Set on its own secluded peninsula, with breathtaking panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and with its own sandy, olive-shaded private beach, our new hidden gem in the Greek islands is like your own private villa—a five-star luxury idyll on the coast of sunny Crete. It’s a designer hotel with a difference—hence the name, Island Concept—combining elegant, light-filled space, white walls, glass and cerulean blue, with flower-lined paths. Yet it’s grounded in five-star service ensuring comfort, total tranquillity and warm hospitality—and you can relax in your private room, on your balcony or from your pool, and gaze, unhindered, out over the sunlit sea.
Surrounded by the sparkling blue Aegean, white-sand beaches and rocky cliffs—it overlooks sandy Almyros beach and Mirabello Bay—the sense is of being totally distanced from the world, with faraway views of Ha Gorge and steep, winding roads leading to the little visited towns and villages of eastern Crete—and it’s so close to the UK it makes taking a last-minute long weekend a simple pleasure and a week or more’s stay even better. Only 50 minutes’ drive from the international airport near the historic capital Heraklion—which in itself is about a four-hour flight from the UK—this is as idyllic a retreat as you’ll find, as close to a modern-day paradise as Europe gets.
Island Concept is all about luxury, style and space. It has only 15 spacious rooms (in four categories, Classic, Deluxe, Junior and Grand Suites), most with sea views and all with bbalconies or terraces, some with Jacuzzis and jetted plunge pools with touch-button heating. The idea is to give every room and suite its own private seascape from every aspect. Plus the five-star amenities with high-tech additions including concealed Bose speakers and central panel touch controls. Beyond, there’s a well-equipped outdoor gym and an outdoor spa with six treatment beds for relaxing massages. When sea bathing is not appropriate, the cliff-top infinity pool is reached via a meandering path lined with banana palms.
The Bar and Blue Fish restaurant are located right by the pool, with more spectacular sea views—think Cretan mountains sinking into the Aegean Sea. The island’s produce and excellent wines and spirits are the focus. Menus are well considered, majoring on Cretan and European dishes created using fresh seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, salads and Crete’s renowned fresh herbs, on set menus as well as à la carte. Service throughout the hotel is five star, maintained by a ratio of two staff to each guest.
Venturing farther afield, taking a boat trip along the coast is a delight, stopping at deserted beaches and bays for swimming and picnics, or tying-up at quayside fish restaurants to sample the day’s fresh catch with a bottle of local Cretan wine. Take the ferry to Spinalonga island in the Gulf of Elounda, for its natural beauty and historic 16th century Venetian fortress. This well preserved former leper colony was the setting for Victoria Hislop’s best-selling novel The Island.
Back at your hotel, for strolling there’s brilliant white sand beaches and pathways, including a two-kilometre cliff-edge path leading past Almyros beach to bustling Agios Nikolaos, the former fishing village and now a picturesque port town. Here you can visit the shops and boutiques, dine at speciality tavernas, stroll around the harbour and see the latest mega-yachts, then discover the famous ‘bottomless’ Lake Voulismeni, where Artemis and Athena were said to have bathed. This is the most picturesque part of town, lined with colourful buildings. By dusk, the pink skies take over and the town comes to life with music. Take a stroll around the lake to the cliffs, climb the steep steps and gain the highest viewing point.
Take a car to explore the island’s riches, a fertile land of olive groves, vineyards, farmland, beaches, cliffs, mountains and caves. The eastern side of Crete is the place to get in touch with Nature and claim a rocky enclave of coast all to yourself. Important Minoan archaeological sites are everywhere, including the Palace of Knossos, site of the first European civilisation. Heraklion is a treasure-trove of ancient sites, museums, churches, castles, monasteries and more. Stretching from the capital is the wine route, along which most Cretan wine is produced. Along these roads, encounter ancient vineyards, monasteries and Minoan sites—and the wineries will share the secrets of their wine production from terroir and harvest of the grapes to fermentation and ageing—and of course tasting! Then there is Richtis Gorge, situated in a Nature reserve. A 3km trail takes you from historically rich Lachanas Bridge to a stunning 20m waterfall cascading into a small turquoise pool at its foot, where you can take a dip before continuing to Richtis Beach.
Crete lies on the southernmost tip of Europe, hence its balmy climate, and is the fifth biggest island in the Mediterranean. Birthplace of the Minoan civilisation (and of course, Zeus), at 37 miles across it is large enough, and fascinating enough, to explore at leisure for days on end, an island where you can easily lose all sense of time and the modern world. Rich in history, it is the perfect getaway, where donkeys are still a major source of transport and sun-bleached stone cottages sit in total silence.
Factor-in white sand beaches, cool mountain ranges, clear blue seas and fascinating antiquity. No wonder the ancient gods were so enamored of this cradle of civilization.
Members may take advantage of exclusive Club rates in all room categories and on all dates (subject to availability at time of booking). To check availability for your dates, please call Member Services on 020 7399 2960 or follow the link below.
The Island Concept
Visit The Island Concept website