The Olive Press

Gavalohori, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £175 per night

Set in delightful gardens with a cool pool, this lavish 3-suite Cretan bolthole is stylish, secluded and easily accessible (sleeps 2-12)
With its rolling olive groves, sleepy hamlets and cypress-cloaked valleys dropping to sheltered beaches, the Apokoronas region of north Crete has long been popular with British holiday-makers and expats. There's no shortage of places to rent; but this one really raises the bar.

The 3 semi-independent suites - sometimes available individually, sometimes only as a whole - have been immaculately converted from an 18th-century olive press and outhouses. Two of them are split-level and can sleep 2-4; the third is a spacious double/triple. There's also a cosy little cottage next door, which can sleep an additional 2-5. Their rustic-chic interiors wouldn't look out of place in Elle Decor, while the (shared) gardens and pool are tranquil and truly idyllic. Owner Despina Kotsifaki, who runs a homeware boutique in nearby Chania, has invested all her spare time and money restoring the ancient vaults and pale stone walls, fitting gleaming glass doors and polished wetrooms, and filling them all with gorgeous pastel furniture and Provence-style objets d'art. In the courtyard are vibrant scatter cushions, giant table-top lanterns and bursts of blood-red geraniums. The result is Cretan-farmhouse-meets-Conran-showroom: a true one-off.

Highs

  • We loved the secret walled garden, with colourful flowerbeds, olive and fruit tress, starlit evenings punctuated by the hoot of owls
  • The lovely (shared) pool is almost chlorine-free, so won't harm your kids' skin even if they spend all day in it (ours did!)
  • Bedrooms are cool in every sense: thick stone walls (plus A/C if you need a top-up) and chic country-house furnishings with clever gizmos
  • A Cretan breakfast can be served in secluded spots around the garden, while the nearby village of Gavalohori has some lovely tavernas

Lows

  • You can only book individual suites at short notice, or outside peak season (exact times vary - check your dates here)
  • If you're planning to self-cater, be aware that there's only one small, communal kitchen, so you'll have to fit around other guests
  • The main living room (also shared) feels too ceremonial for daily use, and the bar stool seating isn't the most practical
  • You're 5km from the coast, and the closest beaches aren't the best in Crete (but a little further are some fab ones)
  • Some guests have mentioned low-flying planes from the US base, but we did not hear any during our week there

Best time to go

Crete is best visited in May-June or September: days are hot but not uncomfortably so, the sea (and pool) are warm enough for swimming, the Apokoronas landscape is still lush and the White Mountains snow-capped until mid June. But if you are coming in July or August, The Olive Press will do its best to keep you cool (shady gardens, thick walls, A/C) and tucked away from the crowds (there are no hotels in Agios Pavlos or Gavalohori, and only a couple of other villas). April and early October are also a possibility, but the villa might be a bit chilly (only wall-mounted heating units) and the indoor living spaces are not as lovely as the gardens.

Our top tips

  • We think it works best if you book all 3 suites and have it to yourselves - the main house is ideal for 2 or 3 couples with kids aged 5+, and you can add the cottage next door if needed
  • If renting just one suite, do ask who else has booked for your dates - it could make a big difference, whether you are a couple seeking tranquility, or a family not wanting to worry about disturbing other people's tranquility!
  • Great for...

    Beach
    Eco
    Family
    Great Outdoors
    Wedding
    • Boutique Suites (or villa for 6-12)
    • 3 suites (for 2-4) + 1 cottage
    • Self-catering or B&B
    • Best for over 5s
    • 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
    • Concierge Service
    Room:

    Rooms

    The Olive Press has 3 semi-independent suites, which can be booked individually or all together for a group of 6-10. Two of them are split over 2 levels to sleep up to 4, with and the third is on one level, opening straight onto the garden.

    We grabbed this one (Karydia) and slept like a dream on the Cocomat bed; every morning our young son rolled up the blind, sat at the chunky trestle table and sketched the walnut tree outside which gives the suite its name. There was plenty of space for the (very comfy) extra bed and for all our belongings; and we loved the open-plan wetroom (Korres toiletries, stacks of thick towels and robes).

    My brother's family slept in the large Rodia suite (meaning Pomegranate): children downstairs in the twin beds - with a deep egg-shaped tub for bathtime - and parents upstairs in the mezzanine loft, which has its own equally chic shower room and access onto a sun-drenched roof terrace. This suite also comes with a giant abacus for little fingers to play with, and a futuristic wood-burning stove for cooler autumn evenings (all suites also have wall-mounted A/C units which can be switched to heat cycle). Bear in mind that the stairs are steep and ungated.

    The third suite, Elia (meaning Olive), has a similar but more compact arrangement. Parents will have to sleep downstairs: the bed is a double mattress resting on a concrete base, and the 2 upstairs single sofabeds are better suited to children (plus there's less storage). There's only one bathroom - a polished cement wetroom whose square chrome shower head will hose off any remaining suncream before bedtime. But you do get a private terrace with the best views over olive groves to the sea.

