Mourtzanakis Residence is a place for anyone who is looking for holidays in a tranquil and secluded spot, without however being too far away from everything (especially the sea); who doesn’t want to blow the budget, but appreciates space and comfort; and who likes the kind of hosts that will treat you like friends, while providing good service and respecting your privacy. Marcos and Smaro (short for Smaragda) are Greeks with an international background – he grew up in Beirut and she lived for many years in Paris – who finally returned to their native soil to run a small, eco-friendly hotel consisting of four individual guesthouses. Everything at Mourtzanakis Residence is designed with a view to ‘easy living’. The houses are of modern design, and furnished and decorated in a fresh and unpretentious style, with some traditional touches. The layout is open-space with the master bedroom in a loft, while children can sleep on built-in convertible sofas in the living room. If you feel lazy, you can just stay put by the (smallish) pool. Otherwise, stroll to the 16th century village of Achlada, drive to the sea (there are four beaches at about ten minutes by car) or ask Marcos help you organize excursions and activities including horse riding, scuba diving, mountain climbing and kayaking.
Marco and Smaro are wonderful hosts, and thanks to them there is a super friendly atmosphere and happy feeling all around. I also very much enjoyed the peaceful, beautiful surroundings. The views over olive groves, the mountains and the sea are mesmerizing; the sunsets are to die for.
The setting is quiet and feels far away from everything. If you come for pure walking holidays, you can do without a car, but if you want to go for swims in the sea and do some sightseeing, you definitely need one.
1 house for up to 3 persons with a living room with open kitchen (1 extra bed possible)
3 houses for up to 4 persons with a living room with open kitchen (2 extra beds possible)
Sitting/dining room with a fireplace
Computer & WiFi
Outdoor swimming pool
Small children’s pool
Massage (upon request)
Each house has a simple but properly equipped kitchen, so you can prepare your own meals. There is also a very simple taverna in Achlada and of course if you drive to the nearby coastal village of Agia Pelagia you will have a wider choice of restaurants.
Mourtzanakis Residence is definitely the kind of place that I recommend for family holidays. The atmosphere is relaxed and child-friendly, and the (open-plan) houses are well laid out for families with one or two children. You can prepare your kids’ favourite food in the kitchen of your house, or order home-cooked meals so you don’t have to do anything. If you travel with toddlers, keep in mind that there are stairs in the houses and that the two swimming pools (one for adults and a smaller one for children) are not fenced off, so some supervision is needed. The surroundings of Achlada are beautiful for walks, and family-friendly beaches are a short drive away.
There are several beaches at a short driving distance (Agia Pelagia, Ligaria and Fodele are the best known). Many are organised with sun beds and umbrellas. As they get crowded in the summer, early morning swims are best! There are some smaller beaches and coves too, with fewer people and without umbrellas. Marco can tell you which beaches are best. There’s a scuba diving centre at Agia Pelagia. You can also rent a little motorboat (no licence required) for the day – the best way to find a swimming spot to have to yourself. Alternatively, make it a daytrip to the southern coast (about 1.5 hour by car) to find some amazing beaches, such as the beach of Agiofarago, the Red Beach and Kommos Beach.
Walking and hiking
Walk straight out into the hilly olive groves and the mountains. Start maybe with a stroll to the village of Achlada, but go for something more challenging too. Ask Marco about trails leading to historical villages, chapels and monasteries.
Outdoor sports and action
Marco can help you get organised. There are possibilities for canyoning, mountain biking, sea kayaking, sailing, caving, horseback riding, rock climbing, rappel and river trekking.
Make it an archaeology day. Head to Knossos, a half hour drive that takes you to one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites, the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Start early so you are ahead of the crowds, and it’s not too hot yet. Then drive back to Heraklion for a visit to the archaeological museum.
Traditional Cretan cuisine
Get acquainted with traditional way of (healthy!) Cretan cooking; Smaro organizes demonstrations and seminars on request. Wine and olive oil tasting at a local farmers’ union can also be arranged.
You’re just a few km from two small beach resorts (Agia Pelagia and Lygaria), which have their share of bigger hotels, restaurants and bars (nothing outrageous though), but you might as well be an hour’s drive away. The Mourzanakis Residence is in a green and utterly quiet spot in the hills, just outside the nearly-abandoned Venetian village of Achlada, and there is absolutely nothing that will disturb the peace here. The only thing that you may be taken aback by is the line-up of windmills on the mountain behind the village, but you can’t actually see them from the property itself.
Mourtzanakis Residence is easy to reach from the port or airport of the town of Heraklion. You take the main road (‘highway’) in the direction of Rethymno, and after about 12 km, near the coastal resort of Agia Pelagia, you will see a sign for Achlada. The village is less than three km from the main road. Follow the road when you reach the village and you will see Mourtzanakis Residence after a few hundred meters on your right.
My husband and I stayed at Mourtzanakis Residence and we really loved it. The villas are spacious and airy, the view is stunning and the owners are the nicest people you can think of. We had a great time talking to them during our 4 days.