Milia Traditional Settlement

Vlatos, Crete, Greece Book from

Hidden in the folds of the White Mountains, a beautifully restored settlement of 14 stone houses, with views, trails and organic food
A cross between a Cretan village, an ecological farm and a mountain hostel, Milia is a unique and ambitious project. Set high above the Topolia gorge in the western foothills of the White Mountains, at the head of an enclosed valley bursting with chestnut and arbutus trees, this tiny settlement was used as a hideout by WW2 resistance fighters, and later abandoned.

But, in 1982, two energetic, eco-minded locals decided to bring it back to life. Using private and EU funds, they reconstructed old houses, reintroduced livestock and replanted terraces. Stream water was piped in, solar electric panels were installed and a smooth road has replaced the bumpy track. You'll find 14 beautifully restored stone houses with simple bedrooms and bathrooms, a spacious communal dining room, and a warm welcome from gentle Giorgos, tireless Tassos and their hospitable helpers. If you enjoy the simple, slow pleasures of life – home-grown food, country hikes, stunning views – you will never want to leave.

Highs

  • We loved the total seclusion, high in a wooded valley, and a world away from the crowds on the coast
  • There's great flora and fauna, including vultures, orchids and dozens more endemic flowers
  • The delicious, organic, home-grown food typefies that famously healthy Cretan diet
  • The absolute serenity: no cars or telephones (though you can get a faint mobile signal) - just birdsong and the wind in the trees

Lows

  • The rooms are simple, especially the bathrooms
  • A solar system provides some electricity (you can charge phones), but not enough for TV, radio or hairdryers in the rooms
  • It's best in summer, as an escape from the heat and crowds; from Oct to April it can be rather cold and dark

Best time to go

Every season has its charm, but don’t underestimate the elements. Summer (June-Sep) is the loveliest time to visit Milia, escaping from the heat and crowds of the coast. Spring and autumn are popular with walkers, and deservedly so, though it can be a little chilly, especially at the start of the season (April). Then again, April is the best month for wild flowers! Winter (Oct - March) is cold and rather dark indoors, but it is cosy sitting around a wood-burning stove drinking raki, and on a sunny day the snowy peaks and crystal-clear views are ample recompense for the hardy.

Our top tips

One morning, for a change, ask to try their Cretan breakfast of rusks, olives, cheese, tomatoes and cold meats. It's quite a powerful wake-up call for your taste buds, but we loved it.

Don't miss the cave of Ayia Sophia, with a historic chapel hidden inside where locals sheltered from religious persecution; it's a good hour's walk downhill from Milia (leave enough energy for the return climb).

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Mountain Hotel
  • 14
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The rooms are spread between the scattered stone cottages of the village, and reached by cobbled steps and steep paths (bear this in mind when packing!). In some cases you get a little cottage to yourself, in others you get half a house, divided into floors or sections. But you always have your own small bathroom, either in the room or just outside, with flush toilet and simple shower. Little changed from the Cretan shepherd homes they once were, you’ll find thick, crudely-built walls, tiny windows, simple wooden or iron beds with firm mattresses, a light-it-yourself wood-burning stove (it’s chilly up here even in April), woven bedcovers and blankets, a table and bench in the larger rooms, and a few rustic tools (for decoration only – you’re not expected to till the fields!).

Most of the rooms have either twin or double beds, but there are Triple Rooms and Family Apartments available, too. All bathrooms have a handbasin, mirror and hot-water shower, powered by natural gas boilers. Eight of the rooms have fireplaces and all the others new and effective wood stoves.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace

Eating

You’ll probably spend more time in the communal sitting-dining room than in your bedroom – partly because it’s brighter and more spacious than the bedrooms, and partly because of the excellent home-made food and drink on offer. There is a small sound system in the restaurant with a good collection of Greek, jazz and world music .

First off, the drink: sage tea, camomile infusion, mountain tsaï (an eastern Mediterranean herb of the sideritis family, if you’re interested) and good ol’ Liptons and Nes are all freely available from a DIY honesty bar. Too healthy by half? Try a shot of raki (local grappa), clinked with true Cretan hospitality against the glasses of your hosts, and subsequently struck off your bill.

Now for the food. Seasonal vegetables, free-range eggs, healthy meat … everything is grown on site, without pesticides or fertiliser, and served fresh. On an autumn visit we enjoyed oven-baked chestnuts and potatoes with herbs, served alongside a tender joint of pork and some juicy butter beans. In spring we tasted boiled horta (like dandelions), paschal roast lamb with crisp-sautéd spuds and crunchy salad. There's a mean chocolate cake to round the meal off.

A word of warning: as everything is grown locally or brought in from Chania, you should give plenty of warning about any special dietary requirements you may have.

Features include:

  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Relax with a book, a plunge into the small spring-fed stream-pool, or an evening of merriment with fellow guests (often accompanied by raki and music)

  • There are 6 waymarked trails from your doorstep: one leads down to the chapel of Ayia Sophia, set in a cave above the Topolia gorge (3 hrs round trip); another takes you over the ridge behind Milia and down the spectacular Sirikari gorge, with its nesting vultures (5 hrs, taxi back)

  • Enjoy the wildlife around: pipits, wagtails, finches and herons hide in the riverine woods, while we identified over 20 species of orchid on the slopes below Milia

  • Explore the west coast by car: don't miss the idyllic sandbanks of Elafonisos (go early to beat summer crowds) and the monastery of Chrysoskalitissa, and if you want offbeat beauty head to the ancient hilltown, medieval fort and Roman-cut springs of Polyrinia

  • Other treks further afield include the spectacular southern coast path (E4) from Paleochora to Souyia via isolated coves and the Greco-Roman ruins of Lissos; the peaks of the White Mountain - from Omalos, 2000-metre Gingilos is a steep but rewarding 6-hour circuit; and the lesser-known but lovely Ayia Irini gorge (5 hrs)

  • Grab a mountain bike (Milia has 4 for hire, free for guests) and follow the dirt tracks for exhilarating mountain views

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking

Kids

An ideal getaway for nature-loving children, who can splash in rivers, climb rocky outcrops and say hello to the animals.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Family Apartments sleep 4 in 2 bedrooms, the Triple rooms and Suites could also work for families.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request.

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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