It could be said that they are also bound together by their cuisine, or at least by the olive groves that weave across the landscape and have helped make the island famous.
Tourism, of course, is also big business, and more so since the Greek economic crisis, which has focused minds on making the best of the country’s natural assets.
The Daios family, who run a large plastics business on the mainland, decided a few years ago to diversify into the leisure sector and built a five-star holiday resort in a sheltered but deserted bay in the north-east of Crete.
The idea behind the Daios Cove resort was to provide everything that any guest could possibly want or need by blending ultra-modern facilities with the traditions and relaxing environment that Crete can offer. Want to play tennis? There is a coach who will give lessons. A massage or facial? Get along to the luxurious spa. How about hiring a catamaran or a speed boat? No problem. Or maybe cooking is your thing. There are lessons in that too.
There are no direct flights from Scotland, but after an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn, Gatwick, an early flight arrived at the island’s capital, Heraklion, just after midday. The resort is an hour’s taxi drive away, providing plenty of time to enjoy the private beach or a dip in the first floor pool on arrival.
Daios Cove clings to one side of the bay and is built in the style of a hillside Cretan village with 820 villas and apartments lining eight streets. Each apartment has its own mini-pool and view out to the Mediterranean. The rooms are of a quality you would expect of a five-star facility, in fact at 42 square metres they are at least half as big again as most provided in similar establishments. Each also has a private 10 square metre pool. One small gripe was that in a five-star resort some items ought to have been provided as standard, such as an iron and ironing board, which had to be requested.
The centrepiece of the complex is an expansive and airy main building which includes three restaurants on separate floors, each offering a variety of styles and cuisines. There is a large spa complex, bars and relaxing lounges and the resort’s signature Crystal Box bar serves cocktails along with night-time entertainment until the early hours.
As the resort is spread over a steep hillside, staff-driven buggies are available all day to ferry guests around. There are also two funicular rail lifts, although they were a little slow and the wait could at times be frustrating. By and large it is easy and quick enough to get around on foot if you can, and this is part of the enjoyment of being there.
The beach bar serves food and drinks and there are towels and loungers available for every guest. Water and jet skis are available for hire, as are sailing boats and canoes. Those looking for some extra fun can be taken out for a dash around the bay on “inflatable toys”, which means being dragged by a speed boat which throws the occupants of the trailing sofa or banana inflatable in the air until they usually end up in the sea.
The various sailing vessels can be hired with a couple of days’ notice and I joined a group on an hour-long piloted catamaran trip to Spinalonga island where visitors can tour the former fortress and derelict village, which was once a leper colony and is now in the process of renovation. Tourist boats travel to the island on a daily basis from nearby towns.
Spinalonga has featured in several British television series and was the setting for the 2005 novel The Island by Victoria Hislop.
While many guests at Daios Cove prefer to remain on site, there are plenty of other nearby attractions for those wanting to venture out. These include the village of Kritsa, one of the oldest and most picturesque in Crete. It was built on a rock hill, and if you can excuse the unmistakable and somewhat overwhelming commercialism, it provides a pleasant walk through its main street where there are café bars and craft shops aplenty and ancient buildings to visit. Picking out genuine local products from the imitation and imported trinkets is part of the enjoyment of browsing around the shops, which sell attractively packaged food, drink and jewellery among the tourist-targeted souvenirs.
A short taxi drive away is the lively town of Agios Nikolaos. I joined a group of visitors at a newly opened bar on the quayside which has already proved to be a popular night spot. In the 1960s the town was a frequently used location for film directors, including Walt Disney, and it was the setting for Daphne du Maurier’s short story Not After Midnight. There are numerous beaches and fairs to visit.
Back at Daios, those wanting the ultimate in relaxation or bodily rejuvenation need to visit the resort’s spa which has a fully-equipped gym, two pools, saunas and salons for hairdressing and nails. I opted for a 55-minute massage, although the choice also included aromatherapy and hydrotherapy, pilates and yoga.
The Daios family have long-term plans to expand the resort, even to build another at some point, although the other side of the cove is protected because it contains Roman ruins.
Other than the absence of an iron and the slightly confusing layout of the main building, there were few negatives. It did rain just before I arrived, but the sun shone throughout my four-day stay, which is how the weather usually is. What more could you want? n
Sovereign Luxury Travel (0843 770 4526, www.sovereign.com), is offering a week at the five-star Daios Cove Luxury Resort and Villas with prices from £1,035 per person. This includes a complimentary upgrade to half board (breakfast and dinner), return flights from London Gatwick with Thomson, UK airport lounge access, private return resort transfers and seven nights in a Deluxe Sea View Room. Based on departures 15 October, 2014.
For a family of three it costs from £2,419. This includes a complimentary upgrade to half board (breakfast and dinner), return flights from London Gatwick with Thomson, UK airport lounge access, private return resort transfers and seven nights in a Deluxe Sea View Room. Based on departures 15 October, 2014.
A 55-minute massage, £82. Full day (eight hours) catamaran hire, £830. Inflatable water toy trip, £23.