Domes of Elounda hotel in Crete is a high-flying retreat with secluded suites, a glittering spa and shrubbery-studded grounds. There’s also a choice of four restaurants, smooth-edged architecture and the hotel’s own patch of beach. The simple lines are given an exotic touch from the Moorish additions – fretwork screens, silver basins and mirrored furniture.
Get this when you book through us:
A cocktail each; for three-night stays, a spa experience each instead; for five-night stays, a three-course lunch each instead
A total of 118, including 78 suites and 40 villas.
11.30am. Earliest check-in, 2.30pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability. Haute Living guests get express in-villa check-in/check-out.
Double rooms from £178.09 (€213), including tax at 13.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-in.
Rates include an American buffet breakfast and dinner.
By booking a Private Residence, Luxury Residence or Luxury Villa, guests automatically become part of the hotel’s Haute Living concept, giving them access to a range of exclusive benefits. Included in their rate, the ‘À la Carte Dine Around’ allows guests to choose any item from the à la carte menu in any of the resort’s four restaurants (certain items are excluded; pre-booking is required a day in advance). Guests also get their own beach lounge area with pre-booked loungers at the Breeze Seafront bar. On their first day, they'll also get a free in-villa open bar and free grocery service.
The hotel closes for winter at the beginning of November each year and re-opens 25 March.
At the hotel
Spa, fitness room, library, free WiFi and tennis courts. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, Xbox (on request), minibar, free bottled water, Coco-Mat mattresses, bathrobes, slippers and O.live bath products. Guests staying in the Luxury Villas, Private Residences and Luxury Residences get a raft of special Haute Living extras, including exclusive access to the Haute Living Room, access to a members-only gym, a villa host, a mobile with a direct line to the manager and room service, an open bar on the first day of your stay, daily aperitivo, canapés and afternoon tea, sun loungers reserved on the best part of the beach and access to the Breeze Beach Lounge.
Our favourite rooms
For the most private of stays, opt for the multi-roomed Private Residences, which have a fireplace, living room (X-Boxes and PlayStations are available on request) and use of the chauffeured club car. For self-catering flexibility and a private pool, the Luxury Residences will suit.
There are five: two saltwater pools and three freshwater. Some are for over-16s only, including the main is for over-16s, just below reception with views over to Spinalonga and the bay. There's also an 800sq m family-friendly pool just a buggy ride away from the hotel and a children-only pool. The hotel also has a strip of private beach, lined with olive trees and wooden decking.
The golden-hued contemporary spa has a indoor seawater pool surrounded by sunloungers, mosaic-tiled treatment rooms and sweeping views of the Med from floor-to-ceiling windows. There's a hammam and sauna, steam room, frigidarium and tepidarium, beauty therapists, and treatments offered include facials, body scrubs and wraps, and a range of massages, using Elemis products. Guests can also use the 100sq m fitness room or book personal trainers and private yoga sessions.
All the glitters might not be gold but anything Midas-pleasing will look a treat with your Cretan tan.
For €20 a day plus a one-time €100 cleaning fee, small dogs (up to 6kg) can stay in the Domes Private Residences, Domes Luxury Residences and Luxury Villas. Pups must be well trained and are not allowed in the resort’s common areas. See more pet-friendly hotels in Crete.
Exceedingly welcome. There’s room for cots and extra beds in all rooms. The hotel has a crèche and a kids' club (book at least a month ahead as it’s very popular); a local nanny can be drafted in with a day’s notice for €15 an hour.
Grecian god and goddess: loose, luxurious, linen-based outfits with a glint of gold.
There are four to pick from. Tholos is a buffet restaurant in the main dining room. Topos 1910 is a decked promontory leading out to sea for fine-dining under a twinkling sky. Yaosai ('fortress' in Chinese) has Japanese-Peruvian fare and tables with views out to Spinalonga. Blend is the resort's upmarket Italian fusion restaurant. Dishes vary from season to season, depending on what local produce is available; a breakfast buffet is served here too.
