Having received 3 different, generous, invitations to resorts in Greece (Santorini and Crete), Peter and I decided to visit the Greek island of Crete. The decision took some time to make but thankfully, Peter seems to have business partners all over the world and in this case he got in touch with a few who live in Greece to ask their opinion. By consensus, they insisted that Crete was the better option even though Santorini was slightly more popular. The idea was that we would be able to enjoy the same beautiful scenery with less of a crowd, more luxurious resorts and better beach fronts. From there, it was a matter of choosing between two beautiful resorts in Crete and we ultimately decided to go with Aquila Elounda Village as their reputation for being one of the best resorts in Europe preceded them.
To my Texas based readers and followers: I’ve had a lot of questions about getting to and from Greece. My recommendation is to look at flight options leaving Dallas or Houston international. You’re more likely to get a direct flight into Greece followed by a short connection to the Islands. Driving to a major hub like Dallas or Houston may take a couple of hours for some of you but it will save you in the long run. Your alternative will be multiple connections into major hubs which means more chances of delay.
Now for the bad news: Our DSLR was damaged in transit and we had to use our back up long range shooter as well as our phones. From here on out, all of our cameras are going to be in our carry on. Thankfully, my live streams were seen by thousands of you and I hope that provided an even better view of the resort and what our time there was like.
First Impressions & Check-In
Decisions made, camera issues behind us, it was time to experience all that Aquila Elounda Village had to offer. My first impression was made during the check in process. After arriving via private transportation, we were kindly greeted by valet who tended to our bags. The beautiful lobby was staffed with courteous professionals and as we checked in we were offered warm face towels as well as a selection of champagne and chocolate truffles. We opted for the champagne and decided to hold off on the truffles given that we were anxious to have dinner and felt that should come first.
First Look At The Grounds
After a few minutes, we were fully checked into our Bungalow Villa which was only a short, but scenic, walk through the resort grounds. While it was evening, the hotel grounds were absolutely stunning (see photos). I believe that the appearance of a hotel property’s grounds sets the tone for your entire experience as it shifts your mindset and creates an atmosphere for you to enjoy. In this sense, Aquila Elounda Village knocked it out of the park. The ambient lighting applied to the pool and dining areas as well as path lighting towards each room created an atmosphere that I would describe as elegant, romantic and enchanting – yes, all three of those terms apply. Far too often, a hotel or resort looks beautiful during the day but by evening you feel as though you’re in a dark forest when you leave the lobby area and move on to the grounds. Obviously, that was not the case here. Well done Elounda Village!
I know that most of you enjoyed a video tour of our room as I held two live stream tours with one in the evening and one in the day time but I also realize that the time difference meant that many of you didn’t. Camera woes aside, there was a good deal to be happy about with our room. First off, the room was extremely spacious, we entered to see a living room complete with a refrigerator, 40′ LCD television, mini bar (good selection of snacks and drinks) a nice sofa, dining table, kitchen as well as beautiful tall windows. The overall villa was approximately 950 sq feet, which was perfect as we would be staying for the week. The bathroom was spacious with dual sinks, an over-sized tub, stand up shower and plenty of space. After all, a girl needs some room when getting ready for a romantic dinner! We also appreciated the stand up closet which allowed me to hang pieces that I didn’t want to simply fold up. This was great for Peter as well since he was able to iron the shirts he planned on wearing and hang them up in advance. I know I’ve mentioned this before but he’s an absolute organization and neat freak once he sets foot in a hotel room – probably due to all the business trips and traveling he’s done. Either way, the space and room organization was welcome.
I also appreciated that the room had two different patios. One flowing out of the living room area where we could enjoy any in room dining or drinks and the other coming straight out of the bedroom area where we walk out after waking and often spend time sitting looking out to the sea before closing out the evening.
Dining, Location & Amenities
Perhaps the most important element of any resort is the dining, location and amenities. Let’s start with the dining. The food was very good! Often times resorts and hotels fall short when it comes to food options. With many, the food never holds up to the rest of the experience. With others, there is a fair dinner option but breakfast and lunch leave a lot to be desired. At Elounda Village, all of the meals and options were good. There were two options for breakfast, both included a compliment of freshly squeezed juices along with a variety of eggs, cooked meats, cheeses and other breakfast staples. Elounda Village was able to elevate this breakfast experience by adding the option for customized omelets, champagne and a comprehensive coffee and espresso bar. If you know me, which I’m sure you do by now, the coffee options are the first place I go and I was not disappointed. Peter, as you may know, is also quite the espresso and cappuccino lover – I’m sure you’ve all seen his latte art designs and super fancy espresso machine we have at our home in Austin lol – back to the coffee, Peter was very happy so that made two of us on the coffee front. As for the breakfast itself, we were both pleased and that says a lot. Was it the best breakfast option we’ve ever had? No. Was it good? Yes. More importantly, did it hold up to the rest of the hotel? Yes, I would say so. Thumbs up!
