If you are looking for a beach holiday in late Spring or early Autumn this year, look no further than Elounda in Crete. I was there last October for a short holiday with my husband, catching the last bit of summer heat in the Mediterranean Sea! I was there to review Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel, a mini paradise within the beautiful Cretan coast.
Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, so a long weekend is never going to be enough to see it all. But it’s a good start to get a glimpse of all the amazing things that Crete has to offer. The Greek island is renowned for its coastline with marvellous beaches, crystalline water and luxurious holiday resorts.
Moving inland, the landscape changes dramatically, making way to vast valleys covered by olive groves and vineyards, lakes and mountains that are great for walks and hikes. There are picturesque mountain villages such as Latsida and Kritsa.
The exceptional Cretan gastronomy is also an important part of the local traditions, one element that I was certainly interested in discovering more! I planned our itinerary around our hotel, Elounda Peninsula, never going further than a 40-minute car drive. We explored local villages, nearby beaches and restaurants, managing in the short time to get a taste of the local cuisine. At the bottom of this post you will find my recommendations for day trips.
How to Get There
I flew from London Gatwick to Crete with Thomas Cook Airlines, an airline I have always enjoyed flying with because they are on time, their aircrafts are new and spacious and you can pre-book tasty inflight meals.
We landed at Heraklion Airport around 9pm and hired a car that we had pre-booked online with GocarHire. It takes around 50-60 minutes to drive from the airport to Elounda on the Agios Nikolaos motorway.
Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel is a family-owned property overlooking the Bay of Elounda and Mirabello Bay. It is part of Elounda Hotels & Resorts complex: three low-rise sister hotels that share facilities including a golf course and a Six Senses Spa.
The All Suite Hotel is set on a peninsula with access to a stretch of beach that is exclusive for Elounda Peninsula guests. The hotel is intimate and secluded from the nearby resorts and is ideal for couples on a romantic getaway. I loved waking up to the beautiful view of the Aegean Sea every morning. There is also a wonderful view of the bay and of Spinalonga island from the lobby lounge and restaurant terrace.
Peninsula Collection Suite
Elounda Peninsula offers 54 suites, all with a sea view. We stayed in one of the Peninsula Collection One-Bedroom Suites, a spacious duplex accommodation with breath-taking views of the crystalline blue of Mirabello Bay.
The elegant interiors of our suite looked a bit dated in style compared to the newer Presidential Suites. Nonetheless, the Collection Suite is elegant. We had 80sqm of luxurious living space spread over two floors with a living room, a master bedroom and two marble bathrooms (with a hot tub).
There was also a balcony on the upper floor and a terrace on the lower floor, with a private seawater plunge pool! It was the largest suite I’ve ever stayed in and the first with a rock-enclosed pool!
We travelled to Crete in early October and had four days of sunshine with 25°C temperatures during the day. We tried to spend as much time as possible on our private beach. Elounda Peninsula guests receive complimentary deckchairs, sunshades, towels, fresh water and snacks.
After a few hours of sunbathing and swimming in the sea, we walked over to Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort for a traditional Cretan lunch at Nafsika restaurant and a relaxing spa session at Six Senses Spa.
Six Senses Spa
I had one of the most relaxing spa treatments of my life at Elounda Peninsula Six Senses Spa. Entry to the spa is not complimentary to hotel guests (it costs €30 to use the facilities) and treatments are not cheap either. But honestly it is one of the best spas I’ve ever been to. I loved the infinity pool, the sauna and the Anika Classic Facial (75 minutes), a relaxing experience that includes a foot bath, a back massage and a deep cleansing facial.
Elounda Peninsula Spa
If you don’t feel like spending the extra money, you have the option to use in the Spa located on the lower ground at Elounda Peninsula, featuring an indoor pool, steam room and sauna.
Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel – together with nearby Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort and Elounda Mare Hotel – offers a wide range of dining options (Greek, French, Italian, Asian, etc.). Within the Elounda Peninsula Hotel, you can have French cuisine at award-winning Calypso or Pan-Asian cuisine at Koh (which also offer a spectacular setting close to the water, perfect for watching the sunset).
Breakfast is served at Calypso and guests can eat from the buffet or order from the a la carte menu (free of charge). We loved the pancakes and ended up ordering several times during our stay. As expected, local foods such as Greek yoghurt, honey and homemade Cretan biscuits were delicious.
What To See Around Elounda
I would have loved to spend four days sunbathing at the resort, but I had never been to Crete before and I was curious to explore the island. Here are a few recommendations for short tours and day trips.
Elounda is actually a collection of three villages: Ano (upper) and Kato (lower) Elounda and Skisma. I would recommend visiting Elounda in the evening, it gets very lively around the cafes by the harbour. One of the best restaurants in Elounda is Kanali, situated by the canal off the causeway. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner! The menu specialises in fresh seafood and Mediterranean dishes, paired with the best Cretan and Greek wines.
The ideal destination for a day trip is the island of Spinalonga (known as Kalydon). The island used to be a salt farm used by the Venetian (who ruled Crete until the 17th century). In the early 1900’s, Spinalonga became a leper colony. Today the island is deserted, though it remains a popular tourist destination. Boats come and go all day long from Elounda and from Plaka. The boat ride takes just ten minutes, so that you can spend an hour or two walking around the island and be back in Plaka in time for lunch.
The small village of Plaka offers great spots to taste freshly caught fish and Cretan dakos: a traditional dish made of barley rusk, tomato, mizithra cheese, olives topped with the extra virgin olive oil. Taverna Paliria was our favourite restaurant in Plaka; we loved sitting on the beautiful terrace right by the sea, overlooking Spinalonga island.
Agios Nikolaos is the capital city of Lasithi region and one of the most developed cities in Crete. Despite its size, Agios retains an effortless beauty and a small town atmosphere. The city is partly built along water: the beach, the Marina; and Voulismeni lake, a small lake connected to the sea. The city comes alive in the evening, when locals and tourists gather in taverns and bars, or go for a stroll along the lake and the Marina.
If you get tired of the swimming pool and the secluded private beach at Elounda Peninsula, visit Voulisma beach, 12km east of Agios. Three beautiful bays form a beach of white sand and crystal blue water.
We loved the mountain village of Latsida so much, we went there twice for lunch. Latsida is a tiny village: mostly just a road and a few tavernas known for serving the best souvlaki in the region.
Souvlaki is one of the most popular fast foods in Greece and is usually made of pork meat cooked on a skewer and served with fries (or sometimes wrapped in pita bread, called giros).
On our way back to the airport, we made a detour to Lions Square in the centre of Heraklion. My recommendation: sit down at Fillosofies or Kirkor cafe, order Greek coffee and bougatsa, a paper-thin cake made of fillo pastry filled with sweet semolina custard and honey.
The hot season stretches from March until late October in Crete, so it’s the perfect destination for a beach holiday in the early or late summer. By travelling now, you can benefit from cheaper flights, lower hotel rates and less crowded beaches. It’s a win win for tourists who are flexible with dates. I highly recommend visiting Crete soon. It’s a beautiful island that still retains authenticity in its traditions and cuisine.
We made the most of our short break and Elounda Peninsula was the perfect base to explore this corner of Crete!
Prices for the Peninsula Junior Suite Sea View rooms at Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel start from £390 per room per night on a B&B basis – based on two people sharing.
Thomas Cook Airlines flies direct London Gatwick to Heraklion four times a week, prices start at £49.99 each way including taxes and surcharges.
Disclaimer: my husband and I received complimentary flights with Thomas Cook Airlines UK and complimentary stay at Elounda Peninsula. All opinions are my own.