Rural Crete holiday villa, Greece

“A stunning locally owned rural retreat in the foothills of the White Mountains, with views across the island’s famous peaks, valleys and coast. A place to feel replete, in Crete.”

Highlights

Villa in White Mountains | Expert guidance for walking in Crete | Swimming pool | Sustainable and eco friendly building | Breakfast included | Kalyves | Samaria Gorge | Imbros Gorge | Chania | Ease of access to mountain villages and tavernas | Mountain views | Picnic lunches for hiking expeditions

Description of Rural Crete holiday villa, Greece

If you are looking for mountain villas in Crete, then at this one you will immediately feel the embrace of the famous White Mountains, 400m up in the foothills with panoramic views of peaks, valleys, gorges, plains as well as the Mediterranean. We have designed a house to exploit this site, using modern materials and techniques, that enable our guests to enjoy an eco friendly environment, experience the views and take in the mountain air.

Imagine watching the sunrise from your bed as it hits the mountain peaks, then slowly illuminating all the valleys and coast below. You will hear the sounds of the mountain – the bells of sheep and goats as they feed on the hillsides, see birds of prey hover over the gorge, scent the jasmine and honeysuckle from the garden below. We have invested much of ourselves in this place and love to share its solace and serenity with our guests. Every day we create a different breakfast (included in price), with fresh home baked bread, and, for example, local honey, eggs, fruit platter, sheep’s milk yoghurt from a nearby village. All accompanied by coffee, ground fresh from a selection of beans, or loose leaf teas.

Enjoy our 12m swimming pool, gardens and panoramic views in complete peace and quiet (we only accept adults) or, if you can tear yourself away from our villa, you can enjoy a wonderful selection of walks in the famous White Mountains. Try out the best beaches, which we can recommend, our nearest coastal town is the very pretty Kalyves, or explore our neighbouring mountain villages with characterful tavernas. We are happy to supply beach mats, loungers and parasols for the beach or, if you are embarking on a hike, we will prepare a splendid picnic with fresh baked rolls and local ingredients.

Accommodation

The rooftop apartment

This two room apartment comprises the entire upper floor of our villa, with superb panoramic views of both mountains and the sea from any of three terraces. Sleeping two in a double ensuite room, there is also a fully sprung double sofa bed in the sitting room with ensuite if you are travelling as a larger party of adults. There is a small well equipped kitchen, with a hob, microwave and fridge.

Luxury bedroom suite

In the main house, the bedroom has a king size double bed . There is a large bathroom with bath and rainhead shower with body-jets, both big enough for two! There are concertina doors that open out onto your own terrace, offering superb views out to the Apokoronas valley and Mediterranean.

Other information

We have broadband wifi, laundry facilities, a common sitting room with home cinema system and a balcony with views across the mountains and Mt. Psiloritis. The swimming pool is 12m long, and our guests can enjoy many shaded seating areas with different views in our 2500m2 of well planted Mediterranean gardens.

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Rural Crete holiday villa, Greece

Environment

We pride ourselves in our commitment to quality – we source the best produce, locally wherever possible, and we are passionate foodies, we love eating and drinking! We set ourselves the highest standards of cleanliness (using environmentally friendly products), the most appropriate level of service, and we focus on ensuring our guests get the best possible experience in our wonderful location. We aim to make you feel you are staying amongst friends.

Our house was built, to exacting standards, by a local Greek builder who is passionate about energy conservation. We have 6 cm insulation around the entire outside of the house, insulated floors and ceilings/roofs, double glazing with thermal break frames and sun energy glass. The house is positioned to make use of the cooling mountain breezes, so that although we have air conditioning, we, and our guests very rarely use it. We have a highly efficient condensing central heating boiler, use solar energy to warm the domestic hot water, and use LED and low energy CFL bulbs throughout the building.

Our location is truly unique and spectacular – there is unspoilt nature all around. Eagles and buzzards soar over the gorges on two sides of the property, and guests can watch them floating overhead with our binoculars. There is abundant bird and insect life, and we have books and reference materials for our guests to use. Particularly in the spring there is a riot of colours, and lush greens on the hillsides, with the majesty of the White Mountains always towering in the background.

We use the municipality provided recycling system for paper, plastics and metal, and take glass to a local glass maker in Kokkino Horio. Our used clothes and linen goes to a local charity. Our organic scraps and food waste is composted in a series of bins, or used as mulch in the garden. We like to reuse plastic bottles, earthenware yoghurt pots, and glass bottles to make paths, walls and features in the garden.

