Crete has more diversity of landscapes and environments than most countries do. From the stretches of pristine beaches to the unbelievable village life, the land of the ancient Minoans has a lot to offer.
Choosing the best accommodation choices on Crete is a daunting task. Greece’s biggest island, Crete has more diversity of landscapes and environments than most countries do. From the stretches of pristine beaches to the unbelievable village life, the land of the ancient Minoans has a lot to offer. I’ve chosen the following list of accommodations from firsthand experiences from our team at Argophilia Travel. The suggestions below include eco-touristic stays, existential magic, and beachcombing for the family.
Ecotourism at Existential Enagron Village
Volumes have been written about the Cretan lifestyle. Nothing printed can introduce the visitor to Crete like an immersive stay at a working farm though. To understand the appeal of the island you have to live the traditional Cretan way of life. There’s no better place to experience this than at the Enagron Ecotourism Village in the foothills beneath Mount Psiloritis.
Located a few minutes from Heraklion in Axos, Enagron is surrounded by beautiful olive groves and vineyards. The property sits just above the springs of Mylopotamos, in a setting right out of a storybook. Elegant, but rustic too, these traditional houses feature beamed ceilings, stone walls, fireplaces and well-equipped kitchenettes. The real value of Enagron is not classy Cretan accommodations though, it’s the lifestyle.
Enagron is a real working village and farm where fruits, vegetables, and herbs are grown. Organically produced cheese and meat products are created too. And, all the food produced at Enagron is made using traditional ways without fertilizers or harmful pesticides. In the village, the guests can take advantage of a score of communal areas for relaxation. There are many charming terraces, a lounge and a bar, and a restaurant that serves Cretan cuisine to die for. Guests can learn local cooking secrets, and there are even cheese-making classes. My son Rhett was at Enagron just last year, and he had nothing but rave reviews for the location and especially for the owner, Yiannis Papadakis and his staff. If there is anything on the down side about Enagron it's only that this is not your typical Crete resort – don’t expect five-star thalassotherapy or a pool bar.
This eco-tourism village is 42 kilometers from Heraklion City, 44 kilometers from Rethymnon, and 27 kilometers from Panormo Beach. The village makes an ideal base camp for wider excursions on the island too. Studios go for €94 per night during peak season.
Beach Fun for the Family at Creta Star
Situated a few kilometers outside picturesque Rethymno, Creta Star is right on Skaleta Beach. One of the Aegean Star Hotel Group’s best resorts, this four-star resorts was just visited by our collaborator Alina Lisina, the founder of TripTemptations and sometimes author on our Argophilia Travel News. A large beachfront resort, Creta Star is an all-inclusive stay geared toward family vacations.
One of the things guests of this hotel (including Alina) rave about are the lush gardens surrounding the property. The private beach and laid back atmosphere are things guests talk about most on TripAdvisor and by word of mouth. Creta Star has 324 elegant rooms spread out over six floors, all of which feature balconies or terraces overlooking the Cretan Sea or the mountains. My personal recommendation on this stay is for families wanting to explore as much of Crete as possible, while still being able to enjoy some of the world’s best beach action. Rethymno is the perfect starting point to explore southern Crete because it’s the second narrowest part of the island, with the most direct road routes. Chania and the west of the island are a day-trip, and so is Heraklion.
Some of the amenities you’ll find at Creta Star include; 3 restaurants and 3 bars to choose from, tennis and other sports facilities including watersports, organized activities for kids and adults, and a wide array of complete meals and drinks, etc. Alina Lisina was taken by the kids club and the mini disco her little girl participated in. The resort is located just a few kilometers east of Rethymno, and about 40 minutes from the airport in Chania. Double rooms with mountain views go for €211 per night, but remember this includes a lot of food and beverages.
Otherworldly Peace at Thalori
Situated in the high up in the Asterousia Mountains in the historic village of Kapetaniana, Thalori Guesthouses are a transportive experience. For the traveler interested in the extraordinary amid excellent choices, the name Thalori says it all. “Sea” and “hill,” that’s the literal meaning of the name, and owners Markos, and Popi Skordalakis deliver. My son Rhett was also here on a backpacking expedition touring cool places to stay, and he spoke affectionately about the people and the environment here. The ideally located village of Kapetaniana has been inhabited since the time of the fabled Minoans. I recall asking Rhett if the place fit the billing of Thalori’s website, to which he replied, “That and then some Dad! This place is magic.”
