“High in the hills above Heraklion, 2 self-catering villas in the grounds of an organic farm”
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.
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.
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.
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
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
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
The pool isn't fenced, otherwise there are few hazards