Elounda Gulf Villas

Elounda, Crete, Greece Book from

Reviewed by Jane Foster
A luxurious villa-hotel hybrid: secluded suites, villas with infinity pools, and views over the Med, all alongside very attentive service
The privacy of a deluxe villa and the services of a top hotel - it’s a wonderfully indulgent combination and a rare one. It does exist though, above the bit-too-big resorts overlooking Mirabello bay, in the exclusive enclave of Elounda Gulf Villas. Its low-profile policy and discreet staff make it popular with international dignitaries and celebrities searching to escape the limelight, at least for a few days. And it is family-run - designed by dad Dimitris, run by daughter Charitini and presided over with perfection by mother Anna.

The suites and villas are swish - the marble-lined bathrooms have trompe l'oeil ceilings, the sofas are covered with Italian fabrics, and there are scatterings of antiques about the parquet floors. All Villas and Massage Suites have private infinity pools with Jacuzzi, while some villas also have spa facilities. The Deluxe Suites are close to the seawater pool with Jacuzzi and a cascading waterfall. A butler will bring your morning juice to glass-fronted breakfast rooms with, needless to say, stunning views. There’s also a poolside bar-restaurant serving creative Mediterranean cuisine and late-night cocktails, massages and beauty treatments at the spa, so not much reason to leave Elounda Gulf Villas once you arrive.

Highs

  • Unique mix of outstanding 5 star hotel service (attentive but unobtrusive, not corp-resort) with self-catering - fully-equipped kitchens in the villas but butlers and other staff are always standing by!
  • Family-run and family-friendly, with kids club, creche and kids pool - Queen Rania of Jordan and her children have stayed in the Royal Spa Pool Villa
  • Secluded villas and their gardens offer total privacy - so you can swim naked and sleep under an olive tree
  • Spacious, light and airy marble bathrooms where you can wallow in a hydro-massage bathtub below a hand-painted trompe d’oeil ceiling, then revitalise tired skin with luscious body creams (provided)
  • A private beach club for hotel guests only, just a short distance away; the hotel will run you down in a buggy

Lows

  • Technically, the villas are not separate dwellings with their own grounds, but a series of well-designed terraced houses separated by walls
  • Apart from the Beach-front Villa, none of the suites or villas are on the coast
  • A major drawback of being set back from the coast is that views are often ruined by telephone wires and unattractive hotels
  • The beaches (10 mins away) are not the best, and the town of Elounda (2.5km) may be too resorty for some, but you could happily stay put and avoid it altogether
  • The main pool lies immediately in front of the bar-restaurant, so one can’t help feeling a little exposed to diners

Best time to go

The best time to visit Crete is between April - September, though bear in mind that July-August can be hot and crowded. 3-4 days is enough for a quick break, a week allows you to really unwind. Elounda is popular with honeymooners, couples, small families, and British guests, partly because of its excellent, English-speaking ownership and staff.

Our top tips

Pick up a copy of Victoria Hislop’s ‘The Island’. Set on the island of Spinalonga (just down the road from Elounda Gulf Villas), this historical fiction novel won various awards when published in 2005. Bring mask and snorkel; smartish clothes for dinner.

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel & Villas
  • 19 villas + 15 suites
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 5 Nov 2015 - 9 May 2016...
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • 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
  • Beach club
Room:

Rooms

There are 17 villas and 15 suites at the main hotel, and a Beach-front Villa a short drive away; all of them light, sleek and spacious. You get lots of marble floors, a tasteful combination of antique furniture and modern designer pieces, oriental rugs, sumptuous Italian fabrics (in earthy neutral tones), freshly-cut flowers and, to avoid that cookie-cutter feel, some offbeat touches like a saxophone hanging from a ceiling, a leopard-skin chair, or a life-size mural in the marble bathroom.

Despite this, nothing is too ‘precious’ and one immediately feels at home amid the elegance. The rooms are also remarkably peaceful, with no road traffic hum and so little noise from your neighbours that you begin to wonder if they’re still there. Choose between a suite for 2-4 (like a large hotel room with sitting area), a pool villa for 4-6 (2 storeys, with kitchen and private pool), a spa pool villa (with kitchen and private infinity pool, sauna/gym), or the villa set on the beach (2-storeys, with kitchen and private pool).

Suites come in 3 categories. The Deluxe Senior Suite has 1 ensuite bedroom, a living room and either a balcony or terrace with sea or garden view, while the Deluxe Family Suite has 2 ensuite bedrooms and balconies with sea views; these suites share a pool. We're yet to see the 1-bedroom Massage Suite which features a private pool, a massage room and a steam bath.

All the pool villas are 2-storey and have a fully-equipped, open-plan kitchen, and a private swimming pool (not heated) with Jacuzzi. Elounda has 2 bedrooms with spacious ensuite marble bathrooms and inviting wooden loungers on the terrace, Aegean and Mediterranean have 3 large bedrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows that capture panoramic views.

The glamorous spa villas each come with a private, seasonally-heated infinity pool with built-in Jacuzzi, plus a sauna, a steam bath and gym room. The 1-bedroomed Deluxe Spa Pool Villas have the added flexibility of turning the living room into a bedroom with an extra single bed and its own bathroom. While the Executive Spa Pool Villas are set over 3 storeys and have 2 ensuite bedrooms and grand non-slip sun terraces with wooden sun-beds, a dining table and a wicker sofa. The Presidential Spa Pool Villa, with 3 spacious and airy ensuite bedrooms, is more secluded, and larger, but the flagship villa, the jewel in Elounda’s crown is the 4-bedroom Royal Spa Pool Villa. It makes regular appearances in glossy mags and, unless you're super-rich (or super-prolific in the family way) is more of a lure than a realistic consideration.

