What makes a great lodging experience? For me, about a dozen factors are important:
1) natural setting of the destination
2) historical significance of the destination
3) charm, character, uniqueness, and attractiveness of the destination
4) charm, character, uniqueness, and attractiveness of the lodging property
5) central location of the lodging property
6) property ownership: family-owned versus corporate-owned
7) property ambience: warm and intimate versus soulless and impersonal
8) opportunity to meet and know the property owner
9) owner’s commitment to meeting guest needs
10) opportunities to meet and exchange information with other guests
11) attractiveness, cleanliness, and comfort of the room
12) value: can average people like me afford to stay here?
Two or three favorables may result in a memorable lodging experience. But, what if all twelve factors are favorable? What then? Well, friends, what you have then is a cosmic convergence and a place you hate to reveal in TripAdvisor for fear it will become so popular that you won’t be able to stay there again. But you go ahead and write a rave review anyway because you are so appreciative of the property owners that you wish to repay their graciousness.
In my travels, I have encountered only two twelves: Stella’s Traditional Apartments at Kato Zakros on the Greek island of Crete and Casa Zuniga, a bed-and-breakfast at Guanajuato in central Mexico.
I have stayed at Stella’s twice, with my wife in the summer of 2008 and again in the fall of 2010 with a group of friends. Stella’s Traditional consists of only three apartments, but lovely Stella also manages rentals of several nearby studios for family members. They are nestled in a botanical paradise, which is a pleasant quarter-mile stroll to Zakros bay with its swimming beaches and tavernas. Not a single retail store mars the tranquility of the scene.
Stella and her husband Elias have recently built several striking maisonettes (small houses) constructed of native rock in a very different setting not far away; they are perched on a hillside overlooking the bay and facing the yawning mouth of Dead’s Gorge.
For nature lovers, a circle hike ascends above Kato Zakros affording vistas of two distant whitewashed hill villages before descending into Dead’s Gorge and the return trek to Kato Zakros. For history lovers: the ruins of Zakros Palace lie along the walk between Stella’s and the sea. This was one of the main palace complexes of Minoan Crete, the first civilization of Europe. From here the sophisticated Minoan culture traded with Egypt and the Middle East. As for me, I wouldn’t trade my time at Kato Zakros for riches from anywhere else.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.