Abaton Island Resort & Spa review: Insta-worthy elegance and minimalism in Crete
This is a cavernous and expansive destination built in the Cycladic style
A short 12km drive from Heraklion airport in Crete, Abaton Island Resort & Spa is located on the outskirts of the “village” of Hersonissos – which is more a lively town with shops and bars.
The resort is set along a stretch of rugged coast with spectacular, sprawling views of the shimmering ocean, not far from the tourist hot-spot of Malia. Even though the party scene is just 15 minutes away, Abaton couldn’t feel more distant.
Abaton is a lesson in elegance and minimalism; it’s built in the Cycladic style, referencing the Bronze Age culture that sprung up around the Aegean and islands of the Cyclades. From the Greek temple-esque entrance onwards, it’s cavernous and expansive.
The resort has 152 rooms; slick, low, white cubes lie, labyrinthine, about the gentle hill that slopes to meet the sea. They come in a number of different formats – some with their own jacuzzis and others with refreshing swim-up pools. Almost all have a majestic sea view. Rooms are minimalist, all wood, white and marble, with luxurious, considered interiors that speak of opulence and comfort.
The expansive grounds are dotted with sweeping, shallow decorative pools which come alive at night. It’s an Insta-worthy venue and you’ll see a handful of people taking advantage of this, snapping away on phones. Of particular note is the huge veranda, replete with over-sized chairs and bleached wooden tables; it’s the perfect spot to sip on a glass of chilled Cretan wine and take in the remarkable view – it’s one of the best spots on the island to watch the stunning sunset.
Eating and drinking
Abaton has plenty of great options for food and drinks – five restaurants in total. Breakfast is the star of the show here with a well-thought out range of options including the resort’s own homemade sourdough.
The hotel is home to an outpost of the world-famous Buddha Bar, a great spot for a sublime sushi treat using both local fish and from further afield. You can eat in the restaurant itself, overlooking the Aegean, or from one of the decadent sun-loungers pool-or-sea side. Expect high quality Asian fusion and classy cocktails.
Hersonissos is a little touristy but it’s blessed with plenty of good eating and drinking options. David Vegera is a fantastic option – wonderfully cooked Cretan classics, zingy salads, deep fried treats alongside grilled fish and meat; come early and eat with the locals – it gets a little touristy as the evening wears on and you’ll have to queue. After dinner, stroll down to teeny cocktail bar The Trap for a digestif.
Other notables in the area are Taverna Me Raki, run by a chap who spent ten years working in hospitality over here before heading back to Crete to take over the family business; he understands the value in sourcing the best and it shows through both food and drink.
Xerokamares is a traditional Cretan restaurant just a ten-minute drive away; Sunday lunch is the time to go to eat like a local. Star of the show is the wood-roasted pork and potatoes. A few minutes further up the road is Taverna Maris – the fried courgettes are worth the trip alone.
What to do?
Currently, the hotel has an exhibition by the American photographer Slim Aarons, noted for his images of high society, jet-setters and celebrities. He made a career from “photographing attractive people doing attractive things” – rather fitting, here, in these attractive surroundings.
Depending on the time of year you go, there’s plenty of hilly hiking and cycling; as with lots of Crete, there are some nearby caves purported to be the birthplace of Zeus.
The C Word
It’s easy to forget when one lives in a relatively cold, wet metropolis how much a consistently warm, dry climate lends itself towards outdoor living. With unreliable weather in the UK, we plan for the worst (brollies and barbecues seemingly go hand in hand) and are rarely surprised with the best.
In Crete on the other hand, it’s almost possible to forget about Covid-19 here; you’ll spend most of your time outdoors, with your indoor time spent privately in your cool retreat. A few tavernas with scrupulous owners wave signs out front insisting they will only serve the double vaxxed; a knee-jerk, one suspects, to the intense paranoia felt by all in the early phases of the crisis; Greek law also insists patrons must sit in venues, not stand, or owners face substantial fine.
Abaton Island Resort & Spa offers rooms from £201 based on two people sharing a double room; abaton.gr