Best of Greece – On The Islands of Crete
Whether you fly or sail, Crete’s first impression is of the turquoise Mediterrane Sea lapping at pale sandy beaches, set against timeless villages carved into ancient hillsides.
The second impression when you land is even better, the smell of olive groves, orange blossom, jasmine, wild basil, and the welcome warmth of the sun, tempered by a light sea breeze.
No wonder Crete is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.
Islands of Crete
Crete is the main and the largest island in Greece, with over 8.000 square kilometers of hills, mountains, and beaches; it has been welcoming visitors for ages yet has managed to hold its identity in a way that some parts of the increasingly developed Greek mainland have lost.
Yes, there is a ‘tourist’ side – mostly along the north coast where hotels have sprung up, but it has kept its local character, with plenty of historical interest on offer. At the same time, the south sideboards stretch of traditional, quieter Crete. Dominating the center of the island are stunning mountain ranges dotted with caves. Clamber down one of the dramatic gorges if you dare, and you’ll probably have to be collected at the bottom by boat – very few cars manage through here.
Crete is rich in culture, and the beauty is you can enjoy a slice of history with a piece of chilled watermelon and iced raki or local wine – which is fantastic. Cretan hospitality is widely known and is second to none, and its Greek/ Turkish influences are reflected in the people’s food and friendliness.
If you want to chill and have everything taken care of, a new concept has hit the Crete in the form of Sensation, a five-star hotel specially created to satisfy all five of your senses.
This brand new, state-of-the-art has been tailored to guest’s needs. The result is a stunning complex of spacious, subtly styled rooms, some with their own pools, set in gorgeous gardens next to the beach.
Luxury and good service are essential. As you walk in the hotel’s marble entrance into a vast palm-filled atrium, you are met by a team of smiling, immaculately dressed staff.
The rooms are sublime, some with verandas leading on to the lagoon resembling pools that are meandering around the grounds, so you can sunbathe in private and then step right into the warm water to cool down. There are rooms to suit all tastes: four beds, swim-up rooms, suites, and rooms with completely private pools. All are luxurious, with fridges, a flat-screen TV, and expensive bathrooms featuring power showers and Jacuzzi baths. And the service is excellent. If you wish your room cleaned or your towels changed two or three times during the day, you leave a note outside, and it happens.
Dining is complicated: there is almost too much choice, with six restaurants offering Greek, Thai, stone grill, a la carte, Tex-Mex, and fully equipped buffet, staffed by quick, friendly staff. The food is delicious in all of them, but the a la carte is particularly worth visiting.
Sensatori is part of Thomson’s Premier collection, and if you choose the Full Board Plus option, you can dine in four of the restaurants free of charge, with local wine and beer with the meal included. This is the place to unwind and indulge, yet you don’t see anyone rolling around drunk as you might in Britain.
To work all that off, there’s plenty to do: kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, scuba diving, tennis, basketball, golf with driving nets, plus a nightly entertainment program that includes acts flown from the U.K like comics from the Jongleurs comedy club and regular cabaret. If you travel with children, there’s a full activity program including weekly sleepovers and babysitting. Yes, that means going nights out without the kids! For young football fans FA- qualified coaches lead an international Soccer School for ages five to 16.
BEACHSIDE of Islands of Crete
Sensation’s pride and joy is its World-Class spa, offering all from chocolate massage and Body-wraps to thalassotherapy. Or you can jump in the free yoga and Pilates classes or relax in the indoor pool once you need a break from the baking sun.
Sensatori is set on the verge of the beachside village of Analipsi, which has excellent shops and bars, and you can stroll along Lyttos Beach for miles, stopping at a taverna on the way.
If you wish to explore more, you can use a local bus, take one of the numerous coach tours or hire mountain bikes, motorbikes, or a car, as many do. See the palace remains at Knossos, Crete’s capital Heraklion, the ancient Minoan ruins at Malia Palace, or the flamboyant fishing port of Agios Nikolaos.
Further afield are the mountain villages of the Amari Valley and the beautiful old port of Chania.
Visit Crete once, and you might not want to leave. !!