Paradise is a plane ride away
In just 4 hours by air and you could find yourself soaking up the sunshine on Greece's largest island. A truly Mediterranean climate, the average temperature for the summer months hovers around 25°C and can clock up roughly 13 hours of sunlight per day during July.
Crete has more than its fair share of picturesque harbours, sandy beaches and bath-warm sea waters. However the island has a dramatic side too - inland, its landscape is slashed with gorges, scored with valleys and dominated by the White Mountains that stretch from east to west. The tallest peak in range, Mt Ida is home to the Ideon Cave, birthplace of the mythical Greek God Zeus.
Things to do
Explore the ruins at Knossos
Knossos is a page worth bookmarking in your guidebook - it's the biggest and most impressive of Crete's Minoan palaces. Legend has it, that Knossos was built by King Minos as a labyrinth to contain the Minotaur. Nowadays, you won't need a ball of string to find your way round, but you can still snoop around the 4,500-year-old ruins and check out the restored wall frescoes.
Step back in time at Spinalonga
Just off the coast at Elounda is the rocky islet of Spinalonga, a former leper colony and the setting for Victoria Hislop's bestseller, The Island. Boats zip back and forth from Aghios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka, so it's easy to pop over and explore the Venetian fortress and archaeological site. If you're up for a bit of a climb, walk up the hill to the old hospital for photo-worthy views across to the mainland.
Hike Richtis Gorge
Crete's gorges are a walker's playground. One of the easiest to get to from the east is Richtis Gorge. Most of the island's gorges are dry and rocky, but this one has more of a tropical feel, with lush greenery and a waterfall that's perfect for a swim stop. It takes between three and four hours to hike the trail, which finishes up at a lovely pebbly beach.
And the rest..
Although a lazy beach day is practically obligatory when visiting Crete, the island plays host to plenty of adventure activities. From cycling excursions, walking the beautifully-wild terrains or catching some of the best swells in Greece for surfing and other water sports. Crete is also ideal for hiring a car to help you explore half-hidden villages and other Cretan treasures off the tourist track.
Hotels in Crete set the bar high when it comes to luxury, and we've handpicked the cream of the crop. They're scattered along the island's north coast, in button-cute waterside towns like Elounda and Aghios Nikolaos.
The Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas boasts a fantastic location overlooking the picturesque Daios Cove and the dazzling blue sea, seven kilometres from Aghios Nikolaos. Well-equipped modern guest rooms, luxury suites and villas all provide superb views and have been finished in crisp, neutral tones. The impressive infinity pool and poolside bar provide the perfect place to relax and enjoy the hypnotic views. The hotel also has many sundecks, which offer comfortable sunbeds and direct access to the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. The dining is superb, try the traditional Greek Taverna or head over to the Ocean Restaurant overlooking the infinity pool and enjoy Mediterranean cuisine with a modern twist. Alternatively, for those looking for a pampering experience, the hotel's spa and health club, Anne Semonin, has a range of rejuvenating treatments, allowing you to truly relax on this luxury holiday.
Basking in a stunning waterfront location and surrounded by colourful gardens, the Minos Beach Art Hotel achieves discreet luxury. Rocky landscapes and sandy coves provide the perfect backdrop to a serene hideaway where relaxation is first on the agenda. Featuring contemporary works of art complemented by the traditional Cretan architecture, this hotel offers a great choice of restaurants, ranging from traditional Cretan to gourmet Mediterranean cuisine. Ananea Wellness invites you to revive and rejuvenate with an exciting range of signature treatments, perfect after a morning exploring the lively town of Aghios Nikolaos. Just 800 metres away, you will be able to find an abundance of tavernas, fine dining restaurants and shops, while having the beautiful Mirabelo bay to explore.
St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas is set in six acres of gardens on a rocky headland with sea on three sides, close to the pretty port of Aghios Nikolaos. A member of 'Small Luxury Hotels of the World', this intimate resort offers bungalow style accommodation and suites, some with their own private pool, which are decorated in a fresh, modern style with superb views. There is a choice of dining including a traditional Greek Kefenion located on the resort's private sandy beach or head over to the Minotaure restaurant overlooking the pool for fine dining with a twist and contemporary Japanese. Pampering is available at the Poseidon Spa using ELEMIS® and CINQ MONDES® products and for families the facilities are ideal, including a children's club.
