The Olive Grove Estate

Gavalohori, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £167 per night

Two luxurious sanctuaries in the green hills of northern Crete, each with 3 bedrooms, a private pool and dazzling views (sleep 4-6)
As we enter the gates to this wonderfully private estate we spot 2 plush villas lording over an oasis of olive groves, citrus trees and wild herbs. First we reach Lavender, a bright, contemporary house with pristine white interiors, great lighting, funky artwork and huge windows sliding open onto wide patios. We continue another 50m to find Olive, the original house of the estate, with cool limestone walls and rustic interiors. Both villas have 3 bedrooms, spacious living areas, suntrap terraces and elevated pool areas to make the most of those divine views over the valley.

The project is the vision of Penelope, a Cretan by birth, and her Dutch husband Danny. After many years in assignments abroad, their dream came true when they bought the 2-acre estate back in 2010, and rebuilt the villas just in time to hold their wedding reception here; a lovely painting above the hearth shows them leaping hand-in-hand into the unknown. With sandy beaches 10 minutes by car, and the charming Venetian town (and airport) of Chania half an hour away, the villas make a stylish summer escape for a family with older children, or for 4-6 friends.

Highs

  • The pools are a godsend in Crete’s fierce summer, and both are positioned to make the most of the views
  • We liked the personal touches: cheeky paintings, fresh-picked lavender, locally crafted ceramics
  • The helpful caretakers, Peter and Anne, will point you to the best tavernas, shops and boat trips, or cook for you if you like
  • Top-spec facilities include Bosch dishwasher, a juicer in Olive, a walk-in wardrobe in Lavender, Nespresso machines - and a useful folder of instructions!
  • The pretty-but-sleepy village of Gavalohori, 10 minutes’ walk away, has a couple of great tavernas

Lows

  • The third bedroom in both villas is definitely the short straw; best for younger kids
  • The beaches in the immediate vicinity are not Crete’s best, but there are nicer ones 30-60 minutes’ drive away
  • For any shopping beyond staples, you’ll need to drive to Kalyves or Chania
  • There’s no landline, and mobile signal is patchy - but you do get free WiFi
  • The villas are only 50m apart, but each has its own pool and parking spot

Best time to go

We think 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, and the Apokoronas landscape is still lush until mid June. If you are coming in July or August, Lavender's underfloor cooling system will keep you chilled, and there's usually a breeze on both pool terraces. April is a good option if you're more interested in sightseeing and wild flowers than in swimming and sunbathing; October is great for end-of-season swims and cosy evenings beside the fire. The area pretty much closes down from late October to early April, and flights are limited (you may well have to come via Athens).

Our top tips

Three things to bear in mind: there are no mosquito nets (bring repellent, or keep the windows shut and use A/C); in the absence of a telephone and reliable mobile signal, you might want to bring a laptop with skype; there is no Nespresso shop in Crete so bring your own capsules to restock the machines.

For a secret gorge and naughty swim, you can't beat the 1-hour path from Gouvernetou monastery (or Agios Ioannis, near Chania airport) down past a cliffside katholiko, through a mini-gorge, to end at an azure sea-fjord hidden among sun-bleached rocks. You'll need sandals to get into the water - or the courage to dive from the rocks. Tie this in with a visit to the earthy-red Venetian-era monastery of Giagarolou (or Agia Triada, restricted opening hours) on the way home.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Villas for 4-6
  • 3 double/twin bedrooms in each
  • Self-catering (restaurants within walking distance)
  • 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
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service
  • Maid service and linen change 3 times/week
Room:

Rooms

LAVENDER
You enter at the top, from the gravelled car park or terraced pool. The inverted layout, with an open-plan living space and pool terrace at the top, means that you get the best views by day and the quietest of sleeps at night. Inside, it all feels rather Scandinavian-zen, with Swedish Duxiana beds in the rooms, and underfloor cooling that keeps you as chilled as the bottles in the temperature-controlled wine fridge. There's an L-shaped sofa, a superbly equipped kitchen and indoor dining table, and a laundry room which will come in handy if you're here with kids. Picture windows slide open to a further outdoor living space, with wicker chaises longues under a khaki wooden pergola.

The middle level has a kingsize master bedroom. There are blackout blinds and 2 balconies: one Juliet, the other with loungers. Past the vast walk-in dressing room (more space than you'd need for a month) is the ensuite bathroom, with tub and separate rain shower. Down on the bottom level are the second and third bedrooms. The larger has double/twin beds and a private sitting room with arched windows onto its own sunrise terrace. The smaller bedroom is tucked away at the back, with twin beds, a shower room and just one window. We think it would be fine for 2 kids (or child + nanny), but not so great for a couple - definitely the shortest of the 3 straws.

OLIVE
Built entirely from native limestone, Olive feels a little more rustic than its neighbour. The layout is more conventional, with the bedrooms at the top and the living space at the bottom. You enter on the middle floor, which features beamed ceilings, exposed stone walls and a lovely open-plan kitchen-living area with a small balcony coming off it. There’s also a study, a bathroom and a small twin bedroom at the back, which we found a little strange; unless you’re coming with small children you probably wouldn’t use this area. Outside, the main terrace overlooks the pool and gazes out over the lush orchards and the blue strip of Souda bay beyond.

