Amidst the collapse of the Greek economy, package tour operators seem to have all but forgotten Crete as a place to visit to let go of any worries, be they financial or emotional.
However, this little island with its 1,000 kilometre long coastline dotted with numerous caves, bays and peninsulas, has a lot more to offer. And one place where you can go to rid of any worries is The Blue Palace, idyllically set in the Elounda Gul with superb views of Spinalonga Island.
When you can tear yourself from the view, a visit to the hotel’s award winning spa is a must. Just as well – with 24 treatment rooms and an extensive spa menu to choose from, you may have some difficulty in deciding what treatments to go for. Booking yourself in for the one day ritual designed for pure pampering will easily put an end to that dilemma. But if you just want to relax there’s a relaxation pool, three thalasso pools, two traditional marble Turkish Hammams (steam rooms), saunas, indoor jacuzzis, a couple’s suite, and if you’re really ambitious a fitness centre and fitness classes.
A holiday wouldn’t be a holiday without being surrounded by good food and The Blue Palace I learned quickly caters for foodies rather well. With four restaurants completely different from one another, and three bars serving food, guests are truly spoilt for choice. The Blue Door, a Greek taverna, Asia Blue, a Japanese and Thai cuisine, Flame specialising in steak and grills, and the Isola which serves up Italian dishes, are all set in beautiful locations on the resort. My favourite setting was the Blue Door with a spectacular beach-front secluded location, complete with flood lanterns, white and blue tablecloths teamed with bright blue chairs. The waitress assured me that everything cooked here was as authentic as what she would cook for her grandchildren at home. I didn’t need more convincing after tucking into fried zucchini dipped in thick creamy tzatziki.
Going to dinner at the hotel felt like a special occasion each evening as we dressed into our best and leisurely sampled foods across the restaurants. As each was so different from one another, it truly gave you the sense that you had ventured out far for dinner. The knowledgeable staff were great at suggesting wines and dishes that on a number of occasions I happily put myself in their hands and looked forward to what was about to arrive on my dinner plate.
For a more relaxed affair, diners can try the new buffet in the same place where breakfast is served daily. It’s an ideal way of introduction to food that you may otherwise be reluctant to try. And talking of breakfast, you can watch waffles and pancakes being made right in front of your eyes. Now you can’t get fresher than that!
Walking through the long arching terracotta coloured corridor of the hotel really does give you a sense of being in a palace. With small Moroccan style booths behind white voiles tucked on one side and views of the alluring Aegean Sea on the other, I found myself floating the passage before entering my suite.
The hotel has a total of 251 rooms and we were lucky enough to stay at one of their superior bungalows with a sea view and private pool. The room was a combination of laid back luxury and fresh, minimalistic and fuss free – exactly what you need to slow down and stargaze to take in the view of Spinalonga Island.
Ever since reading The Island by Victoria Hislop, I had been intrigued to visit Spinalonga on which the book was based on. Having once been a leper colony, the place is now uninhabited and a huge tourist attraction. The place can be accessed via a short boat trip from Plaka, a pretty little village just five minutes’ walk from the Blue Palace. Such is the beauty of this village, it has attracted celebrities over the years with Lady Gaga and Rhianna seen spending some quality time here. Although it’s nice to see the Spinalonga solo, hiring a guide is very useful if you want to learn about the place’s history as both a Venetian fortress as well as a leper colony. Personally I believe this island is a ‘must-do’, it proved to be a both intriguing and moment experience.
Other places to visit not far from the hotel are Elounda town itself – just a few miles along the coast. With buses less than reliable, I can recommend either taking a taxi, hiring a car or even taking a leisurely walk along the coastline. There’s plenty to do in the town from shopping, eating in restaurants or just sipping a cocktail overlooking the sea. Slightly further afield is Aghios Nikolaos. This is best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni, the tiny islandAgioi Pantes, and the archaeological museum.
Sabi visited The Blue Palace with Sovereign Luxury Travel (0843 770 4526, www.sovereign.com)