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.
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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 158, including 98 Suites, eight private residences, 20 core residences, 28 luxury residences and four villas.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability. Haute Living guests get express in-villa check-in/check-out.
Double rooms from £349.13 (€403), 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, including a daily buffet breakfast and dinner at either Blend or Tholos.
The hotel closes for winter at the end of October each year and re-opens early April.
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.
Under-12s, since the first two can stay for free.
There’s room for cots and/or extra beds in all of the rooms. Standard Family Suites sleep four in two interconnecting rooms and come with a raft of family-friendly extras, including free children's lunch on your first day.
Domes Crèche for babies from 4 months to kids aged 4, run in partnership with UK childcare specialists, and staffed with qualified childcare workers. Sessions run daily 10am–1pm (a light fruit and snack lunch is included) and 3pm–6pm; the cost for under-2s is €45 a day for both sessions or €30 for one session (€35 and €22 respectively for ages 2–4). Little ones are given soft toys, noisy toys, books and building blocks, finger puppets and fire engines to play with, and outside is a supervised, shaded and fenced-off playground. The Kids' Club, for ages 5–12, is free and operates to the same timetable. Children are entertained with mini discos, amateur dramatics, team games and puzzles. Childcare is extremely popular and the hotel recommends booking via its online booking system a month in advance.
The hotel runs a range of water-based activities, such as snorkelling or surfing, and tennis lessons are held daily for €50 an hour with a private tutor (book two weeks in advance).
The outdoor unheated saltwater pools are open 7am–7pm, but they're unsupervised so keep a watchful eye. The peerless main pool is just below reception, with sweeping views; it has a shallow end and adjoining paddling pool.
A children’s menu is available with mini burgers, nuggets and M&M muffins, as are highchairs, booster seats, colouring-in pads and crayons. Staff are happy to heat milk for you. Kids’ also have their own tea at 6.30pm in Tholos – after this, the restaurants’ outdoor spaces turn into ‘quiet zones’ so if you want to feed them later on, it’ll need to be indoors for a family dinner at Tholos. Outdoor eating is kid-free in the evening so nab a babysitter and make the most of some two-of-you time. As the sun sets, the Grand Domes Bar comes alive, offering inventive cocktails on the terrace and views of the Island (open 10am until midnight). There’s live music (mainly chill-out or jazz) on selected nights, and it’s divided into family and adults-only zones for please-all drinking with or without your offspring. There's even an ice-cream happy hour for kids…
A qualified local nanny or babysitter can be drafted in with a day’s notice for €15 an hour.
No need to pack
Cots, highchairs, buggies, stairgates, monitors, potties, baby baths and Xboxes for older kids can all be provided: request in advance, to ensure availability. You can buy nappies, wipes, baby food and basic toiletries from the resort’s mini-mart.
Standard Family Suites have kiddie rooms decorated with Disney characters to make them feel at home, their own mini bathrobes and slippers, and No Tears bath products – plus welcome gifts of colouring-in packs and crayons, and surprise packs in minibars. Book one of these suites and children will get lunch free on one day of your choice, too. If your room comes with its own pool or Jacuzzi, it’ll also come with a safety cover for it – good for child-proofing and peace of mind.
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. Frureo has Japanese-Peruvian fare and tables with views out to Spinalonga. Blend Steakhouse 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 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.
Domes of Elounda is a luxury family-friendly hotel in north-eastern Crete. Perched on its own patch of sand, overlooking the beautiful Mirabello Bay of Elounda and flanked by olive groves and craggy rocks, it surveys the sea and Spinalonga Island beyond.
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...’