The top floor houses the 2 master bedrooms, each with Coco Mat beds, ensuites, sloped ceilings and neutral interiors. One is a twin (but can be made into a double) and has a small balcony, the other is a double and has a large, sunny terrace. The lower floor is the pool area, with loungers and a shaded dining table, as well as a toilet and a small kitchenette for refreshments during the day.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • DVD player
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Iron
  • Kitchenette
  • Microwave
  • Nespresso coffee machine
  • Oven
  • Satellite TV
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tumble dryer
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

Each villa has an open-plan kitchen, which is a delight to use: plenty of surface area, brushed steel appliances galore, extra-wide drawers with shiny white crockery in every shape and size. Toaster, kettle, oven, separate microwave-grill, Bosch dishwasher, espresso machine, electric juicer for those fresh oranges - it's all there (except a food blender, we noticed). Book through i-escape and you'll find a hamper of breakfast ingredients when you arrive - bread & jams, tea & coffee, eggs & bacon. For further supplies, Gavalohori (1km) and Almirida (5km) will oblige.

You'll eat outside most of the time; both villas have a lovely decked dining terrace that faces the pool and sunset. But if it does turn chilly, each has another table for 6 inside. Non-morning-people can grab breakfast and slope back to their private terrace; most of the bedrooms have one.

The caretakers can arrange a private chef to whip up healthy Cretan dishes. Alternatively, stroll into Gavalohori (10 minutes there, a little more on the way back!) for fresh home cooking at Gavalianos, next to the war memorial. Down at Almirida, Aeraki serves the best fish, while both tavernas in Vamos (5km) will deliver a good no-frills Greek meal. For something snazzier, head to Chania (27km).

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Coffee maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
  • Welcome hamper
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the Apokoronas region: its rolling olive- and cypress groves are backed by a rocky ridge which drops to Crete's north coast, and laced with wild flowers and views of snow-capped peaks in spring. One of the prettiest of its sleepy villages is Gavalohori (1km or 10 mins' walk), with kafeneia shaded by plane trees, narrow lanes flanked by whitewashed cottages, and a small folklore museum

  • There are decent beaches nearby, and better ones if you're prepared to drive 45 mins. Almirida (5km) has 2 sandy coves, watersports, boat trips and a strip of eateries, though it can get crowded in summer. Beyond Kalyves (10km) is an emptier stretch of coast, while the Akrotiri peninsula (40km) has 2 jewels: Marathi (bleached sands & excellent fish restaurants) and sickle-shaped Stavros (sheltered shallows & simpler tavernas). Ombrosgialos (30 mins the other way, if you don't mind a bumpy drive) has a dramatic rocky coast and seasonal taverna; while the endless sands of Georgioupolis are a windsufer's favourite

  • History buffs should visit the Minoan-Greek-Roman hilltown at Aptera (15km), with visible city walls, well preserved cisterns and a Turkish fort. You could drive to the dramatic and tragic Orthodox monastery of Arkadi (1hr) or, at a pinch, the Minoan capital at Knossos (2hrs)

  • Hike the diminutive gorge at Farangi near Stilos, or one of its bigger brothers on the south coast: Imbros (1hr's drive, 3-4 hrs' hike) is the most accessible, while Samaria is the toughest and longest day out, but also the most spectacular

  • Don't miss Chania's gorgeous old town (30 mins' drive): set around a Venetian harbour, its pedestrian alleys are lined with boutiques and bars (try and hear some live Cretan music, it's very soulful); the covered market is a cornucopia of health-giving herbs and cheeses, and its Archaeological Museum is the area's best

  • If you've been there and done that, Rethymno (45 mins) is similar, except that Greek students outnumber tourists, and the Ottoman and Venetian influences are stronger still: timbered houses, spiky minarets and a huge fort on the hill

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

All ages are welcome, but in truth it's best for older children (6 and over) due to the many steps. Villa Olive has a twin bedroom on its ground floor which may be useful for smaller children. The owners ask that you supervise youngsters carefully - though of course the pool terraces and various balconies are balustraded.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available

Babysitting:

English-speaking baby-sitters can be arranged

Baby equipment:

There's a highchair and one baby cot. Anything else - pool toys, games, plastic crockery - you'll have to bring.

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

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 owners or caretakers 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.

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Nearest shop: 2 minutes' drive / 10 minutes' walk
Kid Friendly:

Location

The Olive Grove Estate is just outside the village of Gavalohori, in the Apokoronas region of Crete. It overlooks Crete’s north coast, 5km from the beach at Almirida, 27km east of Chania and 45km west of Rethymno.

By Air
Chania is the closest airport, served by daily flights from Athens through the year, and by charter flights from most European capitals in summer. Heraklion airport is further, but has a few more flights (mostly charter).

By Sea
Chania’s port, Souda, is served by daily overnight ferries from Athens’ port, Piraeus, on the Greek mainland.

From the Airport or Port
You will probably want to rent your own car, as the estate is on the edge of a small village with little public transport - though it does have shops and restaurants - see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Chania 40.0 km CHQ
  • Heraklion 120.0 km HER

Other:

  • Beach 5.0 km
  • Shops 0.5 km
  • Restaurant 0.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 2 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

The villa was beyond our expectations, everything about it oozes quality; the views, the pool, the equipment in the villa, all outstanding. The hosts were absolutely delightful, very attentive but let you get on with your holiday. Everything they recommended in terms of restaurants, beaches and attractions were absolutely spot on. The location was perfect, the villa set just up on the hill overlooking the valley beyond to the sea. Waking up having my morning coffee on the balcony is something that will live long in my memory. The local village has some superb little tavernas and a couple of shops and a bakery. All in all a perfect trip, the villa is the best we have stayed in by a long way.

10/10,

Exceptional in every respect and I very rarely would leave that level of feedback.

10/10,

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