traditional Cretan cuisine (some Sundays at Argo restaurant). Greek night music These are fun evenings and, if the mood grabs you, you can even get involved with a little Greek dancing yourself. Greek night dancing Other facilities at the hotel include the Elixir Spa Gallery where there is a gym room, sauna, steam bath, outdoor Jacuzzi and massage room, or – if you prefer – in-room treatments are available.  And for those travelling with young children but looking for a little respite now and again, there is a kids club towards the top of the resort where you can also enjoy some beautiful views. Elounda is around an hour’s drive from Heraklion Airport, plus you’re around two miles from the centre of the town when staying at Elounda Gulf Villas. Although the hotel is happy to offer a shuttle service to the town and beach, I’d recommend hiring a car for this reason. We hired a new BMW X5 from Rental Center Crete – pictured here with the island of Spinalonga as a backdrop – which gave us the independence to explore at our own leisure. Crete car hire Although Elounda has lots of places to eat and drink around the harbour, for a more sedate experience and a more interesting and, dare I say it, classier selection of shops, I’d suggest venturing that little bit further to Plaka where the tavernas are a little less intrusive in trying to secure your custom. Plaka cart Plaka shop Plaka products Along with Agios Nikoloas and Elounda, Plaka is one of three places from which you can take a boat trip to Spinalonga. From here it’ll set you back just 8 euros per person (or half that for children 10 years old and younger).  Spinalonga has a fascinating history – home to a Venetian fortress is the late sixteenth century and a leper colony as recently as the late 1950s. Spinalonga Other places of interest nearby include Agios Nikolaos itself and the Lasithi Plateau, and for those looking to explore further still, there are numerous archaeological sites to delve into: the Palaces of Knossos and Phaestos, Gortina, and the Toplou and Areti monasteries. Whether you wish to sun lounge or sightsee, at Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites there are certainly plenty of opportunities to do either… Disclosure: Our stay was courtesy of Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. I remember a lovely visit to Elounda many years ago. We were staying elsewhere in Crete but made a detour. A beautiful, hidden place. I love the earthy tones on the villa featured (top).

  2. Location, accommodation, food, facilities and above all the staff are all fantastic. Everyone helpful, knowledgeable and very friendly. A great place for a relaxing holiday in a peaceful location with great views.

  3. some lovely villas,tempting to be honest x love the decor of them too,and where their situated x love the views and the food looks divine x

  4. What an incredible place and the suites are absolutely amazing, more beautiful than most homes! I love the colours in your photos, so vibrant and enticing!

  5. I have enjoyed a number of wonderful holidays in Greece – islands and mainland – but have never visited Crete. This blog, and the comments above, suggest I should rectify this situation at the earliest opportunity! :) And the Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites sound like the ideal base from which to explore the island. Must say, I have always preferred the experience of using Greek public transport to car hire. Can anyone advise me re public transport – especially local buses – on Crete?

  6. Hi Oliver

    I have only ever used taxis on Crete or self-driven, never buses. I would imagine they are fine for short journeys but Crete is a large island (the largest of the Greek islands) so, for longer journeys, I would imagine a bus would take a long time.

    Oh, and Elounda also has one of those ‘tourist trains’ which is well worth going on because it weaves its way up the hillside on the edge of the town and you can enjoy some great views.


  7. Hi Paul,

    Many thanks for your reply. I guess Crete is a bit big for longer distance bus travel? Perhaps I could use buses for more local exploration and taxis/car hire for longer runs. Can the hotel reception provide bus information?

    I really must seek out the ‘tourist railway’ you mentioned! I’ve not heard of that one! :D

    All the best


  8. You shown that is the best in Greece as seafood , beautiful view , music, sweets , wine .I hope that you enjoyed a good time in Greece !

  9. This post reminded me the places I have visited when I was there: we visited Spinalonga leaving from Elounta, then we visited Plaka too. Crete was very interesting. However I have haeard the Rethymnon is good too

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