This was undoubtedly a 5 star holiday in excellent accommodation on the beautiful island of Crete. Villa Olivia is a perfect villa for a family of four. We were delighted with the quality of the accommodation and if we weren’t so keen to try new places out, we would definitely return.
On arrival you immediately appreciate the pristine and well-attended grounds - the infinity pool, the terraces, the table tennis, the olive tree garden and the outdoor BBQ kitchen, fully equipped with utensils, grill, bread oven, worktops and sink).
A meandering path or a staircase can take you from the pool terrace into the sloped grounds, which surround the villa, where olive trees bask in the sun. The contrast between the immaculate villa and the more rugged Cretan landscape is impressive. The sprinkler system ensures lush grass borders and the cleanliness of the exterior is noticeable. All of this is surrounded by peace and tranquility with the White Mountains, olive groves, alpine trees and the rolling Cretan hills providing a stunning, untouched vista.
The villa exterior is modern, fresh and robust. There is a subtle Moorish influence to the design. The local stone villa is understated from the outside but the real treat lies within. The subtle nets and automated shutters on every window ensured we barely got bitten and never disturbed by morning light or the dawn cockerel.
The infinity pool is outstanding, the water warm at every point of the day. Sloping gently from Roman steps to a depth of 1.5m, the pool is private and of generous size, easily accommodating a wide range of inflatable fun.
The maintenance of the pool is fully automated and does not necessitate any work. It is clean and perfectly filtered. With six sun loungers, terrace furniture, two large umbrellas for shade, beach towels provided and five sets of glass doors leading from the villa to the outside, the design has pool fun and relaxation at its very core.
In the height of summer, the rear of the property where the pool is located, gets the sun from 6.45am to approximately 6.00pm. Then, if you so wish, it's to the front for a BBQ on the covered terrace to catch the setting sun over the White Mountains. Darkness ascends fully at approximately 9.30pm and sitting outside in the cooler night air, below the stars, is an utter delight.
The interior of the villa is beautifully presented. It is authentic, spotlessly clean and well-equipped. The attention to the detail in the design is impressive. Throughout the villa you will notice things you hadn’t spotted before well into your stay whether it be a piece of art, a display of pebbles, anther small alcove, a relic or bunch of dried herbs in flower.
Modern appliances (air conditioning, dishwasher, hob, washing machine, rainforest shower, satellite television) combine with elegant yet sturdy furniture. The giant coffee table come foot rest and the tiled fire place are particularly notable. The high-ceilinged, open plan design, with natural stone walls and beamed wood, give a healthy sense of luxurious charm.
For those of you who prefer to stay away from the tourist strip, the location is perfect. Whilst only 10 minutes from the national highway, we felt wonderfully removed from life in general. The only sounds you will hear are the crickets, the odd cockerel, the odd barking dog in the distance and the sound of the goat herd as it unassumedly walks across the grounds to the neighbouring home up the hill.
Despite being in the county, we knew, nestled above the tiny hamlet of Maza, with only a tiny handful of houses within a one mile radius, that the small town of Vyresses was a couple of miles away, the larger centre of Georgiopoli a five mile journey and the cities of Chania and Rhythmno thirty minutes away in either direction. A number of quality beaches are easily accessible.
Whilst driving up to the villa from the national highway it is advisable not to blink. The road up is safe but you will be using first gear as you navigate the steep ascent.
If you did choose to blink you might miss Maza, a tiny hamlet of 90 locals, situated 1.5km from the villa itself. At the heart of this untouched hamlet is a tiny 13th Century church and, right next door, Costa’s taverna.
Sitting in the square you could be mistaken for feeling like you’re in a film set, the next location for the long-awaited sequels to Zorba the Greek and Mamma Mia. It is that authentic. Costa, the proprietor, will happily give you the (giant, ancient-looking, Indiana Jones-esque) key to the tiny church and you may be lucky enough, as we were, to have him as your tour guide as you wonder at the well-preserved and detailed frescoes that adorn every inch of the interior walls and ceiling like a miniature Michaelangelo.
