Zaros, Crete, Greece Book from

Reviewed by Jane Foster
An agrotourism settlement in the mountains of southern Crete, with 20 rustic cottages, a tranquil pool and a great taverna
Eleonas, meaning 'olive grove' in Greek, is a collection of pastel-painted cottages, sprinkled amongst a wonderful fruit and olive estate in southern Crete. Set in a stunning location, against a backdrop of dramatic rocky peaks at the foot of Crete’s highest mountain, Psiloritis, it's close to the sleepy village of Zaros but still feels wonderfully remote.

The 20 stone cottages centre on a lovely pool and taverna serving authentic Cretan home cooking. Popular with local Greeks, Eleonas is also a working farm. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, produce olive oil, and keep goats and chickens. Guests are welcome to help feed the animals, and can also take cooking lessons or learn how to milk the goats and make cheese. It’s a great choice for those searching to escape commercial tourist resorts and urban chaos, and a fantastic set-up for families, who are as warmly welcomed as everyone else. One of our favourite finds in Crete.


  • Within walking distance of a lovely lake and a dramatic gorge for picturesque hikes
  • Ideal for families: cots, and sofabeds in the cottages; a kids' pool; a safe environment for older kids to run free; farm animals to feed and bikes
  • The cottages - though they look a bit boxy from outside - are cool and cosy inside, with local furniture, private terraces and open fires in winter
  • A good base for visiting the archaeological sites of Phaestos and Gortys, and the unspoilt beaches of Crete’s glorious south coast
  • Exceptionally good value for money


  • Not a lot going on in Zaros, so Eleonas could feel rather isolated and sleepy (a high for some)
  • Unless you want to go into Zaros, you'll eat all meals at the 2 tavernas (they are very good but could get repetitive)
  • You really need a car to explore the surrounding area, unless you’re a mountain bike fanatic
  • The nearest beach is a 30-minute drive away

Best time to go

To avoid the crowds, try to visit in shoulder season (May-June or September-October) when the days are sunny but not too hot and the sea still warm enough to swim. During high-season (July-August), the island swarms with visitors, while in low season (November-April) most tourist facilities close down completely although Eleonas is open all year.

Our top tips

A 30-minute drive away, you can swim and sunbathe at beaches on Crete’s stunning south coast, which gives onto the Libyan Sea. Choose from Matala (known for its red cliffs with caves), Kokkinos Pirgos (made up of fine sand) or Kalamaki (rockier). Or head for Agia Galini (32km), then take a local boat to the lovely unspoilt beach of Agios Pavlos.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 20 cottages
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 11 Nov 2016 - 22 Dec 2016...
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Stone Cottage


The 20 warm and homely stone cottages are pitched on a hillside amidst beautiful olive groves. Each has a wooden beamed ceiling, terracotta tile floor and traditional Cretan furniture - mainly wooden, with simple one-colour fabrics. Outside, you'll find a small seating area looking out beyond the olive groves to the mountains. Honeysuckle, bougainvillea, roses and vines adds to the feeling of privacy.

Single-storey Stone Cottages have a bedroom, a living area with a single sofabed and open fireplace (logs supplied free of charge), a small kitchenette and bathroom with tub. Cottages with Attics are double-height with a wooden mezzanine-level master bedroom and balcony.

The 2-Bedroom Cottage have a double bed, 2 single beds and space for extra beds in their living rooms. The open-plan single-storey Stone Cottages with Jacuzzis have Jacuzzi tubs in their bathrooms and are best suited to couples.

With fresh mountain air and total peace and quiet, we slept extremely soundly. We liked the idea of returning sometime between autumn and spring, to light the log fire and cosy up for a few days.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer
  • Hifi music system
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


One of the highlights of staying at Eleonas is the food, prepared from mostly home-grown produce. Meals are served at the central taverna, which is popular with Greeks from across the island, and a 5-minute walk from the furthest cottage. You can either eat inside by the log fire, or out front on the stone terrace surrounded by geraniums, with mint scenting the air, and cats idling in the sun.

Breakfast is an impressive buffet spread: freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade yoghurt and cheeses, various types of homemade pita, fritule, freshly made bread, cakes and biscuits, local honey, and homemade jam and marmalade.

Lunch and dinner menus feature authentic Cretan cuisine, and you can have full meals or snacky options. We had delicious katsohiri (homemade goat's cheese), followed by a rich kokkinisto (cockerel stewed in red wine and baby onions), and finished with a small carafe of raki.

Each cottage has a small kitchenette. Upon arrival, you’ll find a welcome carafe of raki, some Greek coffee, Greek mountain tea and a bowl of fruit. The kitchenettes are for preparing snacks and coffee rather than meals, but parents will find them extremely useful. Handily, there are 3 supermarkets in Zaros.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Cooking classes
  • Fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Swim in the pools then join a cookery demonstration (4-12 people) to learn about local cheese making and how to bake bread, pita and other traditional Cretan dishes
  • Walk to Lake Zaros, ringed by eucalyptus and pine trees, and home to fish, ducks and turtles. It’s overlooked by a waterside taverna and a restful café, and there’s a small playground for kids
  • Hike up the Gorge of St Nicholas - an easy enough 2-hour walk, following a path and clambering over rocks in parts. Enthusiastic hikers might continue up a steep path to Rouvas Forest and the Church of Agios Giannis. Ask for a map at reception before setting off
  • Hire a mountain bike (Eleonas has 20) and wind your way through olive groves to Zaros, a sleepy Cretan village with two churches, a handful of cafes and tavernas, bank, post office and watermill
  • Visit Phaestos archaeological site, where the ruins of a Minoan palace date back to 1600BC, or Gortys (13km), which incorporates Greek temples, a Roman forum and amphitheatre, and a Byzantine basilica
  • Spend a day in Heraklion on Crete’s busy north coast. Explore the pedestrian-only Venetian-era old town, and visit the excellent Archaeological Museum and the Crete Historical Museum

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Archery
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Playground


A lovely retreat for families, with lots of space and rural surroundings. The heated outdoor pool and farm animals are bound to amuse, as are the sandy beaches nearby. All ages are welcome.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

We'd recommend the Cottage with Attic if you're a family of 3 or a 2-Bedroom Cottage for families of 4 or more. All cottages have simple kitchenettes.


Babysitting is available - request in advance (additional cost).

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Baby bedding
  • High chair
  • Baby bathtub
  • Pushchair
  • Bottle warming

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

Children's meals:

Each cottage has a basic kitchenette (with hot plate, crockery and fridge). The taverna is great for families, serving a kids menu, high tea, half portions and takeaways. There are cafés nearby and a supermarket 1.5km away.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Kids pool (heated during shoulder season)
  • Main pool (heated during shoulder season)
  • 2 soft playgrounds
  • Playroom
  • Children's DVDs
  • Farm animals: goats, rabbits, chicken
  • Football court
  • Table tennis

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Lake Zaros, 1km away, has a big outdoor playground plus fish, ducks and turtles<.li>
  • The beach is a 30-minute drive away
  • There are hiking and mountain biking paths nearby - hire bikes from Eleonas

Families Should Know:

There's a mobile phone signal everywhere in the property. As the settlement is built on a hill, there are a number of steps to be aware of.


  • Airport: 55 minutes
  • Doctor: 20 minutes
  • Shops: 3 minutes by car (Zaros)
Kid Friendly:

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