It’s often difficult to find a quick getaway that lives up to the Instagram shots and brochures. Even when looking for a mini break for two, the options are endless and the prices can sometimes go stratospheric.
So which lux getaway to choose? Where can you get top service, cloudless blue skies and fewer crowds? Enter Crete, with its growing number of high-end restaurants, spas and boutique hotels and guaranteed azure skies and warm sunshine.
Away from the Malias of this world, Crete is giving Mykonos and Santorini a run for their money when it comes to exclusive villa hotels with private pools, fabulous views and warm temperatures from March to November.
Cosseted away on the idyllic north-eastern coast, St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel and Villas is a serene complex boasting heavenly suites adorned with billowing white drapes, turquoise plunge pools and oceanside terraces. This is a Greek idyll personified. The 107-room hotel has a choice of two- and three-bedroom villas, studio suites and one-bedroom chic pool bungalows, in addition to sea-view rooms and suites.
The hotel prides itself on its privacy and luxury touches and is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. Inevitably then, the service feels effortlessly personalised. Many holidaymakers come with families, enjoying the villa-hotel feel; where you can enjoy the privacy of your own apartment or villa with the services and dining of a hotel at your disposal.
The bungalows cascade seaward and there is something intrinsically soothing about a resort that blends so well into its environment.
Cascading seaward, the properties all make the most of those views, with open terraces and, of course, those spectacular plunge pools. One point of note here – while many other boutique hotels have plunge pool suites in rows, St Nicolas Bay has ensured as much as possible that each suite feels cocooned away from the next.
Dining and atmosphere
The dining is sublime – the Greek Kafenion next to the olive trees and white-washed chapel serves beautiful lunches, with an innovative menu that is so much more than beachside snacks. For evenings, the Labyrinthos restaurant has a stunning sushi offering and beautiful fresh produce.
We are usually clamouring to leave and explore nearby restaurants when on holiday but such is the bespoke nature of the on-site restaurants, we could have happily dined here for a week.
A perfect blend of a traditional and modern architecture with a strong emphasis on privacy, intimacy and casual elegance. Mediterranean in character and design, this is a hotel that combines authentic Cretan hospitality with world-class service. Wake up overlooking the pool, read a book in your swoon-worthy cream wingback next to your picture window, or sip the cool Veuve Clicquot that awaits every guest out on your luscious patio.
St Nicolas spa
St Nicolas’ Poseidon spa has an indoor heated pool with hydro Jet bubble seats, marble Turkish steam baths and saunas, and sublime body and face treatments utilising Elemis and Cinq Monde products.
Again, the resort’s unique properties come to the foray – choose from ‘Aphrodite’s Bath’, a treatment cave for two, with a seawater Thalassotherapy pool beside the sea, hydrojets and bubble loungers, or the Blue Room, a treatment room occupying the full top floor of the spa with panoramic floor-to ceiling windows overlooking Mirabello Bay and a private veranda, where you can enjoy an al fresco massage.
Eleni, the brilliant spa manager, wisely recommends the heavenly Greek Honey Massage with Charup Honey (45 minutes, € 94), though there are myriad therapies you can choose from that will have you walking up on cloud nine.
The new weekender
This lesser known side of Crete is filled with surprises. This is both shoulder season heaven and a place where you can relax with the family. The level of service, dining and all-round ambience is five star, yet it has fewer crowds and better weather than the classic Spanish and Italian holiday hotspots, meaning an early or late season weekend getaway or family holiday is a no brainer.
Book a stay at St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotels with Small Luxury Hotels of the World from €270 per night (two sharing) on a B&B basis; 0800 0482 314)