Adult Optional All In Blue
Nestled on the water's edge in Mirabello Bay, the whitewashed bungalows of the Aquila Elounda Village slope gently towards the sea, affording breathtaking views over the nearby islands from throughout the resort. Cascading pools, set in colourful Cretan gardens, and a private beach ensure you'll be able to find the perfect spot to relax and appreciate the peaceful panoramas. Elegant guest rooms are beautifully decorated in blue and white with wooden furniture, and have lovely garden or sea views. The hotel's three restaurants serve a variety of cuisine, where you can enjoy a delicious meal and views of the sunset, and the spa offers a range of treatments and facilities including a sauna and steam bath.
The exclusive Elounda Gulf Villas and Suites are beautifully located on the hillside overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello on the outskirts of Elounda. Boasting stunning, panoramic views across the bay and mountains beyond, this wonderful addition to the 'Small Luxury Hotels of the World' is a deserving winner of Greece's Leading Villa award. This intimate, family owned boutique villa-hotel perfectly combines the privacy and independence of a villa or suite with all the services and facilities of a deluxe hotel. Villas feature private pools with whirlpools, while some even boast their own spa. One or two bedroom suites are individually decorated and have a separate living area with access to the main pool and children's pool. The Elixir Spa is the perfect location to unwind, and with a choice of two restaurants and cosy lounge bar, guests of this superb resort are assured of a wonderful stay with a tailor-made and personalised service. Guests can also enjoy the private Beach Club whilst children will love having fun at the kid's club.
Perched on the water's edge, the exceptional Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel enjoys breathtaking views across the iridescent Aegean Sea and surrounding coastline. The sophisticated interior of natural woods and soft, neutral colours creates a warm ambience of serene elegance. A series of excellent, well-appointed suites are the epitome of luxury: each has a lounge area and terrace featuring its very own private pool. Excellent standards of service, delicious cuisine and modern facilities will be sure to provide a memorable experience of a luxurious holiday.
The contemporary and stylish Elounda Bay Palace lies on the beach amidst 20 acres of bougainvillaea-filled, jasmine-scented gardens. A member of 'The Leading Hotels of the World', this hotel enjoys panoramic views over the island, where secluded sandy beaches contrast with the beautiful clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
The Smart and Prestige Club concepts allow the opportunity to choose the level of exclusivity and service to suit, whilst an impressive series of guest rooms and bungalows offer a supreme standard of comfort.
A superb choice of gourmet opportunities awaits: from the informal and atmospheric Greek taverna, to the award-winning Thalassa Restaurant set on a romantic waterside deck.
With outstanding service and an excellent range of facilities, this hotel is undoubtedly one of Crete's finest.
Surrounded by luscious gardens and enjoying an enviable seafront location, the outstanding Elounda Beach Hotel and Villas truly achieves unbeatable tranquillity. Inspired by a traditional Cretan village, this hotel offers a complete range of superb accommodation, from luxurious rooms to opulent waterfront bungalows and multi-room villas with private heated pools, each one enjoying a remarkable level of personal service. A choice of excellent restaurants takes dining to a new level where supreme attention to detail is evident throughout. A visit to the Espace Vitalite Chenot will complete your luxurious experience. Offering rejuvenating and relaxing holistic therapies in a tranquil atmosphere, you can enjoy a personal service and renowned treatments.
The Elounda Mare Hotel, Relais & Châteaux is a charming hotel designed to create an exclusive and elegant atmosphere: a hotel characterised by impeccable service provided by dedicated warm and friendly staff. The hotel boasts an excellent variety of well-appointed guest rooms, all finished with individual touches and adorned with antiques. Exclusive menus and extensive wine lists are available at all three of the hotel's restaurants where the traditional Relais & Chateaux excellence pervades, whilst the Karavia Bar and Yacht Club are ideal for taking in the picturesque scenery. If you are looking for a top-class hotel, with refined luxury and comfort combined with a traditional and personal feel, then the Elounda Mare Hotel, Relais & Châteaux will certainly be the perfect choice.
