Demelza Rayner spends a week on the largest of the Greek islands, and discovers all the ingredients for an unforgettable honeymoon
I was somewhat sceptical when the man handing over the keys to my hire car said I wouldn't need a sat nav, especially as it was my first time on the island, fairly late at night, and I had little clue about how to reach my accommodation in Elounda. Thankfully he was right – the roads were easy to navigate, well signposted and I made it safe and sound to my home for the next few days – the Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites, on the northeastern coast of Crete.
Elounda is a pretty fishing village, popular with tourists for its proximity to the island of Spinalonga. Made famous by Victoria Hislop's 2005 best-selling novel, The Island, Spinalonga was a leper colony up until 1957. It's now uninhabited but the remaining traditional stone buildings provide a fascinating insight into its past. If its history is somewhat unromantic, the setting certainly isn't – it's a beautiful spot and newlyweds will love exploring the island, catching breathtaking glimpses of the sea and the rugged coastline.
Dining options in Elounda are plentiful, many of the restaurants serve generous Greek salads and freshly-cooked seafood, washed down with surprisingly delicious local wines. Restaurant staff are genuinely welcoming, always ready with a smile and their exemplary Cretan hospitality.
During my stay in May the weather was warm and sunny, so the mornings were generally spent out and about exploring the island by car or boat, while the afternoons were passed relaxing around the pool and enjoying the panoramic views – the perfect combination! It's incredibly easy to navigate the island and the journey is often just as enjoyable as the destination – the coastal roads wind gently around the mountainsides, affording fabulous views at every turn.
One of the busiest tourist towns in Crete is Agios Nikolaos, and there's plenty here to tempt honeymooners, not least the pretty lake, known as Voulismeni. It's a lovely spot for an evening meal, with hundreds of twinkling lights reflected in the water. Run the gauntlet of over-enthusiastic waiters and choose one of the open-air restaurants around the lake, or head up the hill and turn right for an elevated restaurant that provides the perfect vantage point over the water.
Just around the corner from the lake you'll find a row of trendy bars, all providing outdoor seating with excellent views across the sea – indulge in a cocktail or two for the perfect end to your night out.
Also worth a visit is Sissi, a tiny village on the coast. Take a leisurely stroll or cycle around the coastal path to the pretty stone beach, or keep going to reach the sandy bay beyond. Stop for a delicious seafood meal at one of the tavernas overlooking the water, or just for a long, cool drink at one of the bars overlooking the sheltered lagoon. The small beach at the port is a great spot for swimming or snorkelling during the day, and the relaxed pace of life is just perfect for newlyweds wanting to unwind.
No trip to Crete would be complete without visiting The Palace of Knossos at Heraklion. It's one of the island's top attractions, and is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centres. You'll only need half a day to explore this ancient and intriguing archeological site, which frees up the afternoon to head south into the beautiful countryside beyond – the heart of the island's wine production. Road maps outlining routes through the Heraklion wine country are widely available, and take you past several wineries that offer free tours and tasting. Although not widely available on our supermarket shelves, Cretan wine is highly drinkable and reasonably priced. What better way to reminisce about your honeymoon than by taking a couple of bottles back to the UK to open on your first anniversary?
Where to stay
Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites
Conveniently located on the main stretch heading to the pretty fishing village of Elounda, Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites is the place to go for a truly exceptional honeymoon. From the moment I stepped into my palatial villa, I knew I was staying somewhere special. With high ceilings, decorative furnishings and impeccable design, the villa was truly fit for royalty. But it's when you step outside that the magic really begins, with breathtaking views across the private pool to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea beyond.
A member of the Great Hotels of the World, Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites comprises just 18 pool villas and 10 luxury suites, set on an elevated position over immaculately landscaped grounds. The Kadianakis family owns and runs the resort, and their hands-on approach and easy rapport with guests makes everyone feel welcome. In addition, the reception staff genuinely care about making your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible – and it's this service that keeps guests coming back year after year.
My highlights… The beautifully decorated villa – it was stunning both inside and out, offering an uninterrupted view of the Mediterranean Sea from the terrace. Dining in the Argo Restaurant – a lovely setting, relaxed ambiance and beautifully cooked Cretan dishes. My infinity-edge private pool – plenty of room for proper swimming, and the Jacuzzi area was the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day.
You may like to… Book a one-bedroom Spa Villa, offering a private sauna, steam bath and gym room – the ideal choice for newlyweds. Have a romantic meal served up on your terrace by candlelight, or wake up to a delicious à la carte butler service breakfast. Make use of the helpful reception staff who can arrange some exceptional local excursions and experiences, from a day's sailing in a luxury yacht to diving lessons in the privacy of your private pool.Top tips
Your honeymoon should begin as soon as you arrive at the airport. Read on for my top tips…
Do…start your honeymoon in style. Meteor Meet and Greet will pick your car up at departures, park it securely while you’re away, and then have it waiting for you when you return. Book at
Do…book into an airport lounge. Relax in comfortable seats, enjoy the complimentary food and drink, and read the latest magazines and newspapers – your holiday starts here. Find out more at
Do…explore the island by car. Hire in Crete starts from £11 per day or £75 per week with