Tui Blue Elounda Village Resort & Spa is properly positioned to discover Spinalonga, made well-known by The Island. We go to the previous leper colony off the coast of Crete
Between 1903 and 1957, Spinalonga was Europe’s final lively leper colony
There was as soon as an inscription on these bricks: abandon all hope,” the information is cheery, however her phrases are chilling. We’re standing on the entrance of a darkish winding tunnel on the island of Spinalonga. Lower than 80 years in the past youngsters and adults walked right here, understanding they might by no means return to the mainland.
The solar beats down, however I involuntarily shiver. The folks exiled right here have been marred by a illness. And with the Covid pandemic nonetheless recent in our reminiscences, this island is a stark reminder of how fortunate we’re to reside in trendy instances, when illness doesn’t imply a lifetime banished from family members.
Spinalonga is a rocky outcrop a stone’s throw from the fishing village of Plaka on Crete’s north-eastern coast. Between 1903 and 1957, the tiny island was Europe’s final lively leper colony. As soon as a treatment was found, Spinalonga lay forgotten – till 2005, when it captured the creativeness of writer Victoria Hislop, whose guide The Island propelled it to fame. Now, the island attracts 3,000 guests a day in summer season and is Crete’s second hottest vacationer website after Knossos, house of the minotaur.
It’s a nice shock once we emerge from the tunnel’s gloom to search out quaint cobbled streets and brightly colored shutters. Quite a few homes lie in ruins, however lots extra are being slowly restored as the realm capitalises on its tourism attraction, and the painted doorframes and stays of as soon as rigorously tended gardens trace to a life not of unhappiness, however of group. Right here, there have been retailers, companies, deaths, marriages.
A complete of 39 infants have been born on the island (though heartbreakingly, they have been taken away to the mainland on the age of six if the kid proved wholesome). Our information Maria factors to an olive tree standing proud and alone. She explains how one former inhabitant instructed her how he planted that tree. “It was arduous, however folks made their lives right here,” she smiles.
Legend has it this lake in Agios Nikolaos is bottomless
EXPLORING THE AREA
The island has taken on a brand new significance because the world recovers from the pandemic – a brutal reminder of how sickness, and worry, can rework communities. It’s my spouse and I’s first vacation overseas in two years, and like many Brits we opted to vacation in Greece, staying within the fairly Tui Blue Elounda Village Resort & Spa – one in every of Tui’s highest scoring accommodations for buyer satisfaction – set right into a cliffside overlooking the sapphire waters of Mirabello Bay.
Tui organises day journeys to Spinalonga, and it proves an interesting – if thought-provoking – day trip. From Spinalonga, we board a ship again to the small city of Elounda, zipping by way of turquoise waves arriving in time for lunch at a floating taverna.
We feast on hummus, pitta bread, rooster and salad earlier than heading to the bigger metropolis of Agios Nikolaos. Right here we discover retailers stuffed with wood crafts and olive oils and luxuriate in ice cream on the sting of the town’s (allegedly) bottomless lake. The day is a beautiful interruption to a vacation largely spent consuming, swimming and lazing on one of many many cozy solar loungers that dot the resort’s stone jetty.
Elounda Village is adults-only, which provides to its peaceable attraction and final 12 months Tui Blue launched a brand new wellness menu. It’s a programme that focuses not simply on health, however on experiences – from cookery courses to quizzes and even an escape room, all of that are inclusive.
Elounda Village is adults-only, with a deal with wellness experiences
“We needed a steadiness of leisure and folks capable of benefit from their time and house,” explains Louise Bates, managing director Tui Blue and Lodge Ideas. “It’s all about ‘actual wellness’ – letting friends design their excellent vacation based mostly on what makes them tick.”
What makes my spouse and I tick, it seems, is native spirit tasting, an entire lot of enjoyable, and a 30-minute Pilates class. The spirit tasting is extra entertaining for the faces we pull as we pattern milky white photographs of neat ouzo and raki, combined in with Fanta and lemonade, which barmaid Marina swears is scrumptious (we beg to vary).
The Pilates class is about in an open-air bamboo-covered construction amid an olive grove dotted with fuchsia oleanders and carob timber. Music birds and cicadas present the soundtrack to our light stretches.
FEAST FOR THE SOUL
Tui Blue’s wellness programme isn’t simply confined to actions, it additionally features a deal with tremendous eating. Elounda Village boasts two eateries – seafood restaurant Mirabello and Culinarium, which affords Mediterranean flavours – along with the resort’s essential buffet-style restaurant.
One evening we head to Culinarium for Greek Evening, full with requisite Raki shot upon entrance and a feast of native meals. Entertainers carry out Greek dances as we eat – earlier than we ultimately bow to stress and be a part of them, whooping and kicking our ft as we giggle at our poor makes an attempt to maintain up with the professionals.
On our final night we dine at Mirabello, with its panoramic views of the bay, sharing a paella full of recent fish. The moon rises slowly from the silhouetted mountains of the Cretan coast, casting a white shimmer throughout the water and we sigh contentedly. After two years of no journey, it’s good to be again on vacation once more.
E-book it: Tui affords seven nights’ half-board on the 5T Tui Blue Elounda Village from £914pp. Value is predicated on two adults sharing a double room with balcony, with flights from Gatwick on 22 September 2023 plus transfers. retailagents.tui.co.uk/retail/thirdparty/login
Sophie and spouse Georgie take pleasure in dinner at Mirabello
Tui Blue highlight
Smarter: The Tui Blue app lets shoppers curate their very own vacation programme, with an inclusive bookable wellness menu. It sends alerts to shoppers’ telephones forward of the wellness periods happening.
Higher: Tui Blue Elounda Village Resort and Spa is one in every of Tui’s highest scoring accommodations for buyer satisfaction. Whereas the outcomes of 2022 have but to be collated, in its final 12 months of “regular operation” in 2019, the resort acquired an general rating of 8.96/10. In the meantime employees service scored 9.3/10 and food and drinks was ranked 9/10 by Tui clients.
Fairer: In November Tui launched a brand new Inexperienced & Honest label, highlighting accommodations licensed as sustainable by an impartial organisation. When a buyer books a Inexperienced & Honest resort, Tui can even donate £1 per grownup and 50p per baby to the TuiCare Basis.