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Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..

Olive groves, turquoise waters and visiting ‘The Island’ in Crete

The island of Crete is steeped in ancient history as well as being a beautiful modern beach resort. According to Greek legend the Minotaur was imprisoned here in a Labyrinth at Knossos, finally defeated by Theseus using a ball of string to navigate his way out of the maze. In more recent times the Venetian Islet of Spinalonga, just offshore, has been immortalised by Victoria Hislop’s book “The Island”, so I was excited to come and see it all for myself.

My Jet2 flight was smooth and trouble free, having checked in online and just carrying hand luggage, I could go straight to security on entering the airport.

Both hotels I visited were to the northeast of Crete in Mirabello Bay, with views across the turquoise water to Spinalonga. Domes Aulus Elounda and Domes Elounda are gorgeous 5-star hotels nestled in the foothills overlooking the bay, with access to their own private beaches. Don’t let the thought of a walk up the slope from the beach concern you – golf buggies are on hand to transport guests around the resort.

Domes Aulus Elounda’s romantic accommodation options consist of nests and suites, some with their own outdoor jacuzzi or infinity pools, as well as the resort’s two cliffside pools. From my Sapphire Nest I had stunning views across the bay - the amphitheatre-style resort layout ensures everyone is treated to this as they open their curtains. Four restaurants and three bars mean there is plenty of space to relax and sample the authentic Mediterranean cuisine, often featuring the catch of the day. The Soma Spa is an oasis for relaxation or invigorating as you prefer, with sauna, steam bath, heated indoor pool, 4-seater jacuzzi, three treatment rooms, and a fully equipped gym.

Their sister resort Domes of Elounda has an exclusive feel, with accommodation options for both couples and families across a range of budgets. There are six resort pools as well as private jacuzzies and pools available with some suites. Four restaurants and four bars, each with its distinct culinary identity and atmosphere, mean that there is a location for whatever mood you are feeling in. There are various activities tailored for families and couples, though it’s really tempting to just relax in the shade of the olive trees, or on the white sandy beach.

There are some excellent day trips in the local area. The neighbouring town of Plaka features beautiful, cobbled streets with quaint shops for souvenirs and lots of options for coffee with a view. From here you can catch a ferry to Spinalonga with its fascinating history – the Venetians built a fortress here in the late 1500’s, but it is now more well-known for being a leper colony from 1903 until 1957. Victoria Hislop’s bestselling book ‘The Island’ imagines how the people both in the colony and in the surrounding villages may have lived and loved through those times – a definite beach-read for anyone holidaying here!

I also went on an interesting excursion to a local olive grove to see how the olives are grown and treated before they make it to the bottle, and of course there was a tasting! Other excursion options are boat trips to secluded coves, hiking the Samaria Gorge, or visiting ancient Knossos.

Crete has much to offer over and above the typical white sandy beaches and turquoise waters Greece is known for. Domes Aulus Elounda and Domes Elounda are gorgeous, exclusive 5-star resorts that perfectly combine luxury with relaxation and offer stunning surroundings for couples and families alike. I would have loved to spend more time here - their authentic Greek cuisine is utterly delicious and there is so much to do and see in the local area. The hotel locations are superb with sweeping views across the bay, and the staff are exceptional, making sure my trip to lovely Elounda was truly memorable.

See Spinalonga in the background - inspiration for 'The Island'

You can find Victoria at our Framlingham shop