Which Crete do you want to visit? It is the inevitable question when planning a trip to Greece’s largest and most southerly island. Crete offers it all – historic sites, beautiful scenery, fabulous beaches or perhaps wild nightlife.
There are sleepy hamlets unchanged in centuries, hippy resorts and bustling cities. Every style and level of accommodation is available: rustic hotels, atmospheric villas, giant resort complexes or gated ultra-luxurious enclaves.
Its a tough choice, and for this particular trip we opted for a town/beach stay based in Rethymnon – an historic coastal town that sits midway between Chania and Heraklion. It is within easy striking distance of both these towns (and airports) and associated sights – Venetian harbours, Minoan ruins and mountain villages – not forgetting of course some great beaches.
The town itself modest in size and has a definite easy going charm. There is a pretty harbour filled with roadside tavernas and bars whilst its narrow pedestrian streets are great for varied shopping.
It is in the the winding alleys at the heart of old town Rethymnon that you will find the Avli Lounge. Originally a top level restaurant that took great pride in its traditional Cretan dishes, it has expanded in to a delightful boutique style hotel.
Occupying three exquisitely restored Venetian buildings it has twelve separate units that sleep up to four persons. Each is uniquely styled and decorated and whilst some are rather over the top with clashing bright colours others are more muted and ‘historic’.
There are seven superior suites each with a different named colour theme – brown, white, champagne and so on – whilst five ‘Candy’ suites mix earthy tones with brighter highlights.
Antique pieces are mixed with ultra modern and bare stone set against glass panels. There may be fine art, crystal chandeliers and traditional porcelain set under historic beamed ceilings.
Marble bathrooms are beautifully fitted and you are provided with quality toiletries, robes and slippers.
The hotel prides itself on exceptional service, and we were suitably impressed at every stage of our stay. Upon arrival bags are brought from the understandably remote parking area, room service is impeccable whilst reception and waiting staff are always positive and friendly.
An excellent breakfast is included in the room rates and is served in a delightful courtyard (Gr: Avli) filled with plant-filled terracotta pots. Fresh fruit, cereals, home made bread and jams, cretan honey and juice are supplemented by a Cretan styled menu of made-to-order items.
Sundown the best spot is a large rooftop terrace with views over old-town rooftops whilst in the evenings there is almost unlimited choice of dining in the maze of local streets. However, the very best of local dining you may well find at the hotel itself.
You can dine in the vaulted gourmet restaurant or in the Avli restaurant whose seats spill on to the local streets. Its colourful, quirky and atmospheric and the quality of the food matches the high standards set in all other aspects of the hotel.
The hotel also owns the nearby ouzeri Raki Ba Raki, a lovely rustic-chic establishment with giant stone arches and painted wooden tables. Its modern takes on traditional recipes are well worth seeking out, even if you don’t stay at the hotel. In addition its Agora shop is offers a lovely selection of fine Cretan products.
Whichever Crete we return to explore next time, we will be sure to stop by at the Avli Lounge – a delightful modern and stylish take on historic Cretan life.
For more information visit Avli
CELLPHANELAND* were guests of the Avli Lounge