The guesthouses at Thalori are a stunningly genuine, built to blend with the pristine surroundings in a location that is mythic. You will have to experience to understand, but this is a nature lover’s paradise. Traditional Crete is a rare blend of both exhilaration and peacefulness. Thalori offers an immersive experience with unusual diversity. Guests can learn Cretan cooking, or they can work on the farm that provides the restaurant with all its goodies. You can go fishing, canoeing, hiking the mysterious mountains, take a 4×4 ride, the choices are limitless here. The only thing missing from the village is the beach, but Rhett told me that Markos leads hikes or excursions down to the Sea to fish or swim frequently. So I guess nothing is missing after all because Thalori even has a pool.
I must mention the tavern at Thalori, a restaurant with a magnificent view and splendiferous Cretan cuisine. Once again the resort’s website does not do justice to the guest fare here. As for the houses, they come in all shapes and sizes at Thalori. You can choose from a single room of 25 square meters for 2 persons, all the way up to an 110 square meter three bedroom for up to 6 persons. All the houses offer traditional architecture and splendid views of the sea and mountains. The only negative I’ve ever heard about Thalori concerns getting there. The village is remote, located 68 kilometers south of Heraklion high up in the Asterousia Mountains. The trip by car is a bit circuitous and takes roughly an hour and ten minutes. The upside of this is, the scenery on the way is breathtaking. As for the rates, they start at only €58 per night, which is dirt cheap for heaven on Earth.
All These Memories from Metochi
Back in 2015, we took a team of friends and colleagues to Crete for a month-long work-play vacation. Faced with the choice of providing hotel accommodations, staying at one of the eco-resorts, we chose the third alternative and rented a villa off the beach near Platanias. The decision ended up changing our lives, I must tell you, for we are currently headed to Crete to live for good. Our love affair with the island at in a tiny hamlet where Dionysius and Georgia Karalaki run Metochi Villas. In the same way, Thalori and Enagron provide a natural immersive, our stay at this stunning rustic villa put us in village life, quite literally. I found Metochi on Airbnb, the service which pretty much rules Crete house and villa rentals. But what we envisioned by looking at pictures on Airbnb could not prepare us for what we found off the beaches of Gerani and Platanias.
Situated a few hundred yards back from the beaches in a tiny community known as Metohi, Metochi Villa Laina (where we stayed) was the perfect combination of old world quiet and calm, along with welcoming acceptance as new “villagers.” My wife Mihaela never tires of telling the story of the local patriarch secreting eggs and oranges onto the windowsill every morning. Imagine the surprise when one discovers there are really angelic people still left in the world. A stone’s throw from everything marvelous in western Crete, Metochi’s four classic bedrooms provided us with the most restful sleep in ages. Well needed rest, I must say, from daily excursions to places like Falasarna Beach, Elafonisi, Balos, Chania, and the south coast over the White Mountains. A glistening pool, a superb balcony-terrace looking out over the hamlet and the Cretan Sea, Metochi was and is a heaven of a kind. You’d have to see the smile on my wife’s face each morning there, to fully understand my own adoration of the place. A traditional stone villa furnished with genuine antiques, Laina is all about tradition and peaceful living. A large kitchen and living room dominate the heart of the villa, and two chic traditional bedrooms up and two down provide the daily respite. I could go on describing a typical stone villa on Crete, but the place and the people were the real conveyance for all of us. The local butcher insisting we take free meats. The lady behind the grocery store counter giving away “secret” raki reserves. The old woman in traditional garb selling the most aromatic oranges I ever experienced. Metochi is the perfect introduction to what’s best on the island of Crete. As I wrote for Tripatini in 2014:
“These traditional stone villas are emblematic of a Cretan society centuries old. Reach across the fence in the courtyard, grab a fresh orange to squeeze for breakfast, or scramble some fresh eggs offered any morning by the neighbors – your Cretan villager status has just been redeemed.”
In truth, I’ve written two dozen stories that revealed Metochi Villas. Like I said, the place and the people altered our lives forever. The best I can do for readers is to heartily recommend the same experience we felt. Everyone raves about the “guest experience,” and it is true a room and a view is not all that make up a memorable stay. Getting to Metochi is relatively easy, the villas are just a short drive down the national road from Chania, or along the coast road that winds past Platanias. If you are interested, Metochi Laina suits 8 persons and goes for €180 per night, and the smaller Villa Sofas goes for around €140 in high season. While these prices are a bit heavy compared to some accommodations, please consider sharing four ways with your cohabiters.
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