A Honeymooner’s Guide to Crete
Planning a honeymoon during the tail end of an unprecedented global pandemic was eventful to say the least. There was no reason to check our passports for almost two years, so you can imagine my panic when we came to check-in for the flight and we realised that my husband’s passport had expired. Thankfully we had booked our flights to Crete with British Airways, using the thousand of Avios points I’d collected to bag a pair of business class seats. After a few tears at the passport office and a helpful phonecall with BA, we were able to move our flight back a few days.
Choosing Crete as a honeymoon destination was not entirely in our hands. With many countries sporting complex entry requirements, we didn’t fancy spending the entire trip in quarantine, so our original trip to the Maldives was replaced with Crete, which appeared to be letting everyone in Europe in. England’s pastures may be the greenest of the crop, but after twenty-two months of bringing a jacket and umbrella out with me ‘just incase’, daily anxiety-inducing news conferences, and multiple lockdown picnics in the same park, I was just grateful for the return of escapism.
On our flight into Chania, we were plied with champagne, thanks to my unmissable veil no doubt. Our hotel, Irida, was a dream. Located in the serene fishing village of Agia Pelagia, Irida prides itself on first-class hospitality and gastronomy, with its terrace restaurant, Bostani, overlooking the pristine bay of Agia Pelagia. Arriving just in time for dinner, we were given a sea view table with a chilled bottle of a white wine from a local vineyard, followed by one of the best meals I’ve had in my life. Greeks know how to do food, but Crete is especially prided on its gastronomy. Cretan food is famous even in Greece, and the kitchen at Bostani, headed by chef Dimitris Solakis, is renowned in Agia Pelagia, and visited by locals and guests from different hotels. Every night, our palates were met with farm-to-table ingredients, creating mouthwatering dishes such as ouzo tzatziki, mizithropitakia, a type of Cretan cheese pie with Mizithra cheese and thyme honey and grilled amaniti, all preceded by tapenades and dipping oils made with the most aromatic locally-grown olives. Each morning we indulged in plates of scrumptious sweet and savoury servings, awarded the Greek Breakfast certification by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.
When we weren’t eating, we were doing yoga at sunset or down at the surrounding beaches, either Agia Pelagia or Ligaria, where we found ourselves floating in the crystalline waters as hours passed us by. We didn;t want to cheat on Bostani, but one night we couldn’t resist dining down by Agia Pelagia, at Rosemary and Sea Salt, partially for their large bowl of mussels, but mostly for the view.
Agia Pelagia is a very small resort town, and aside from hiring a boat to speed around the rocky coastline to the other beaches, some of the best things to see in Crete are slightly further afield. Unless you hire a car, getting around this large Greek island is challenging. However you decide to get around, you must not leave Crete without visiting Balos Lagoon, in between the Cape of Gramvousa and Tigani. You can rent a private boat or take the packed ferry from Kissamos. Though it can get packed quickly, there is plenty of space to frolic in the shallow turquoise waters. Look out for pink sand, sea turtles and even a few mountain goats!
The places in Crete that really stole my heart were Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. On the north eastern coast of the island, the smaller town of Elounda is home to incredible design hotels like the Domes of Elounda, part of the Autograph Collection, and the Blue Palace. The pretty fishing village is yet to be over-commercialised, with a tranquil Mediterranean feel. Catch a boat to Spinalonga from here, Crete’s fascinating Venetian fortressed island, once home to lepers who were sent here to live out their days away from society. Wear your Venezia Espadrille in Beige to match the carving of the Venetian winged lion on the main gate. Just a few kilometres away from Elounda is the coastal cosmopolitan town of Agios Nikolaos. My visit here was fleeting, but all that I saw impressed me, from sleepy beaches to avenues bustling with boutique shops. No matter where you stay on the island, you are guaranteed good food, outstanding hospitality and jaw-dropping natural scenery.
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