On the hour-long journey from Heraklion to my first stop, Agios Nikolaos, I'm once again spellbound by the incredibly dramatic landscape of this magical island. The majestic mountains and plummeting cliffs. Hidden coves, sprawling beaches and crashing, frothy seas.
When I think of Crete I think of warmth. Not the perennial warm climate, nor the clear warm waters of the Aegean Sea, but the warmth of its people. Cretans are known for their genuine kindness, loyalty and hospitality, their Greek filoxenia (love of strangers). Mind you, I guess you would be pretty happy when you reside somewhere of such beauty. They seem to have it all; the food's pretty good these days, the wine's not bad either...
St Nicolas Bay Hotel & Spa
On arrival at St Nicolas Bay we're greeted by Nikos the, 'filoxenia-filled' front of house manager. He's incredibly friendly and passionate, with a smile more dazzling than the Cretan sun.
Along with the other new arrivals he takes us on a short walk through the bougainvillea-clad suites and villas, to a huge infinity pool and hub of the resort. Steps lead down to a pretty cove, with a charming restaurant and bar built in to the rock. The vibe and setting is simply sublime. St Nicolas Bay is the epitome of understated Grecian-chic: Calm, effortlessly beautiful and super-luxe.
The Room: 405, A Private Pool Villa. Downstairs, a spacious living room with sofas and a flat screen TV leads out to a beautiful lantern lit patio with a large dining table, sun loungers and a good sized private pool. Upstairs there's a double bedroom with a small en-suite shower room. The marble master bathroom is downstairs and has a good supply of Korres and Molton Brown products. Free Wi-fi.
The Spa: The Poseidon Spa is set in a pretty courtyard and spans three levels. Traditional Grecian décor coupled with state-of-the art facilities; there's a hydro-therapy pool, two sauna rooms, a Hammam and aroma steam room. Other facilities include candle lit treatment suites (some with private Jacuzzis) and The Aphrodite Suite - a couples treatment suite with a private cliff-side hydrotherapy pool overlooking the ocean. Each suite has a private relaxation area with sea views.
The Treatment: The Combination Oriental Massage and Facial starts with a balancing chime of a Tibetan bell. A combination of warm argan oil and a choice of rose or orange blossom is then poured on to the skin. A light kneading massage to release tension is followed by reflexology and a pressure point head massage. A skin specific five-step facial using rose oil to calm the skin completes the treatment.
Other Treatments Include: Lymphatic Drainage Detox. A specially trained therapist uses specific oils and massage techniques to help reduce inflammation and puffiness. The treatment is also thought to be beneficial for cellulite reduction.
To Eat: Seaside breakfast buffet. The Beach Bar and Restaurant for lunchtime salads and and delicious sushi. A traditional cliff-side Greek taverna for fresh fish and BBQs. Posh poolside Japanese fine dining. Try the lobster and squid ink risotto. In-room dining available.
The Deal: Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers five nights with breakfast at the five-star St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas, Crete in a standard room, including flights from Heathrow with Aegean Airlines and private transfers in resort. Prices for October 2013 are from £968 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: KE3299
Elounda Mare and Six Senses Spa
Part of the exclusive Relais and Chateaux chain, Elounda Mare sits in perfectly manicured lawns and pretty courtyard gardens with breathtaking ocean views. The main hotel building and private pool villas surround the pool and bay. The resort spreads along the coastline, with scattered tavernas hidden amongst olive trees, fashionable shops and super-chic bars. There's an air of grandeur here, and ultra-luxe, yet comfortable sophistication.
The Room: 414. A 1 bedroom Suite on the top floor in the main hotel building. There's a living room with sumptuous sofas, a flat screen TV and a small dining area. Doors lead out on to a large balcony with spectacular sea views. Adjacent, is comfortable king-size bedroom and luxurious marble bathroom with Jacuzzi bath and a walk in monsoon shower with plenty of Apvita products.
The Spa: The world class Six Senses spa is set in the grounds of Porto Elounda Golf Hotel, sister to Elounda Mare (free on-call transfers are available day and night). A stunning contemporary, state-of-the art spa with a fusion of Greek and Asian interiors. A salt water indoor and outdoor cliff-side hydrotherapy infinity pool makes the spa hub, with a full Hamman suite and couples wing sitting to the side. There are panoramic sea views throughout. Steam, sauna, aroma and relaxation rooms are dotted throughout the spa. Scattered aromatherapy oil burners and scented candles create a wonderfully serene atmosphere.
The Treatment: Six Senses Signature Oriental Massage: Hot towels are placed on the body to relax the muscles then warm oriental aroma oils are poured on to the skin.
Kneading movements are used to work away knots, then pulling and pushing techniques are used to stretch and tone the muscles. The treatment finishes with an acupressure head massage.
Other Treatments Include: Six Senses Signature Facial. A balancing skin specific facial using plant extracts and flower essences to encourage lymphatic drainage.
To Eat: Five restaurants are scattered across the two resorts including a fine dining ocean side seafood restaurant. An alfresco Italian, a French restaurant and traditional Greek Taverna.
Don't Miss: An oceanside drive up to Plaka to visit the island of Spinalonga and sample the delicious fresh fish at Ristorante Givonnis.
The Deal: Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers five nights with breakfast at the five-star Elounda Mare, Crete in a seaview room, including flights from Heathrow with Aegean Airlines and private transfers in resort. Prices for October 2013 are from £1,008 per person, based on two sharing. To book please quote: KE3071