“A sociable eco-retreat of self-catering villas and apartments with 2 communal pools, set in the mountains near Heraklion, yet only 10 minutes from the beach”
The retreat was the brainchild of a Cretan-Lebanese-Belgian couple, Marcos and Smaro Mourtzanakis, who until 2017 ran the place with all their heart, soul and appetite for discovery. It's now leased to a Cretan hotel company, but the ambiance remains true to their vision: sample Cretan breakfasts, hike through olive groves, book sea-kayaking adventures, enjoy the entente cordiale around the pool (the visitors' book gushes with praise from French, German, American, Russian, British and Israeli guests), then relax by the lounge fireplace. But the main appeal of Achlada-Mourtzanakis is its rustic setting. As you reconnect with the beauty and tranquility of nature, it is easy to detox from urban stress. And you don’t need to worry about being too isolated - Agia Pelagia beach is a 10-minute drive away, while Crete’s capital Heraklion lies 18km up the coast, making Achlada a good base for attractions such as Knossos.
- Welcoming multi-cultural atmosphere where people form lasting friendships - many guests are return visitors
- Total peace and relaxation: the set-up is simple but comfortable, with a 'less is more' approach. There are regular yoga retreats, too
- The surrounding unspoilt countryside is ideal for hiking, and the panoramic views are fantastic
- The easygoing ambiance makes it ideal for families: villas and apartments are family-sized, plus one of the pools is just for kids
- A great-value self-catering option
- The remote location means you'll need a car to explore and for shopping
- We have not seen inside the Studio Apartments, but our guests seem love them as much as the villas
- The nearest beach is a 10-minute drive away
- If you prefer to keep yourself to yourself on holiday, this won't really suit you
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Villas
- 4 villas + 3 apartments
- Self-catering (+ drive to restaurants)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
- Mountain climbing
- Horse riding
The residence’s simple but comfortable self-catering villas and apartments each provide accommodation for 2-4 people (villas can fit 6 at a push). Although they're quite close together, they have been built to maximise privacy, so you're not overlooking one another. The furniture is wooden, whitewashed and locally made, and splashes of colour are added by the curtains and bed-covers.
The split-level Villas (Alpha, Vita, Gamma and Delta) each have an open-plan living room with a fireplace (logs are provided for chilly nights), plus 2 sofas which can be made up as extra beds. Wooden stairs lead up to a mezzanine with a double bed, plus a terrace with 2 sunbeds and a table, from which you'll see fine sunset views across the olive groves towards the sea.
Studio Apartments (which we’re yet to see) are spread over a single floor; they have a double bedroom and spacious living area with a sofa that can be made up as an extra bed.
All Villas and Apartments have a living room and a kitchen with a small oven, a fridge and a table seating 4. This opens onto a stone patio with another table so you can sit out for meals. The tile-floor bathroom has a tub and handheld shower.
With mountain air and total peace and quiet, you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep. We like the idea of returning in autumn or spring, to light the log fire and see the landscape take on russet hues, or come to life with wild flowers.
- Air conditioning
- Coffee / tea making
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Full kitchen
- Hob or stove
- Internet access
- Safe box
- Satellite TV
Each Villa and Apartment has a kitchen with a cooker (small oven and 2 hot plates) and fridge, plus plates, cutlery and pots and pans. Basic ingredients are supplied (salt, pepper, flour, oil, washing up liquid etc). The best place to shop for provisions is the Carrefour supermarket, a 10-minute drive away.
Breakfasts are available, with a selection of breads, cheeses, pastries, cakes, jams, juices and tea/coffee on offer. Opt for a Cretan breakfast (olives, breads, cheeses, meats) if you're after a flavour of something more traditional.
Dinner is offered each night in their restaurant - it's a good idea to pre-book. Expect the freshest of local ingredients cooked to traditional Cretan recipes: perhaps slow-cooked lamb stew, baked vegetables or moussaka, grilled whitebait or dakos rusks dripping with chopped tomato and crumbly Cretan cheese - and of course juicy tomato-cucumber-olive salads.
If you decide to eat out, there’s a kafenio (coffee house) in Achlada serving light meals, plus a handful of tavernas in the villages of Rogdia and Fodele, both just a 10-minute drive away and very popular with Greeks.
- Children's meals
- Coffee / tea making
- Dinner by arrangement
- Full kitchen
- Hob or stove
- Lunch by arrangement
- Organic produce
- Vegetarian menu
- Hike through olive groves to the village of Achlada, where you’ll find a small taverna (irregular opening hours). For something more strenuous, ask about marked trails
- Swim or sea kayak at the nearby north-coast beaches - Agia Pelagia, Ormos Fodele and Ligaria - or drive to the blissful unspoilt south-coast beaches, some of which are nudist-friendly
- Drive east along the coast to Heraklion (18km). Explore the pedestrian-only Venetian old town, and visit the excellent Archaeological Museum and Crete Historical Museum
- Visit the archaeological site of Knossos (5km southeast of Heraklion), to explore the 4,000-year-old Minoan Palace, a labyrinth of partially-frescoed rooms built around a vast central courtyard
- Visit the El Greco Museum, housed in the tiny stone cottage where the 16th-century Mannerist painter was born, in the nearby village of Fodele
- The rugged landscape here offers great climbing and canyoning (for thrill seekers) or bike hire and horse riding for the rest of us
- At Peza, a local farmers’ co-operative, you can see how olive oil and wine are produced, or see a Cretan cooking demonstration
- Head to Linoperamata for windsurfing, Mononaftis for waterskiing, or Agia Pelagia for scuba diving (organised trips and beginners courses are available)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
- Wine tasting
Although there are no special facilities for kids bar the pool, the friendly relaxed atmosphere makes it perfect for families. There are only a handful of villas and apartments, so a lot depends on who you're sharing the space with.
Family friendly accommodation:
Each Villa has a double bed on a wooden mezzanine level, plus an open-plan living-room with 2 single sofabeds providing sleeping space for 2 on the ground floor; 2 extra beds can be added on request, too, but this makes things very cosy. Studio Apartments are set over a single floor; they have a double bedroom and the living area has a single sofabed, as well as space for an additional rollaway bed. Baby cots can be provided in all Villas and Apartments. Bathrooms have bathtubs and handheld showers.
Available on request
- Baby cots
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The villas and studios have basic self-catering facilities. Eating out isn't easy nearby - there's only a small coffee house in Achlada so you'll have to drive 10 minutes to find a taverna. The supermarket is 10 minutes away.
Kids Activities on site:
- 2 pools: 1 for all, 1 for kids
- Gardens to play in
Kids Activities nearby:
- Beaches 10 minutes' drive away
- Thalassocosmos aquarium at Gournes, 13km east of Heraklion. With 32 tanks, it displays underwater life ranging from sharks and jellyfish to sea urchins and octopi
- Plenty of outdoorsy active stuff: hiking, mountain biking, caving, canyoning, horse riding, windsurfing, kayaking, waterskiing
- Airport: 25 minutes
- Hospital: 15 minutes