The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, this is no news. People are afraid to travel, or at least afraid to travel to some destinations. Here on Crete, and in other parts of Greece, the way the COVID situation was handled from the onset, led Europeans to trust Greece as a top vacation spot in 2020. Tripadvisor just announced Crete as the third most popular destination in the world, in fact. With peace of mind as a travel priority, here are five of the best places to stay on Greece’s biggest island.
Nestled high up in the Asterousia Mountains, Thalori Retreat is an agrotourism wonder we’ve written about several times. Built from the vision of a man named Markos Skordalakis, this wonderful resort is all about traditional village life, with just a hint of pure luxury infused within. Markos built the houses and apartments of local stone, wood, and marble, with loving attention to detail. The setting is amazing, the cuisine perfect, and the excursions into the mysterious Cretan mountains are a wilderness lover’s Eden.
Here, you feel a sense of seclusion and quiet like nowhere else on Earth. The views of the Libyan Sea are spellbinding, and the call of the Golden Eagle a signal of safe solitude. Here you start your day with a fantastic Cretan breakfast and end it staring up into a flawless blanket of stars hanging out over pristine mountains and a seemingly endless sea.
A few of the activities you can expect to experience include horseback riding, cooking classes, 4×4 safaris, canyoning, hiking, fishing, canoeing, boating, and participating in farm activities. And if you’re not ready to book your flight and your stay just yet, watch the video below.
On feeling secure, Thalori is about as remote as it gets. Markos and his staff take every precaution to ensure not only that quest expectations are met, but that their safety and wellbeing is protected as well. Your own stone house, on a remote mountainside in the south of Crete? Well, no one can make guarantees against things like viruses, but the law of averages does have a say.
Thalori Retreat’s rates begin at €65 euro per night for the one-room house (currently sold out). You may reserve here, or contact them via phone at +30 697 699 4896
Delina Mountain Resort
Located overlooking one of Crete’s most famous traditional villages, Delina Mountain Resort is high up on the base of Mt. Ida (Psiloritis), the legendary birthplace and playground of the Greek god Zeus. Created by one of Greece’s most beloved musical talents, the mandolin genius Vassilis Skoulas (Instagram below), the resort is a tribute to Crete tradition and to the glorious mountain life so many here adore.
Part Spartan, part luxurious, and all-engrossing, Delina is a place to be reborn, if that’s what you’re after. It’s also a super quiet and peaceful respite from the endless buzz we all suffer from. Primarily a winter resort, Delina is perfect for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore Crete’s primitive regions as well.
About 1 kilometer from sacred Anogia Village, the Skoulas family retreat sits over 900 meters above sea level on a pristine 28-acre plot on the melancholy mountainside. 13 spacious and well-appointed rooms and suites provide closeness to the music and nature while separating you from any notion of your neighbors. The restaurant, the lake, the pool, the chapel on the hill, everything about the place gives the guest a sense of space. Even the tavern where the nights are full of music does not crowd you. And the music is what Delina is really all about. The video below from
Ilias Iliopoulos shows an overview of the property.
When we stayed here a few weeks ago, I was particularly impressed by the way the staff was handing the COVID situation. Breakfast was delivered to our suite individually wrapped, the fresh Cretan eggs, the juice, even the salt, and pepper individually segregated from each other. Everyone from the director, Vassilis’ son Michalis Skoulas, to the musicians who performed at the music cafe went the extra mile to make us feel not only welcome but safe and assured.
The resort is an ideal basecamp for adventurers or tourists who want to explore the heart of Crete. The famous Anogia Village is but one of dozens of historic and beautiful attractions within walking, biking, hiking, or 4-wheeler range of the resort. The famous Cave of Zeus is not far, the amazing Ancient Zominthos Minoan Palace is only a bit over 7 kilometers off, and those into astronomy can even enjoy Skinakas Observatory, which is just up the mountain.
Delina Mountain Resort rates begin at €74 euro per night in mid-season via their website. To reserve or for questions please call (+30) 6955 696921
Right next to tiny Angeliana Village, not far from beautiful Panormo, the Dalabelos Estate is an agrotourism enclave unlike any other. Situated on a hill overlooking the Cretan Sea, the dream of Vassilis Petrodaskalakis is a piece of Crete that offers nothing less than medicine for the soul. In the shadow of Mt. Ida (Psiloritis) the estate has 10 stone studios and 2 luxurious villas set down in the middle of a natural paradise.
