Our recent holiday in Crete may have been the best holiday I have ever been on. I want to chronicle our trip here, and to do this I’m going to break it down into a few different posts: one about the hotel, one about our 4×4 excursion, one about the local area, culture, and food, and finally a book review of The Island and a brief review of our trip to Spinalonga, where the book is set. I want to take my time with these posts and give you as much of a feel for the place as I can, because we both loved it and I want to share that with you!
So for now, a bit about our hotel, the Aquila Elounda Village.
We arrived about midnight, but it was still about 21°C which was welcome considering the weather we’ve been having in England lately. We wandered around for a while in the dark – too excited to sleep – and stopped by the lobby bar to watch a fireworks display from central Elounda that (as we later learned) marked the end of a baptism. I love fireworks, so I was thrilled that they were one of the first things we saw on our trip.
Even though we could tell the hotel was beautiful in the middle of the night, we were so pleasantly surprised to look out of our bedroom window the next morning to an extraordinary view.
Elounda Village features everything you’d want in a resort – it’s right on the beach, there are three pools (two outside, one inside in the spa), helpful staff and breathtaking scenery. There are also two bars, the beach bar and the lobby bar, two a la carte restaurants as well as the main buffet restaurant, and a whole schedule filled with activities at the hotel as well as several excursions that could be paid for separately.
Our room was a seaview bungalow, and the most important piece of advice we gleaned from scouring TripAdvisor was to pay for this upgrade. It wasn’t much, an extra £40 for the week, and it was completely worth it. We had a King-size bed, television and CD player, couch and smalldining table, mini bar/fridge, and a lovely marble bathroom with shower and bath tub. The rooms were large, clean, and private, and the hotel thought of everything – they provided a bag to take towels in to the beach, robes and slippers, and plug-in mosquito repellents that were helpful if we’d had the door open onto the deck during the day. The rooms directly below ours – we were in a block of six – had a private pool, which is another (far more expensive) upgrade.
The hotel also offers garden view rooms and rooms that are a part of the main hotel. These, therefore, aren’t in the cute little bungalows that are spread throughout the grounds of the resort.
Our holiday was booked through Thomson, a holiday company here in the UK. Our resort was one of ‘theirs’, and I don’t know to what extent they own the hotel, but almost every guest was on a holiday booked through them or one of their partners. This means most of the guests were from the UK, though there were several French and German couples there as well.
This was a blessing and a curse. Everything in the hotel was displayed in English, which made a lot of things – like reading the menu – easy, and also meant that the band that played almost every evening (they were excellent!) sung in English. But one doesn’t go on holiday to Greece be surrounded by the kind of people they meet every day. Had we spent the entire week in the hotel – which we didn’t, as we went into the nearby towns or on an excursion almost every day – it would have been almost like they’d built the resort in England! The staff were Greek and they served traditional food in the restaurant, but we did not immerse ourselves in the culture as much as we could have had we stayed in a locally owned hotel.
One of the best parts of the resort, for me, were the wellness classes hosted daily by the lovely Nea. In the zen garden, pictured above, I took yoga, pilates, yogalates, and zumba classes on the grass in the sunshine. Imagine a circle of purple mats nestled beneath the trees, all facing in towards each other. It was glorious, and having had no idea that this was offered by the hotel, I was exceptionally pleased with the classes, the setting, and the teacher!
The hotel has a private beach with sun beds and umbrellas. The bay is cleaned of floating garbage and debris each morning just like the pools. The waters were sparkling and calm in the bay, and there was the option to rent jet skis, boats, canoes and kayaks, pedalos, and to take scuba diving lessons.
The resort was at full capacity while we were there, but with so many loungers by the beach and around the pool and so many tables at dinner, it was not noticeable at all. I loved the fact that the hotel is one of Thomson’s couples retreats, meaning everything is geared towards providing a romantic trip for you and your partner. It also meant there were no visitors under the age of eighteen – it was sometimes almost too quiet but you could swim in the pool without dodging balls or floating alligators.
The lobby bar from the pathway to our room where couples were enjoying pre-dinner drinks.
We were half-board, which meant breakfast and dinner was included in the price of our room. The buffet was substantial and more than satisfied both of us. We also received one meal at one of the a la carte restaurants, the Symposium, which also served a delicious array of food.
Breakfast included everything from yogurt, fruit and fresh bread to every kind of egg you could ever want (boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, and three kinds of omelette), cold meat and fish, bacon and sausages, pancakes and waffles… as a big fan of breakfast, I was a big fan of the buffet. I am not ashamed to admit I finished my meal with waffles and Nutella (I have an unhealthy love of Nutella) every single morning.
Dinner featured a salad bar, cold meat and cheese, olives, fresh bread, and a main meals that changed every night. There were traditional dishes like moussaka and souvlaki, as well as stir fries, burgers, meatballs and pasta, and things the guests might expect to find at home. There was a main for everyone and several cooked vegetable sides each night as well. We never left hungry, especially after a trip to the dessert table piled high with baklava, scoop-your-own-ice cream, fresh fruit and cheese, cakes and other sweets.
Infinity pool at Aquila Elounda Village Hotel courtesy of TripAdvisor
I would recommend this hotel to anyone, and we were very pleased with the service provided by Thomson. They took care of our flight, coach transfer, hotel booking, and the excursions we booked. The representative we dealt with, Tom, was pretty new to the job but his willingness to help made up for his inexperience.
We were so pleasantly surprised by the Elounda Village hotel. It was everything that we had hoped for and we left with that unusual feeling that we should have paid more for our holiday than we did. By spending time outside the resort, we got to experience and learn more about Crete, but we also had the advantage of having a private pool and beach adjoined to our hotel and we had English-speaking holiday representatives available to help plan our activities.
More about our excursions and the towns we visited on Crete to come!
Do you have any holiday plans this summer?