The villa is large and well appointed, with kitchens and living rooms on both floors, so they can be split into two flats or just used as extra amenities. Cold and hot water comes from a filtration machine, which saves time, money and inconvenience. The maid comes most days, and her husband is often onsite and can get you beers etc which are in a storeroom. The views are also great, with mountains to the rear and the ocean and town to the front. There’s a small general store at the end of the road selling a weird combination unhealthy pastries, cat food, groceries and expensive booze. We did most of our shopping in Carrefour in town.
Its location means you’ll need a car or prepare to stump up 8 euros a time to go to the town. As you can see on Google Maps, it’s simply not 1 km from the beach as advertised on its website. As the crow flies it’s 2.5km, but you can’t walk or drive that way so it’s a minimum of 7km to what looks like an EU-funded beach in the town, with its catering infrastructure, consistent paving, incongruous palm trees and imported sand.
There are nice beaches with food and loungers 20 km to the west, and a lovely cove with a taverna at about 15km. It’s a longer schlep to the East, but that part’s probably best done by boat from Bali. I’d recommend getting a catamaran for the skipper’s local knowledge.
The villa is technically close to a taverna, but visiting it requires crossing a busy motorway junction which is sketchy enough by car, let alone foot. Cretans are famously appalling drivers and we saw many accidents and near-misses relating to people coming in hot off the motorway and not coming to a stop until the nose of their car was halfway across a perpendicular lane of traffic, so think twice before venturing out on the roads in or on insubstantial vehicles. This is relevant to the villa because you will need to budget for transport. Even though we had a minibus, we used 3 cabs a minimum of once a day for 7 days because it’s nice to have a drink, so that’s more than 170 Euros.
There are actually two villas at the estate, no more than 10 metres apart, so you may have company in the evenings, but we experienced no issues with this – it’s just a little disappointing because you were expecting something else.
We got a briefing when we first arrived, which was half useful and half sales pitch. My favourite was a "special offer" for us of nails done for 5 Euro which, when we got there, was on an a-frame sign outside as the standard rate. If I'd add anything, it'd be shop in Carrefour, head West to the nicer beaches, tour the East by boat, consider a day in the mountains South, seek out the last restaurant to the West in the strip in front of the Fortrezza, don't expect the cashpoints to necessarily be working, get two hire cars for larger groups and try the Rose if you want a reasonable drop of wine.
I'd also mention that the town is 75-90 minutes drive from Heraklion airport, so don't contemplate a late flight without factoring this in. Many of the smaller shops do stay open pretty late, but this would be pushing it. You also need to allow lots of time for Greek bureaucracy at the airport - you queue to compulsorily check in, then queue to x-ray your hold luggage, then queue to have your passport checked, then queue for security, then queue at the gate then queue to get on the plane. The whole thing's a waste of about two hours that you could have spent buying food, beer and perfume but they've really not figured out how to run an efficient and profitable operation. As everywhere, the airport is hopelessly overstaffed but does nothing fast or well.
People seem pretty desperate for cash in Crete at the moment. Political instability and worldwide economic meltdown has led to a dearth of tourists just when it needs the most cash inputting. Whilst it’s easy to see that there’s a lot of overstaffing, which means staff often loaf lazily around when they could usefully be serving you, fundamentally the experiences we enjoyed were the ones which exceeded our expectations, and the disappointments came from being fed some BS intended to mask a negative aspect of the service. This villa achieved both.
All in all, it’s a great construction and they try hard to compensate, but they need to be upfront about its hidden costs in terms of time, money and amenity to avoid bad reviews.
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