Join contributor Baldwin Ho as he explores an art-filled Greek Island escape.
Beach holidays can be very undifferentiated. It could easily be filled with endless sun-bed reading and tick-box buffet food. Minos Beach Art Hotel in Crete offers a unique, inspiring experience on the other hand. Culture plays an important role in this 5-star resort.
The hotel opened in 1963 but you will struggle to find any remote hint of the 60s anywhere on its grounds. The hotel is constantly renovating and if anything, the resemblance is more towards Tate Modern galleries rather than a retro Greek resort. The hotel is a member of Design Hotels and you feel it's most deserving the moment you step into the lobby. There's Giorgos Gyparakis' 1-sec art installation by the reception wall with intricate waveforms highlighting the increasing digitalisation of society.
Monumental Greek artwork populates their sculpture garden all around the hotel. You can find details of each piece on the website of the G&A Mamidakis foundation or helpfully they run an art walk of the hotel grounds regularly. Some art pieces are quite conceptual, and some are haunting but all the pieces are deeply moving once you read the story behind the creation.
The hotel is slightly more convenient than its sister hotel, Minos Palace Hotel & Suites. You are only a short meander away from the seafood-focused restaurants of Agios Nikolaos and the famous bottomless lake in the local area. Other options like Palace of Knossos are slightly further afield and you'll need car hire.
The style of the hotel is very much boho chic. It's all sophisticated shades of grey with minimalist designs letting the art pieces stand out and shine. There are plenty of stone slabs, natural wood and earthy tones. You feel it blends in with the surroundings rather than being a holiday resort that has overtaken the neighbourhood. Case in point, are the numerous private stone jetties by the seaside. There are discreet sun-beds dotted about, but you'll never see an invasion of beach umbrellas here and you can discreetly go down some runged ladders and swim in the crystal-clear Cretan waters.
The bungalows are a real standout, built right on the edge of the waterfront. I was told thankfully they were built in the 1960s otherwise it would not have been allowed in the current climate. You can jump from the comfort of your bed to the Mediterranean sea in seconds. Or you can lounge by your private pool if you are hesitant about the odd sea urchin lurking about in the sea. The rooms are extremely spacious although I wasn't sold on the idea of having steps to navigate from the bedroom to the bathroom (which could be tricky in the middle of the night). The design follows from the rest of the hotel, so more earthy colours and wicker material. Sustainability is a vital consideration for the hotel. You’ll find they offer bio-aroma bath products, which are local to the town. They offer shampoo and shower gel in readily bio-degradable pouches hence helping to reduce plastic pollution.
Dining is a genuine treat at the hotel. The jewel in their crown is the fine dining restaurant, La Bouillabaisse. On the hillside and water's edge, this is one of the most romantic Mediterranean restaurants you will find in Crete. The degustation menu delivers on the wow factor with eclectic choices like langoustine with passionfruit and shiso leaves stuffed with rice and wagyu beef with morels, asparagus and black garlic. They can offer carefully selected Greek wines to pair with your dishes. Even breakfast is an absolute joy with classic dishes given the Greek accent like an omelette with sygklino pork and scrambled eggs with aubergine, tomato and feta. They also offer a wonderfully nourishing smoothie in the form of carob, tahini, honey and almond milk. All this can be enjoyed at their Bacchus restaurant which overlooks the immaculately manicured gardens of the hotel. They can also offer a floating breakfast at your private hotel pool.
The activities are countless at the hotel from tennis courts to a wellness centre. You can swim in their spacious freshwater swimming pool or go further afield with their diving and water sports centre. You can join special culinary events with guest chefs or you can take part in interactive cookery classes and learn all about Minoan cooking. It's widely regarded as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. They can offer blue bikes for you to discover the hidden gems of the local area. For anything you are interested in, their concierge team is more than happy to arrange it.
The best thing about staying at Minos Beach Art Hotel? It is still an independent, family-owned business so you are supporting the local community. And in turn, they are fervent supporters of the local art industry.
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