We have a lush Mediterranean garden with a wide variety of native plants for our guests to stroll and relax in. We like to nourish local growing plants, interspersed with planted Mediterranean species to provide colour and interest. These are watered by a precisely controlled multipart drip watering systems, to minimize water consumption. Even the swimming pool backwash water is used to water local plants.

Community

The area has some wonderful local tavernas, restaurants and kafenia, along with some very tourist oriented offerings. We have searched out those authentic establishments offering particularly good food and drink, often home grown vegetables and fruit, wines from their own vineyards, and raki from their own distillery.

There is a charismatic local butchery in Armenoi where we buy cooked meat and cheeses; we buy our sheepsmilk yoghurt from a dairy in Fres, a nearby mountain village, and eggs from a smallholding in another village in the valley. Fish comes from a fishmonger in Souda, on the coast, and we mainly buy delicious sustainably sea farmed dorade and sea bream from a Greek fish farm in Sitia, on the eastern side of the island.

We support local businesses – indeed we have ploughed over 500,000 euros into the local community, employing local craftsmen and builders in constructing our house. Using our background in business and our expertise in marketing we advise local small businesses and help them develop their thinking and markets – recently with a taverna in the Askifou, and with the carpenter who worked on our house.

Our guests enjoy visiting the local artisans we have found – the ingenuity of a potter in the local small business park; the family silk business (with silk grown and produced in mainland Greece). The father started it, the son runs the farm and factory, whilst the daughter adds a creative flair to produce – including jewelry made from the silk worm cocoons, modern and traditional lacework, and modern scarves and wraps. There is a hatmaker, wood carver, traditional knife maker, and maker of fine jewelry – all local authentic, with real quality and style, hidden amongst rows of shops selling cheap imports from China, India and the SE Asia and fake “Cretan” artefacts. We help you to find the authentic places.

There are local wine makers producing high quality wines, with a real feel for the environment – organic, respecting soil and location, whilst using modern methods of vinification and control – we know two great establishments where we take our guests. Our olive oil comes from local olive producers, harvested in the traditional way, but extracted in the most modern and hygienic quality controlled olive mill – based in Tsivaras

Reviews of Rural Crete holiday villa, Greece

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 14 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


It's a challenge to choose one most-memorable memory, since there was something particularly wonderful every day we spent at Panokosmos. The pinnacle, though, must have been the romantic five-course meal that John and Yasmin prepared for us on our last evening at Panokosmos. The evening began with relaxing cocktails in the pool, followed by fresh mezzes on a patio with a view of the property and the White Mountains. For salad, entrees, and dessert (and a surprise!), we moved down to the pool deck lit by lanterns, and enjoyed a five-star meal.

John and Yasmin progressively outdid themselves, from the culinary quality of the meal to the masterful service they provided, both that evening and every single day at breakfast. The dining experience here was top notch; at meals, they enabled us to relax and to absorb Panokosmos, popping in only to quietly serve the next course at a careful, measured pace. They were genuinely interested in understanding our food preferences in order to customize our meals while still integrating local elements and practices; as someone with a distaste for most dairy, I was skeptical that they'd be able or willing to find workarounds for me while enabling my partner to indulge in the freshest cheeses and yogurts--and I was blown away with how thoughtfully they accommodated us both. You haven't lived until you've had the Flawiths' fresh-baked sunflower, almond, apricot, and sesame rolls with homemade prickly pear jam for breakfast.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


We would recommend this holiday without hesitation to travelers who are looking to enjoy a balance of activity and quiet. Part of the magic of Panokosmos lies in its enforced solitude; the switchback roads to the site and the cliffs surrounding the town help maintain the illusion that it is particularly removed from the world, and my partner and I couldn't get enough. Of our eight days in Xiliomoudou, we spend four complete days at Panokosmos, taking in the views, enjoying the mountain breeze, and reveling in the distance from the world this remote bed and breakfast offered.

The other four days we spent off site, exploring Crete. Aided by recommendations and maps from John and Yasmin (and a GPS!), we traveled back off the mountain in our rental car, winding along the narrow local roads onto the Ethniki. We got our fill of doing and going: together we walked the Imros gorge, ventured into Xania and Rethymno (twice!), and walked through the palace at Knossos and saw its artifacts at the Heraklion museum. We spent hours strolling through the grounds of the Arkadi monastery and the Venetian fortress atop Rethymno, and sat reading on the beach or staring at the Mediterranean for hours.

