Eleonas (Crete)

Zaros, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £95 per night

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.

Highs

  • 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

Lows

  • 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
Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 20 cottages
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 21 Nov 2018 - 24 Mar 2019
  • 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

Rooms

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
  • Barbecue
  • 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

Eating

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
  • Barbecue
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • 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

Kids

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:

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
  • Kamihis Farm Experience (5km) - become a farmer for the day, look after chickens, bees and goats, ride the donkey, make cheese and traditional Cretan pies
  • 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.

Distances:

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

Location

Eleonas lies on the southern slopes of Mt Psiloritis, 1.5km outside the peaceful village of Zaros, and 42km southwest of Crete’s capital, Heraklion.

By Air:
Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis (45km) lies northeast of Zaros. It is served by daily flights from Athens the year through, and by charter flights from most European capitals in summer. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving this airport.

From the Airport
You could catch a taxi, but we'd recommend hiring a car (see below).

By Sea:
Heraklion port lies 42km northeast of Zaros and is served by daily overnight ferries from Athens’ port, Piraeus, on the Greek mainland.

By Car:
To explore the region better, 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.com.

More on getting to Greece and getting around

Airports:

  • Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis 45.0 km HER

Other:

  • Beach 25.0 km
  • Shops 1.5 km
  • Restaurant 1.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 34 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

This is our second visit to Eleonas and we have had a wonderful time. The staff are so very attentive and go out of their way to make every guest feel welcomed and special. The food is of excellent quality with good variety and plenty of choice, particularly at breakfast. The cottages are wonderful. They are well equipped, roomy and have everything you need, offering peace and tranquility and privacy if you choose, or you can mingle at the poolside with other guests. There are walks in the countryside or you can just chill peacefully here. I recommend this place so very highly as it suits all ages and is small eneough to retain that very special customer service, care and attention vital to a good holiday.

10/10,

Excellent customer service and a very warm welcome including good suggestions for visiting the local surrounding area and walks. Some walking requires good shoes but not essential to enjoy the immediate area. Well done to everyone especially the owner.

10/10,

This spot met our expectations by way of courteous service, relaxed atmosphere with kids, great food and lots of information on surrounding area, yet never imposing. Kids still talk about this spot and compare with Elia as to which one was the best. Very happy.

10/10,

Eleonas holiday village is simply a jewel of a place for a holiday, for a family or a get away as a couple. It is impossible to find any weakness. It is, I think, the best international holiday location we have ever experienced. It is that good. The management and staff are excellent and exemplary, so helpful and friendly. The facilities, food and hospitality are superb and affordable. The location is picturesque and easy to find, with options for either car rental or airport pickup/drop off.

10/10,

Manolis and his team are simply brilliant. We had a wonderful time at Eleonas - a fabulous haven in which to unwind!

10/10,

This place is awesome! Beautiful scenery, fabulous service, and delicious food. It's about 1.5 hours from Heraklion. The drive is beautiful with several switch-backs. You go through lots of picturesque small villages. Due to flight delays we arrived at 2am. We were greeted by a staff member and shown to our room. Even though we overslept breakfast the next morning, they served us food. Our departure was at 4am for an early morning ferry, they packed us breakfast to go. Delightful and so thoughtful. I want to get back to Crete; it was amazing.

10/10,

Fantastic place in the mountains, the staff are wonderful, friendly and helpful. Everything is very well thought out and it is clear that great care is taken in providing everything that guests might need. This includes excellent advice on day trips to places that we might otherwise not have found, as well as great signposted walks in the surrounding area. We highly recommend a hike up the Rouvas Gorge which is extremely beautiful (and quite a tough climb). Lovely Greek food. We stayed in Room 21 which is quite a hike up from the pool and restaurant - there are closer options so worth bearing in mind, but it helped us walk off the meals. Thanks for a lovely stay.

10/10,

Could not fault a thing with the room, the restaurant the setting or the infectious energy and passion of the owner Manolis. We had a wonderful week of of long walks in the stunning countryside, trips to unspoilt beaches, vineyard tours and eating lovely food. Good for families and couples alike.

10/10,

My husband, two boys (ages 3.5 and 1.5 yrs) and I had a wonderful holiday at Eleonas. It is located in a beautiful and peaceful location just outside the small village of Zaros. We stayed for 9 nights and opted for half-board which turned out to be brilliant. The on-site taverna was lovely - the food was delicious - big portions and a varied menu of Cretan food. The serving staff were wonderful and so helpful with the kids. In fact - that is one of the best things about Eleonas - the staff. They can't do enough for you - nothing is a problem. It makes for a very relaxing holiday! We hired a car through Manolis which was brilliant - they met us at the airport and gave us directions to drive to Eleonas which were extremely useful as I'm not sure we would have found it the first time otherwise. The onsite playground, soft play and pool are perfect for the kids. We also did day trips to Phaistos, Gortyna, had a morning at a nearby farm (wonderful - a must do with kids!) and drove to Kommos and Kalamaki beaches - all less than one hours drive away. You can also do hikes from Eleonas into the beautiful countryside - our 3.5 yr old managed the shortest one (about 1.5 hrs with a stop for ice-cream). I can't recommend this place enough. Thanks Manolis and team.

10/10,

From the outset, we were treated with remarkable hospitality at Eleonas… first meeting Manolis the owner as he guided our two taxis into the hotel car park at 1am! I should mention that these were taxis that Manolis had arranged himself to pick our family up from the airport (once I’d told him that we did not fancy driving ourselves through the mountains at night) and as a result, our late arrival could not have been smoother. Over the week we stayed at Eleonas, it soon became apparent that this degree of consideration towards guests is the norm. Nestled within the craggy foothills of Mount Psiloritis as though cradled in a giant’s palm, this is a magical place to unwind and recharge. The food is fresh and oh so delicious. The staff are genuinely warm and chatty. The gardens teem with olive trees and orange trees as well as myriad herbs and flowers. The heated pool was joyfully splashed about in almost every afternoon but it was the games room that was the real revelation! Here, my parents rediscovered their passion for table tennis, my husband and I changed back into the competitive pool sharks of our uni days and our six year old played so much table football, he completely forgot to demand the IPad! Occasionally, we left the hotel to walk in the hilly environs or to pootle about in the hire car that Manolis (of course) had organised for us. We visited the extraordinary palace ruins of Knossos and Phaistos where we learned about kickass Minoan women and our son tried his best to track down the Minotaur. We also chilled on the beach in the lovely hippy resort of Matala. On our last night, Greek Orthodox Easter kicked off and as we followed the candle-lit procession of villagers making its way around Zaros, we knew the spell this sleepy, serene corner of Crete had cast over us was complete.

10/10,

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