In the low light of the evening, warmly lit sconces lead down a pathway framed with pink bougainvillea and gnarled olive trees into a complex of stone dwellings that is the Kapsaliana Village Hotel. Once an 18th-century village tucked quietly in the hills above Rethymno, it was eventually abandoned and left to crumble. A few years ago, however, it was carefully renovated into a hotel with 17 guesthouses and seven suites with fireplaces and original Cretan details. The hotel is surrounded by the largest olive grove on the island, and in the middle of the property sits a magnificent turquoise pool that stretches toward the Aegean. Nearby, couples gather on the restaurant terrace over a glass of rosé or licorice-scented raki. Pitharia, or large clay storage vessels, are nearby, as well as other historic elements that are interspersed throughout the property. It's the best of two worlds: an ideal place to disconnect and travel back in time, but with plenty of modern comforts.
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The Kapsaliana is considerably remote, and that is how guests like it. The 14th-century monastery to which this onetime olive press belonged is just over two miles away. Beaches are a 10-minute drive. Rethymno, the closest town, is a small port with a 16th-century fort that gives a glimpse into the various civilizations that once flourished here on Crete.
Need to Know
Rooms: 17 guesthouses, 7 suites. From $152. Check-in: noon; check-out: flexible subject to availability. Dining options: The Kapsaliana offers a breakfast spread worthy of the Slow Food gods: a cornucopia of fresh fruits—figs, pomegranates, melons, peaches—to add to a generous bowl of tart sheep’s-milk yogurt, all organic and locally sourced. Fresh breads, Cretan cheeses, and a fragrant local honey give guests a good reason to linger for hours on the shaded restaurant patio. At night, an inviting indoor space, complete with fireplace, tapestries, and traditional wooden furniture, is the perfect retreat on a cool evening. The chef at the Kapsaliana prepares modern takes on traditional fare, such as a pork stew with oranges, nuts, and dried fruits, or chounkiar begenti, braised veal served over eggplant puree. All the dishes feature traditional Cretan elements, such as olives, lemons, artichokes, wild sage, oregano, thyme, and marjoram, and of course, the island’s own world-famous olive oil. Spa and gym details: No spa or gym.
Who it's for: Anyone looking for a good taste of history, a healthy helping of culture, and to connect with nature. Our favorite rooms: In winter, cozy up in one of the original village houses, such as Libra. In summer, Pegasus offers an oversize terrace with unparalleled views of the Aegean. Explore the area: Don’t miss a guided tour of the Arkadi Monastery. Guests are given a map to get there and can hike back through the small but beautiful canyon that connects to the hotel. The hotel is a bit tricky to find, so make sure you set out with patience and a well-charged cell phone.