Lunch provided many of the same options as breakfast with a wider selection of alcoholic beverages and more meats integrated into the menu. There were also more classic Greek dishes such as dolmatis (originally an Assyrian dish named Dolma), Spanikopita and more. The lunch service itself was very good with minimal waiting time and easy reservations. The food once again held up to the standard of the hotel. The lunch restaurants were also very well placed allowing to scenic views of the Sea. I can’t stress how important this is. Whether its an Ocean front property or a downtown hotel, nobody wants to be staring at a plain wall. If there is any view at all to offer, it should be. If not, then decor, lighting and ambiance are critical as your atmosphere sets the tone for what is to follow. Nobody wants to start their dinner off feeling dreary and secluded. At Elounda Village, lunch overlooked the Sea beautifully and we were shaded enough to avoid the heavy sunshine while enjoy the warmth of the season and the view of the Sea. Now, for dinner!
Dinner provided a multitude of options and we were never let down. The two main choices were the Elounda Garden restaurant and the Sea view restaurant where we had lunch. The Garden restaurant provided a refreshing change. As opposed to being by the Sea (which I love!) we were in a beautiful and enchanting garden with castle like brick surrounding us and mellow lighting which made it all feel as though we were in a classic Greek atmosphere. The dishes included fresh seafood like calamari and muscles with classics like lamb and even Rissotto. The presentation and atmosphere were slightly more impressive than the taste of the food itself. That’s not so much a critique of our dishes as it is a compliment to the presentation and atmosphere. The food was good but lacked a bit of the punch that one would expect in terms of flavor. This is fairly common when you travel as different areas apply seasoning different and those of us who are accustomed to dining in North America are used to a slightly heavier hand. The reason it stood out to me was that Peter and I eat very clean as we’re fitness junkies so we’re used to using less seasoning (particularly salt) than most are so for us to take note of the light seasoning means that most of you would definitely notice it. With that said, dining is about the entire experience and the experience was very good overall.
Ambience & Amenities. I’m sure many of you saw what Elounda Village had to offer through my live videos and snaps but for those of you who did not, this is for you. The pools were absolutely stunning. I’m a fan of infinity pools, having lived with one for so many years, as well as a nice view. Elounda Village took full advantage of their positioning alongside the Sea to provide you with a stunning view at every turn – see photos. I was also pleased that there were multiple options. From the large private infinity pool (see my photo) to pools that were more closely tied to the lobby right on through to a private, custom made peninsula in the sea! Elounda Village went the extra mile carving out their own peninsula of sorts with large stones and providing a private secluded area where you could lay in a cabana or jump right into the sea (where Peter loved to hang out). We took advantage of the private Cabanas each day and were treated to fresh local fruits, bottled water, a wide variety of alcoholic beverages and small snacks. Although it was an option, we opted not to each our lunch by the Cabana. Getting up and walking around after laying for a while is always the healthier option and Peter insists that eating where you lay is not the most hygienic of things to – I agree. The Spa facilities were also top notch with massages, steam rooms, whirlpools, saunas and the like included and readily available. I would have liked to see some addition treatment options offered such as a mudbath, facial etc, given the standing of this hotel but those options that were made available were fantastic and the decor was top notch. Marble tables, salt rock throughout, misted rooms with well placed lighting and high end acoustics for a surround sound spa music experience all made it a great stay.
Final Notes & Recommendations:
I’ve made my recommendations public through live video but documenting here is very important. Aquila Elounda Village gets a thumbs up! This is a resort that you will want to visit. It lives up to its reputation and the overall experience was a fantastic one. If you’re debating whether to take multiple trips or one luxurious trip, it always depends on what your goals are. If you’re exploring, then perhaps you will go with multiple trips. If you are looking for relaxation and a higher end trip, then I always say quality beats quantity. I’ve experienced all that many high end resorts, hotels and restaurants have to offer and was pleased with Aquila Elounda Village. If you’re visiting Greece and don’t want the crowds that come with Santorini but want all of the beauty that Greece can show you with the amenities to give you the luxury and comfort that a 5 star resort should, this is a great place for you to visit.
Update: I’m so happy that an Amber XO follower has booked her own trip from Dallas to Greece for this coming Spring! Hopefully she can share her own images and story over Instagram
Second Update: She absolutely loved it and was thrilled! Waiting for some updates and photos. If permitted, I’ll share here. This is exactly why I’m selective with my recommendations. I’ll always provide all of you with the unfiltered truth and full details!
Guess which cup is mine:) This was our early evening spot for a cappuccino before dinner. We’d also come back post dinner for tea before heading to the beach bar…
I loved passing these beautiful flowers everyday…