There are four bars where you can kick back and leisurely sip a glass of chilled Cretan white. The Yaosai Pool Bar on the edge of the main pool, the Pool Bar in the Domes Plaza and Breeze the Breeze Beach Lounge down on the beach (an area reserved exclusively for the Haute Living Guests), are all open for daytime drinking from 10am to 6pm, with views of glimmering water and day-beds to recline on. The Grand Domes Bar extends from reception with huge windows showcasing Spinalonga and the sea, and low white sofas, glimmering chandeliers, gleaming marble and stylish neutrals, which make it glamorously relaxed. At sunset, the bar comes alive, offering inventive cocktails on the terrace, views of the Island and live music (mainly chill-out or jazz) on selected nights.
Grand Domes serves drinks until midnight, and last orders are at 6pm at the pool bar and Breeze Beach Lounge. Breakfast is from 7.30am–11am, lunch from noon-5pm and dinner from 6.30pm. Breakfast is from 8am–10.30am at Blend, dinner from 7.15pm–9.15pm.
An abridged selection is available at any time of day or night.
Perched on its own patch of sand, the hotel overlooks the beautiful Mirabello Bay of Elounda, in north-eastern Crete. Flanked by olive groves and craggy rocks, it surveys the sea and Spinalonga Island beyond. The village of Plaka is a few minutes away.
The island’s main airport, Heraklion is the second-largest in Greece, and one hour away by car. Fly direct from London Gatwick and from cities across Europe. There's a taxi rank outside the passenger terminal, or the hotel can arrange transfers in a Mercedes E Class (€99 each way, for up to four passengers), or in a Mercedes Minibus (€180 each way, for up to 16 passengers).
The nearest big town is Agios Nikolaos, a 15-minute drive from the hotel. From Heraklion, follow the National Road to Aghios Nikolaos (approximately 65km from the airport). As you come into Aghios Nikolaos, there’s a crossroads with traffic lights - turn left here, then right at the next set of lights, following the signs to Elounda village. After about another 1.5km, you’ll see a sign for Elounda on the left-hand side. As you reach Elounda, you’ll hit the village’s port, from here follow the signs to Plaka. Almost immediately before Plaka, see a sign pointing to the Domes of Elounda. There’s free parking when you arrive.
Boat and helicopter are other, more dramatic arrival options.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’ll have plenty to keep you busy in the Core, the resort’s sprawling green space, wellness and entertainment centre. Browse through the pop-up shops and outdoor art installations, sample your way through the food trucks of the Agorauntil you’ve found a favourite and cosy up on a picnic blanket for alfresco cinema nights. Check the schedule for open-air concerts, performances and events too. There's an eco-friendly playground – complete with a climbing wall and a skate park – for adventurous little Smiths and running trails, a flying fox zipline, shaded yoga pavilion, five-a-side football pitches and tennis courts for active grown-ups. Make the voyage across the bay to the hauntingly atmospheric island of Spinalonga; it’s both an ancient fortress and the former home of a leper colony.
In Elounda, try Olondi (+30 28410 41040) for a fresh fish and Greek wine combo. Nikos is another local taverna, serving up grilled octopus, sizzling sea bream and some appetite-whetting stuffed vine leaves. In Plaka, try family-run fish restaurant, Giorgos where the owners bring in the daily catch themselves. The seaside setting overlooks Spinalonga.
I’m lying as naked as a jaybird in front of a man that isn’t Mr Smith. This is disconcerting. To add to my unease, this stranger is more muscle than man: beefier than Popeye post-spinach, wide as a wall, and as handsome as Hercules. ‘No paper pants! No paper pants!’ – the thought pings around my head like a rabbit as I lie in the spa of our Greek retreat.
Bizarre images pop into my head: a plucked chicken, Oli Beale and his ‘bishop’ in Marrakech (see his review of Maison MK, if you need that explaining.) The Muscle (real name, Nikos; resident masseur at boutique spa resort Domes of Elounda) leans in, grabs my foot, and elevates my leg to a 90-degree angle. He leans in and whispers huskily in my ear: ‘Set your body free’. It’s too late. The giggles rise like bubbles. ‘I’m sorry!’ I sputter. ‘It’s just – I’m – terribly – ticklish!’
