The big trip

Kapsaliana Village Hotel review: a historic adventure in Crete 

There’s a modern take on the village which dates back to 1763

Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete

Crete is a majestic island which, despite its tourist numbers, is utterly unspoilt and wild. Feeling remote and off the well-travelled path here is easy; there’s only a single main road, the coastal highway, which runs from east to west. 

Drop south anywhere and you’re on winding mountain tracks; flanked by endless olive trees, you’ll meander through the occasional village, often home to a tree-shaded square, a friendly taverna and a few Cretans sipping strong coffee or cold beer. 

Borealis villa at Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete
The hotel

You’ll need a car to get to Kapsaliana Village Hotel – follow one of the aforementioned winding tracks for around an hour from either Heraklion or Chania, Crete’s two main airports, and you’ll reach the small village of renovated worker’s houses. 

Both ancient and new (the village itself dates back to 1763), the buildings which made up Arkadi Monastery have been tastefully modernised to retain and celebrate all of their wonderful features; the sensitivity is evident throughout and speaks to the architectural background of Myron Toupoyannis who bought the village in the 1990s. The 22 comfortable, cool rooms all have distinct and unique features from the site’s previous incarnation – an olive press has been repurposed as a writing desk, for example.

It’s a work in progress, as Toupoyannis continues to build on the existing 22 rooms; a recent addition was a larger house for families or groups of friends with its own private pool.

The mill at Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete
The mill and the estate

Strolling around the hotel grounds is an adventure in itself as you uncover the crumbling ruins of a 16th century worker’s house or turn a corner to be confronted with incredible vista. Kapsaliana sits at a vantage point up in the mountains, cooler than seaside towns and villages and blessed with that warm wind through day and night. Goat-bells provide a bit of gentle background music whilst you stroll the hotel’s paths.

At the heart of the village, three majestic rooms make up the monastery’s olive oil mill; the rooms house an impressive collection of antiques and objects from around the village and the mill itself. One of the areas has been converted into a private dining and olive oil tasting room; you’re surrounded by huge amphora and the imposing ancient stone walls are lit by candle-light. You could call it a museum; it feels far more alive than that. Rosemary bushes abound, providing a permanently heady scent to the entire place.

Food and drink at Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete
Eating and drinking

On a raised terrace at the centre of the village sits the hotel’s main restaurant; shaded by a sprawling tree, at breakfast you can pick and choose from a range of local specialities – from frilly, crispy olive oil pancakes to thick yoghurt with Cretan honey, dense tomatoes and melon-sweet cucumber; a variety of local cheeses and meats and some incredible home-made preserves. The food is exquisite and honest, almost entirely made in-house, and you can be as austere or as fancy as you like.

In the evening, the same space transforms into a charming restaurant with tablecloths and candles flickering. The game is upped in the evening, with dishes that riff on Cretan specialities, using the island’s bounty of fresh fish, carefully farmed meats (Cretan beef is highly prized), organic vegetables and unusual foraged finds. 

There are a few tavernas nearby doing decent, typical Cretan fare with a few local specialities. “Το Καπηλειό” is fairly traditional with tables and chairs in the road at a quiet intersection in a nearby village. Hospitality is core to the Greek mentality; Maria is the welcoming owner although the stray cats give her a run for her money. She has an astounding and dangerously delicious collection of local liqueurs; try the locally made sausages - a coarser version of the typical loukaniko, made with vinegar instead of wine and spiced with cumin, perfect with a cooling plate of tzatziki and a hunk of bread, washed down with some pretty palatable local wine. 

The pool at Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete
What to do?

There’s a good variety of activities to undertake in the area and a little further afield; Crete has plenty to occupy and would require a number of visits to cover even a few areas. That said, lying by Kapsaliana’s central, tranquil pool might be the number one activity for some; there are plenty of sun-loungers and umbrellas and you can catch glimpses of the Aegean when the wind parts the foliage that grows around the pool area. 

For those who like a little more than lounging, due to its mountainous positioning and wild locale, the area offers incredible hiking experiences. Take at least two litres of water, some factor 50, a hat and some good shoes or walking sandals. 

If you feel like taking in a little culture, Heraklion is a bit of a drive but has an incredible, new archeological museum. Closer at hand, Eleftherna archeological site is around ten miles away and features the ruins of Hellenistic buildings, Roman structures as well as an early Christian basilica, testament to the island’s multicultural past.

Rooms start from £157 per night. The hotel is child-friendly but wouldn’t be suitable for disabled/less able individuals; kapsalianavillage.gr 

 

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