Island paradise in the sun

The stunning view from the terrace at the Aldemar Royal Mare.
The stunning view from the terrace at the Aldemar Royal Mare.

Beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and fantastic hospitality – the Greek islands have long since been a favourite destination for holidaymakers from the UK and beyond.

And after experiencing it all on my first visit to Crete, it’s not hard to see why.

My base for the trip was the stunning 5* Aldermar Royal Mare in Hersonissos, where I had my own suite, complete with sharing pool.

Beautifully furnished with separate living area and two bathrooms, my room was everything I could have wanted and more.

The hotel itself occupies a stunning location just above the town of Hersonissos, with its own private stretch of beach, and a la carte restaurants offering everything from Japanese food to seafood, all cooked to perfection.

And once a week, guests can gain a great insight into the work of the resident chefs by taking part in a cooking lesson with the hotel’s team.

Under the expert guidance of executive chef George Chatzopolous we made a delicious pasta dish, followed by a simple but tasty fish meal.

And the best part of the experience was of course, sampling them both afterwards.

After all that cooking and eating, there was only way to spend the afternoon and that was being pampered in the hotel’s Thalasso Spa. We experienced four treatments, including the seaweeed and cocoa beans body wrap and I can definitely say I was thoroughly relaxed afterwards!

There’s no chance of going hungry at the Royal Mare or of tiring of things to do, but it would also be a shame not to get out and explore Crete while you’re there.

We enjoyed a visit to the Tamiolakis winery where our very knowledgeable guide talked us through the processes of making all the different types of Cretian wine before of course, letting us sample some.

Having arrived in Greece as a definite non-wine drinker, I certainly changed my mind after a day at Tamiolakis.

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to Knossos Palace. Looking at the ruins, it’s easy to imagine how beautiful the palace once was, and what a vital role it once played in the lives of those living on Crete.

Again the visit was enhanced considerably by the incredible knowledge of our tour guide, who gave us a fascinating insight into the Minoan culture and a brief history of Crete.

We were also lucky enough to experience a visit to Heraklion and the small village of Archanes, where again the Greek hospitality proved overwhelming.

Reflecting on the trip during our final morning as we soaked up the last few rays of sun before returning to the UK, all of us felt a deep sense of sadness at leaving such a beautiful place behind.

And a slight concern that after a few days of overindulging on the incredible Mediterranean food and wine, I’d need a bit of extra room on the Jet2 flight back to the East Midlands!

Still I was comforted by the knowledge that if things didn’t go to plan, there were worse places to be left stranded than the stunning Aldemar Royal Mare.