The Blue Palace’s head of concierge takes us on a private tour of historic Crete
The Concierge Series: Tempus celebrates the luxury travel industry
In this exclusive online series, Tempus speaks to hospitality experts from around the world to find out their top tips – and unique advice – to get the most out of the destinations they know so well.
The Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa is a timeless luxury hotel on the Greek island of Crete, and prides itself in bringing a taste of authentic Cretan culture to its pampered guests. Head of concierge Kostas was born and raised on the island and has worked as a senior concierge at the hotel for seven years.
“My passion is travelling and exploring new places and their cultures,” he tells Tempus. “I live in the east part of Crete, which is unique in beauty and full of surprises, from ancient ruins to beautiful beaches and palm forests.” Here, Kostas takes us on a personal tour of his home…
Is there a destination in Crete that never loses its charm?
One of the views that should not be missed is the one above the village of Plaka, up in the mountain road that leads to the village, where you can see the entire area of the Mirabello Gulf and the historical island of Spinalonga. Spinalonga is a tiny island that hosts a wonderful amalgamation of Medieval Venetian and Turkish buildings and turn of the century Greek houses. It was nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site last year. Blue Palace has undisturbed views of the island, and has just started an experience where we whisk them aboard our traditional boat for an exclusive guided tour of the isle and historical re-enactment, curated by a team of archaeologists and culture experts of Discover Greek Culture.
Where would you recommend visiting to explore the local delicacies?
I’d suggest visiting Kroustas, a distinct and traditional Cretan village. It’s a fertile place, known for its traditional cuisine and festive ambiance. The locals are open-hearted people, ready to share the story of this place, about what happened to the village and the entire inland of the municipality.
Tell us about a place of natural beauty that the travel guides always miss…
There is a beautiful, traditional village called Monastiraki, located at the exit point of an impressive gorge and surrounded by wild Cretan nature. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy native family recipes at the small tavernas. Monastiraki is one of the most picturesque villages of the Lasithi Prefecture, with stone-built houses that blend seemingly with the natural landscape, offering amazing views to the Mirabello Gulf, the village of Pachia Ammos and Ierapetra’s Plain of Phaistos.
The Palace of Knossos archaeological site is also worth a visit, for everyone that wants to learn more about the island’s fascinating history. It is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centre - the heart of the Minoan civilization – and according to legend, the seat of King Minos. It is one of the most visited sites on Crete and Greece, a must-see place for every visitor. >>
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Could you tell us about a place in the destination that is special to you?
Kapsa monastery. The monastery looks as though it has been carved into the hill and is built like an eagle’s nest, high up on steep cliffs at the exit of the wild Pervolakia Gorge, with amazing views over the Southern Mediterranean Sea and Koufounissi Island opposite. The monastery remains inhabited to this day, so visitors have easy access to admire the beautiful cavernous church, with its wonderful mosaic-covered floor, featuring religious symbols. It has stunning views overlooking the Libyan Sea and Koufounissi Island, and the monastery still attracts many devotees, especially during the feast of John the Baptist on 29 August.
Where is the best place to shop and why?
The village of Plaka – just a five minute walk from the Blue Palace – is a perfect place to shop. Small souvenir shops, lovely bakeries, and a number of picturesque coffee shops and small tavernas for those who want to enjoy a seaside stroll.
What one event of the year would you recommend guests experience?
Holy Saturday is particularly eventful and festive around Agios Nikolaos lake and should not be missed. At midnight, the priest announces the Resurrection with the Greek words “Christos Anesti” and the sky fills with fireworks that reflect on the lake’s water. The lights, reflections and wild scenery of the lake are truly magnificent and one of the best things to do in Crete as a visitor. One tip - if you are in Agios Nikolaos on Holy Saturday celebrations, the upper side of the lake guarantees panoramic views.
What is your favourite experience at the hotel?
My favourite experience at Blue Palace is the Cretan Feast. Guests have the opportunity to discover a unique culinary and cultural ritual: large bonfires are lit at our private beach for the slow cooking of the famous “antikristo” lamb, and local producers join to showcase a wide variety of Cretan products, from honey, olive oil and herbs to clay pottery and Cretan artefacts. We prepare authentic local delicacies and stone oven baked bread on the spot, all under the distinct tunes of Cretan lyra.