Half an hour later, I wobble my way across to Mr Smith at the outdoor pool soaking up that incredible Cretian sun. He’s surrounded by glamorous Europeans snacking on pasta and panini – men in tight trunks who look as though olive oil and liquid gold flow through their veins. Their Cavalli-clad women are equally fabulous, encased in sexy one-pieces and matching turbans. Inevitably, there’s the odd Brit or two to lower the style stakes, buried in Lynda La Plante and as prawn-pink as the Domes’ concrete curves. ‘How was your massage?’ asks Mr Smith, squinting in the sunshine. ‘Really, er, relaxing. When’s dinner?’
Supper at the Domes: now there’s relaxation for you. The hotel hosts gastronomy festivals, inviting internationally acclaimed chefs to cook for their guests. Luckily, we’re here when Yves Mattagne, an exceptionally talented French chef, has culinary control. Despite initial reservations (‘Will we have to talk to other people?’) Mr Smith and I are fizzing with excitement as we dress for the festival. It’s a wrench, though, to leave our boutique boudoir: a sea-facing suite with an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking Elounda’s ink-blue bay.
Sleeping in the Domes of Elounda is like bedding down in a shell (with a lot more space, a lot less water, and no uninvited snails): stone and slate hues with splashes of turquoise, decorated with stacks of bleached wood, frosted glass lights that mushroom from the ceiling like sea urchins, and spiky green plants. Our suite is also deliciously private – a peachy, dome-topped pod with dazzling views. Snatching one last admiring gaze around us, Mr Smith adjusts his tie, I attend to my décolletage and we’re off into the night.
Drinks at the sleek main bar get us started, and we watch boats threaded with lights wend their way across the waves. Soon we’re summoned, along with an expectant party of guests. Tables are laid out by the pool, candles are lit, and a cavalry of waiters are dispatched to tend to us. The meal is so good, it feels illegal. Each multi-component concoction sounds like a science experiment: royal Belgian caviar with potatoes and quails’ eggs; crayfish with lime, tomato water, wasabi and sesame; sea bass with carrot harissa, rouille and saffron emulsion; coconut-raspberry marshmallow with caipirinha sorbet. And with each course comes a different wine.
After meeting the twinkly-eyed chef, and praising his efforts with wine-induced eloquence, Mr Smith and I slip away: just one thing in mind… Sleep. Back in our suite, we waddle onto the bed, unbutton trousers, remove binding garments, and breathe. (I’m setting my body free.) We wake the next morning, full, hungover, and happy. The sunshine pours in, and a knock at the door heralds breakfast. Breakfast! It’s hard to conquer another feast, but athletically, we rise to the challenge. ‘I couldn’t eat another thing,’ says Mr Smith afterwards, peeling a banana. ‘Me neither’ I say, nibbling on a cinnamon-dusted pastry.
It’s time to kill calories with a swimming session at the Domes’ private beach. It might sound as though we’re being incredibly lazy (well, we are) by not exploring Elounda itself, but this chic Greek hotel is a mini-empire: spa, three restaurants, two bars (one beachside), two pools, tennis courts and a boutique or two. There’s even a fleet of buggies to transport guests from hotel reception to sand (a four-minute walk). We muster the bravado to summon one but, somewhat to my relief, it doesn’t show up, so we wander down and stretch out on two loungers, right by the water.
‘I’m so full and happy’ says Mr Smith, from his Agatha Christie. ‘Me too,’ I purr. ‘I can’t imagine being hungry again’. Children splash in the waves. Tanned goddesses rub lotion into their bronzed husbands. Seven minutes pass. I prop myself up on one elbow and peer at Mr Smith.‘Topos 1910 tonight? It’s the Michelin-starred-chef’s fish restaurant and I’ve heard its seafood is some of the best on Crete...’