In order to facilitate a balance of staying and going, John and Yasmin are as present or absent as their guests prefer. We had the opportunity to sit and chat with them on a few occasions, but they respected our space and privacy and didn't insert themselves into our conversations or activities around the house. When we needed recommendations, they were more than willing to suggest a particular parking garage or restaurant in Xania or prepare a picnic breakfast the morning we left at 7am for Knossos. They have resources like maps and pamphlets, but also years of learning from guests with different preferences. We felt by the end that they knew us and could calibrate their suggestions to how we like to travel. When we were still planning our trip, John provided a sample itinerary of activities that guests like to do in a week; his suggestions for how to rent a car, what food and gas costs to anticipate, and how much one could fit in a single day gave us a clear picture of what we might expect from our stay on Crete. We followed most of his suggestions, and found them to be spot on.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It was important to us that our host operate sustainably and intentionally. John and Yasmin are particularly careful to mind their environmental impact, and encourage their guests to do the same (instructing us in the use of the clever folding and screen doors bring a cooling breeze into the rooftop apartment while emphasizing that we take care not to run the air conditioning simultaneously). The ingredients for the meals they prepared were either picked moments before from their own garden or fetched from a nearby grocer, and were carefully apportioned to our tastes so that no food would be wasted; we equally appreciated the freshness of the food and their conscientiousness about Panokosmos maintaining a small footprint.

On evenings we were at Panokosmos without a dinner plan, Yasmin recommended some of the local tavernas within 5 minutes driving or walking from the house, and later helped us reflect on the customs that we'd seen at dinner and weren't sure how to navigate (e.g., surprise complementary raki after dinner! rude or expected to leave some of the liqueur behind?).

Our stay happened to coincide with an annual local jazz festival. The evening brought together jazz fans from around the White Mountain foothills, and assembled a trio of talent musicians known on national and international stages. John and Yasmin prepared a picnic meal for us and escorted us through the hills to the site of the festival, and gave us plenty of room to enjoy the music and atmosphere in private.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


We found Panokosmos through Responsible Travel, and ongoing communication directly with John and Yasmin in the months, weeks, and days before our arrival left us feeling certain this was how we wanted to spend our honeymoon. Together they have curated such a wonderful experience for guests, and it is clear from the placement of items in the rooftop apartment to the positioning of the parasols adjacent to garden breakfast spots that they desire to facilitate the perfect holiday for their guests.

Everything at Panokosmos is essential and nothing is excessive. The house was built to give its residents unfettered views of the White Mountains, which we found both jaw-dropping and forbidding at first glance. However, the Panokosmos experience seems designed to peel back the layers of convenience that build up in everyday life--to force a shift from breakfast on the go to a 90-minute sit-down, to reinforce how short the phrase "stunning views" falls once you've watched the sun come up and go down on the mountain range, and to embrace the meandering roads that take you past belled goats and orange groves rather than rushing from one activity to the next. Upon returning from adventures on the island throughout the week, we felt like we were returning to a temporary home graciously lent to us by both the Flawiths and Crete itself.

Having never stayed at a proper bed and breakfast, we were unsure what to expect of our interactions with our hosts. John and Yasmin communicated easily and freely about house practices and policies that would help us coexist with them and fellow guests (what is shared space, what is our space, what is their space, etc.), and we enjoyed getting to know them better. They move throughout the property with the deliberateness of folks who genuinely love the space they have created and have a clear desire to invest in it and share it with others. One of our favorite interactions was when they took us on a garden tour, and we got to see how thoughtfully they have constructed each nook and cranny with an eye for how a third party might inhabit the space for a minute or an hour. John has a clear desire to architect a moment, and Yasmin a welcome, unhurried way of finding and savoring a single word to describe it. One cannot hope for better hosts than these, or a better honeymoon than ours at Panokosmos.

Read the operator's response here:

We are so glad that you had a great time with us. We take a lot of time and effort to understand our guests in order to tailor what we provide to give them a perfect holiday. It is such a joy to have guests who so fully appreciate it. Our villa is such a big part of our lives, and we have given much of ourselves to making it special, so its wonderful to have guests who notice and respond to this. We were honoured that you chose to stay with us for such an important celebration in your lives together.

