Charmed by Crete – Glass discovers the allure of Elounda Peninsula

CRETE, the largest of the Greek islands, dominates the Aegean, an embayment of the Mediterranean Sea. The island boasts a dry and sunny climate during the months of April through to September, with high afternoon temperatures during the summer months conveniently cooled by a gentle breeze from the Meltemi northerly winds.

elounda_peninsulaAn aerial view of the Elounda Peninsula

With its majestic scenery from three mountain ranges creating a rugged backdrop to the golden sandy beaches, Crete is often claimed to the birthplace of the Gods. Its 6000-year history, forged by its unique location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, waits to be explored at the impressive archaeological sites and museums across the island.

elounda_peninsulaThe Elounda Peninsula’s private beach

We are staying at one of the most glamorous and luxurious resorts in Greece – which I’m sure is the reason that my husband and three adult children all decided to join me on this break. The Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel is part of SA Hotels & Resorts, a family-run group, located on a secluded rugged peninsula jutting into the Aegean Sea and accessed via a private winding road. The hotel offers its guests total privacy, with all suites boasting a sea-facing view, an outdoor area and a swimming pool.

elounda_peninsulaThe entrance to the Elounda Peninsula

On entering our Presidential Suite villa, we’re immediately struck by the seascape view from our floor-to-ceiling French windows. I enthusiastically step outside into our private garden and dip my hand into the warm water of our pool. Narrow cobbled steps lead to a pathway down to our own little jetty, complete with sun loungers, a huge sunshade and direct access into the cobalt sea. Our very own magical piece of the Aegean. Our villa is modern and spacious, with two double en-suite bedrooms, and a large and airy duplex living area complete with a compact kitchenette.

elounda_peninsulaOne of Elounda Peninsula’s presidential villas

Each morning we amble to breakfast in the smart dining room of the resort’s main building, which prides itself with picture-perfect far-reaching views across the sea. There is a wide selection of healthy options from an impressive buffet display and an à la carte menu to choose from. Most of our time is spent relaxing within the privacy of our exclusive villa, either by our pool or on our jetty by the sea; only the sound of the occasional boats and water sports enthusiasts gliding by intermittently break our relaxing silence. Most days, freshly prepared lunch is an intimate family affair in our villa’s garden, where we tuck into an array of crisp Greek salads and grilled fish, speedily delivered by an efficient room service team.

elounda_peninsulaBreakfast dining at the Calypso restaurant

Our biggest decision every day is which restaurant to select for dinner. Conveniently, we don’t have to venture very far to enjoy the wide range of options. Guests at Elounda Peninsula have access to the restaurants at the hotel’s sister properties, the Elounda Mare Hotel, a member of Relais & Châteaux, and Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort.

elounda_peninsulaThe golf course available at Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort

The Pan-Asian Koh restaurant, positioned over the seawater on a raised glass floor, cleverly creates the illusion of being out at sea with waves breaking beneath our feet. Portions served are plentiful and artistically presented, with the succulent duck proving the biggest hit. In contrast, dinner al fresco by the sea is a more formal affair at the smart Elounda Mare with its Mediterranean-inspired menu, where we are presided over by an army of helpful staff. With gastronomy playing a major part in the life of the engaging locals, fresh produce and domestically pressed olive oils feature heavily on all the authentic Cretan menus.

elounda_peninsulaThe view from the Pan-Asian Koh restaurant

We also have access to all the facilities at the other two hotels. The award-winning Six Senses Spa, overlooking the resort’s nine-hole golf course, is one of the most prestigious within the Six Senses Spa portfolio. Looking through the spa menu, I opt for the rejuvenating facial using the locally produced Apivita range of products, which leaves my skin visibly radiant. One of the highlights of the holiday for my family is taking advantage of the unique choice of water sports activities available within the resort. We hire a speedboat and cruise in the calm waters along the jagged coastline, while watching the silhouette of our resort and its villas disappear from view, before circling back before dusk.

elounda_peninsulaThe treatment room at the Six Senses Spa

There are plenty of places to explore within close proximity of the resort. Elounda, formerly a quiet fishing village, has evolved into a picturesque harbour, lined with glamorous boutiques, buzzy restaurants and trendy bars. We reserve a waterside table at The Ferryman, one of the most famous restaurants in Crete, named after the 1977 film shot in Elounda, Who Pays the Ferryman. In contrast, Agios Nikolaos, the largest town in eastern Crete, is filled with noisy tourists and a bustling harbour. The most visited local attraction is the islet of Spinalonga with its ancient ruins, which were featured in Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island. The best time to visit is late afternoon to view the magnificent sunset slowly dipping into the salty sea.

elounda_peninsulaOne of Elounda Peninsula’s presedential villas interior

On our final day I have the pleasure of meeting Mrs Kokotoy, wife of the founder of SA Hotels & Resorts, and I ask her what makes this place so unique. In her perfect, slightly accented English she replies, “My husband always puts himself in the shoes of his guests and thinks about what it is they want, to ensure that their holiday is a memorable one.” Clearly, Mr Kokotoy has managed to do just that.

elounda_peninsulaSerenes Bar

by Amanda Bernstein

Sovereign (01293 765 003) is offering a seven-night holiday to the five star Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel in Crete, staying in a Peninsula Grand Three Bedroom Villa with Private Pool, on an B&B basis, from £1,938 per person (based on six adults sharing). The offer includes UK airport security fast passes and access to N°1 Lounges, private resort transfers and return international flights from London Gatwick with easyJet. Based on 2018 departures 1 May 2018.


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