In a blissfully peaceful spot in the hilly countryside of Crete, close to the famous Arkadiou Monastery, the tiny hamlet of Kapsaliana has been transformed into a stylish village retreat hotel. The hamlet’s raison d’être had been its olive press that belonged to the monastery, but after the press stopped operating in 1955, most people left. Lovingly restored by the new owner, architect Myron Toupogianis, it is now a hotel that combines history, nature, Cretan traditions, culture and hospitality in the best possible way. Spread over various old stone houses, separated by flag-stoned terraces and flights of steps, rooms and suites are beautiful, large and pleasantly uncluttered. They offer plenty of luxury – superb beds, comfy sofas, large showers, delicately embroidered robes, natural beauty products – but nothing is over the top. Fantastic meals prepared by a top chef are served in the charming restaurant of Kapsaliana Village Hotel and there are two sitting rooms where you can cuddle up by the open fire on chilly days; one is in the old olive press which doubles as a small museum. Outside, you’ll find large terraces, an inviting swimming pool and views stretching all the way to the sea.
1 single room
7 double rooms
9 double suites
A few rooms and suites can accommodate one or two extra persons (children), and there are also two double rooms that can interconnect to accommodate families.
En-suite bathroom (shower)
Television with CD/DVD player
Fireplace (not in all rooms)
Two sitting rooms with fireplace
Outdoor swimming pool
Small museum in the old olive press
Tibetan relaxation massage
Olive oil tasting
You’ll eat well at Kapsaliana Village Hotel. It has its own restaurant – a lovely space for winter dining plus a shaded terrace for summer meals – serving deliciously fresh and seasonal food. The menu features a combination of traditional Greek food and local Cretan specialties, slow cooked with some imaginative twists. Chef Βασίλης Λεωνίδου, who is also an olive oil specialist, works with mostly organically grown ingredients that are either freshly harvested from the gardens of Kapsaliana or locally sourced. You can order anything from crispy salads and delicious little pies (perfect for lunch) to wonderful cooked food and stews for dinner.
Breakfast is a typical Cretan spread of healthy and tasty options (most things healthy, all tasty) with fruit salad, bread, pies, orange juice and eggs (all very fresh), as well homemade marmalades, local honey, cold meats and cheeses.
There are not many eating-out alternatives in the direct surroundings of Kapsaliana, just a few local village tavernas, but if you want a change you can drive for an evening out to the old town of Rethymno, that has a great choice of restaurants. Ask Brigitte to give you some recommendations and make reservations.
Kapsaliana Village Hotel is a wonderful place for family holidays. It is of course not a resort hotel with plenty of entertainment for kids. But it is the kind of hotel where first of all you will be very comfortable as a family, and where your children can (re)discover some simple pleasures in life: playing in nature, going for walks, making friends with pets. And, in the summer, there is the great pleasure, always, of the swimming pool. The rooms and suites are spacious and several have one or two extra beds for children. There are also two double rooms that can interconnect to work as a family suite.
When you feel like a swim in the sea, drive up to the coast and find your favourite spot on the 13 km beach that stretches from Skaleta (about 15 minutes by car) all the way to Rethymno. Some parts are rather build-up and get busy, but if you like the comfort of sun beds and umbrellas or if you would like to do water sports this is where you could go. Otherwise, there are plenty quieter bits too. Head to the southern coast for some really stunning beaches. It’s a 1 – 1.5-hour drive to get to them, but you will be rewarded with some of the best beaches in Crete. Preveli Beach with its palm tree grove at the exit of the Kourtaliotikos Gorge (and the Great River) is famous, for good reasons, though when I went in the month of July I found it too crowded. Nevertheless, it is a must-see. Other ‘wow’ beaches include the Melissa Cape sand hills (also called Triopetra Beach) and Skanaria Beach.