Eating the local produce at the tables on the square between the church and the romantic taverna, underneath the vibrant pink bougainvilleais that adorn much of the island, is a full blown authentic experience, which combines the warmest reception you will ever receive with excellent food and a touch of the Fawlty Towers when it comes to the always friendly but sometimes unpredictable service! This, it must be stated, is all part of the experience!
There is no menu for starters. You are given whatever is on the grill that night.
A large and beautifully fresh Cretan salad with bread and olive oil is standard to start, followed by warm green beans in thyme and tomato and fried potatoes, also known as chips. Then, depending on what day of the week you visit, it could be barbequed lamb, pork, beef or chicken followed by a plate of deliciously refreshing watermelon. If you are still hungry (unlikely given Cretan portion sizes, Costa will be happy to cook you more. The food is cooked by Costa’s wife and served by his daughters.
When it’s very busy, the service can suffer as the family are stretched but the atmosphere is always good enough to sustain you and the family are so nice that you couldn’t remotely feel irked by it. Despite being in relative isolation, the taverna attracts a rich and refined variety of British, French, German, Italian and Scandinavian visitors.
There’s something of the American West about Vrisses, at least in it’s centrality to a number of rural West Cretan villages. By Cretan standards, the roads are wide and they can sometimes bustle with flat back vans and mopeds stacked with fruit and vegatables. They are lined by tall plane trees, which, together with a marvellous and juxtaposing array of shop front awnings, provide generous shade from the beating summer heat.
Locals chat in the middle of the road. Refreshingly, cars are secondary to socialising, herding and sleeping dogs. You soon to learn to navigate around whatever gentle activity might be ensuing on the warm, dusty, streets. There is an unspoken understanding that people and their animals were here long before the automobile.
Vrisses offers a good range of facilities for the visitor. There are two well-stocked mini-markets. I would recommend the one on the corner, opposite the patisserie. The family-run market is more in tune with local markets and provides a good deal of local fresh fare. This is in stark contrast with the less-friendly market half way down the main avenue through this small town.
The patisserie opposite stocks a vast range of delicious pastries, cakes, ice cream and confectionary. The store’s presence is this sleepiest of towns can seem a little incongruous. The store is stylishly presented and the imagination behind the sweet delights on show makes it impossible to leave without an indulgence. My wife and I left with two monster fresh cream chocolate eclairs and the kids devoured the ice cream.
At least in high summer, the river running through the town barely flows. However, the sympathetically constructed pools and sprinklers on the river bed, sustain large wading ducks and swans. You can sit beside the river, below the town bridge, in one the cafes open during the day and into early evening.
If, like us, you prefer to take a step back from the beaten track and stay closer to the feet of the White Mountains, this laid back town is a charming and useful base for local villa dwellers. Probably not worth a visit if you're further afield but a good place to park up for a frappe and a little wander.
Even Better If…
The BBQ grill pan needs an overhaul. Currently, it is makeshift made up of two fish grills. This leads to unsteady grilling with the risk of losing a chicken leg to the coals!
The enhanced welcome pack at 50 Euros is seriously overpriced for what you get and in no way represents value for money.
These last two points did not, in any way, detract from the wonderful villa. Thank you for your excellent service. We will always be using you in future as you guarantee quality.
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We stayed in Villa Olivia for two weeks on our first trip to Crete.
The Villa was beautiful, with every amenity you could possibly want. The location is stunning - surrounded by acres of olive trees.
Pool area is wonderful with a gorgeous infinity pool and comfy loungers. There is also a lovely seating area with coffee table to enjoy an early evening drink. We loved watching the birds sweep down to the pool in the late afternoon!
Overall we had a fantastic time in Crete, the locals were all very pleasant and we would definitely return.