We stayed 10 nights at Athena Elea Villa, which is located near Chania.
In keeping with the other villas that we have stayed at in Crete, a car is required when staying at Athena Elea because of its rural location.
Parking at this villa is amazing! The driveway can easily accommodate three cars. I appreciated the hassle-free parking.
Similar to Vera Natura Villas, there are no businesses within walking distance from the villa, however, there’s a local taverna (we didn’t dine here, but it does exist) and fast-ish food restaurant nearby. Attached to the fast-ish food restaurant is a coffee shop with a small grocery section in the back of the shop.
Further down the main road toward Chania is a mini Synka supermarket. It’s small but mighty, with a full butcher and cheesemonger in the back of the store.
The villa is brand new (2021), and the owner is still working out the kinks. Notably, the villa does not have a dishwasher or microwave. Still, the owner assured us that those items (among others) are coming once the villa has consistent bookings and a stable income.
It was built on the owner’s family’s land and is surrounded by olive groves. It only took three years to build!
Salame the cat
First, Athena Elea comes with a well-groomed and healthy stray cat. We named him Salame because he loves to eat salami. He hates veggies.
Salame came around every evening when we fired up the grill and visited us a couple of times during the day toward the end of our stay.
Salame is skittish but warms up quickly and likes to do figure 8’s between legs so be careful not to trip over him! He may have a tiny kitten meow but he’s stealthy.
In the back of the villa is a large garden with too many types of foodstuffs to count. The owner, Apostolos, took us on a tour of the garden when we arrived.
A few fruits and veggies that I can remember are tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant/aubergine, figs, oranges (two varieties), pears, cherries, lemons, mangoes, avocados, apples, and, of course, olives.
In the front of the villa is a herb garden with mint, spearmint, rosemary, and lavender. During our tour, I threw in my request for cilantro/coriander as a future herb garden endeavor (guacamole).
The gardens were planted for sole use by villa guests which is a really nice touch. Unfortunately, most of the foodstuffs were not in season during our visit so we weren’t able to take advantage of what the back garden had to offer, however, we took full advantage of the herb garden. We appreciated harvesting our own mint for poolside mojitos.
We stayed at this villa at the end of September/early October and the pool water was freezing! The pool is not heated, however, there is a plan to turn it into a heated pool in the future.
The pool area was the best of the three villas we have stayed at in Crete. This villa is on a larger lot than the other two villas and so it has an expansive pool area and enormous back (and front) yard.
Space is plentiful and since it was just the two of us, we strategically placed the sun loungers around the pool and migrated from lounger to lounger as the sun moved during the day.
Protip: The citrus trees by the pool are lemon trees, not lime trees.
When the sun dipped in front of the villa, we packed up our drinks and moved to the rocker chairs to the front porch for the sunset.
Protip: There is a button on the underside of the arms of these chairs and when pushed, the back of the chair reclines. They are super comfortable.
Bedrooms and bathrooms
The villa has three bedrooms, however, this is really a two-bedroom property because one of the bedrooms is in a loft above the kitchen/living room. Sadly, this is a major design flaw, a flaw that can be remedied.
The loft has half-walls and although we could not see into the loft from the ground floor, all of the noise that is happening in the villa can be heard in the loft and vice versa.
Additionally, the light that comes into the ground floor windows (sun and street lights/lamps) illuminates the loft.
The loft has a bed that is comparable to a US full bed or UK queen bed, a dresser, an area for luggage, and an ensuite (no door) with a toilet, sink, and shower.
The other two bedrooms are on the ground floor and have sliding doors that lead to the pool area.
The bedroom furthest from the kitchen/living room is the most desirable in the villa. It has a double bed (comparable to a US king bed or UK super king bed), a desk, and an ensuite with a toilet, sink, and shower.
Note: There are no bathtubs in this property.
The other ground floor bedroom has two single beds and a desk. This bedroom is not set up to convert the beds into one double bed, however, I suppose anything is possible.
There is a bathroom down the hall that has a toilet, sink, and shower that would be deemed to “belong to” the guests of the “two single beds” bedroom, however, this bathroom would probably also be used by the guests of the loft bedroom during waking hours.
All of the sliding doors (entryway, kitchen, ground floor bedrooms) have electric security roller shades. The shades offer protection and also block out the light.
In my opinion, this villa is best-suited for families versus couples or even a group of friends. The open loft bedroom presents a challenge with sleep/noise and the second ground floor bedroom presents a challenge because it doesn’t have an ensuite.
The kitchen was the best of the three villas we’ve stayed at in Crete, primarily because of the ample counter space. The kitchen island was a dream come true.
As mentioned previously, the kitchen is missing a dishwasher and microwave but those items will eventually be installed. More pots, pans, and knives would have been appreciated but I assume those will come with time as guests buy items to fill in the gaps like we have done with other villa stays.
There is an electric juicer which is a must-have kitchen gadget in Crete. Fresh squeezed orange juice using oranges grown on the island is one of the best things about Crete.
I’m half-joking when I say this but I would question any property in Crete that does not have an electric juicer.
The nearest beachside village to the villa is Platanias. It’s located west of Chania on the northern shore. It is very touristy there.
It took me a minute to realize that many tourists take a taxi from the airport to Platanias and spend their entire Cretean vacation in Platanias, never experiencing the charm and hospitality that tiny village tavernas have to offer.
The main coastal road runs through Platanias and has hotels, shops, and restaurants on both sides of the road.
Parking is only permitted on one side of the road and though I have not been able to verify what the sign below means, I gathered from our experience that it means that there is no parking on that side of the road during even-numbered months.
I took the photo below on September 29th and when we visited Platanias again on October 1st, parking was on the opposite side of the road. The opposite side of the road had a similar sign but with a Roman numeral of I.
Tucked behind the main road is an excellent butcher, Meating Group.
In addition to raw meats, they have an extensive selection of cured meats and cheeses along with a small produce section and an even smaller dry foods/pantry section. They carry international foodstuffs like specialty sauces that you may not be able to find in the larger supermarkets.
Lastly, we had several hours to waste on our departure day and we decided to spend some of that time driving the so-called scenic road that connects the mountain villages of Meskla, Zourva, and Theriso since they were located close to the villa.
The mountains in Crete are no joke. The highest elevation is 8,058 m / 2,456 ft which is higher than Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. In the winter, the peaks are blanketed in snow.
The road has A LOT of tight switchbacks. I would not drive this road when it is dark or when it is raining.
I lost count of the number of switchbacks but my guess is that there were ~20 switchbacks on the ascent. Also, I was driving and I got car sick. That’s right. My own driving made me car sick and that was a first for me.
The bulk of the switchbacks is in the section from Meskla to Zourva. They are non-stop and there is nowhere to pull over to stop and take a quick break, vomit, or whatever.
Once you begin the ascent, you cannot stop until you reach Zourva. And even in Zourva, there is limited parking as the village is built on the ridge.
The road from Zourva to Theriso is a gradual incline with slow gradual curves around the mountains. There are a few overlook spots in this section before the descent into Theriso.
The descent into Theriso has switchbacks but nowhere near as many as on the ascent and I was incredibly happy when we reached Theriso and saw civilization and a river because I knew there would be no more switchbacks.
We debated stopping in Theriso for a quick bite to eat but ultimately decided that we would eat lunch in Chania. In retrospect, we should have spent our final sunny afternoon dining alfresco in Theriso.
Would I recommend this so-called scenic drive? No. It’s not that scenic, it’s dangerous, and it may make you car sick.