Hilltop Villas

Near Heraklion, Crete, Greece Book from

Reviewed by Jane Foster
High in the hills above Heraklion, 2 self-catering villas in the grounds of an organic farm
What we love about Hilltop Villas is their unique and quirky combination of working Cretan farm and well-equipped holiday homes. You get private pools, air-conditioned bedrooms and proper kitchens; plus orchards to explore and delicious organic suppers to order. Perched in the hills above Heraklion, they are set amidst gnarled olive trees and aromatic gardens. Two are for hire (one sleeps 4-5, the other 6-7), and a third is the family home and communal guest space. Inside they're homely and comfortably furnished, but it’s the views that blow you away. Poolside terraces and wraparound balconies overlook the rolling plains around Knossos and the rocky foothills of Mt. Ida - a breathtaking setting for alfresco dinners.

The best thing about these dinners is you don't have to cook them yourself. Owners Miltos and Stella serve up delicious Cretan home cooking on request (the first meal comes free, to whet your appetite), or they'll fill your kitchen with fresh farm produce if you prefer. They have created a wonderfully peaceful environment and will do everything to help you enjoy it.


  • The hilltop location has to-die-for views, yet it's just 15 minutes' drive from the buzzing bars and beaches of Heraklion, and 20 minutes from Minoan Knossos
  • The food is straight from the farm and totally organic: it doesn’t get fresher than this
  • The farm has 50 acres of tranquil grounds, with fruit orchards, bee hives and a (road-going) miniature train
  • Both villas are set in lovely leafy gardens planted with lemon trees, bougainvillea, lavender and mint, with several outdoor seating areas plus a pool and barbecue
  • They are tranquil and totally self-contained; you really start to feel as if you live and belong here, as opposed to being a tourist


  • The rural setting means you're neither by the beach nor in Crete's true wilds; but it's close to both, and meantime you feel like an eagle on your private hilltop
  • Interiors are a little dated, but well equipped
  • You'll need to hire a sturdy car - and be prepared for some steep tracks
  • There's a hint of Disney about the miniature train, but young kids will love it
  • There's a 5-night minimum stay - but you really need this time to settle in and unwind; most guests stay 1 or 2 weeks

Best time to go

The spring (April and May) and autumn (late September and October) months are warm but not too hot, and much quieter than the midsummer season. However, if you'd prefer to go when it's scorching, aim for August, when there's a festival in Heraklion with open-air theatres and concerts. The villas normally close during the winter months (November to March).

Our top tips

This is a great spot for reading by the pool. Pack a copy of Crete by Barry Unsworth (published by National Geographic Directions) for an insight into the excavation of the Minoan palace at Knossos, plus a wealth of knowledge about the island in general. And if you want to leave terra firma, ask Alex if he can take you out on his boat - many guests mention this as a real highlight.

Great for...

  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Villas
  • 1 villa sleeping 5, 1 villa sleeping 9
  • Meals by arrangement
  • 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
  • Tennis Court


The 2 villas were built in the 1980s using traditional materials - stone-faced walls, tiled floors - in a modern design with open-plan living spaces, full-height French windows and wraparound balconies to maximise the awesome views. Miltos runs a construction company and prides himself on the quality of his fixtures and finishings. There's air conditioning for the summer and huge wood-burning stoves for chilly autumn or spring evenings; well-equipped kitchens and spacious living rooms with sofa, armchairs and TV-DVD-CD players. Best of all, each villa has its own pool, dining terrace and barbecue.

Perched on a pine-shaded hilltop, looking down over scattered villages and rolling farmland, the smaller villa (sleeps 4-5) is the pick of the pair. The 3 bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin, 1 single) are set at the back of the villa. Decorated in sunshine yellow, the master bedroom has a brass four-poster bed, romantically cloaked by muslin drapes, plus a spacious ensuite bathroom with a shower. Two doors down, the cream twin room is basic but comfortable, with terracotta floor tiles and chintzy touches; it shares a bathroom with the small single room. There is also a small library.