Located on the picturesque azure coast, the Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort is blessed with stunning views over Mirabello Bay and spectacular sea views beyond. A glorious private sandy beach sits on the doorstep, with shops, bars and restaurants just three kilometres away in the village of Elounda.
Enjoy a high standard of comfortable accommodation with an excellent range of facilities. Choose to spend your days lazing around the attractive pool absorbing the relaxing atmosphere, or head to the nine-hole golf course; the only private golf course on Crete. Children can join the fun too and enjoy the entertainment in the company of the child care specialists.
Go beyond beauty and pampering at the Six Senses Spa, where natural influences and healing rituals allow mind, body and spirit to be immersed in a total state of calm. Regarded as the 'Best Spa in the World' by the Sunday Times, this unique opportunity is one that certainly should not be missed.
Inspired by majestic palaces of bygone eras, the Grecotel Amirandes is a stunning resort that uses clever architecture to create a feeling of elegance and space. Luscious gardens surround stylish lagoon pools and play host to an array of Mediterranean flowers, which provide a fragrant backdrop to this peaceful oasis. Picturesque seascapes stretch far beyond the golden sands and can be enjoyed from many tranquil areas of the resort, whilst six diverse restaurants take influences from the wonderful natural setting. Luxurious guest rooms are finished to the highest of standards and offer a choice of unique upgrades to include private gyms, home cinemas and state-of-the-art bathrooms with colour therapy whirlpool baths.
Set over several levels overlooking a sparkling blue bay, this romantic hotel commands beautiful views of the island of Spinalonga. Rated amongst the best places to stay in Greece by the Condé Nast Traveller Gold List for two consecutive years, the Blue Palace blends curved walkways with lawned gardens, and the 142 private infinity pools appear to merge seamlessly with the sea. Stylishly-designed suites and bungalows combine contemporary décor and flawless finishing touches, each one the ultimate in comfort and luxury, taking in uninterrupted views over Spinalonga Island. Upgrade to half board and experience varied dishes in all the restaurants, including inspired cuisine at the beachside taverna or the Steakhouse Flame with focus on organic products from select local farmers. Peaceful and serene, the Elounda Spa & Thalassotherapy provides a heavenly escape with the gentle sound of waves acting to sooth and calm. Traditional ingredients meet state-of-the-art facilities to encourage a total sense of well-being.
In a perfect location overlooking the Gulf of Elounda and the UNESCO protected islet of Spinalonga, the luxurious Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection is an ideal retreat for couples and families. Innovatively designed to blend with the landscape, the use of domed ceilings and earth tones give this property a unique feel. Each of the 80 suites and 40 villas is superbly decorated with a blend of hand-picked local art, designer furniture and delicately-carved wooden furnishings. The only natural 'Blue Flag' sandy beach in the region is great for families due to its shallow waters, whilst couples can enjoy a quiet zone. 'Domesland' offers a crèche, kids and teenager clubs operated by Worldwide Kids Company. Catering to all tastes, the resort's four restaurants serve delicious international and Greek cuisine and Tholos Bar with stunning sea views, and Spina Bar provide the perfect place to relax in the evening. For those keen to explore, take a short taxi ride to the bustling fishing village of Elounda for its shopping, tavernas and boutiques. Alternatively, why not take a boat to the picturesque Island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony rich in history.
The Sovereign Standard
To help you choose your perfect holiday we have rated all of our hotels using our own system.
Classical Sovereign hotels are more modest hotels offering charm and character, or an exceptional location. Many of these hotels have been firm favourites with Sovereign customers for countless years and offer great value for money.
Luxury Collection hotels offer everything you would expect to go hand in hand with a luxury holiday. They offer high standards of service and attention to all those important little details.
Exclusive Collection hotels provide the ultimate luxury; they are the finest, most opulent hotels offering superlative service and excellent facilities, which will satisfy the needs of even the most discerning traveller.
Family Collection hotels are some of the finest family-friendly resorts and offer a wide range of facilities for both children and parents. Families can enjoy a whole host of amenities including fun kid's clubs, a dedicated children's pool and spacious accommodation.