Luxury hotel resort on a hillside

Blue Palace sprawls up a rugged hillside with spectacular views over the ocean

Why should I go now?

Most people go to the Greek islands in summer, but springtime is a far more pleasant time to visit. It’s pleasantly warm rather than insufferably hot (right now, for example, temperatures are in the low to mid twenties) and it’s much less crowded. Plus, Crete is at its most beautiful and fragrant with the wild flowers in full bloom.

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What’s the lowdown?

Blue Palace sits tucked away in the Gulf of Elounda, roughly an hour’s drive from Heraklion Airport. It’s a big resort, with hundreds of rooms sprawling up the side of rugged slope, but since its built entirely from local stone, it blends beautifully into the landscape and has the appearance of a pretty hillside village. Guests are driven up a private road to the impressive open-air lobby, with huge arches framing the ocean and a long pool that comes halfway inside. This is just one of the many pools at the hotel, many of the rooms have their own infinity pools and there are several down on the beach. As you wander through the grounds you have the impression of being surrounded by soothing blue – the pools, sky and ocean.

A grand luxury swimming pool area with arched building and palm trees

Blue Palace’s grand lobby area and one of the resort’s many swimming pools. Photography by James Houston

In the distance, lies the historic Spinalonga Island, an ex-leper colony and UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s close enough to swim to (or so we’re told), but we take a speed boat accompanied by a wonderfully passionate guide, who tells us that she escorted Lady Gaga on the same trip not so long ago. Other activities include water-sports and various cultural trips. The wine tasting on-board a traditional wooden caïque was one of our highlights, where we got to sample local wines and cheese whilst floating on the azure waters of a secluded cove. On the private beach, suite guests are granted access to the VIP area where they given baskets containing fluffy towels, magazines and refreshing wipes. There’s also a spa with a hammam, sauna, indoor swimming pool and treatment rooms.

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True to Greek culture, the resort is hugely passionate about food with five excellent restaurants to choose from. Anthós is the most romantic (reserve a table on the terrace to dine alfresco and for the best views), but Blue Door is the most fun. Housed inside an old fisherman’s cottage right on the edge of the sea, its in the style of a traditional Greek taverna and serves delicious, authentic Greek cuisine. On the feast nights, there’s live music and dancing. The food comes in vast quantities with an array of delicious dips, breads, fresh fish and “antikristo” lamb, which is slowly cooked for five hours above a bonfire. Be warned: entrance to the restaurant is granted after a large shot of ouzo and guests tend to be coerced into dancing later in the night. This is all part of the wonderful Greek hospitality that makes the resort’s staff some of the warmest, most genuine that we’ve encountered.

Luxury beach with swimming pool and views of islands in the distance

The resort’s private pebble beach with views of Spinalonga island (to the left) in the distance. Photography by James Houston

Getting horizontal

Our suite, named Santorini after the blue and white isle, followed the same theme of nautical colours with elegant, contemporary furnishings, a separate living room, bedroom and a secluded courtyard with a private pool. It was the perfect balance of luxurious and homely.

Flipside

The only thing that felt inconsistent with the resort’s relaxed vibe was the VIP area at breakfast, where suite guests are led to tables on a roped-off platform. It felt a little too exhibitionist for our tastes, and if necessary, it could have been arranged more subtly as it was on the beach.

Millie Walton

Rates: From 235 EUR for a Superior Bungalow Sea View room incl. taxes & breakfast (approx. £200 / $250)

Book your stay: marriott.co.uk