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October 16, 2017updated Oct 17, 2017

Guide to Elounda: Greece’s hidden Hollywood

By Will Grice

An unsuspecting gem of the northern coast of Crete is the small coastal town of Elounda.  A long-time favorite with Hollywood royalty (Leonardo Dicaprio and Lady Gaga to name a few…), this picturesque fishing village is home to both unspoiled, traditional cobbled streets and multi million pound holiday chateaus that take your breath away.  With both luxurious and authentic Greek experiences a mile away from each other, Elounda is bound to keep even the fussiest of travelers suitably entertained.

WHERE TO STAY IN ELOUNDA

Elounda Spa Villas

For an authentic Greek experience, let Kyriakos of Elounda Spa Villas be your warm and welcoming host. Halfway between neighboring fishing village, Plaka and atmospheric Elounda bay, the Elounda Spa Villas is just the right distance from the hubbub of swanky bars and restaurants for ample periods of quiet calm.  The resort currently consists of just one Villa, however owner Kyriakos Tilkerides, is building a second as we speak, and has been open to the public for just over a year. Boasting two, generous-sized bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a living room-come-bedroom; separate lounge area; modern kitchen and private hydrotherapy spa and gym in the basement, the villa can house up to six guests.  There’s also a private garden – personally attended to by Tilkerides himself – home to blossoming bushes of every fresh herb you can imagine – and Bananas.

The pièce de résistance of the place is without doubt the garden terrace at the rear of the house. State of the art sun loungers (crafted out of locally-sourced wood) look over a large, heated swimming pool, whilst outdoor dining furniture and a gas BBQ are also on hand should you wish to knock up a feast. Should you wish to swim privately, the master bedroom comes complete with a Jacuzzi on the terrace. Or, for ultra relaxation, take a long soak in the oxygen-blasting hydro-therapy Jacuzzi, complete with color-changing lights.

To make life even easier, your host greets you with a fridge stocked to the brim with local produce and will personally transport you to all the authentic sights of the area.  Guests can also request butler, chef, personal trainer and beauty therapy services for an added cost.

Elounda Spa Villas, from $600 per night, for more information please visit eloundaspavillas.com

Elounda Blue Palace

Where to stay in Elounda

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A great hotel option comes courtesy of the opulent Elounda Blue Palace resort. Five minutes walk from the tiny, pretty spot of Plaka, Blue Palace is a great choice for those who like to have everything catered for. With four à la carte restaurants, three swimming pools, a watersports center, private beach and private swimming and tennis lessons for children, this award-winning hotel ticks all the boxes. Superior rooms feature a private pool and a private terrace, which is well worth investing in, should you want to escape fellow holiday-makers.  The hotel is built on a curved hill, hence the show-stopping views of the surrounding Mirabello Bay that greet you as you wake up every morning. If the four restaurants serving everything from steak to Asian cuisine aren’t cutting it for you, a host of traditional Greek tavernas line the cobbled streets of neighboring village Plaka which is a mere 15 minute walk away.

Prices start at $210 a night for more information please visit bluepalace.gr

WHAT TO EAT IN ELOUNDA

You can’t holiday in Crete without dining on a traditional spread of meze, washed down with shots of locally-produced spirit, Raki.  There are countless tavernas that offer just this within both Elounda Bay and Plaka. The challenge is deciphering the tourist traps from the authentic, eateries – which deliver on flavor every single time.

VACHUS TAVERNA

Where to eat in Elounda

For a simple, yet delicious, long lunch in the sunshine, head to Vachus Taverna in Elounda Bay. The staff supply you with hefty portions of traditional, Cretan delights such as saganaki (deep fried feta cheese); dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and – of course, thick and creamy tzatziki. Dinnertime calls for something a little more intimate, so be sure to make the pilgrimage to The Hope To Rakadiko, which sits on the hill-top and looks over the calming waters of Elounda bay.  A favorite with both tourists and local visitors, the institution offers an extensive menu of scrumptious seafood and tender cuts of lamb and pork. Order the melt-in-your-mouth lamb chops and gaze down at the rippling water as the sun sets on Elounda bay. Perfection.

For more information please call +30 2841 041380

THE OLD MILL RESTAURANT AT THE ELOUNDA MARE HOTEL

If it’s fine dining you’re after, book a table at The Old Mill restaurant at The Elounda Mare hotel.  Set around an ancient millstone among the foliage of a botanical garden, the 30-year-old restaurant is visited by travelling foodies year after year.

Head Chef, Antonis Petrelis, has developed an innovative menu that puts a Creatan spin on refined, elegant cuisine. The array of freshly-caught seafood is particularly impressive and a plate of sautéed crayfish is a MUST.

For more information please visit eloundamare.com

WHAT TO DO IN ELOUNDA

If you have a car, you’re in luck, as there’s plenty to do and see that’s a little further a field than Elounda Bay itself. Half an hours drive down the coast lands you in the larger town of Agios Nikaolas, where cafes, restaurants, shops and beaches decorate the shoreline. The Creatan Olive Oil farm is worth a visit – take a guided tour of the olive groves and the stonewalled factory, before ending the day with a lengthy browse of the gift shop’s culinary delights.

Perhaps the most popular sight to see in Elounda is the former Leper colony of Spinalonga island. Just off the coast of Elounda, and reachable via a short ferry ride, is the place where, until 1957, Leprosy patients were isolated as a way of preventing the disease from spreading further through the population. From 1903, hundreds of so-called, ‘Lepers’ with facial and limb deformities stepped onto the shores of Spinalonga.  Wonder through the eerie island, stepping in and out of the churches and abandoned rooms that remain untouched. Several small museums are on the island in order for visitors to learn about the strange history of so-called ‘Leper island’. Boat rides to Spinalonga run throughout the day from nearby towns such as Elounda, Plaka and Agios Nickaolas.

If you’re particularly lucky with the weather, it’s worth spending a day on Kolokytha beach, next to the island of Spinalonga, where you’ll also spot ruins of an early Christian basilica, dating back to the 5th century. It’s a secluded, sandy beach that offers a perfect sunbathing spot – providing the weather is on your side, of course.

The Crete region of Lassithi is also worth a visit, mainly for the miniature village of Psychros. Home to just 183 people, much of the rural area lay undiscovered until the late 1800s.  Be sure to check out the bat-ridden cave in which the leader of the Greek gods, Zeus, is said to have been born. Ancient legend has it that ghost sightings of zombie children appear in the shadowy corners…enter if you dare.

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