    All 3 share the same country-chic style: pale stonework, bleached ceiling beams, dove grey stable doors and some vintage suitcases or reclaimed dowry chests. Expect large flatscreen TVs and a motion-sensor night-light so you don't stub your toe on nocturnal loo trips. Daily maid service is a godsend, and sheets are changed every 2 days (or on request).

    If you need more space, the next door cottage ('Critamo') is available as an add-on. It is split into 3 parts: a living-dining space (sofas, TV, HiFi), a separate small kitchen (oven, stove, fridge-freezer, dishwasher, sink), and a sleeping cottage which has 2 double bedrooms (1 is up a steep wooden staircase on a mezzanine level) + an additional single bed, and a bathroom (shower, hairdryer, washing machine). There is a shared courtyard with outdoor seating. It's much more compact than the main Olive Press, but still prettily styled.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Communal kitchen
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Fridge
    • Hairdryer
    • Safe box
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • Tv
    • Wall-mounted heating
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Breakfast (included with individual suite bookings) can be taken at a number of shaded spots in the garden. It's a simple affair of Greek yoghurt and honey, seasonal fruit, local breads and eggs, perhaps a savoury pie or some olives and tomatoes - but if you want something different for the next day, just ask.

    There's a smallish shared kitchen and outdoor dining area which you can use for self-catering - though you'll have to fit around other guests, of course. The kitchen had almost all we could need: 4 rings, chest-level oven and microwave, restaurant-sized chrome sink, Bosch dishwasher, a set of chef's pans, and all manner of gadgets, including a sandwich toaster and a juicer for the fresh oranges which we bought by the sackload from the farmers' vans by the road.

    You eat outside on the pool-facing patio, its long table shaded by the biggest parasol we've ever seen, while the sky fades to purple behind the ears of a giant cactus. Plus there's a vast, quasi-industrial indoor living space (also shared) more suited for formal receptions than for cosy evenings in. The old pressing floor is encircled by 14 rainbow bar stools and a huge TV, while at the far end 2 sofas flank a huge stone hearth under a glittering chandelier. Banks of candles, clusters of mirrors, a pair of giant green apples - it's all eye-poppingly designed, but in the end we hardly came here except to fill our carafe from the barrel of delicious sherry-like wine which the owner kindly left for us.

    Of course, you can eat out - well and cheaply: there are several delightful tavernas in Gavalohori (Petroptis comes recommended; and you can walk home in 10 mins), more in Almirida (try Aeraki for fresh fish), and a Belgian-run cafe in the hamlet of Douliana (1km). If you make it to Marathi, book a table at the excellent fish restaurant of Patrelantonis. There's a folder of recommendations in the villa, or ask the concierge for his suggestions when you arrive. He can also do a pre-arrival shop if you like - you just pay for the items at cost price. Or you can book a Cretan chef to come in and do the hard work!

    Features include:

    • Breakfast
    • Chef on request
    • Fridge
    • Shopping service
    • Welcome hamper
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Relax in the idyllic communal gardens - soaking up the sun and birdsong, splashing in the pool, reading on the sunloungers. But it would be a crime not to explore the area's beaches and hinterland...
    • Almirida's twin beaches (5km) are sandy and sheltered, though they can get a bit crowded in summer; bars and restaurants line the waterfront between them, and there's diving too
    • Kalyves (10km) is a larger village with a small bay at its heart and a long beach stretching west, where you can find plenty of towel space (in May, we were completely alone here)
    • Above looms the Turkish fort and Minoan hill town of Aptera, with Roman cisterns, ruined Doric temples and a still-intact 12th-century monastery; fabulous views, too
    • Head to nearby Stilos to hike through classic Cretan countryside: oleander-lined paths lead into a narrow rocky defile (or you can tackle the famous Samaria Gorge on a long day trip)
    • Visit Chania (30 mins' drive), with its lovely Venetian fishing harbour, an Archaeological Museum housed in a former church, pedestrian alleys lined with arty boutiques and a market selling local herbs and delicatessen
    • There are boat trips from Almirida to the sea caves at Drapanos, from Chania to Ayii Theodorii island, or from Kissamos (90 mins' drive) to Balos beach, perhaps Crete's most spectacular
    • Rethymno (45 mins) is another Venetian town worth a visit for its cobbled streets, Ottoman minarets, colourful harbour and an imposing 16th-century Venetian fortress
    • Georgioupolis beach (20 mins) has great windsurfing, but our favourite beaches in the area are at Marathi and Stavros - both near Chania airport, 45 mins' drive away - for their smooth sands and translucent shallows, perfect for young kids to splash in
    • If you're feeling adventurous, drive over the mountain - past sleepy villages and cypress groves - and down a bumpy track to the rocky coast and azure seas of Ombrosgialos; there's a seasonal taverna too

