Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO CRETE, part 2, Elounda Mare

Bungalows with private pools, lost in beautiful gardens among a labyrinth of paths and stone walls. Rocks and flowers creating a hidden world along a turquoise sea. The main building of this boutique hotel lies behind with bar, restaurant and further tasteful and distinctive accommodation.

“I got lost”, is something guests often say after turning up at reception at Elounda Mare.

“Good”, says Hotel Manager Harry Maranghides. “That means you are learning our secrets.”

Winding paths lead along the water, and under the arches of trees. You find two more rustic restaurants in the gardens and by the sea, a dainty chapel, and a small shopping gallery with designer boutiques. There is also a sandy private beach on the property and other secluded sunbathing spots on stone platforms by the turquoise water.

Secluded Beach and Yacht Club restaurant
Further restaurants and facilities lie at two sister hotels a walk or free shuttle ride away, including an extensive Six Senses spa, 9-hole golf course and kid’s club. Altogether there are 7 restaurants apart from the plethora of restaurants in Elounda town.

Elounda Mare is much loved by couples (40% repeaters), and a favourite destination for wedding anniversaries. The mood in the main building at Elounda Mare is smart and dress codes prevail. We had to pass by the main restaurant with its elegantly dressed clientele as we left for a meal sortie in Elounda. The maitre d’s face showed plain relief when we asked him the way to the lobby and he realized he didn’t have to tell us that jeans and T-shirts would not do at dinner.

Large seawater pool and main building with bar and main restaurant

Lunch is more casual. Hotel Manager Harry Maranghides went so far as to take off his jacket and tie when he lead us to lunch at the Yacht Club, just to make a younger member of our party feel at ease. Classy - but friendly and not stuffy - that is Elounda Mare.

It was May and we didn’t see any children. But children are welcome and families can make good use of the facilities at Porto Elounda – a family hotel also owned by the Kokotos family.


There are 36 bungalows with one, two or three bedrooms hidden away in the gardens and 46 rooms and suites in the main building. Our favourite was our very own Superior Bungalow – with heated seawater pool and perfect sea view. Lounge and two bedrooms en suite all had views of the pool and the sea. The master bedroom sported a Jacuzzi bath, rain shower with all sorts of adventurous water surprises, 2 separate toilets adjoining the main bathroom (toilet also in the second bathroom).

Lashings of marble in our bungalow bathrooms

The pool and patio felt so intimate and so perfect. Our own olive tree, green grass, glistening water, a round wooden table…and not two but six wooden sunbeds. On top of that a view of the sea, glistening, dancing and skittering blue. A yacht was anchored just in front. Over Mirabello Bay lay the mountains, bathed in the orange light of the setting sun, rugged and alluring. In the mornings hazy ...

Our pool was heated making possible early morning refreshers and moonlight swims.

Deluxe bungalows have pools too and the same facilities as superior bungalows. The only difference is that the superior have better views of the sea and better position generally. We (number 2) were one minute from of the breakfast room and our views were perfect.

Minoan Royalty suites are the top category – with pools of course – but even closer to the sea, and more space and features. The one we looked over had its own stairs down to the sea, and fireplaces dating back to the days Elounda Mare stayed open in the winter. Others have own gym and sauna.

The interior of all rooms has a similar charm. Typical Cretan cottage style with rippled white walls, warm colours in woven mats, cloths and tapestries. Black and white etchings elegantly framed and placed. All uplifted by woodwork that is perfectly finished, with curved edges and artistic flair.

In the main building we liked the views from a one-bedroom suite on the top floor. Two balconies and the same attractive Cretan decor.

Still, for the best of Elounda Mare's hideaway feel - we insist you take a bungalow...

Welcome to our hideaway - superior bungalow no. 2

Paths and gardens by turquoise sea

The stone walkway - with secluded bathing spots

Magic of moonlit night emerges - from our terrace

Arches, flowers and natural stone - maze where you find your bungalow

View from a one-bedroom suite looking over the gardens to Elounda Peninsula

Serene, homely, delicious breakfast - combination a la carte & buffet
We enjoyed a perfect vegetarian meal with Harry at the Yacht Club restaurant overlooking the private beach - under an ancient Carob tree. Behind is the real Greek Orthodox church built by architect owner Mr Kokotos. Over the years Spyros Kokotos has designed some 40 hotels in Greece.

“Mr Kokotos builds a chapel in each hotel,” says Harry. These authentic Orthodox chapels are used for weddings and christenings – “small weddings” with “only 100-150 guests”. (Average Greek wedding is 500 people.) Grandchildren of Mrs Eliana Kokotos (CEO) have been christened in these chapels. It is popular with British guests in particular to have a civil marriage at Elounda Mare, dress up, take photos, have cocktails and dinner.

The Yacht Club restaurant is open lunchtimes only usually but has theme evenings in the summer – sophisticated, but with the simple charm of a beach taverna. The Old Mill gourmet restaurant hidden in the gardens opens twice a week.

Crete has a way with vegetables - reaching perfection at the Yacht Club

Death by chocolate - melting wonder at the Yacht Club

Harry and Alona Johnson-Ferguson say goodbye at the reception


50 minutes by car from Heraklion International Airport. Helicopter transfer available

Note: Snaphots during our stay by Select team and Aleah Stanbridge. Click for larger versions

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