The family-friendly Paradise Island Villas are scattered between the mountains and Mediterranean, just outside Anissaras. Terracotta tiles and bougainvillea-clad walls lead the way to the earthy interiors of ivory-hued, minimalist design. Outside, private gardens have their own pools, dining areas and Jacuzzi jets.
Get this when you book through us:
Bottle of Cretan wine and a hamper of local produce
Base your preference on proximity to the pool – close up to see the swimmers, or splash-proof at the back.
The temperature rises around here: floaty and feminine for Mrs Smith, crisp cotton for Mr Smith.
Ambrosia dishes up Mediterranean cuisine with a few Greek enhancements here and there. You can’t beat the catch of the day, grilled and served with roasted vegetables. There’s also locally reared lamb to look out for, and make sure you leave room for the loukoumades (a doughnut-like dessert with honey and ice-cream). The room is bright, with decorative ladders hanging on the walls. The poolside restaurant is mostly outside, so expect a light and airy setting, with views of the mountains in the distance. Poolside barbecues happen every week.
The ultra-modern poolside bar is decked out with hanging stainless steel lights and azure-coloured sidelighting to match the turquoise water. Try the local wines and champagne punch. It’s chilled out to the max (in fact, watch the soothing Greek sounds don’t send you to sleep).
Leisurely breakfasts take place between 9am and noon; lunch is served between noon and 4:30pm; dinner is 7pm until 10:30pm. The bar shuts at midnight.
Order food from the à la carte menu from 9am to 4:30pm and from 7pm to 10:30pm. Drinks can be ordered anytime from 9am to 10:30pm.
The hotel is in a residential area, just outside Anissaras, and close to Heraklion, the island capital and main air hub.
Nikos Kazantzakis International, just outside the island capital of Heraklion, is 23km from Paradise Island Villas. It’s served by direct international flights as well as connecting domestic routes from Athens International, Elefthérios Venizélos airport.
Cretan locomotives exist only on the internet, as spoofs for naïve tourists; buses and ferries are the get-around transport of choice here.
As with most Greek islands, the roads of Crete are not for the faint-hearted, characterized by hairpin bends, cliff drops and narrow carriageways. That said, the main routes run west-east, rather than north-south, so if you want to explore the north coast from your base at Anissaras, hiring wheels will increase your options. KTEL Buses run between Heraklion and Sitia in the north-east, via Hersonissos (www.bus-service-crete-ktel.com).
Blue Star Ferries (www.bluestarferries.gr) and Minoan Lines (www.minoan.gr) both run overnight car and passenger services to Heraklion, leaving the main Athens port of Piraeus nightly during summer months; also try Superfast.com. Anendyk Maritime runs hop-on, hop-off ferries between ports along the south coast from Paleochora to Sfakia (www.anendyk.gr).
Worth getting out of bed for
Head into the traditional villages nearby for some Cretan culture; we’re fans of Koutouloufari, Old Hersonissos and Piskopiano, all between 3km and 5km of the hotel. Set off on horseback to canter through the olive groves (www.hersonissos-horse-riding.com), or tee off over at the local 18-hole golf course (www.crete-golf.com). The nearest beach is a 10-minute walk away.
Visit Koutouloufari for evening entertainment fixes – it’s packed out with restaurants, taverns and bars, plus shops to pick up puddings. Veggera (+30 28970 21491) is particularly good for Greek tapas, and there are lots of other traditional taverns around the village square.
Is it a cliché that, on my first trip to Greece, I am dancing Zorba the Greek in a dining room of our hotel with a group of complete strangers? Probably, but I’m having so much fun it’s hard to care.
Eleni – general manager, party hostess and all round cheerleader at the Paradise Island Villas – is busy working the playlist on the iPod while, Paul, her deputy puts us through the paces. ‘Left, right, left, right!’ The woman to my left, M from New York, whispers, ‘Oh my God, he’s gorgeous!’ I hope her husband on her left can’t hear over the quickening beat of the blaring music. I turn to Mr Smith and yell, ‘I can’t believe we’re in Crete!’
Rewind. When I was eight, I was given one of those dinky Ladybird children’s books for Christmas. It was about an island called Crete and it had amazing pictures of an austere throne-room in a palace called Knossos that was filled with paintings of gorgeous Minoan ladies with huge curly hair, and lithe youth somersaulting over bulls. The book said Knossos was 4,000 years old. I was endlessly impressed. When you’re eight, any number over ten is old. We moved houses, and the book got lost, but I never forgot those images and the thrilling sense of this other, ancient world. Even the name 'Crete' held a magical quality. Which explains why when Mr Smith idly suggested we spend Easter in Greece this year, my immediate response was that I wanted to go to Crete.
