Last month I blogged about our Crete holiday part 1 – which was a one week stay at the 5* Domes of Elounda resort. [If you missed it you can read part 1 here.]
Today, in part 2, we’re moving to inland Crete, just outside the small village of Zaros, to stay at Eleonas Country Village.
It took us about 2½ hours to drive from the coast of Elounda to Eleonas. We broke up the journey with a stop to visit the Knossos ruins (the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete). If you were travelling directly from Heraklion Airport to Eleonas Country Village it’s about an hour’s drive.
Eleonas Country Village is a very different type of holiday to the Domes of Elounda. Eleonas is a rural retreat – a small, family-run, eco-friendly complex nestled in the shadows of Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete. Luxury and 5* it isn’t but it’s a more authentic experience of Crete. You’ll eat well; sleep well and find yourself calmed by the relaxed atmosphere and sounds of nature.
You’ll receive a warm welcome and attentive service from the owner Manolis and his team. Manolis is always on hand to give recommendations and make sure you have a good holiday. He arranged late check-out for us, which was brilliant as we had an evening flight. And for 10 Euros we got a large bag of our clothes washed – very handy when you’re travelling with a messy toddler.
What else can you expect at Eleonas…
Eleonas is spread over a lush slope covered with olive trees, herbs, plants and colourful flowers. Note the word slope. You are staying in a mountain valley so expect undulating terrain…and you will have to navigate a hill to get to your cottage. We were right at the top, which gave us wonderful views but it was a steep climb for toddler and pregnant woman legs. No 5* buggy service here so I wouldn’t opt for it if you have any mobility issues – although you can request a cottage lower down on the hill if you’re feeling less spritely.
Comprised of about 20 stone cottages, Eleonas is suitable for couples and families. Each cottage has traditional décor and wooden furniture with a seating area and a fireplace to use if you’re there in cooler months. There is a small kitchenette with a few kitchen basics plus a bowl of fresh fruit and herbs…and a little bottle of wine. There’s also a mini bar and traditional coffee to brew up yourself. There’s free wifi but this is not the place for all the latest techie gadgets.
All of the cottages have a private terrace with views of the gorgeous mountain landscape. You definitely feel at one with nature here; you’re nowhere near the hustle and bustle of town or tourist life. No traffic noise and late night parties; all you’ll get are the sounds of whistling wind and buzzing bees.
The main ‘hub’ of the place includes reception, toilets, a small bar/café area and the main restaurant.
The restaurant is rustic with large windows to soak up the views and it’s big enough for all guests to dine without needing to wait for a table. Breakfast is serve yourself with a selection of fruit, cereals, yoghurt, bread, pastries, meat, cheese, eggs – juices and hot drinks are make your own too. At dinner it’s traditional, home-cooked, Cretan cuisine but fussy eaters beware – there isn’t a full à la carte menu and there is limited choice. You’ll get a selection of starters to pick from and while you wait you’re served olives and breads with oils. For mains there’s usually one meat, one fish and one vegetarian option to choose from. There isn’t a dessert menu, instead you’ll get fruit and something like a sweet pastry brought to your table with little bottles of Raki to enjoy as a digestif.
All the food we had was delicious – and the toddler also happily tucked into smaller portions of what we had. Half-board is a really reasonable price and with a toddler in tow it’s much more convenient to eat there rather than drive out to restaurants. They also serve lunch – there’s a menu to choose from and you can order food as takeaway too if you wish to eat in your cottage. Or if you fancy a drive out then there are a couple of restaurants in the local village which offer a small lunch menu or an evening set meal costing about 18 Euros for two people, but you generally get whatever the chef recommends or feels like making that day!
What is there to do?
At Eleonas you’ll find a few exercise machines and a medium-sized pool. In the pool area there’s an honesty bar, a shower, and pool towels for hire. You can also phone down to reception to place a food order.
In your welcome pack, you’ll get handy itineraries and ideas for how to spend your days. Eleonas also offer cookery classes and spa treatments or they can arrange wine tastings and farm experiences. Most guests come to enjoy the opportunities to walk or bike in the picturesque surroundings (we didn’t!) – or there are cute little villages, archaeological sites and beaches to explore.
You’ll need a car if you want to get out and about. Be prepared for some winding, narrow roads though! If you book directly with Eleonas, there’s a hire car option which other guests found to be very good (we’d already sorted ours).
Eleonas doesn’t have all the family-friendly bells and whistles that the Domes of Elounda has but it’s definitely somewhere you can holiday with children. The owner has a family and is very welcoming of younger guests.
There is a small, shallow pool for children and a collection of water toys which have been left by previous guests. Next to the café there’s an indoor soft play area and outdoor play equipment, which went down a treat with our daughter. There are wooden high chairs and they will make simple pasta dishes for little tummies.
They provided us with a cot but if you needed all the other baby mod-cons you’d need to bring them with you. There were steep steps up to our cottage and open stairs to our mezzanine bedroom so be prepared to keep a watchful eye.
All in all…
If you’re looking for all the baby and toddler extras, with crèche and babysitting then Eleonas Country Village isn’t the place for you. But it is family-friendly and it’s a great place to relax in beautiful surroundings. Expect simplicity but everything you need is there. It was lovely to experience a more traditional side of Crete and see what the island has to offer away from the popular beach destinations.