The first thing to note on our stay in this hotel is that the breakdown on the tour operator’s costing said that we were paying £8 per person per day for bed and breakfast.
Yes, that’s £8, and (allowing for inflation over the years) it must be the least expensive accommodation that we have ever stayed in. Although the Aristea has its faults, some trivial and some noticeable, it would be totally unfair to pass judgement on it as though we had paid five or even ten times as much.
We have been back for a week now and, on reflection, we have no desire whatsoever to give the Aristea a bad review: we really enjoyed our stay in Elounda and the in hotel (the last week in September 2007).
As you might see from some of the other reviews, the Aristea is a “hotel of two halves”: the front and the back. The hotel fronts onto the main road going down to the harbour (bad) but the back overlooks the bay (amazingly good). So, if you get the front, there is indeed traffic noise and if you get the back, there is one of the most stunning “Shirley Valentine” Greek panoramas that you can imagine.
We got a room at the front but did not ask to be moved to the back as some of the other reviewers did. This was because the traffic noise didn’t bother us at all: it died down around the time that we wanted to go to sleep and we weren’t in the room during the day. Our view was that, at the front, we got somewhat more than we paid for and, at the back, we would have got infinitely more than we had paid for. We live in rural Shropshire where there is no traffic at all so if we can live with the noise most people can; having previously lived in inner London and central Birmingham the Aristea’s traffic noise ‘problem’ would be considered minor by anyone used to similar city living in the UK.
The rooms were clean and there was effective air conditioning for an extra 5 euros a day. There was double glazing fitted to try to combat the traffic noise but although it dampened cars and lorries reasonably well it was defeated by motorbikes and scooters revving to get up the hill. Leaving the windows open and doing without air conditioning is not recommended if you don’t like noise. Others have commented on the lack of choice at breakfast; well it is standard continental, you get bread, cake, jam, butter, cheese, ham, cornflakes and orange juice with tea or coffee, it did fine for us as we were too full after evening meals to eat much. There were some minor irritations which could have easily been rectified like the shower curtain being too short and no constant hot water, we got acceptably warm water in the early evening only, but they didn’t spoil our stay as it is hot in Crete in September we didn’t need UK water temperatures and the bathroom dried out quickly.
Elounda is terrific. It is a smallish port with a harbour, genuine fishing boats, a kingfisher and (in our view) exactly the right level of development. It has some super restaurants and the whole range of shops/facilities that you might want, but it hasn’t sold its soul to the British theme pubs, night clubs and fish and chip shops that (again, in our middle-aged view) disfigure places like Malia. It remains quite Greek, but all of the incredibly friendly locals speak good English when required: perfect.
There is a row of restaurants at the back of the Aristea on the waterfront (two of them owned by the hotel) which provide a truly great romantic location with the moon rising over the bay and all with super authentic Greek food; we tried a different one each night and were not disappointed. (We did not eat one chip whilst we were there and didn’t even see them on any of the menus). Portions are huge and we never managed more than two courses. Every restaurant gave us a complimentary treat when we asked for the bill, a glass of raki or fresh fruit, yoghurt with honey, sometimes even two different treats. The Babel ‘pub’ serves good cocktails and reasonably priced beer and has a super view of the harbour. The bay is unusual, it’s shallow and almost entirely enclosed by the very long island of Spinalonga. This makes the bay quite warm and very calm, which is good for snorkelling on the free sandy public beach, complete with free changing rooms and loos, with just a small charge for umbrellas and sun beds. But the still water is not as clear as in rocky coves and the fish species are less exciting which is not so good, though we did see large shoals of fish only a few meters from the shore.
If you want to book in this area, you should note that “Elounda Bay” and “Elounda Beach” are not the same as Elounda. Elounda Bay is a whole string of private villas and complexes a couple of miles along the coast from Elounda proper, each with their private beach. It’s probably fine but we couldn’t really comment as there was a lot of security etc to keep the rest of humanity from setting a toe on their facilities.
On a wider front, for those who have never been to Crete (apologies to those that know it), Elounda is on the North East coast about 45 miles East of Heraklion and its airport. We hired a car and got around a bit. About 7 miles further East is Agios Nikolaos which was great and we would have no problem in staying there another time. There is a cheap 30 minute bus service between Elounda and Agios so effectively you can have a two centre holiday if you want and explore both resorts without needing a car. Don’t go further East than Agios as it all get a bit bleak and empty and, with the distances and ropy roads, the limited destinations do not seem to justify the effort. We wouldn’t stay anywhere in the stretch between Heraklion and Elounda, but that is just our opinion based upon our own particular prejudices as modern Malia is one bar chasing ‘the British clientele’ after another and although there are special ‘fun’ facilities for children there are better places to swim. The ancient Minoan site of Malia is well worth the trip as are excursions into the mountain interior and we enjoyed our day at Knossos and the museum at Heraklion.
We didn’t get to the North West so cannot comment. However, it is well worthwhile considering a holiday on the less commercialised South coast: it’s even hotter, the seas are warmer, the beaches are excellent and (as everybody else is on the North coast) there seems to be about one beach-side taverna for every six punters, well in September at any rate!
In conclusion, whatever the niggles, the Aristea is good value for the very small amount of money that they charge and it enjoys a stunning “to die for” location. Everyone we met at the hotel and in the local restaurants could not have been more friendly and helpful.
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- Also Known As:
- Aristea Hotel Elounda
- Hotel Aristea Elounda, Crete