Travel: Daios Cove, Crete

Daios Cove on Crete can accommodate up to 700 guests at a time and it takes 300 staff to keep it running smoothly.
Daios Cove on Crete can accommodate up to 700 guests at a time and it takes 300 staff to keep it running smoothly.
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The sun had just risen, but I was oblivious to its penetrating rays. Bunked down in a cave without creature comforts or tools of communication, sleep was all enveloping – until I was nudged awake by a goat.

Life was simple then. Young people did not jump on and off aeroplanes without a moment’s hesitation. We had lots of time but little in the way of hard cash and, in any case, air travel was quite expensive.

That sojourn in a Greek cave took place a few decades ago. Incredibly enough, back in the 1980s, I met people up in the mountains of Samos who had never left their Greek island. We sat with them and ate figs from roadside trees and enjoyed roasted goat and wine from their own vineyard. All the while we grew to understand why they had never felt the need to expand their horizons. It seems to me now that they were doubly blessed – they were living in paradise and they knew it.

Nowadays we are all short on time or at least we feel a need for constant activity. So we want to iron out inconvenience and indulge in an effortless break that makes the most of the limited freedom we have to go abroad and enjoy ourselves. A number of high-end resorts have etched their way on to the Greek landscape to cater to that yearning.

Daios Cove on Crete can accommodate up to 700 guests at a time and it takes 300 staff to keep it running smoothly. It feels more like a purpose-built village than a hotel complex. A collection of rooms and villas has been cut into the slopes of a hillside and these are nestled around a sheltered, sandy bay.

It is a holiday destination of choice for Moroccan princes and German footballers. They land on the helipad at the top of the hill and take possession of a luxury mansion in the resort. Often such guests will bring their own entourage with them, including a personal chef.

My daughter, Tasha, and I flew into Crete from Scotland. In the absence of an available helicopter, we were met at the airport by a limousine driver and whisked through the night. Given that we only had four days to spend there, it was just as well that we were not relegated to sharing a cave with a goat. We were allocated a very luxurious room which even had its own plunge pool. Morning revealed a stunning view of the cove and an aquamarine sea, bejewelled by autumn sunshine.

In the 1980s Greece was still emerging from a peasant culture. Donkeys played a key role in daily island life and bread was purchased from a specialist baker who charged by the kilo. Old women, head to toe in black, looked on with stoical bemusement at the influx of scantily clad, northern Europeans who came in search of a utopian existence characterised by constant sunshine and a seemingly endless supply of cheap alcohol.

Guests at the cove are quite decorously attired but we got the feeling that nobody would be too shocked by revealing clothing or even nude sunbathing. Yet, the young people who work there would make their sombrely clad forebears proud. They have kind, open faces and eyes that shine with Mediterranean welcome.

We quickly settled into an indulgent routine – sleeping late before rising to make the short walk to the main restaurant for a buffet breakfast. We were served coffee and helped ourselves to a smoothie of the day and muesli with fresh fruit before tucking into an omelette and some rather wonderful bread.

Greece is awash with significant, archaeological ruins and a short sojourn from touristic places will catapult you back in time to a simpler age. We were much too busy catching up on conversation and enjoying an occasional dip in the sea to concern ourselves too much with cultural pursuits. However, we each checked in for a massage at the onsite spa, impressed with the quality of treatments on offer.

A traditional Greek taverna provides one of the dining options at Daios Cove. We enjoyed a range of starters, including stuffed vine leaves and yogurt and aubergine dip and we loved the special rice that accompanied our main course; a bit like a risotto, it’s served at weddings. We were defeated by the gargantuan quantities of meat that arrived on a platter. The beef, chicken and lamb were tasty but could have satisfied the appetites of an active family of six.

But we are not complaining. For a short indulgent break without the challenge of straying livestock, Daios Cove fits the bill. ■

Nightly rates at Daios Cove which will reopen in April (daioscove.com or +44 20 3807 1418) start from around £204pp in a Deluxe Sea View Room on a half board basis.