Louisa Castle is transported to an island paradise of outstanding natural beauty, cuisine and people at the stunning Elounda Peninsula.
The Elounda Peninsula all-suite hotel nestles atop a finger of the Cretan coastline with views of blue as far as the eye can see. And it was a welcome sight to see as our black Mercedes transfer pulled up at the reception area and we were warmly greeted by Eleni and Eftichia who would be looking after us during our stay.
The reception and lounge area is the top floor of the main Elounda Peninsula building, with huge verandas facing out across Mirabello Bay and the Aegean Sea and whilst our welcome was the most genuine and warm it was the views that initially stole our hearts. As we descended the grand spiral staircase (there is also a lift) we passed the breakfast area and gourmet Calypso restaurant to the second floor, again with stunning Aegean blue views and on the bottom floor, indoor pool, Kelari wine cellar with outstanding collection and private-dining options and cinema room, before stepping out to cobbled Cretan path to our one-bedroom Presidential suite with private pool and access to the sea.
Our home for the next week was spectacular, as Eftichia opened the door and showed us around, again though, it was the views which stole the show. Entering into sitting/dining area with guest bathroom to the right, down a couple of steps to the main lounge with open fire came the view. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors to a covered decking area, gardens and private pool with the sea and mountains beyond. From the lounge area the bedroom and bathroom mirror the living space, with Jacuzzi bath, dressing room and same extensive glass sliding doors leading to an outside space. The suites are stepped around the coastline allowing maximum privacy and remaining as true as possible to modern Cretan life. At the end of the garden there was a small viewing deck with access to the sea and sunbathing area. All that was left was to order some room service to the pool and that was us for the afternoon, quite content with our books and the view.
There are a total of 54 suites at Elounda Peninsula from one-bedroom to six-bedroom residences. Some overlook the beach but others, like ours, look out to sea, and the two-storey collection suites in the main house are perfect for families. We had booked a half-board basis so dinner was at neighbouring Porto Elounda at Nafsika, a greek cuisine buffet with some excellent options. There are three properties which make up the family owned Elounda Hotels & Resorts, all linked along a two mile stretch of the coast and beautiful gardens and a golf course. Each has dining options which all guests are welcome to enjoy. The Kokotos family are very proud of their properties, their architectural heritage and stretch of Cretan coastline and it is evident to see in all that they do. Elounda Mare is the only member of Relais & Chateaux in Greece and is built like a traditional Cretan village with winding paths and bright bougainvillea, not forgetting all the modern essentials. Porto Elounda is modern with Six Senses Spa and nine-hole golf course and then there is Elounda Peninsula, all suite, all private pools.
Then there are a handful of Elounda Peninsula Diamond Residences, ranging from one to six bedroom beachfront villas. Across the three properties there are nine dining options to choose from. We didn't manage to sample them all during our stay but we came close.
For romance and Cretan fine-dining it has to be Old Mill Restaurant at Elounda Mare. Well-spaced tables dot the olive grove and the waiting staff are impeccably informed and friendly, whether it is explaining what a dish consists of or suggesting a wine to accompany it. We were delighted by the seabass and tuna tartare, local lamb and Baklava Brownie, along with wine from the Kokotos family vineyard. Alongside the setting sun and pianist it was a special evening under the stars. Not to miss is fish night at The Yacht Club. This happens every Friday and if you are a lover of seafood, it is an absolute feast for the eyes and for the stomach; from a fresh sushi station prepared before your eyes to daily catches and everything in between. There is also a striking pan-Asian waterfront restaurant Koh and French gourmet Calypso, both situated at Elounda Peninsula, and a relaxed Italian beach front restaurant Aglio e Olio. All in all plenty to choose from, not to mention the room service menu for the ultimate dinner for two. Dining is a major factor for our holidays, as you may have already noticed, alongside some much deserved R&R.
Having said that there's plenty to do with the kids or friends should you choose, from private sailing to water sports, golf or tennis. There's a Kid's Ark made exclusively for the children complete with waterslides, Arsenal Soccer School and Barbie experience. The crèche caters for children aged four months to three years old and is always supervised by Jenny and her team of qualified nannies. Of note is the Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda, a short shuttle ride from Elounda Peninsula.
Whilst we walked from property to property it is a little hilly so the shuttle bus or golf cart is always on hand however, long or short the distance. With the same stunning views across the gardens and sea Six Senses Spa is a haven of tranquility with Thalassotherapy Thermal Suite and indoor/outdoor pool to the first floor and treatment rooms to the upper level. The spa menu is quite a book but speak to the team and they will be able to advise whether it is a ritual, treatment or wellness programme you are looking for. I can recommend the full body signature massage to ease you into the holiday, tailor made to your requirements and addressing trigger points with gentle pressure and release techniques. As soon as you hear the singing bowl you are transported to relaxation.
A range of wellness activities also take place here, from yoga retreats to power wellness walks. Plus, there's a kids wellness workshop too which combine fun activities with learning. Then there's shops, boutiques, art galleries and traditional Greek Orthodox churches on site. Having just reeled off all that there is to do at Elounda Peninsula and its sister properties I cannot stress enough the peace and tranquility the property and people purvey. Whilst we explored and enjoyed and met like-minded guests of all nationalities and make-up we loved nothing more than returning to our little haven and window of blue on the world.
Before I sign off, however, a special mention has to go to the manager Manolos Tzagarakis, Eftichia and the staff at Elounda Peninsula. Their welcome was warm and genuine and immediately made us feel at home. Nothing was too much and we still compare future welcomes at other establishments to our Peninsula experience. It is yet to be beaten.