300m down the hillside, and tucked out of sight, the larger villa (sleeps 6-7) consists of a main house for up to 7. Craggy stone walls surround the swimming pool; pine and fruit trees provide ample shade. Living areas open onto a vast balcony, which offers a stunning panoramic of the Ayios Sillas plains. The master bedroom is romantically decorated, with cerulean blue print curtains surrounding the four-poster bed, a wicker chair, and an ensuite bathroom. Across the hall, the split-level triple bedroom has a single bed on the main floor, and an open-plan attic mezzanine containing twin beds. The ceiling of this is quite low, so it's best suited to children. This triple shares a bathroom with an additional single room, also on the main floor, and an extra single bed can be provided.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Internet access
  • Iron
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Tv


Prefer to self cater? The villas' kitchens are spacious and well equipped in terms of utensils and basic ingredients (herbs, olive oil, bin bags, sponges etc are provided). Both have gas cookers, electric stoves, coffee-makers, kettles and toasters (rare in Greece), as well as dishwashers - heaven on a group holiday. There's no shortage of shady spots to dine al fresco (or inside if it's chilly); and each villa has its own barbecue. There's a supermarket 1km away in Malades, but one of the highlights here is the hospitality: the owners leave fresh produce for the guests - fruit from the gardens, olive oil from the farm, home-made marmalade and freshly laid eggs.

Prefer to be spoilt? It almost seems churlish to cook when you could be eating home-made Cretan specialities. Miltos's wife, Stella, offers a vast array of traditional dishes Monday-Saturday (on request, at additional cost). Prepare for your day by the pool with a hearty continental breakfast (fruits, yogurts, cheese etc), all of which are produced by the farm or locally. At lunchtime, hop aboard the train to the communal villa and dine alfresco on salads, cheeses and moussaka. Then return in the evening for a 4-course feast accompanied by local wine, served on a candlelit table by the pool.

Prefer to eat out? There are several tavernas within a short drive, and Heraklion (12km away) has a wealth of restaurants and bars where you can mingle with the bronzed and beautiful Cretan crowds.

Features include:

  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Microwave
  • Organic produce
  • Oven


  • Wander around the 50-acre farm - explore the tranquil fruit orchards, visit their nearby bee hives, then go horse riding along a trail from the nearby stables (5 minutes away by car) before cooling off in your private swimming pool

  • Persevere through messy concrete sprawl into the heart of Heraklion, Crete's bustling capital (15 minutes' drive), to sip iced coffee around the 17th-century Morosini fountain, and explore the Venetian sea walls and fortress

  • Don't miss the excellently revamped Archaeological Museum nor, of course, the Bronze Age palace of Knossos (20 minutes' drive away), the Minoan site where most of the artefacts on display came from

  • Head to the beach: Agia Pelagia is beautiful but bustling, Ligaria is equally stunning but more secluded (both are about 30km away)

  • Or drive to the south coast - it's only an hour away - to see the ex-hippy-hangout of Matala and the stunning seas of Komos

  • Hire a bicycle in nearby Kokkini Hani (4km away) or hike up the nearby summit of Giouhtas, sacred to Zeus. Further afield, the 2450m-high Mt. Ida conceals the cave where Zeus was brought up

  • Take the kids to a water park - Water City and Aquasplash are both 30km away - or show them the octopi and sea horses at Thalassocosmos (www.thalassocosmos.gr)

  • Play a round of golf at the picturesque Crete Golf Club (30km away)

  • Go wine tasting at a local vineyard. Boutari (www.boutari.gr) near Skalini offers organised tours with an audio-visual presentation and is popular with tour groups, or Alexandros can arrange a visit to a smaller, less commercial vineyard

  • Help Stella prepare your dinner, and pick up a few Cretan cooking tips

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Tennis


Children of all ages are welcome. Kids will love riding on the miniature train and watching the goats being milked nearby, so this is an ideal place to holiday with a young family. Cots are available free of charge.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Either villa works; the larger villa sleeps up to 7; the other sleeps 4-5. They both cost the same (for 4-5 people), with a small extra charge for each additional person. Both bathrooms have a bathtub.


Babysitting is available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

  • 3 cots
  • High chair
  • Bedding
  • Night light

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

Children's meals:

See Eating: you've got the best of both worlds here, with self-catering facilities (including blender, microwave and kettle) and meals provided as well as local food delivery. There's even a dishwasher

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • Children's DVDs

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Tennis court in the estate
  • Horse riding 3km away
  • Beaches
  • Farm animals
  • Waterpark and aquarium 25 minutes' drive away

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced, otherwise there are few hazards


  • Airport: 20 minutes
  • Doctor: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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