We’re yet to see the Beach-front Villa, with 4 bedrooms, but as the name suggests, it’s located directly on the beach (next to the hotel’s beach club), just a 7-minute drive from the hotel. The villa’s highlight is its huge garden (1500 sq.m) that features a large pool, a shaded patio and a kids’ playground. Plus it opens directly onto the beach, and has access to all the hotel's amenities.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

If you’re staying in the suites, a buffet breakfast is included. If you are villa guests, you have the option of taking it privately or raiding the buffet, as you prefer. Those in the Beach-front Villa get breakfast brought to them daily, and can eat on their terrace overlooking the waves. Being served an organic breakfast with locally sourced ingredients in a glass-walled dining room overlooking the sea is, well, wonderful. So much so, you might be tempted to ask the butler to return for the evening meal. Or at least to shop for it and stand by, while you attempt taramasalata in the gleaming kitchen. Easier still, you can hire a chef to sort that out for you. High on romance, they’ll even set up candlelight and throw fresh flowers in your pool if you ask - nothing is too much.

Alternatively, head to the hotel’s Argo Restaurant - the candlelit tables by the pool are atmospheric and the food, thought not cheap, is very good and a cut above the fare in the touristy Elounda town restaurants. Try the fish soup for starters and the loukoumades (sweet bread doughnuts) to finish, both traditional Cretan dishes served alongside more trendy Med offerings such as mushroom risotto with pine kernels and parmesan or pork fillet in honey and sweet wine from Samos. There’s a children’s menu and the occasional mezé evening.

Ask your waiter to recommend a bottle from the outstanding wine list, which includes several astronomically priced French vintages, and of course champagne (this is the sort of place you drink it for breakfast). Round off with a nightcap at the adjoining Argonauts bar and stroll home. It’s not far.

On Argo’s rooftop veranda, Daphni serves creative gourmet cuisine and affords stunning views over the bay. It is open alternate nights for dinner only, and can be reserved for private dining and celebrations.

For more choice, it's a short drive into Elounda, which has a huge choice of restaurants and bars. Favourites include The Ferryman on the waterside (try their slow cooked lamb and the stuffed vine leaves) and Lotus Eaters for seafood (the grilled prawns, steamed sea bass with soy and ginger and peppered steak all come recommended). A good budget option is Vacchus, which serves simple homely fare like gigantes (butter beans) and pork chops at unbeatable prices.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • In house cook
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Elounda Gulf Villas makes a good base for exploring the east coast of Crete; day trips as far as Sitia and Zakros can be arranged, as well as Knossos and Malia to view the Minoan palaces
  • Relax at the hotel's private beach club a 10-minute walk away, alternatively, the hotel can run you down in a buggy
  • Check out Agios Nikolaos town, with its sea-lake and nightlife
  • Drive down to Elounda's fishing harbour, and try your luck
  • Take a boat trip to Spinalonga island, an ex-leper colony
  • Explore the traditional Cretan villages of Kritza and Mochlos
  • Or the Areti monastery
  • The palm beach at Vai is lovely; there are quite a few local beaches but they're definitely not the best on the island
  • Hersonissos has an 18-hole golf course
  • Families may be interested in the Aqua Splash water park
  • Book a massage at the on-site Elexir Spa Gallery
  • The hotel can also arrange diving/swimming lessons in the pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain climbing
  • Nightlife
  • Paragliding
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcome, but must be supervised at all times. There's a fab Cool Kids Club and Cool Creche (open three sessions daily 6 days/wk April-June, Sept-Oct, and 7 days/wk July-Aug; free of charge in the club, for a cost per session in the creche, and if staying for lunch, all ages are charged). Kids up to 12 years are free of charge in the suites. Wonderful staff will go out of their way to entertain the kids and learn their names, kids toiletries can be supplied.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All villas are family friendly and have plenty of both indoor and outdoor space; the Beach-front Villa offers a little more privacy, and has a kids' playground in its garden.

Babysitting:

Available on request

Baby listening:

Available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Infant bathtubs
  • Highchairs
  • Play pens
  • Bottle sterilisers
  • Nappies
  • Baby food

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

Creche/Kid's Club:

  • Cool Creche for babies 4 months to 3 years supervised by professionally trained staff
  • Cool Kids Club for 3-12yo (pre-booking required)

Children's meals:

Children's menu in the restaurant, baby food and high chairs all available – and very thoughtful staff. Room service is also available in all room categories if mealtimes don't suit your children's schedule, plus those in villas can hire a chef to prepare meals for them

Kids Activities on site:

  • Private pools and main swimming pool, kids pool - can be fenced on request
  • Private beach club 10 minutes' drive away by shuttle
  • Children's DVDs available
  • Swimming in rocky lagoon
  • Watersports
  • Private swimming and tennis lessons on request
  • Toys

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Sandy beaches a short drive away

Families Should Know:

Villas can have a special transparent child-proof fence erected around the pool - ask when booking. Some pools are heatable out of season at an extra cost. Most villas are on 2 floors so do ask about the layout if you have small children. Stairgates are not provided

Distances:

  • Airport: 45 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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