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Domes of Elounda’s Guestbook below.
The 2 bedroom residence with private pool. This was probably the best in-villa pool we have come across in our travels. The villa is very well appointed, particularly the bathroom. The evening turn down service was immaculate. The washing machine is a nice touch for travellers falling in after a week of travels.
The gym at the Blend clubhouse to be too large.
Stayed on 17 Oct 2019
The suite, the spectacular views and eating out in the different restaurants – all of which are excellent – but what really made this hotel stand out was the superb customer service. Everyone knew us and greeted us by our names and our needs were anticipated rather than us having to ask. For example, my husband has mobility issues so we were offered another suite with easier access and a walk-in shower. Nothing was too much trouble .
It's not adult exclusive, and although they do offer quiet zones in the restaurant there are still lots of families and children.
Stayed on 14 Sep 2019
Everything. An amazing place and brilliant staff.
Stayed on 13 Aug 2019
The beach – beautiful, crystal clear. The staff and service were a definite highlight for us, they were great with kids. We arrived late with our 22-month-old and they suggested to skip check-in until the next day so we could go straight to bed in our room. The buffet at breakfast and dinner was ideal for kids. The other guests were a friendly, international crowd – lots of families.
A child free holiday – it was kids central. I felt sorry for the couples. Luxurious suite bedrooms and bathrooms, they definitely need a facelift (I was quite taken aback at first). I think the villas and residences are of a higher standard.
Stayed on 12 Jun 2019
What a lovely place. The staff could not do enough for us and were so welcoming right from the first moment when we arrived to the last day when we were given a late check out and a temporary room for our late departure.
Stayed on 17 Apr 2019
The standard room was a very good size and the sea view was spectacular. Jacuzzi also very welcome. Good beach area, too (albeit cold and windy at Easter). Service was fantastic and food was generally of good quality – the Japanese restaurant was a particular highlight. Would recommend for a summer stay.
Heated pools. The childrens pool ranged from 18-21 degrees whilst we were there (the sea was 17 degrees) which is far too cold for children. Staff claim it is supposed to be heated to 25 degrees, but even this would be too cold (recommendation for children is 30). Sadly this put a dampener on the holiday and is why it may be better to look elsewhere if planning a stay during shoulder season.
Stayed on 17 Apr 2019
The jacuzzi on the balcony, the beach and the slow pace of life there.
Heated swimming pools (pools really cold out of season). The hotel should rethink heating at least one pool. The gym equipment wasn't great – it was partly broken and there were no replacement machines.
Stayed on 29 Sep 2018
We stayed for an amazing nine days in a Two-Bedroom Private Residence with its own pool. If there was an academy of premium, personalized customer service in the hospitality industry, all the staff at the Domes would be graduates. The resort itself is stunningly beautiful and the villa was a delight with everything bright, clean, modern and a good attention to detail and interior design. Every member of staff at all the venues greet guests with warmth, hospitality and an eagerness to make the experience perfect, which it was for us. The villa had a beautifully kept garden, a very well-maintained pool and inside everything you need; we were greeted with a welcome tray of food and drink – these small touches all add to the experience. We opted for one of these villas as they are very quiet and have lots of space between them; we had neighbours both sides, but no noise that troubled us. The villa was at the top of a hill, looking out on Elounda and the buggy system to take you up and down was never more than ten minutes away. We did note some grumbles on other reviews about waiting for a buggy but we just enjoyed the sun and the view while we waited and even used the hilly route down as an aerobic walk on some occasions. Food at Topos restaurant was first class, beautiful fish and seafood served very near the ocean; quite a lovely setting and an innovative menu. We chose mussels and a salad with warm haloumi for starters, followed by monkfish and chicken breast supreme for mains and ended with panna cotta and crispy meringue for desserts – all delicious. We also enjoyed the Japanese/Peruvian fusion restaurant; for the first of our meals we tried the salmon sashmi salad and tacos for starters followed by salmon sautéed and beef teriyaki; the waiting staff were very helpful in explaining the dishes. Breakfast at Haute Living was excellent too, as were all the facilities there. Blend restaurant proved to be our most popular – some of the choices we made were scallopine, duck pizza and the cheese platter. For the main course we tried osso bucco (wonderful), carre of veal, monkfish and sea bass. Desserts included the famous tiramisu and the chocolate cigar – forget the calories and enjoy! Tholos – the main buffet setting (although it was a bit busy for our tastes) – offers Greek Mediterranean and multicultural cuisine. Two lovely gifts from Haute Living were a courtesy lunch for two at Topos from the full menu and two hours for two in the spa – delightful. Things to love about Domes of Elounda. The staff, the setting, the facilities, its position between Plaka and Elounda providing easy coastal walks, the sunshine and the beauty and charm of Crete itself. Highly recommend and will definitely visit again.
