The north east coast of Crete is the one for island-strewn bays and spectacular sunsets, gorgeous beaches and pretty seaside towns, along with a generous share of Minoan myth and legend, explore-worthy countryside and plenty of intriguing local culture.
It’s also the coast for Domes of Elounda, the luxurious Domes Resort that’s intent on proving this unspoiled part of Crete is just as wonderful for families as it is for dreamers and born romantics. Though how much work they have to do on that score is debatable, since World Travel Awards already voted them Europe’s Leading Family Resort in 2017 and Greece’s Leading Luxury All-Suite Hotel in 2018. But resting on laurels is clearly not the way things are done at Domes of Elounda, because 2019 is looking to be even more exceptional than last year.
Designed with families in mind, Domes of Elounda is always coming up with new and interesting ways to entertain kids, make the most of family time, let teens have a taste of independence and even give parents some well deserved me-time on holiday too.
Between easy to arrange baby equipment on arrival to freshly prepped, organic baby food on request, they take excellent care of tiny travellers. Their kids clubs and creche are operated by ‘Worldwide Kids’, and all childcare meets UK Ofsted standards. Lessons in anything from tennis to drawing are available for young guests. And The Core, the brand new Family Zone, is packed with activities and fun stuff like climbing walls, an open-air cinema and i-museum.
When you create a luxury resort on the edge of the Gulf of Elounda and your nearest neighbour for miles is Spinalonga Island – Crete’s second most famous UNESCO World Heritage site – thoughtful design is essential. Which is why, if you didn’t know better, you could easily mistake Domes of Elounda for a beautifully preserved Cretan village right down to its authentic architecture, subtle landscaping and a long, lovely waterfront punctuated with pretty beaches, little jetties and elegant infinity pools.
Exactly the same care and attention to detail is lavished on accommodation here, making it easy to understand the raft of prestigious awards the resort’s scooped up over the past few years. Space, space and more space is a signature theme across the entire collection of family suites and rooms. Stunning views come as standard, just as you’d expect with such an extraordinary location to showcase. And you should resign yourself to some high level opulence in the form of decadent marble bathrooms, lux eco mattresses, gigantic beds and heavenly high-thread count bedlinen. All suites and rooms come with private balconies or sun terraces, you can even choose suites with private swimming pools, and the resort’s range of two bedroom suites, with separate living rooms, are perfect for larger families.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete’s also the most southerly, famously diverse and as given to wild gorges and soaring mountains as beautiful beaches and clean, clear seas. So when it comes to best coast, there’s understandably quite a bit of competition, though the north east often squeezes out in front, and partly because of the gorgeous Gulf of Elounda .
Definitely one of the island’s loveliest locations, the Gulf tops almost everywhere else for drama thanks to the imposing presence of Spinalonga Island. And it’s also where you’ll find colourful Aghios Nikolaos, one of Crete’s prettiest harbour towns and home to legendary Lake Voulismeni. All of which puts Domes of Elounda in a privileged position for incredible views and plenty of family adventure.
If you can tear kids away from the home-grown excitement of the resort’s beaches, pools and activities, a sail to Spinalonga is a must. It’s one of the most visited sites in Crete and the dark tales surrounding mighty Spinalonga Fortress will delight even the most history averse of kids. The ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos is just outside Heraklion and another World Heritage site to put on the to-do list. Heraklion itself is worth a visit for its excellent archaeological museum, Venetian Harbour and charming Old Town. And when nothing but slides, rides and chutes will do, head to Acqua Plus, it’s the most popular waterpark in Crete and less than an hour’s drive west of Domes of Elounda.
But if you really want to discover true Greek tradition, let Domes Kids Club or Creche do some parenting duty and go experience some extravagantly lux soothing at the beautifully designed Domes Spa: don’t worry, the kids will be too busy playing to miss you.
When Domes Resorts say ‘adults only’, they mean anyone over the age of 16 which is great news for families with older kids and a hankering to explore even more of Greece. Just 10 minutes from the city of Chania on Crete’s north west coast, Domes Noruz is laid-back and beachy cool, right on the ocean and perfect for outdoorsy adventures like hiking the epic Samaria Gorge. Or change your island entirely and treat teens to Domes Miramare on enchanting Corfu.
Domes of Elounda sits on the Gulf of Elounda, one hour and 25 minutes drive east of Heraklion Airport, and 20 minutes north of Aghios Nikolaos.
How to get there
Direct flights from London to Heraklion take four hours, year round.