Mourtzanakis Residence

Pelagia, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £124 per night

A rustic retreat with villas and cottages set around communal pools, a restaurant serving wholesome Cretan fare, and a focus on ecotourism

Just 7km from Crete’s north coast, this sociable and welcoming retreat still feels wonderfully remote, surrounded as it is by rugged rocky slopes and overlooking a 500-year-old olive grove. Set just outside the tiny village of Achlada, now under a preservation order, its simple villas and cottages (for 2-6) centre on a stone patio with two small pools (one for adults, one for children), the sea providing a glorious blue backdrop to it all.

The emphasis here is on reconnecting with the beauty and tranquility of nature. Ecotourism is a big part of the experience. Join a cookery class and learn about traditional Cretan dishes; set off on walks to neighbouring villages to discover how olive oil, wine and raki are produced; go hiking in the mountains, or try sea-kayaking and diving along the nearby coast. For downtime, there's yoga or tai chi in the garden, a communal lounge and various terraces to relax on, and a restaurant serving wholesome Greek food using ingredients from the organic garden - choose to stay on a half-board basis, or self-cater (all accommodation options have simple kitchens). And you don’t need to worry about being too isolated - Agia Pelagia beach is a 10-minute drive away, while Crete’s capital Heraklion lies 18km up the coast, making Achlada a good base for attractions such as Knossos. Self-sufficient families, couples or even solo travellers will love the tranquil simplicity here, where the soundtrack to the day is the tinkling bells of goats and the low hum of cicadas, and the sunsets are spectacular.
Covid update: see our Flexible Booking Policy.

Highs

  • Total peace and relaxation: the set-up is simple but great value, with a 'less is more' approach
  • The surrounding unspoilt countryside is ideal for hiking, and the panoramic views are fantastic
  • The concierge desk offers all manner of ecotourism activities
  • Food is a big part of life here: The restaurant serves organic produce and focuses on local cuisine; there are cookery classes on offer, plus wine tasting and olive oil tasting
  • The easygoing ambiance makes it great for families: villas and apartments are family-sized, plus one of the pools is just for kids

Lows

  • We're yet to visit since new owners Elli and Giorgos have taken the reins, but we hear the service is still tip-top
  • Dinner needs to be pre-booked, and if you decide to self-cater, be aware that in-room cooking equipment is minimal
  • The remote location means you'll need a car to explore and for shopping, and arriving at night is tricky
  • The nearest beach is a 10-minute drive away

Best time to go

During high season, Crete’s north coast is overrun with visitors, but Achlada remains off the beaten path, so even in July and August it is relatively peaceful. For hiking, try to visit in shoulder season (May-June or Sept-Oct), when the days are sunny but not too hot, the sea still warm enough to swim, and popular attractions such as Knossos not unduly busy. The hotel is open all year.

Our top tips

Pack decent hiking boots and a copy of The High Mountains of Crete (by Loraine Wilson), and set out to explore the region’s rugged heights and trekking paths.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Villas
  • 4 villas + 3 cottages
  • Restaurant; kitchens in all villas/cottages
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The residence’s simple but comfortable self-catering villas and cottages each provide accommodation for 2-4 people (Superior Comfort Villas can fit 6 at a push). Although they're quite close together, they have been built to maximise privacy, so you're not overlooking one another. The furniture is wooden, whitewashed and locally made, and splashes of colour are added by the curtains and bed covers.

The split-level villas (Alpha, Vita, Gamma and Delta) each have an open-plan living room with a fireplace (logs are provided for chilly nights), plus sofas which can be made up as extra beds. Wooden stairs lead up to a mezzanine with a double bed, plus a terrace with two sunbeds and a table, from which you'll see fine sunset views across the olive groves towards the sea. Cottages are spread over a single floor; each has a double bedroom and a spacious living area with a sofa that can be made up as an extra bed.

All accommodation opens onto a stone patio with a table, so you can sit out for meals. The tile-floor bathrooms have tubs and handheld showers.

With mountain air and total peace and quiet, you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep. We like the idea of returning in autumn or spring, to light the log fire and see the landscape take on russet hues, or come to life with wildflowers.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Internet access
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Sunloungers
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Each villa and cottage has a kitchen with a cooker (small oven and two hot plates) and fridge, plus plates, cutlery and a few pots and pans - but don't expect the full works. Basic ingredients are supplied (salt, pepper, flour, oil, washing up liquid etc). The best place to shop for provisions is the Carrefour supermarket, a 10-minute drive away.

