Crete is a place I have somehow always connected to my grandparents who’ve been swearing by it for 20 years. I pictured my grandma getting ultratanned on a rocky beach and ending each day eating souvlaki and drinking shots of ouzo. Lots and lots of ouzo. Needless to say I had been dying to see it for myself ever since.
Naturally I jumped at the chance when the Candia Park hotel invited my little Atlas and I to come stay with them for 4 nights. That 3 hour direct flight with Aegaen Airines “flew” by, especially since Atlas had himself a nice nap on my lap while I was able to catch up on my reading. It was the perfect start to something we don’t do much these days: a proper holiday.
The Candia Park is a long-standing favorite with families, most notably from Germany like Atlas and I, and I found myself reminded of traveling with my own parents back when I was a kid. We would always stay in 4-star hotels, eat hotel buffet for breakfast and dinner and enjoy the daily changing evening entertainment. Candia Park was exactly that.
It was fun to live the experience from the parental point of view; after all I used to love those vacations as a kid. Why? Everyone in those hotels came with their offspring so it was easy to meet others, form a little clique and have a ball. Candia Park was great for me in the sense that many families had small children like myself and they/we were always the first ones at breakfast. Turns out toddlers don’t care if you’re on vacation, they get up at 6.30am, no matter what!
One of many reasons this place is particularly popular for people with kids is the incredibly wonderful kids club here. I don’t use this description lightly, because I definitely have come across a few in my 30 months of parenting and this one really stands out. The staff are super friendly, there are great activities on offer, and there is an indoor facility as well as a large playground outside. Children can be left in the care of the supervisors from age 4, free of charge. Every day the kids club offers entertainment such mini dance parties, arts & crafts or watching a cartoon.
In the evenings the resort would usually feature some live music. One night it hosted a magician, the kind that pulls bunnies out of a hat! The kids loved it, of course.
Very family-friendly are the serviced apartments here, rather than just standard double rooms, as they come with a small living/dining room and kitchen as well as large terrace. This will especially appeal to families with babies as I remember how important it was for me when Atlas was tiny to be able to make him the type of food I wanted him to eat during those first months of eating solids.
My favorite part of Candia Park has to be the beach. When I first followed the signs, past the 2 large swimming pools and to the set of rocky stairs leading down the ocean, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this:
What beautiful scenery for a beach!? The green-blue water, the mountains, the soft sand – I was instantly sold. It took us about 10 seconds to find a bunch of sand toys other families had left behind, and so Atlas and I took to building an impressive sand castle before hitting the gentle waves. It was September already but the water was pleasant and the wind warm. I carried on to treat us to 2 ice-creams from the pool bar before heading back to our room, in time to watch the sunset from our terrace.
If you find yourself reading this post and thinking: this is just the thing for me and my family, keep reading.
We only had a few days here and with a small child I don’t like to put a whole lot into the day and spend as much time relaxing as possible. However, there are a few things, all of which the hotel will be more than happy to assist with, that are worth doing. I recommend adding a 3-4 hour activity to your day every day to feel like you’ve actually seen and done something fun and interesting without ever taking away from the fun (and still allowing your kiddo to nap at noon).
Here they come:
1. Take a stroll around Agios Nikolaos
The quaint little town is super laid back and seriously adorable. It’s somewhat touristy but not annoying that way. There is definitely authenticity to be found if you let yourself get lost in the little alleys.
There is also a nice little beach here so make sure you bring your bikini!
2. Visit Spinalonga
A short drive from our hotel was Plaka, a tiny village full of adorable seaside restaurants from which one can hop on a ferry over to Spinalonga, a former Lepra colony. The place is full of history and it might be worth joining a group accompanied by a guide or to simply listen in as the many guided tours here explain what happened here, back in the early 20th century and before. Originally Spinalonga was not an island, it was carved out of the mainland of Crete under Venetian rule in the 16th century for defense purposes.
It’s also a good place for selfies and views.
3. Have dinner at Minos Beach Art hotel
My favorite evening in Crete was spent here. It was the night of the blood moon and we had a perfect view of it over dinner. The food here is incredibly fresh and delicious and all the staff go out of their way to provide guests with a special experience. Unfortunately this is an adult only hotel, but if you don’t have kids traveling with you this is also a highly recommended place to stay. If you’re the type who requires sandy beaches this may not be your thing, but if you’re happy with a special little place by the ocean, you just may find your lucky spot right here….
To find out more about Candia Park Hotel, check out their website and facebook and don’t miss a read through the Discover Greece website for more info on the area and other wonderful destinations in Greece.