Like Thalori and Delina, Vassilis’ traditional offerings are extraordinary, and the food, in particular, is incomparable. His farm generates all the products, you see, in a truly ideal farm to table experience. Isolated, but close to the beaches and the touristy places, Daebelos is a basecamp where you can learn to cook authentic Cretan, hiking the foothills of the sacred mountain, and then paraglide in the afternoon off Rethymno town. Vassilis is also an accomplished musician, and many of Greece’s best performers have events at the estate. The video below gives a good overview of the property.
Rated one of the top wellness retreats in Europe, Dalabelos Estate is a concept of Vassilis’ that deals with the healing properties of the land, the music, and the food of Crete island. This serene spot is another of the island’s most curative and inspirational places. It’s also a stay where you can have confidence in the fact the owners have done everything in their power to protect you and to present Crete at its best. Guests can take part in cooking classes, music lessons, tours, a musical instruments workshop, hiking, mountain biking, and a lot more.
Daebelos Estate rates start at €121.50 per night. To make reservations or to inquire please call (+30) 283 402 2155
SeaScape Luxury Residences
The only seaside stay on this list, SeaScape Luxury Residences is steps from one of Greece’s most fantastic beaches. It’s also one of the only places in such touristic spots where a guest can create their own world, their own agenda. A new luxury apartment hotel, SeaScape is a rare combination of self-catering accommodations that combines traditional Greek holidays with modern hospitality. The vision of Heraklion entrepreneur Dimitris Markakis, the stunning hotel offers everything without pretense or distraction.
Steps from postcard-perfect Agia Pelagia Bay, SeaScape’s residences offer Cretan hospitality with a touch of refined elegance. Two glorious infinity pools sit at different levels, a waterfall connecting the two underneath a magical pool bar. As for the accommodations, Dimitris’ architect and his designers have burned many lamps full of midnight oil in creating these stunning residences. The best way to show you the spirit of Agia Pelagia is through the wonderful video below by Quad Safari.
At Agia Pelagia, arguably the best swimming spot on the Cretan Sea, watersports enthusiasts and sunbathers will feel like they’ve reached Nirvana. I cannot deny, this is one of my family’s favorite summer destinations. Quaint fish tavernas line the stunning beach, and superb little souvenir shops dot the village landscape where once fishing huts dominated. The bay, once the port of the lost city of Apollonia, is breathtaking from above, or from within the stunning aquamarine waters it’s famous for. The bay is also just minutes away from many of Heraklion Prefecture’s most interesting attractions. Heraklion is a few minutes away, with all its museums, shops, and fantastic restaurants, and natural wonders surround the tiny former fishing village.
SeaScape residences go for about €52 euro per night. To make reservations or to inquire, please call
As the saying goes, “last but not least”, Aravanes is a family taverna and inn that brings new meaning to the age-old adage “location is everything”. This stunningly simple Crete version of a bed and breakfast is located, appropriately, in a tiny village known as Thronos. As the name implies, this village is literally the throne looking out over the incomparable Amari Valley of Rethymno Prefecture. To put it simply, there are not enough explicative to describe either the place or the people who run it.
Aravanes is one of those rare places that makes its way mostly by word of mouth, or more appropriately, by the reverberations from the sensory perceptions of the people and the place stir. A few quaint rooms over the top of the taverna, the unequaled view from the terrace, these enviable aspects of hospitality play second fiddle (or Lyra) to Lambros Papoutsakis, his daughters, and their stalwart husbands who run operations here. These people are the heart and soul of Crete island. Nowhere on this island will you feel safer or more wanted and welcome, truly. I have 100 stories about this, so just trust me.
Maria and Elephtheria, whom I will disclose as one of our dear friends, are more or less in charge of operations now that Lambros has undertaken other pursuits. A Tripadvisor annual choice as one of the top restaurants not only in Greece but in the world, Aravanes is my all-time favorite place to have breakfast – EVER. The video below reveals some of the secrets of this amazing traditional Cretan hospitality legend.
Just ask, and Elephtheria’s stalwart husband Tito will guide you for midnight stargazing atop Mt. Ida. He’ll show you where to pick the sacred Origanum dictamnus. Or, talk to Maria’s husband Manolis, and he’ll let you help harvest and stomp the grapes for wine and raki. Get Maria to teach you to make bread, or plead with Lambros to show you the hidden Minoan gold (kidding, sort of). Not far off you’ll find Patsos Gorge, Arkadi Monastery, the lost Minoan Palace at Monastiraki, and dozens of other nearby wonders. Hikers and backpackers use Archanes for their anchor point for exploring this part of Crete.
Aravanes rooms go for about €45 euro per night. To reserve your room or to ask about special events call (+30) 2833 022760