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Crete's chic north-coast enclave is a pocket paradise. Home to some of the most upscale places to stay in Greece – with a healthy mix of affordable hotels thrown in, too – this sun-kissed stretch is the perfect postcard image of a Mediterranean holiday.
Lapped by the mirror-calm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mirabella, holidays in Elounda are less about throbbing nightlife and more about kicking back. Stay poolside with a cold drink in hand, meander down to a laid-back taverna for a lazy lunch or take a sunset boat trip before dinner – this is a place to wind down and forget the outside world.
Elounda is no sleepy backwater, though. After dark, its waterfront comes to life, with plenty of lively local bars and fish tavernas along its quayside and tucked away in the lanes of the old town. You'll find even more choice in Agios Nikolaos, a 20-minute taxi ride from Elounda, where's there's no shortage of spots to drink and dance to old favourites, latest hits and Greek traditional rhythms.
The toughest thing about an Elounda holiday is dragging yourself away from your pampered playground, but when you do, you'll find lots to amuse you, from quayside restaurants beside quaint fishing harbours to boat trips to historic island fortresses.
Outside the resort, day trips can take you high up into the mountains, to spooky caverns where bronze-age people worshipped ancient gods or deep into secret valleys hidden by treeless peaks.
Lovers of hidden histories and lost civilisations don't have go far to unpeel the multiple layers of Crete's deep past, either. There’s 4,000-year-old relics of one of Europe's oldest civilisations in ancient Knossos, formidable Venetian and Ottoman strongholds and the fabulous treasures of Heraklion's Archaeological Museum just a hop away from your base in Elounda.
For a bit of retail therapy, you'll find markets and shopping streets where you can browse for hand-made leather wear and accessories, artisan jewellery and ceramics, and herbs gathered from mountain meadows high above Elounda's sunny beaches.
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