Review: CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa, Crete
Here’s what to expect at CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa, opened just last year in Elounda, Crete
The largest Greek island, Crete has a small country’s worth of things to explore within its confines. Of course there are the beautiful landscapes: rugged mountains sat beside pink-hued beaches, alongside buzzing harbour cities like Chania, decked out with seafront tavernas. The island is also steeped in history: home of the Minotaur legend and birthplace of Europe’s first evolved society, with many archaeological sites, Byzantine chapels and traditional villages. There are party towns, but Crete also has quiet parts – and for those after the latter, we may have found one of the most peaceful pockets of the island.
Standing on a steep hill on the northern coast sits CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa, a recently opened five-star resort in the village of Plaka. From its prime cliffside position, the hotel offers breath-taking views of the glittering Aegean, plus the historic Spinalonga islet, a former leper colony and the subject of Victoria Hislop’s acclaimed novel, The Island.
Design lovers will have plenty to feast their eyes on at CAYO. Interiors come courtesy of Milanese designer Gian Paolo Venier, with the hotel designed to feel like a home away from home – albeit a very luxurious one. Everything was chosen to complement the hotel’s unique surroundings: black pebbles from Sumatra, for instance – traditionally used in Greek flooring – are incorporated into the interiors, alongside handcrafted, locally sourced pottery. A calming theme runs throughout, with a neutral colour palette peppered with splashes of CAYO’s signature blue.
The hotel is home to 74 rooms, suites and villas – many of which have their own pool, and all offering sea views. Categories range from Superior – the only one without pools – to larger villas ideal for families. These are scattered across the hill, but fear not: two pod-style funiculars transport guests up and down to save doing the steep walk in the heat. Each room is unique, though all boast sleek décor with pastel tones and a bright, airy feel.
Relaxation is the overriding theme at CAYO. The fact that most rooms have their own pools mean the hotel’s two split-level infinity pools – open to all guests – are rarely crowded, so sunbeds are easy to nab at any time of day. You’re right next to the idyllic Enastron Bar here, so it would be rude not to make use of its wide selection of cocktails, which can be delivered straight to your sunbed.
The spa is also well worth a visit. A wide range of treatments are available, from classic massages to mud masks to longer wellness rituals inspired by Greek mythology. There’s also a candlelit pool, steam room and sauna, but these facilities are currently not in use due to Covid.
Though CAYO has a remote feel about it, you’re just a five-minute walk away from the seafront town of Plaka, which has a pretty pebbled beach. Here you’ll find plenty of traditional Greek tavernas serving fresh fish, grilled meats and mezze-style dishes, plus a few small shops. CAYO has its own space on the beach too, with beds reserved for hotel guests and a restaurant, Stone Beach House.
Head slightly further down the coast and you’ll reach Elounda’s fishing port, where you can catch a boat out to Spinalonga – though it’s advised that you go early or late in the day, as there’s little shade on the island.
There are a few restaurants to choose from at CAYO, all with menus created by Lefteris Lazarou – the first Greek chef to have been awarded a Michelin Star. Ambrosia, the main restaurant, serves a lovely breakfast which you can enjoy under the shaded terrace, as well a buffet-style dinner. In the evenings, there’s often live music here. For lunch, head to The Sage & Thyme Mediterranean restaurant next to the pool – the Cretan salad with feta, fresh tomatoes and croutons is particularly delicious, as is the risotto – or stroll down to Stone Beach House to dine with your toes in the sand (pebbles). CAYO’s most high-end restaurant is Kelari, which focuses on fish: think sea bass carpaccio and grilled calamari followed by seabream and couscous or grilled grouper with smoked fava, alongside a wide selection of Greek and international wines.
THE FINAL WORD
An ideal spot for couples after some R&R, CAYO is an elegant, stylish hotel with friendly service and some of the best views on the island.
Rooms from £190. Visit cayoresort.com
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