The Old Town of Rethymno
Spend a day in this charming historical town. Stroll through charming pedestrian streets; shop for traditional products, spices, handmade jewellery, art and fashion at small shops and boutiques; have a drink by the sea in the old port, and see yachts go by, but pick a (much less touristy) restaurant in the backstreets for lunch or dinner. Visit the fortress and adjacent the Archaeological Museum (small but worth it), the Museum of Historical and Folk Art or the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Walking and hiking
Go for walks in the hills around Kapsaliana and enjoy the peaceful scenery. For longer hikes, catch up with the E4 walking trail which passes by the Arkadi Monastery. The two-hour trek through the Arkadi Gorge, starting just north of the monastery and ending close to the village of Pikris, is great. Starting north of the village of Patsos, some 20 km SE of Kapsaliana, the gorge of Agios Antonios is another wonderful (and easy) two-hour walk. You could also sign up for a one-day guided walk to the top of Mount Psiloritis (also called Ida); at 2456m it’s Crete’s highest peak. For a very different kind of walk, go river trekking and swimming in the Gorge of Kourtaliotis starting in the village Koxare (45 minutes by car). It’s a 3 km trek and the scenery is amazing.
Grab one of the hotel’s bikes and go cycling on the hilly country roads. If you are into a bit of a challenge, contact Olympic Bike for bike trekking (tours between 25 and 48 km) or more demanding mountain bike tours (between 50 and 155 km). Sounds like too hard work? Then sign up for a tour with eBikes Rethymno. Yes, the “e” stands for electric – makes the uphill a little less stressful!
The Arkadi Monastery
Visit the centuries-old monastery of Arkadi (4 km away), a historic landmark in the Cretan resistance against the Ottoman occupation. It’s famous for its rather gruesome history: in 1866 almost a thousand Cretans that had taken refuge at the monastery decided to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender and died in an explosion of gunpowder.
Pottery and ceramics
Visit and shop at the pottery and ceramics (work)shops of Margarites, a traditional village a beautiful half-hour drive from Kapsaliana. There are over twenty shops in the village, with different specialisations and styles. There are quite a few where you can see the artisans at work, and some organise lessons or workshops.
And back at Kapsaliana…
Visit the small museum and see how in the old days the olives were pressed. Attend an olive oil tasting session, explore the vegetable garden and see how traditional bread is made. Ask about cooking classes. There are also traditional soap making workshops that guide you through making soap using Cretan olive oil and local herbs. You can also enjoy yoga sessions or sign up for relaxing holistic therapies.
Kapsaliana Village Hotel is in a beautifully green and peaceful spot in the hilly countryside near Rethymno. If you are looking for quiet and like to go walking, you won’t even have to use your car. The monastery is about a 1,5 hour hike from the hotel. Otherwise, if you can tear yourself away from the pool and you are in for some more exploring, the beach is only 8 km from the hotel, the old town of Rethymno is a 20-minute drive, and the possibilities for longer excursions are endless.
Kapsaliana is about 15 km from Rethymno, which in turn is about halfway between Heraklion and Chania. You can fly or take a ferry to either of these two towns, and then it is no more than a one-and-a-half-hour drive to get to the hotel. It is about 30 minutes from Rethymno. The fastest way to get there is by leaving the main road (the coastal ‘highway’) at Sfakaki or Stavromenos, about 10 km east of Rethymno. From there you take the country roads via Asteri, Hamalevri and Amnatos. Near the village of Amnatos (1,2 km from Kapsaliana) you will see a sign for the hotel. I recommend you get hold of a detailed map beforehand, as there are quite a few turns to take. But don’t worry too much if you take a wrong turn somewhere (I did several times), you can also just follow signs for the Arkadi monastery, and head from Amnatos from there.
Kapseliana is a very pleasant and very pretty place and everybody was so nice and friendly.
Owner charming, gave me a present !
It was unbelievably hot when we went, near 40, and the air conditioning in the rooms is not really working all that well – it is the only negative
thing I can say. All the rest perfect.