“There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities.” The Odyssey, Book XIX, lines 172-174. And had Ulysses actually gone to Crete, he probably would have wanted to stay there instead of going home.
Of course, nowadays, there are many tourists – past counting – and some nineteen hundred hotels. But don’t let that put you off because, for those in the know, there is a beautiful oasis of peace and quiet called Elounda Mare. The first indication is that this hotel was the first in Greece – and the only one in Crete – to become a member of the Relais & Châteaux collection back in 1987. The many prizes and awards it has earned since are another.
The family-owned hotel was built like a Cretan mansion and naturally blends into the landscape. It is set in a gorgeous, well-groomed park overlooking the Mirabello Bay with beautiful and plentiful flowers along the paved footpaths. Besides the standard rooms and suites in the main building, there are also different kinds of bungalows that come with a private seawater pool and a lovely home away from home feel. You get to start the day with a morning swim with a breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea and the distant mountains and enjoy complete privacy. And the layout of the hotel allows you to maintain that feeling of privacy elsewhere, too.
Peace can be found in the prize-winning gastronomic restaurant ‘Old Mild’ set in in the tranquil gardens or at the Yacht Club looking out over the hotel’s private sandy beach. The main restaurant ‘Deck’ sometimes gets a little busier but is just as pleasant. And all three restaurants share a love for fine traditional cuisine prepared with local quality ingredients. They also offer excellent Greek wines besides the international ones.
Guests of the Elonda Mare can also choose to dine at the two neighboring sister resorts Elounda Peninsula and Porto Elounda. The latter features a 9-hole par-3 golf course and a Six Senses Spa, both accessible with a free shuttle. The spa has an indoor and outdoor thalassotherapy swimming pool, a very large traditional hamam, various saunas and steam rooms, a variety of experience showers and last but not least, an extensive list of treatments among them the heavenly Holistic Six Senses Signature Massage (€110).
But there’s more to the place than sports, easy relaxation and fine dining. One can also visit the neighboring colorful villages and ports or go hiking. The famed archeological site of Knossos is about an hour’s drive away, not far from the Heraklion Archeological Museum with its many treasures and artifacts from the Minoan Age. Heraklion is also the airport served by Jetairfly which is offering up to five flights a week with departure from Brussels from €80 per person each way. For more info, go to www.jetairfly. com or ask your travel agent. Elounda Mare Hotel in Crete, Greece: Standard twin room with sea view from €290, breakfast included.