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Looking for end-of-season sun? Crete's luxurious resort is a must-try

From private pools to sea views, see HELLO!'s review

After months (well, basically years at this point!) of dreaming about holidays while being stuck at home, you may think that your ideal break is some far-flung destination with scorching temperatures in July or August. But why cram all of your trips into one or two months?

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Well, I'm here to tell you that Crete is THE place to go for some last-minute, end-of-season sun. Travelling to the luxurious CAYO Exclusive Resort & Spa on the Greek island in October means there were no crowds and no sticky heat – in fact, even though there were brief thunderstorms during my four-day trip (I'm talking a couple of hours overnight), we were reassured that it was the only rain they had seen in months.

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74 rooms, villas, and suites are built on the steep hillside

How do they know that for sure? Because the home-grown fruit and vegetables that are used in the resort's four restaurants rely on the rain.

If you're in search of the ultimate relaxation, then here's everything you need to know about the stunning resort in Crete…

The location

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The pebble beach is a short walk away

Overlooking Plaka, a small fishing village on the east coast of Crete, CAYO consists of 74 luxurious rooms, villas, and suites built on the steep hillside – with each level accessed via a glass funicular. And did we mention that most rooms have access to their own private pool, as well as the two communal infinity pools?

Just a short walk from the pebble beach, the east-facing location offers guests in all rooms sea views with incredible sunrises for those early birds looking for the perfect photo opportunity. And another perk of travelling in the late season? The sunrise is at a much more reasonable time, so you can easily open the curtains and enjoy the picture-perfect moment from bed.

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Guests can enjoy stunning sunrises from the east-facing location

The resort looks directly onto the nearby islet of Spinalonga, an abandoned island that can be accessed via a boat from the nearby town. Also known as Leper Island, it is a former leper colony and the subject of Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island.

Is CAYO suitable for kids?

In short, yes. Unlike many lavish hotels, CAYO isn't an adults-only resort, and while you won't find waterparks and climbing frames nearby, the staff have plenty of ways to keep families of all ages entertained.

I was lucky enough to stay in a Family Duplex which is set across two levels and sleeps up to four people. Upstairs, there is a double bed, balcony and en suite bathroom, while a set of steps lead down to another sofa bed with a pool window and separate bathroom and dressing room.

Those who are after more space can opt for one of the three-level villas, complete with a home cinema and gym in the basement level – which is perfect for older children who want a separate area from their parents, and young children who can have the room turned into a baby-proofed play area.

The eco-friendly design

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Most rooms have private pools

The resort is not just a beautiful place to take hundreds of pictures – none of which truly do it justice – but it is also very carefully designed to be eco-friendly and sustainable. In order to save electrical energy, CAYO uses heat produced by the air conditioning units to warm the rooms and water.

As you enter the resort, the doorway is framed by pillars made up of broken pottery, while the rest of the interior, courtesy of Milanese designer Gian Paolo Venier, was built using materials from around the world, including green marble from Brazil and volcano stones from Sumatra.

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The spa

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The indoor pool at Armonia Spa

With spa in the name, you know you're in for a treat. I certainly was when I indulged in a massage at Cayo’s Armonia Spa, which is made with materials imported from Indonesia. Unfortunately, some facilities were closed following the COVID-19 pandemic, but future guests can look forward to experiencing the heated indoor pool, steam room and sauna.

The food

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The resort features four restaurants

There is a total of four restaurants at the resort, so you certainly won't be short of choice when it comes to food. In fact, the buffet options at Ambrosia restaurant offer so much variety that I never had the same dish twice.

All menus have been curated by Lefteris Lazarou, the first Greek chef to have been awarded a Michelin Star. Stone Beach is a great spot for meze dishes at the beach (I highly recommend the Saganaki), while Mediterranean restaurant Sage & Thyme offers a variety of pool snacks. 

Perhaps the most impressive of the four, though, is Kelari which has a traditional Greek menu that includes red mullet tartar, seabream with beetroot fregola, and lemon cream and basil pudding.

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