Reviewed on 20 Sep 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The incredible views; the comfortable and beautifully designed house and garden; the excellent pool; the attention to detail, the careful and helpful planning, the warm welcome and great food and wine. Books and maps, and wifi also v good. Sea, mountains, ruins to explore.
John and Yasmin are really interested in their guests and try to tailor things according to their tastes and needs. They have and do work so hard to make this special for everyone.
Lovely part of the world, relaxing, hospitable with a great range of things to do besides lounging about happily at Panakosmos!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It's high end cost-wise but worth it if you want to treat yourselves.
Everything you need is there - no need to pack a huge trunk. House shoes are required but can be supplied.
Finding the house is a bit of a challenge at first, especially in the dark.
Winding, narrow, mountain roads; very quiet position. . Getting to know the back roads and understanding the road signs is interesting, but you soon get the hang of them - we loved that.
Be prepared for generous, leisurely breakfasts!
Self catering on top floor is very well equipped but hobs not quite large enough for serious cooking (no oven). Not suitable for people who struggle with stairs.
Perfect place for a proper spell of relaxation and reflection.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


In terms of our hosts using local ingredients, local suppliers, and building up their knowledge of local wines - yes.
Not sure about environmental impact but they do respect the environment.
Conservation - in terms of refurbishing a building and bringing tourists into the area (which boosts the economy) , you could say yes.


4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent! Did the trick... just what we needed. Thanks John and Yasmin.

Read the operator's response here:

We’re so pleased that you had such a great time and got so much out of all the efforts that we have put into making Panokosmos special. Having an ex chef and restauranteur to stay was a daunting challenge for us, so we are glad that you enjoyed so much our food and choice of local Cretan wines. Most of our guests use the apartment kitchen just for simple food preparation and we are not surprised it didn’t measure up to a chef’s requirements! We are happy and love to provide a range of food and drink, mezzes, cocktails, through to full 3 or 5 course dinners.
As you say, we respect the environment eg by the use of modern insulating materials; positioning the house to benefit from the cooling effect of the mountain breezes so that the a/c s are rarely necessary; and use lo energy and LED lighting.
We hope to see you again soon!

Reviewed on 16 Jun 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The apartment, with its large open verandah and its various balconies, is an
eagle's nest, high up in the foothills of the White Mountains in Western Crete
and has spectacular all-round views of the surrounding countryside. It is well
situated for walking to nearby villages, churches and other points of interest,
or for driving further afield to the north and south coasts.Alternatively you can
stay in situ and relax by the large shared swimming pool.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The owners, John and Yasmin,live separately on site and are charming and
generous hosts, providing bed and breakfast accommodation plus pretty much
anything else you might require from mezzes to a full blown evening meal if you
want to stay in. They also have great local knowledge and are useful sounding
boards for any excursions you may be planning or places you want to visit.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Referrals to local restaurants and shops in nearby villages were very much
appreciated on all sides.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very enjoyable and refreshing introduction to the beauty and charms of inland
Crete.

Read the operator's response here:

Its great that we could use our knowledge of the area and the best local tavernas to help you, and to give you advice about what to do and see around us. We enjoy enabling our guests to discover the hidden beauties and features of this land and its people, and are always on the look out to discover new authentic and different places and to support innovative and responsible local owners. We do encourage guests to make full use of our pool and gardens and you certainly made good use of the pool for your early morning swim before breakfast! Its great to hear what a good time you had staying with us.

Reviewed on 14 Jun 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The drive to Panokosmos, once we had left the main autoroute was exciting. The road wound up into the hills and the last 200 yards the road was narrow and hair- raising but what a fantastic place to reach - brilliant hill top home with the most fantastic views. Looking out over the mountains and valleys each morning never ceased to impress us. Panokosmos is a place to escape to - to relax in and just 'unhook' yourself from the daily madness that could well be your daily existence. Yasmin and John will provide the space to rediscover what life could be.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Worth while doing a little research if you want to go walking or sight seeing before you arrive - John and Yasmin have plenty of advice and suggestions if you need an extra bit of help. What we two found extremely helpful was John and Yasmin helping us with the Car Hire Booking - they know a local firm that was excellent, the car was waiting for us as soon as we stepped outside the airport building.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


All the food we were given at breakfast and dinner was locally sourced where possible - we were treated to home made bread each morning as well. The delicious range of local honey was most impressive. There was plenty of choices of local foods to serve vegetarians and meat eaters. Yasmin and John were able to direct us to the delicatessens that produced the hand made cheeses and home cured meats etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


For the two of us it was a great holiday, we needed a break from the everyday, endless rush and this was the perfect place to find it. We hope to go back as soon as the next opportunity presents itself.

Read the operator's response here:

It was great to have you here – it really was a joy to look after you and just what we imagined when we started our bed and breakfast last year. So glad to see you wandering around the gardens, looking out into the gorge at nature awakening in the morning, before coming to breakfast. Thanks for the great photos of your mountain walks – you did so much in your time on the island!

Its wonderful to see guests finding just what we’d hope to create – a place to step back, relax and rediscover. We do hope to see you back again at Panokosmos soon.
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