We drove to Elounda for the last week of our Crete holiday at Elounda Gulf Villas, following a four-night sojourn in the hillside village of Kapsaliana, near Rethymnon. It’s on the eastern end of this fabulous island, the richness of whose countryside quite took me by surprise. We were both in a very relaxed mood after Chania and Kapsaliana and looking forward to more of the same in Elounda. We weren’t disappointed. In fact, Elounda Gulf Villas was so good I wrote a separate blog about it, so I won’t dwell on that here.
Elounda is just north of Agios Nikoaos and just south of Plaka, facing the Mirabello Gulf. It’s a gorgeous setting; the sea, the hills, the olive groves, the dawn sun rising over the Spinalonga peninsula… Simply sitting on the beach, gazing at the views, and taking deep breaths is a rewarding exercise. It’s a charming place!
Our Villas were about a twenty-minute stroll into town, mostly through olive groves, past the sunken city of Olous, and into the harbour centre along the seafront. Not so much of a walk to knacker you out, but enough to give you a thirst. The first bar we had a beer in was Rakomelo’s restaurant, right by the water. Our order of a pint of beer entitled us to a free top up and a little jug of raki. It’s a traditional, Greek, family run place, and the owner (Manolis, I think) is a star. A jolly bear of man, full of generous welcome and rustic energy. It was inevitable we’d be back to eat. Additionally, we had come to the conclusion that raki was only given to tourists. Manolis took a hearty slug every ten-minutes or so.
We’d visit a couple of bars every evening before going to eat. As usual in Crete, you feel invited in, rather than feeling pressured in. Obviously, as it was early in the season, a few weren’t open yet. It was a relaxed vibe for the staff too. They found the time to ask about you. Enquire where you are from and all that. The harbour side centre is fine but not particularly photogenic; that prize goes to Chania.
As in Chania and Rethymnon, prices were pretty reasonable throughout the area. There’s no feeling that people are ripping you off. It’s a truism that the people one meets while holidaying are friendly, (actually, not in Russia!) but the Greeks seem to have the edge somehow. They’re warmer. Does that make sense?
There’s plenty to do but, as often, we were too lazy to do it. Elounda Gulf Villas had a private beach, and we spent two days there. But, there are several beaches in the vicinity, Agios Nikoaos being one, though it helps to have wheels to get about. We rented one from Athens cars; it only cost about €25 a day. We didn’t use it much, but it was cheaper than airport transfers. With a car it’s easy to visit places Lake Voulismeni, or the beautiful village of Kritsa. There are plenty of options.
The ruined Leper Colony at Spinalonga has become a ‘must see’ since “The Island” by Victoria Hislop made it famous. It’s a pleasant trip, though at €12 for the ferry from Plaka, and €8 to get in, it’s a fairly expensive hour. We only stayed that long. I think there’s a museum there, but we didn’t spot it. Or it was shut, as it was only April. Anyway, it was very nice and I can’t wait to show off that I’ve been.
We had a few good meals, inevitably at Rakomelo. The starters were free and consisted of vine leaves, tzatziki, buttered hot pitta, olives, tomatoes. Then came the main course (lamb chops) and a free sweet washed down by honey flavoured raki. We only paid for half of what we ate! It was a theme of the evening. Back at the hotel bar, Manos poured us both a gratis glass of superb wine for a nightcap. I say ‘glass’, it was knocking on half a pint.
We went to Ōkeanís twice as it gets great reviews. I can recommend the shrimps, the homemade tortellini, and the spaghetti carbonara. But the outright winner for me was the moussaka. Perfect in every way. It actually looked like it was made solely to be photographed for a foodie magazine. I should have taken a picture of it but, alas, gluttony is an impatient vice.
Should you go?
I regret not exploring more of the area, but I was too busy soaking up what I did see. I wonder what it’s like in the high season? It would certainly be very hot, so I would research the weather side of things carefully. In April it was lovely. We had a couple of showers on some days, but we swam in the pool and the sea (if not for long).
The written word can only convey so much. Look at the photos and have a gander at the video. That will give you a flavour; and a tasty one it is too.
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