Reviewed by Meribeth Parker; words Kerry Potter
Even the most raucous global pop icons need a bit of R&R sometimes, and when Rihanna and Lady Gaga need to kick back, they head to the Blue Palace Resort & Spa on the Greek island of Crete. We can totally see why. This 5 star 251 room hotel, set into a cliff above the dramatic Elounda coastline is peaceful, discreet and utterly luxurious.
Of those rooms, 142 have their own private pools, most of them infinity style and with wonderful views across crystal clear waters to the uninhabited island of Spinalonga. Tip: take Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island as your sun lounger read, as it’s set on this former leper colony turned pretty tourist attraction.
A special shout-out must go to the thalassotherapy spa, which is right on the beach, with 24 rooms and an extensive treatment menu. It is seriously impressive: this is no hasty hotel bolt-on. The Wellness & Beauty Scrub, with hydro bath, left my skin ridiculously silky.
A glass funicular whizzes you between the different levels of the hotel and down to the private pebble beach, although we walked whenever possible to burn off some of the obligatory baklava. If you tire of the hotel’s five uniformly good restaurants – Grecian, Italian and Asian among them – then the town of Plaka is a 10 minute walk away, and has tavernas straight out of Shirley Valentine, gift shops and umpteen local olive oil sellers.
Best room: The Royal Blue villa (final photo) has three airy bedrooms, all with en-suite marble bathrooms, and a 35 sq m heated private pool.
Best dish: The slow-cooked lamb – a Cretan favourite – at The Blue Door restaurant ( below).
Design: Modern, neutral and generally minimal – although some rooms nod to traditional Greek décor with rustic blue and white patterned tiling. Blonde wood flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows and floaty white curtains make for a low-key luxe feel.
What’s hot? Champagne at the breakfast buffet (well, if you insist!). American-style 24 hour room service, so you can eat what you like, when you like. <Those> sea views.
What’s not? Party Animals need not apply – if you’re looking for wild hedonism, you’re in the wrong corner of Greece. Blue Palace is sleepy and secluded (but that’s what we wanted). And this is total nit-picking but we prefer a sandy beach to a pebbly one.
Who stays? International popstars in need of a break (see above), lots of honeymooners, as you can get married in the onsite chapel, couples on a romantic break, families (it’s very child-friendly).
Location and getting there: The hotel is on the tranquil north east coast of Crete, with Heraklion airport a 1-hour drive away. British Airways flies there direct from Gatwick.
Number of rooms: 251
Check in/out times: After 3pm/ before 12 noon.
Swimming pool: Take your pick from three communal ones, plus many rooms have their own infinity pools and/or plunge pools and there’s a whole bunch of them at the spa too. If you like a pool, you’re certainly in the right place.
Spa: It’s good. Really good. There are – deep breath – 24 treatment rooms, 2 hammams, 3 thalasso pools, a relaxation pool and room, saunas, Jacuzzis and a couple’s suite if you like that kind of thing. Plus a gym and regular fitness classes. And the therapists are all brilliantly trained. Finally, its beach-side location takes some beating.
Wifi: Yes, but there’s a nominal charge.
Eating and drinking: You’re spoilt for choice: there are five restaurants on site and private dining can be arranged in your room. Flame does perfect steaks and we loved The Blue Door, a trad Grecian taverna, once a fisherman’s stone cottage. It’s all checked table-cloths and lanterns, and a pretty waterfront spot at which to eat deliciously fresh halloumi and stuffed vine leaves.
Blue Palace Resort & Spa, Plaka, Schisma Elountas 720 53 Crete, +30 2841 065 500. Doubles from £160, B&B
Scott Dunn offers 7 nights B&B at Blue Palace Resort & Spa from £900 pp in low season based on two sharing a Superior Sea View Bungalow, including flights from the UK and private transfers. www.scottdunn.com / 020 8682 5080