It may be a breezy boutique hotel, but The Island Concept will feel more like your own private villa paradise – one handily located close to the picturesque port town of Agios Nikolaos, the goddess-frequented shores of Lake Voulismeni (approved for dips by Artemis and Athena) and the wine routes of Heraklion. In most suites, you won’t even have to get out of bed for views of the sparkly Aegean Sea, but if you do make it as far as Blue Fish, you’ll get more of the same but with added creative Cretan food – which may be known for being life-extending, but it’s delicious, too.
Only one room is lacking on the sea-view front, though it does have a garden to make up for it – the rest all have glimpses of the Aegean served straight to your bed. For the most outdoor space, go for a Grand Suite Front Sea View or a Sea View Aegean Suite, both of which have plunge pools (with more of coastal Crete on show, obviously).
There’s no shortage of swimming potential: the hotel has a main pool, several of the suites have their own Jacuzzi and there’s a private beach, too.
Treatments are available at the spa and in your room, and there’s an outdoor area for yoga and Pilates.
Goddess-worthy swimwear to take the waters of nearby Lake Voulismeni and foraging-friendly footwear to go in search of Crete’s superfood wild herbs.
The pool and restaurant are accessible for wheelchair users, and one of the rooms has been adapted.
Families are welcome, but the hotel is more suited to couples and older children.
The hotel is almost entirely plastic-free, with glass bottles, bamboo straws and recycling in place in its attempt to win a Green Key. Around three quarters of the products used come from local suppliers and farmers, recycled water powers the air-conditioning, invoices and brochures are sent by email, and wasteful breakfast buffets have been banned.
All of the tables at Blue Fish make the most of their breezy, beachy setting, but for the ultimate sea-facing private-dining space, book the secluded seating area for up to six.
The life aquatic.
Blue Fish is right by the pool with more spectacular sea views in case you weren’t feeling maritime enough. The island’s produce (and amazing wine) is showcased, with most ingredients coming from sustainable local suppliers. The Cretan cuisine served includes fish with okra, prawn ceviche with prosciutto powder and plenty of homegrown wild herbs. Breakfast is served daily here, with lots of options for vegans and vegetarians.
In keeping with the marine-life monikers, White Seal has stiff sundowners, a crashing-wave soundtrack and impeccable pastel sunsets.
Breakfast is from 8am until 11am; lunch service is between 12.30pm and 4pm; and dinner hours are 7pm to 11pm.
Available 24/7 – the restaurant menu can be ordered to your room during service, with a lighter selection on offer between 11pm and 7am.
The resort is in Agios Nikolaos on the sunny shores of eastern Crete.
The island’s main airport is in Heraklion, a 50-minute drive from the hotel. The team can arrange transfers, or guests can pick up a hire car at the airport.
Crete is the biggest of all of Greece’s islands and one of the vastest in the Med – if you want to do it (and all of its antiquities) justice, a car will come in handy. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Other Ferries link up Greece’s many furthest reaches, docking at Heraklion, Sitia and (on the other side of the island) Chania, from Piraeus in Athens, Santorini, Milos and more.
Worth getting out of bed for
The round-the-clock (and night-owl-friendly) concierge can arrange private boat trips, journeys to Spinalonga Island, tastings at neighbouring wineries, bicycle hire and days out at the Theriso Gorge. They’ll also guide you to the best hiking trails and pretty local villages, such as Kritsa. For something a little more high-brow than your average sunlounger-based day, visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum or Agios Nikoloas’s many churches and its own pot-packed museum on prehistory. There’s a beach at the hotel, but for watersports, head down to the shore at Almyros and take your pick of jet-skis and inflatables. Look for Athena and Artemis bathing in Lake Voulismeni (if that doesn’t sound too depraved), which, as with much of Greece, has a myth attached.
The coastal community of Agios Nikolaos is so tight-knit that the staff were reluctant to recommend one local spot over another – but we were assured that fine Cretan cuisine (including the island’s legendary Lasithi Plateau potatoes, which are shipped out all across Europe to become myth-worthy French fries) awaits within a five-minute taxi ride of the hotel at the port town.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this coastal hotel in Greece and unpacked their paddleboards and potatoes, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside The Island Concept in Crete…
Crete’s islanders are known for living the good life – their diet is copied all over the world for the existence-prolonging potential of its fragrant herbs, purest olive oil and wild greens. And it’s not just the nutrition that’s worth emulating. It’s markedly different from other islands that are only inhabited for a few months of the year – visitors to Crete will meet real locals (bonus for satnav fails: they’re always happy to help if you’re lost). Its 300-kilometre-wide landscape changes from north to south and east to west, with mountains and gorges, as well as a coastline of fishing villages and port towns.
At the Island Concept, life is so serene that guests have been known to leave their room in the morning and bomb into the main pool as if they weren’t staying in a hotel at all, but rather renting a villa with friends. Staff are very proud of this ‘silent luxury’ (Malia this is not), close to the pretty port town of Agios Nikolaos but within a short drive of Heraklion and the island’s main airport. These island dwellers live a long time – and when days are this sweet, you’ll envy them their years spent whiled away on Crete.