I’m clocking up the kilometres on a water rower overlooking a calm Cretan bay. It’s only 7am but the warm September sun is already glinting through the palm trees and the smells of breakfast are wafting up onto the gym deck from the restaurant next door.
Before my morning omlette though, a reviving dip in the sea to start the new day — or “noruz” as they call it here at Domes Noruz Chania (Noruz literally means “new day”), a sexy five-star, adults-only resort from award-winning Domes Resorts & Reserves, one of the fastest-growing luxury hospitality groups in Greece.
The group is known for its collection of sophisticated, award-winning hotels, and design and wellness and design are the real USPs here. The boutique resort is an architecture haven, with striking two-floor rooms that feel closer to private villas thanks to their with their own plunge pools, jacuzzis and hammocks overlooking the turquoise Aegean waters. Wellness offerings include fitness packages, juice bars, beachside yoga, alfresco PT sessions and a subterranean spa using local herbs.
From the Cretan-inspired spa to sunset dinners accompanied by a live violin, here’s what to expect.
Where is it?
On a quiet lane off the main road between Chania and Kissamos, in the middle of a small, calm (non-private) bay. The main road isn’t exactly worth writing home about but is useful for essentials, with some basic restaurants and supermarkets within a five-minute walk of the hotel. Zygos Grill might look unassuming from the outside but its charming Greek owner serves up traditional pork and chicken gyros for less than 4 euros (yes, they’re full size and delicious) — grab one and take it up to the Orthodox Church of St Apostoliat overlookig the bay and watch the sun going down behind the mountains.
Crete’s Chania airport is just a 30-minute drive away and the centre of Chania town is just 15-minutes (take the number 21 bus or ask the hotel for a taxi). Pop in for dinner one night and wander the buzzy old town and Venetian marina with an ice cream.
Walk into the main lobby and you could be mistaken for thinking you’d walked into a spa: calm staff in angel-like white outfits, arched ceilings inspired by the island’s Byzantine churches, a sage and lemon “wellness drink” presented to guests on arrival.
The hotel is all focused around its architecture and there’s a grown-up, sophisticated feel. You won’t get loud partygoers or children bombing into the pool; instead you’ll get a zen, adults-only experience with a wellness and design focus. There’s striking architecture throughout, with bold, domed stone buildings and fun arty features including swing seats in the restaurant, hammocks on some private terraces and sleek call-buttons next to sunloungers.
The main pool is made of Mylopetra, a porous element found only on Crete, which feels like sand against your feet and apparently “transmits the island energy as it shifts its color throughout the day, reflecting the playful sky”.
Other local touches include charming splashes of Greek whites and blues around the hotel and and matis (Greek evil eyes) as a leaving gift, symbolising good luck.
All 83 rooms are sleek, modern and beachside chic, with domed ceilings, blue, white and wooden furnishings, and funky details such as sinks sunk into a bar table in the middle of the bedroom.
There’s a minibar in each, plus a Nespresso machine and plenty of mirrors, but the main USP your own private terrace. Each room comes with sliding doors out onto an outdoor lounge area, with either a plunge pool, outdoor jacuzzi or outdoor bathtub. You can adjust the wooden screens at the far end depending on how much privacy you want (many look straight out over the main pool so be careful of stripping).
Rooms come in six categories (some rooms, some suites) and are grouped around the two main pools, and those with balconies overlook the sea or a pool so you’ll always have a view of the water. Choose a Sublime Loft room for maximum privacy: it’s spread out across two floors, with a large balcony, a hammock overlooking the sea, and sky-spying windows above the bed for watching the sunset.
Food & drink
Octopus macaroni, lamb souvlaki with hmummus and roasted eggplant, lobster with traditional “peponaki” pasta. These are just some of the highlights on the a la carte evening menu at Domes’ main restaurant Topos, which serves award-winning neo-Greek seafood from executive chef Dionysios Pliatsikas. The wine list features 160 labels and dinner is accompanied by a live violinist on Friday nights. Choose a swing seat with a sea view and make sure you’re there for sunset.
Next to the pool you’ll find the Raw Bar, which serves burgers and wraps during the day and sushi and cocktails accompanied by a DJ after dark. There’s also N Bar in the lobby, which serves bespoke “for-you” sundowners.
Breakfast is a buffet affair, with all the usual staples from fresh fruit to Greek yoghurts and cheese and meat platters. There’s a honeycomb wall if you fancy some fresh honey, a design-your-own omelette station, and an array of breakfast desserts from red velvet cakes to baklavas. Newspapers are available while you eat, or there’s sparkling wine on offer if you fancy a boozier breakfast vibe.
Each sunlounger has a QR code next to it if you want to order any food or drink between meals. If you’re really lucky, staff will deliver fresh watermelon to your sunlounger during the day.
Domes’ main highlight is its trio of pools: two outdoors (one in a ‘quiet zone’, the other with a swim-up bar and chilled DJ sets in the evening), plus one in the spa. You’ll be spoilt for choice of lounge areas, with sunloungers around the pools and on the beach, bean bags on the lawn behind the beach if you don’t want to get sandy, and day beds on your own private terrace, too. Fresh towels are provided at various points around the hotel.
Many guests come for the Soma Spa and like in many leading hotels, it’s all underground, with a jacuzzi next to the pool and a body scrub area to use after. There’s also a spread of wellness drinks and snacks to nibble on while you’re down there.
The spa menu includes facials and body treatments starring Elemis products plus local Cretan herbs from the island. Highlights include a relaxing 60-minute massage using CBD, a contouring and drainage massage for eliminating cellulite, a men’s anti-ageing facial, and a custom-designed Haute Couture facial for the face, neck and décolleté. A Theragun can be added into massage treatments for an aditional 10 euros.
There’s also an indoor fitness room, morning and afternoon yoga sessions, and an alfresco gym looking out over the bay, complete with a treadmill, exercise bike, weights and a water rower. The Aegean Sea is just 10 steps from the main restaurant (the hotel sits in the middle of a bay so the water is calm, especially in the mornings).
Choose a package if you’re planning to make the resort’s wellness facilities the focus of your trip: the 350 euro fitness package includes a daily hot buffet breakfast, spa, PT, jogging and yoga sessions, and and afternoon’s bicycle rental; while the 400 euro ‘eat good, feel good’ gastronomy package includes everything from champagne brunches to a meal out at one of Chania’s finest restaurants.
What to Instagram
The view over the bay from your own private plunge pool.
Couples looking for a grown-up and healthy getaway without the kids.
How to get there
Flights are less than four hours from London to Crete’s Chania airport. It’s just a 30-minute transfer at the other end.
When should I go?
Between April and October. Temperatures hit the thirties in June and July but a lower-season trip at one of the quieter ends of summer is ideal if you’re keen to avoid the crowds (or have a tendency to burn). The upside of a September getaway is it’s still warm enough for tanning and sea swimming, but you won’t get a Sula on your way to dinner. We barely saw a cloud in six days.
Try the hotel’s sister resorts in Crete - Domes Zeen Chania and Domes of Elounda - if you can’t get a booking.
Rooms from £169 (for an Upbeat Retreat with a private plunge pool), Strati Pantelaki 5, Agioi Apostoloi, Chania, Greece 73 100, domesresorts.com