Eleonas

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
  • Open all year
  • 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:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 35 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

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,

We spent a week at Eleonas in September 2017 and absolutely loved it. The houses provide some privacy and they are very cool in the heat but you have the taverna which is very sociable. There are great facilities for smaller children and ours was kept entertained before and after dinner in the small soft play next to the bar which meant we could relax and have a drink or two without worrying. Eleonas himself could not have been more accommodating and helpful - we only took B&B but ended up having half board as the food was so good and we felt there was no need to go anywhere else. I would definitely recommend this little gem to anyone! We'll definitely be going back at some point.

10/10,

A superb place to get away from it all, enjoy a level of privacy, yet enjoy the warmth and genuine hospitality extended by the staff with the aim of ensuring you have an excellent break. Wonderful base from which those who enjoy walking, can explore the country and mountains. Stout shoes and energy required. If you do have difficulty with mobility, this may be a bit of a difficult place unless you have a cottage near the taverna. The pool is lovely, there is a small exercise area and children's play area if needed. Food is good home style Greek cooking which is very nice indeed. Plenty of selection available at breakfast. Parking is close to your cottage which is helpful when loading and unloading suitcases. We have enjoyed a truly wonderful experience here and would thoroughly recommend this as a place to choose.

10/10,

Rarely do you come back from a holiday without thinking that one or two aspects could have been better. Not this one! Cannot fault Eleonas in any way - the location offers beauty, tranquility and relaxed comfort. Without exception, Manolis and all the staff provide fantastic service in such a relaxed and genuinely friendly way. Lovely to be greeted with a photocopied package of local information that Manolis swiftly talked us through but left us to digest later. He was always on hand to offer lots of extra tips of local information depending what our plans were for the day. The privacy afforded in each cottage and the freedom to have dinner (or not) in the on-site Taverna (with a very long service window of 6pm to 11pm) offers all the freedoms of self catering but with all the benefits of a comfortable hotel. We had deliberately booked only bed and breakfast as we intended to eat at a variety of places. In reality the food was so good and varied that we ended up eating at Eleonas' Taverna every night of our stay. Everywhere is spotlessly well cared for and the daily maid service in the cottage was like a visit from magic fairies as the ladies responsible had a happy knack of judging when you would be out and therefore it was never an intrusion. The whole experience was 1st rate.

10/10,

Lovely hotel, low key and quiet with really helpful staff. The walking maps were excellent and signage well maintained on the actual routes themselves. We ate at the hotel every night, food very well prepared using fabulous local ingredients, quick efficient friendly service. Everything we needed from the room - properly cleaned each day. Another excellent hotel we have booked with you!!

8/10,

We enjoyed the buffet breakfast, evening meal, location, kids facilities - soft play, table tennis, pool table, football pitch. Perhaps additional vegetarian option on main meal would be good. Good local walks - short 15 mins walk to lake plus longer walks. Beaches - Agio farago - walk in gorge amazing & lots to see for kids.

10/10,

Lovely lovely place. Manolis: what can I say/what a guy - big kisses from us! He gave us the best and warmest welcome and looked after us beautifully. The whole team were friendly and they couldn't do enough to make you feel comfortable. The lovely taverna team: excellent as well. Diamanda: good luck with that baby - all the best! We would most definitely recommend Eleanos as a place to stay and we hope to return

10/10,

We had a fantastic 10 days at Eleonas in early August. The setting in the hills is beautiful and the stone cottage was lovely, spacious and cool with a nice shady veranda. Manolis and his staff were so helpful and friendly and we loved the traditional Cretan music and dancing at dinner on Wednesdays. The food was locally sourced traditional Cretan dishes. The pool had just the right amount of shade and loungers, although I would point out to anyone who has a child who is not a strong swimmer that the depth is 1.6 metres throughout, except for the small baby area. It was a bit of climb back to our cottage from the restaurant and pool, so I would not recommend for anyone who has difficulty walking. The various beaches are a short drive away and we enjoyed walking in the surrounding hills and visiting the small lake nearby.
We booked car hire through the hotel, which was cheaper and also meant that we were met at the airport with printed directions to the hotel, which was essential to find it in the dark! We booked half board, so we didn't go to any other restaurants and mainly ate lunch by the pool or once at the beach in Matala. We enjoyed an early evening exploration of the ruins at nearby Phaestos. We also went to the Cretan farm experience, where our daughter milked the goat and then made feta cheese parcels which we had for lunch. We would highly recommend the masseur Dimitris who gives massages by the pool - probably the best massages we have ever had!

9/10,

As our flight arrived at night, I didn't fancy driving after a long journey in the mountains at night. Manolis (the owner) arranged a taxi for us (in advance) and arranged for a hire car to be with us at the cottages the following day. It was all really reasonably priced and importantly Manolis made it so very easy. I couldn't fault the service we received as a family. We were blown away when we arrived with the welcome, fantastic family and team and beautiful food and totally gorgeous setting. As my children's first ever family holiday abroad, I couldn't have asked for a better experience for them (for us all). We made friends at the poolside and taverna, joined an impromptu ping pong tournament with children, parents and staff, we went horse riding at 7:30am on Komos beach which Manolis kindly made a quick phone call to arrange on our behalf, saw how linen was traditionally made in Zaros, ate locally cooked and sourced food, took a road trip to Spinalonga, snorkelled amongst the fish in Plaka, jumped waves on Komos beach, walked to the lake, hubby got up at 6am to do the Gorge walk before it was too hot, and made it back in time to still eat the great breakfast in the taverna, oh and we chilled by the pool.
Manolis and family provided a detailed list and directions of many beaches and activities to do if we didn't want to spend the whole time by the pool. I was woken one morning to the sound of sheep (with their bells) being herded down the opposite hillside. Totally idyllic. When we went in July/Aug there were no mosquitos to be seen. I would thoroughly recommend Eleonas if you wanted somewhere off the beaten track, with exceptional friendly non- imposing service. Thank you Eleonas for looking after us and making amazing memories and i-escape for introducing us to Manolis and for answering my countless questions prior to booking. I wouldn't hesitate in using you again and we look forward to returning to Eleonas in the future.

10/10,

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Rates for Eleonas