Breakfasts feature a selection of breads, cheeses, pastries, cakes, jams, juices and tea/coffee. Opt for a Cretan breakfast (olives, breads, cheeses, meats) if you're after a flavour of something more traditional.

Lunch and dinner are available at the restaurant, which has a lovely dining terrace with long views. Expect local ingredients cooked to traditional Cretan recipes: perhaps slow-cooked lamb stew, baked vegetables or moussaka, grilled whitebait or dakos rusks dripping with chopped tomato and crumbly Cretan cheese. Olive oil and wines are homemade?, vegetables are sourced from the organic garden, herbs from the surrounding hills.

If you decide to eat out, there’s a kafeneio (coffee house) in Achlada serving light meals, plus a handful of tavernas in the villages of Rogdia and Fodele, both a 10-15 minute drive away and very popular with Greeks.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Oven
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Fodele Beach

Activities

  • Hike through olive groves to the village of Achlada, where you’ll find a small taverna (irregular opening hours). For something more strenuous, ask about marked trails
  • Swim or sea kayak at the nearby north-coast beaches - Agia Pelagia, Ormos Fodele and Ligaria - or drive to the blissful unspoilt south-coast beaches, some of which are nudist-friendly
  • Drive east along the coast to Heraklion (18km). Explore the pedestrian-only Venetian old town, and visit the excellent Archaeological Museum and Crete Historical Museum
  • Visit the archaeological site of Knossos (5km southeast of Heraklion), to explore the 4,000-year-old Minoan Palace, a labyrinth of partially-frescoed rooms built around a vast central courtyard
  • Visit the El Greco Museum, housed in the tiny stone cottage where the 16th-century Mannerist painter was born, in the nearby village of Fodele
  • The rugged landscape here offers great climbing and canyoning (for thrill-seekers) or bike hire and horse riding for the rest of us
  • At Peza, a local farmers’ co-operative, you can see how olive oil and wine are produced, or see a Cretan cooking demonstration
  • Head to Linoperamata for windsurfing, Mononaftis for waterskiing, or Agia Pelagia for scuba diving (organised trips and beginners courses are available)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Although there are no special facilities for kids - bar the pool - the friendly and relaxed atmosphere makes it perfect for families. There are only a handful of villas and cottages, so a lot depends on who you're sharing the space with.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Each villa has a double bed on a wooden mezzanine level, plus an open-plan living room with two single sofabeds providing sleeping space for two on the ground floor; two extra beds can be added on request, too, but this makes things very cosy. Cottages are set over a single floor; they have a double bedroom and the living area has a single sofabed, as well as space for an additional rollaway bed. Baby cots can be provided. Bathrooms have bathtubs and handheld showers.

Babysitting:

Available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The villas and cottages have basic self-catering facilities - the nearest supermarket is 10 minutes away by car.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Two pools: one for adults, one for kids
  • Gardens to play in

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches 10 minutes' drive away
  • Thalassocosmos aquarium at Gournes, 13km east of Heraklion
  • Plenty of outdoorsy active stuff: hiking, mountain biking, caving, canyoning, horse riding, windsurfing, kayaking, waterskiing

Distances:

  • Airport: 25 minutes
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Mourtzanakis Residence is near the village of Achlada, in the mountains, 4km off the main E75 motorway, which runs the length of Crete’s north coast. It is 7km from the seaside resort of Agia Pelagia, and 18km from Heraklion city centre.

By Air:
Heraklion Airport (23km) is served by daily flights from Athens the year through, and by charter flights from most European capitals in summer. Chania (125km) is also an option.

From the Airport
A taxi will cost approx €30 but we'd recommend hiring a car (see below).

By Boat:
Heraklion port lies 18km southeast of Achlada and is served by daily overnight ferries from Athens’ port, Piraeus, on the Greek mainland.

By Car:
To explore the region and have freedom while you're here, you really need to hire a car - see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis 23.0 km HER

Other:

  • Beach 7.0 km
  • Shops 20.0 km
  • Restaurant 7.0 km

Rates for Mourtzanakis Residence

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