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cooking classes
    • Fishing
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Mountain biking
    • Private guided tours
    • Sailing
    • Scuba diving
    • Shopping / markets
    • Swimming
    • Trekking
    • Windsurfing

    Kids

    The Olive Press would work well for an extended family holiday or for 2-3 couples holidaying together with kids aged 5+. Apart from cots (on request), there are no high chairs, stair gates or other baby/toddler equipment yet. Two of the suites can sleep a family of 4 (parents downstairs, kids upstairs), while the third can sleep a couple plus one child (using a comfy rollaway bed) - and there would be space for a cot in addition. It's handy having a washing machine (shared between the suites) at your disposal.

    Best for:

    Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Rodia is the best suite for a family of 4 as it has 2 double/twin bedrooms and space for an extra bed for a child. Elia can also sleep a couple (downstairs) with 2 children (on single sofabeds upstairs), but it is less spacious and has only 1 bathroom. Karydia is best for a couple plus 1 child (on a rollaway bed). All can fit a baby cot on request.

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Swimming pool
    • Toys

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • There are several sandy beaches nearby (Almirida, Kalyves) and boat trips from Chania (27km)
    • The nearest water park is at Limnoupolis near Chania (32km)
    • The villa agent/concierge can put you in touch with companies which arrange mountain biking, trekking and other activities for families - but don't underestimate the severity of Crete's White Mountains

    Families Should Know:

    The stairs in Rodia and Elia are unprotected, as is the pool. The pool has no shallow section, but there are some plastic pool toys. Many of the furnishings are smart and shiny - not ideal for grubby little fingers - though when we stayed the maid dutifully cleaned off all the fingerprints from the glass doors with an indulgent smile (and a little gift for our son).

    Distances:

    • Airport: 30 minutes
    • Hospital: 20 minutes
    • Shops: 10 minutes
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 9 independent reviews from i-escape guests

    10/10
    Room
    9/10
    Food
    9/10
    Service
    9/10
    Value
    9/10
    Overall

    We loved it here and hope we can return one day. Our cottage was lovely and the garden was so beautiful. We ended up spending several days of our holiday just relaxing by the pool because it was so peaceful there. Great service from Kelly and Karen, wonderful breakfasts, and some very nice restaurants just a few minutes away.

    10/10,

    We had a great 4 days at the Olive Press and Kelly could not have been more helpful. Thank you for making our holiday so good.

    10/10,

    It was perfect all the way, super service and a peaceful pace with taste….a real secret hideaway. For sure we will go back. Nice and quiet - exactly how we like it when we travel. Thanks to Kelly and Donna for the very good care. Other tips: Balos Beach and restaurant Ta douliana, Kounas Lake and family Taverna Korissia.

    10/10,

    The Olive Press was a beautiful relaxing retreat. We were very comfortable here and staff were very friendly and helpful. As there weren't many other guest staying in the other cottages we pretty much had the place to ourselves!
    Absolutely perfect place for a relaxing, peaceful Greek retreat especially if you want to fully self cater at the cottage. The local taverna's in Gavalchori were great too, but we did start to tire of having to get in the car to eat throughout the day.
    Cottage was well fairly placed for exploring Samaria gorge and Knossos in day trips though.

    9/10,

    Fantastic attention to detail and quality of service from Kelly and Karen. Also the venue itself is just beautiful (we loved it so much that we ended up spending more time at the villa and less time for excursions). Next time we may come back in a larger group and hire out the whole of the villa (as this would be wonderful).
    Difficult to fault.
    There is a local tavena called “Monica’s” that is an amazing place (wonderful food and laid back atmosphere).

    10/10,

    An amazing and beautiful converted olive press to spend a few days...wish we could have stayed for longer.

    9/10,

    The olive press is a nicely decorated B&B, our room was very spacious, it has a pleasant feel. The location of the villa is secluded, but within half an hour's drive you can be on the nearby beaches of Chania. The only downside we experienced was the noise of planes flying over very low. Otherwise the villa is a perfect hideaway!

    6/10,

    Beautiful, unique property and lovely people. Location is also superb, tucked away from mass tourism resorts or busy town centres. If you're looking to get away from it all but still discover the real Crete, this is a perfect spot.

    10/10,

    What a wonderful place - a home from home. Luxurious and homely all in one. It was a perfect location and our 9 month old boy had the most amazing holiday. Everyone we met associated with the property were so kind and accommodating. We had problems with the air conditioning but they did everything they could to resolve it quickly and to be honest we could survive without it as the rooms are cool. Breakfast was just lovely and the rooms are spotless. i loved it and will be back. Again and again if possible!

    10/10,

    {{ review.rating }}/10, {{ review.firstName }}Anonymous{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

    Rates for The Olive Press