A couple of months ago, my friend Danielle and I were on the search for the perfect girly getaway. We knew we wanted a bit of liveliness but also a touch of luxury. And of course, there had to be plenty of great food available because we both love eating out. So after a bit of researching, we came across the apparent perfect destination – Crete.
Greece’s largest island, known for its varied terrain (there’s lots of gorgeous white sandy beaches, but there’s also a lot of rocky cliff-faces, mountains and caves), Crete offers something for everyone in terms of holiday requirements. There’s the party centric Malia, there’s the ‘capital’ Heraklion and there’s also the very quaint, but rather luxurious Agios Nikolaos, which just happens to be where we chose.
It’s not luxurious in the sense that you’ll find Dior, Burberry and Tom Ford shops around every corner (although there was a little bit of that) but it’s so photogenic and the restaurants clearly cater for the foodies, offering cocktails and traditional delights both on the beach and the cliff face. Plus, the surrounding resorts and hotels are geared towards a luxury market – so it brings together the best of both worlds – traditional culture and home comforts.
So without further ado, let me persuade you to take a trip to one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been!
- It’s the home of St Nicolas Bay resort (full review here) which is just the most picture perfect, incredible place to stay. If you want to watch Mamma Mia in their open air cinema, while watching out for shooting stars above your head – that is totally possible. And if you want to learn how to dance like the locals, underneath some twinkling fairy lights on the cliff-face, it can also be organised. And if you want to eat the most amazing cakes and pastries for breakfast. Guess what, it’s allowed too? *insert hand over eyes monkey emoji*
- Food wise, there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s fine dining you’re after or traditional greek cuisine, or maybe even a slice of pizza – you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for in among the white wash winding streets of Agios Nikolaos. And while you can opt for an expensive meal out (such as the PiATO bar on the cliff-face), you can also stay right on budget too. Danielle and I had a two-course Italian meal with wine each for just under 25 euros. Unfortunately, we discovered this gem on the last night of our stay – otherwise we’d have practically lived at the place.
- You can sip cocktails to your hearts content by the Mirobelo marina and watch the sun set over the cliffs. We opted to do this on a number of evenings and it was just so beautiful. The little places to sit aren’t Marbella-style plush white loungers, they’re pretty basic – but everyone is so welcoming and there’s usually a vast number of cocktails to choose from – to keep you going all night. There tends to be a mini desserts menu too, just in case you want to chill out after dinner with a chocolate brownie. Hint: the emphasis on ‘mini’ is pretty low, since Danielle’s dessert was placed on our table alongside a mini shovel. Yep, an actual shovel.
- The pharmacies here are incredible for stocking up on your beauty favourites. There are an array of brands we just don’t get in the UK, that you NEED to try – although usually, upon entry – you can give your skin requirements to the pharmacists and they will take you round the shop with their recommendations. I’ve never had this before and it was such a lovely touch. They all speak very good English and usually give you a bit of a discount if you buy a few items!
- They’re pretty good with their crepes. Alongside the main marina (there’s a larger one and a smaller lake divided by a bridge and a small strip of water), there are an assortment of creperies, all offering an incredible array of toppings. Everything is freshly made – and you can enjoy it sat by the side of the sea, overlooking all of the boats. If that’s not a perfect afternoon, I don’t know what is (well, plus the cocktails in point 3).
- There are lots of boat trips to get involved with too – depending on what sort of thing you’re looking for. We saw a number of party boats rocking up outside our veranda – in addition to some calmer, sight-seeing trips. They’re usually not that expensive and last a couple of hours, so it’s a great way to spend the morning before heading off for a hearty lunch!
- If you’re looking for something rather romantic, then it’s the Thalassa Villas within the St Nicolas Bay resort that you’re after – which coincidentally, is where we were lucky enough to stay. It’s secluded enough to feel private and tranquil, but it’s only a five minute walk to the restaurants and main pool. They are also situated right on the cliff-face, each with their very own infinity pool. You can hear the sea lapping against the rocks all night long – which honestly, is the most relaxing sound in the world to fall asleep to.
- And talking of romance – there are so many weddings here during the summer months that everywhere is decked out beautifully, all of the time with fairy lights, bunting and flower woven archways. It’s certainly very Instagram-ready, that’s for sure. And it wouldn’t look out of place on Pinterest either!
- There seems to be a great balance of old and new, traditional and modern – running through, which means you feel as though you’re getting the best of both world in terms of a city break and a relaxing sun-soaked getaway. You can browse the traditional fish markets and hand-woven rug stores and taste the local delicacies, but you can also enjoy the more touristic comforts. The power is in your hands!
- You can see how olive oil is made. Just a short taxi ride away and for a 1,50 euros fee, you can visit a Cretan Olive Oil farm and learn the secrets of the kitchen essential that we all take for granted. There’s a lot that goes into it, believe or not!
- There are a number of beautiful churches – all that look like something out of Mamma Mia! If you’re looking for the perfect Instagram back-drop, then these are definitely the places to go – but otherwise, they are incredible to explore because they’re so different to the ones we have in the UK.
- There are opportunities to go scuba diving, if it’s your kind of thing! When we visited, I was 10 weeks post-surgery, having had my rhinoplasty operation, so popping a mask over my face wasn’t really on my radar as something I wanted to do – but as always, it’s nice to have the option!
- Did I mention the cocktails are amazing here? No? Maybe? Oh, well just incase you’re as much of a cocktail fiend as I am, I’ll say it just the once more. They’re incredible! And so. much. choice!
- The pictures don’t really do it justice. A quick Google will show you how beautiful Agios Nikolaos is, but honestly, it’s a million times more stunning in person. There is a really relaxed way of life there, even slightly outside of the tourist season (we were there in September) and this contributes to the fact that every visitor we spoke to seemed so relaxed and at ease with the world, far away from any of their worries. Sometimes you need a place just like this to help you switch off.
- But for those of you who don’t want a digital detox while you’re away, the town is very tech savvy and there are wifi spots EVERYWHERE! This is perfect for uploading all your snaps to Facebook and being one of those smug on-holiday kind of people, while everyone is at their desk (but do it themselves when they are away). *slightly evil laugh*
So, what do you think? Have you ever visited Crete or would you consider a visit to Agios Nikolaos?