The omniscient reach of the Mr & Mrs Smith website threw up Paradise Island Villas. With just 12 double-storey, self-contained villas, each with a private plunge pool, it sounded like the perfect getaway. For the next couple of months, I peppered the lovely Eleni with emails. How should I get to Crete from Athens? Could she organise a rental car? Should I fly to our next stop Santorini? How much would it cost for a car pick up from the airport? What was the weather like?
The woman was unflappably relaxed and cheerful. And she seemed to know everything there is to know about Crete. When we finally met, I blinked, because she was a dead ringer for one of those Minoan ladies, right down to the abundance of curly tresses. ‘I’ve upgraded you,’ she announced in flawless English. ‘Your villa has two bedrooms upstairs, two bathrooms, a dining room, living room, kitchen, and a big backyard with the pool, so it’s a big space. It’s perfect for a family, but you’ll love it.’
As it turned out, the villa was a little too big for the two of us. We spent a lot of time clattering around the different levels, calling out, ‘Where are you? Can you bring down the camera? I can’t be bothered going back upstairs.’ It quickly became clear why Paradise Island is so popular with families. Styled a little half-heartedly like a show-flat, the villas are low-key and laid-back in a way that is almost rough and ready. Even the resort’s location – in the midst of a suburban row of residential houses – is no-frills. Which explains why the view from our bedroom was a mix of distant mountains, vast swathes of natural scrubland, and the backyards and garages of neighbouring residents.
One afternoon, while playing tennis, we saw a family pull into the parking lot and unload bags of groceries. ‘They’re English and they booked their holiday with Mr & Mrs Smith,’ Eleni said, completely unaware of our secret identities. ‘This is their second visit and they say they are coming back in August. They just love the freedom to do what they want. They can cook in their villa, they can order room service, their kids can run around. It’s a real holiday for them!’
And Paradise Island certainly lacks little in the way of facilities to keep its guests entertained. Besides the hardcourt tennis area that adjoins the garden of a kindly old gent who turned out to be the owner of the resort, there’s also a small gym, a large pool that fronts the deep comfy sofas of the lanai, and a smaller more private pool nestled among the villas.
But it’s the staff that gives the resort its welcoming warmth. M’s husband celebrated his birthday with a surprise chocolate birthday cake. And it was Eleni who staged the impromptu after-dinner dance of Ibiza hits and Zorba the Greek to mark the occasion. In the end, her unflagging energy was a boon. Unerringly, she advised us on everything from which table to book at the restaurant on the harbour and which little village to visit, to where we should park in the port and the quickest route to Knossos.
‘It’s a pity it’s still too cold for the beach, but the next time you come, I can recommend a different beach to go to each day!’ she said proudly on our last day as we were checking out. ‘Different type of sand, different colour of the sea, different crowd,’ she added, giving Mr Smith and me a penetrating knowing look.
Mr Smith and I laughed about this in the taxi all the way to the port for the ferry that would take us to our next stop, Santorini. ‘I really can’t believe we’re in Crete,’ I repeated.
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 Paradise Island Villas’s Guestbook below.
The location, the setting and most of all the amazing staff – wonderfully warm and welcoming. A small staff rota meant that everyone knew us after a day and really made the holiday special.
A large menu or wine selection. The food is good but limited if staying for more than a week, but there are many good restaurants and recommendations that the team at Paradise Island are more than happy to suggest.
Stayed on 14 Jul 2019
The staff were fantastic - knowledgeable, caring and friendly. The villa - everything you could need for a family holiday inc bath and pool toys. The restaurant pool - chilled vibe even when you are playing with the kids. There are some great fish restaurants, just ask Eleni for a recommendation.
Sea views (well you can see the sea but you aren't on the sea front). Lively nightlife.
Stayed on 27 Jul 2018
The peace and quiet and being able to be incredibly lazy. The hotel offers both privacy within your own villa and pool and at the same time you can be more social in the communal areas, such as the pools and restaurant. The staff are very attentive and will offer suggestions for excursions and eating out. We visited the villages of Piskopiano and Koutouloufari, which were nice and offered some traditional Cretan taverns for dinner.
Lots of noise and intrusions.
Stayed on 1 Jul 2018
The villas are amazing but more importantly the staff are wonderful; Eleni and Paul make you feel like part of the family and Babbis and Michael who work in the restaurant and bar are just amazing and so friendly. Nothing is too much trouble for them, the villas are spacious and very comfortable with plenty of room and great views of the sea from the balconies.
Night life, it is very quiet and relaxing.
Stayed on 18 May 2018
The service team. They really take care. The most friendly, warm-hearted and proactive caretakers I have ever seen in a hotel. The spacious villa...