Two families with teenagers spent a lovely week at Askoutsi Manor. The teens enjoyed the jacuzzi and their privacy and the parents relaxed in the traditional courtyard drinking the Cretan spirit raki that the owner provided.
Ayios Ioannis is a quiet village the foothils of Psilritis mountain. It is not far from the large cave with stactites and stalagmites in Zoniana (about 20 mins). You will definitely be away from "the madding crowd". If you need to decompress and relax, this is the place for you. The house is what it seems in the photos. Tastefully decorated, spacious, it has wifi, air-conditioning. The owner was very welcoming and stocked the fridge with goodies including home made cheese pies and a lovely dessert. We would recommend to drive through the main highway and turn up at Bali or Panormo to make your way through the more 'picturesque' roads. Having said that we also enjoyed a lovely lamp on the spit and piglet as well as stuffed vegetables for our vegetarian daughter in Drosia a little village about 25 minutes away. The beach is about 25 minutes away by car at Panormos and Bali. We really enjoyed our week and toured around the island while we were there. Another plus which u usually don't get in self -catering places is that a cleaning lady comes in twice a week and changes the sheets and towels.
Tucked away in a completely un-touristy but very attractive village, the Manor is tardis-like and offers loads of space for eight people.
There are four large double bedrooms, each with a large veranda with table and chairs. Each bedroom has quiet and efficient air-conditioning, complete with remote controllers, which we really appreciated with temperatures in the 30s. Two bedrooms have large en-suite bathrooms, the other two share a bathroom. There's also a separate toilet downstairs.
All the fittings and fixtures are of very high quality and the whole place is tastefully decorated and feels really luxurious. There's free wifi (though the signal didn't reach upstairs) and each bedroom has a flat screen TV on the wall as well as a large TV and DVD downstairs.
The kitchen has brand new appliances including large oven, microwave, coffee maker and huge fridge-freezer. There are nice areas to socialise inside, but we all tended to migrate to the enclosed courtyard where we had most of our meals. The courtyard is very pleasant with plants and a feature well (once a real well, now used to capture rainwater) and there's a large jacuzzi which was lovely after a long day's exploring.
Because the verandas are inward-facing there are only limited views of the surrounding mountains but we liked the privacy. In the mornings we would sit outside and listen to the cockerells, goats and the inevitable cicadas. Sheep were herded down the road outside each morning and most days we'd hear a local trader selling produce from a van announcing his wares as he drove through the village.
The owners could not have been more hospitable. Even though we arrived in the middle of the night, two hours late due to flight delay, the family was waiting to welcome us and share a huge spread of home-made food prepared with their own produce, cheese and olive oil.
To get to the Manor you'll turn off the main north coast road - note that it's a twisty 20 minute drive on narrow roads to get there. So you'll need to hire minibus or two cars for the duration of your stay. We had open-top Vitaras which was great fun and the route takes you through attractive villages and lovely mountain scenery, but this does of course take time out of your day. On the other hand, being situated centrally you can explore either east or west, but most of your excursions will involve getting to the main north coast road first, even if you want to visit the south coast - the main route down is from Rethymno.
At the town of Perama, about 15 minutes drive, you can get fuel and stock up in one of several good supermarkets. Again, this not a tourist area at all, but everyone we met was friendly and we had no problems. We got a real sense of local life.
Tip: we found it was better to take the fast road noth east from Perama to Panormos to get to the main coast road - the western route out of Perama was slow going.
Panormos is the nearest beach resort, we found it a friendly, easy-going place. Our trips took us all over the island but there are local attractions too, the owners left us a hand-written letter detailing many of these together with mobile numbers to get in touch if we had any problems. Another nice touch which made our stay at the Manor such a special one.
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