Piped music in all areas! Haute Living – well worth having this package as wine is fairly expensive at around €8 a glass. Tholos is popular with families with children and hence can be quite noisy and very busy. There is a Quiet Zone, but the reality is that the noise of children screaming and the bustle of selecting from the buffet makes a quiet area somewhat ineffectual. We tried dining here on two of our evenings but were pretty disappointed; the food temperature was not maintained well and often was quite cold by the time it was on the plate. In a number of cases we noticed little fingers touching the food on display – not very hygienic to say the least – children being children! This was the least favourite restaurant at the Domes of Elounda but the other three excelled to counter this. This resort complex certainly deserves its 5-star rating and appeals to couples and families. The mix of two customer groups can be a challenge but the management have done as much as they can to cater for both groups and the majority of the fairly young families were a delight to share space with. After all, many older customers are grandparents too and the complex is ideal for an intergenerational holiday. Just good to be aware of the layout if sharing with little ones is not for you as the Haute Living is adjacent to the family pool area.
Stayed on 23 Sep 2018
Our room, the lovely beach area, breakfast at Yaosai (by the pool, no kids allowed for brekkie), lunch at Topos (by the beach), dinner at Blend and the proximity to Plaka/Spinalonga (great for traditional Greek food and an authentic village).
Peaceful dining – lots of under-5s when we are there in September. A wander back to your room – it's built on a hill, so unless you are a mountain goat take the golf carts on offer to everywhere on this vast resort. Give the Buffet dining a miss, it's ok.
Stayed on 15 Sep 2018
Great beach area, very friendly staff, lovely spa area close to a decent small town. The Ferryman restaurant in Elounda is the best Greek restaurant in Crete, amazing gourmet Greek food with a lovely owner.
Late night parties.
Stayed on 10 Jun 2018
The luxury residence was fab for young children, with everything on one level, and the private pool was huge. The luxury residences and private residences are all a buggy ride away from the main resort which made it feel even more private. The haute living package is awaesone with so much food and drink included that you could easily not need to purchase anything additional. However what really made this resort stand out was the incredible service. Every little detail was taken care off and the staff were very attentive and child friendly. We went in the second week of September and the resort was so quiet and the shared pools often only had one or two people round them. Kids club and babysitters were great and the restaurants on site were all really nice
Luxury bathrooms, a child-free stay. We were very lucky to have quiet neighbours in the villas either side, however when we were walking around we did go past some villas having parties and playing loud music. If you want a quiet break be aware its pot luck who you get next door and the villas are close enough together that you will hear noisy neighbours!
Stayed on 3 Jun 2018
The staff is beyond kind. The rooms are spacious and having your own private jacuzzi or pool is great. For a half-board buffet in a family hotel, food is great. Beach is gorgeous. Creche/Kid's club is very professional. Spa and therapist are amazing. Agios Nikolaos for a stroll and dinner in town.
Ultra-designed rooms (they need a little refresh). Facilities at walking distance: especially with kids, you will constantly be using buggies to get you around, especially to the family pool which is on the other side of the resort. That being said, buggies are always available and driving around, willing to pick you up and drop you at the wave of hand, providing there's space aboard.