I clock up the kilometers on a water rower overlooking a calm Cretan bay. It’s only 7am, but the warm September sun is already shining through the palm trees and the smells of breakfast waft into the gym from the restaurant next door.
But before my morning omlette, a refreshing 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 hotel 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 architectural haven, with striking two-story rooms that feel closer to private villas thanks to their private plunge pools, hot tubs and hammocks overlooking the turquoise Aegean waters. Wellness offerings include fitness packages, juice bars, beachside yoga, outdoor PT sessions and an underground spa with 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 road off the main road between Chania and Kissamos, in the middle of a small, quiet (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 five minutes’ walk of the hotel. Zygos Grill may look unassuming from the outside, but the charming Greek owner serves traditional pork and chicken gyros for less than 4 euros (yes, they’re full-sized and delicious) – grab one and take it to the Orthodox Church of St. Apostoliat view across the bay and watch the sun set behind the mountains.
Crete’s Chania Airport is just a 30-minute drive away, and the center of Chania is only 15 minutes (take bus number 21 or ask the hotel for a taxi). Pop in for dinner one evening and wander the bustling Old Town and Venetian Marina with an ice cream.
Enter the main lobby and you could be mistaken for a spa: calm staff in angelic 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 focused around its architecture, and there is a grown-up, sophisticated touch. You won’t have loud partygoers or kids crashing into the pool; instead, you get an adults-only Zen experience with a focus on well-being and design. There’s striking architecture throughout, with bold, domed stone buildings and funky features, including swing seats in the restaurant, hammocks on some private terraces and elegant call buttons next to the sunbeds.
The main pool is made of Mylopetra, a porous element found only in Crete, which feels like sand against your feet and apparently “transmits the island’s energy as it changes color throughout the day, reflecting the playful sky”.
Other local touches include charming splashes of Greek white and blue around the hotel and matis (Greek evil eyes) as an abandoned gift, symbolizing good fortune.
All 83 rooms are sleek, modern and beachside chic, with domed ceilings, blue, white and wood furnishings, and funky details that sink 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 has sliding doors to an outdoor lounge area, with either a plunge pool, outdoor hot tub or outdoor bathtub. You can adjust the wooden screens to the extreme depending on how much privacy you want (many look right over the main pool, so be careful about stripping).
The 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 always have a view of the water. Choose a Sublime Loft room for maximum privacy: it’s spread over two floors, with a large balcony, a hammock overlooking the sea and sky-peer windows above the bed to watch the sunset.
Squid macaroni, lamb souvlaki with hmummus and fried aubergine, lobster with traditional “peponaki” pasta. These are just some of the highlights of the à la carte evening menu at Dome’s main restaurant Topos, which serves award-winning New Greek seafood from head chef Dionysios Pliatsikas. The wine list has 160 labels, and dinner is accompanied by a live violinist on Friday evenings. Choose a hammock with a sea view and make sure you’re there for the sunset.
Next to the pool you will 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 the N Bar in the lobby, which serves custom-made “just-for-you” sunsets.
Breakfast is a buffet affair, with all the usual staples from fresh fruit to Greek yoghurt and cheese and meat dishes. There’s a honeycomb wall if you’re craving fresh honey, a design-your-own omelette station and a variety 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 more boozy breakfast vibe.
Each sunbed has a QR code next to it if you want to order food or drinks between meals. If you’re really lucky, the staff will deliver fresh watermelon to your sunbed during the day.
The Domes’ main highlight is the trio of pools: two outdoors (one in a ‘quiet zone’, the other with a pool bar and chilled DJ sets in the evening), plus one in the spa. You’ll be spoiled for choice with lounge areas, with sunbeds around the pools and on the beach, beanbags on the lawn behind the beach if you don’t want sand, and daybeds on your own private terrace too. New towels are offered at various locations around the hotel.
Many guests come for the Soma Spa, and like many leading hotels, it’s all underground, with a hot tub next to the pool and a body scrub area to use afterwards. There’s also a selection of wellness drinks and snacks to nibble on while you’re down there.
The spa menu includes facials and body treatments featuring Elemis products plus local Cretan herbs from the island. Highlights include a relaxing 60-minute massage with CBD, a contouring and drainage massage to eliminate cellulite, an anti-aging facial for men and a specially designed Haute Couture facial for the face, neck and décolleté. A Theragun can be added to massage treatments for an additional 10 euros.
There’s also an indoor fitness room, morning and afternoon yoga sessions, and an outdoor gym overlooking 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 is in the middle of a bay so the water is calm, especially in the morning).
Choose a package if you plan to make the resort’s wellness facilities the focus of your trip: the €350 fitness package includes a daily hot breakfast buffet, spa, PT, jogging and yoga sessions, and afternoon bike rental; while the 400 euro ‘eat well, feel good’ gastronomy package includes everything from champagne brunch to a meal out at one of Chania’s finest restaurants.
What to Instagram
The view of the bay from your own private plunge pool.
Couples looking for an adult and healthy holiday without the children.
How to get there
Flights are less than four hours from London to Crete’s Chania airport. It’s only a 30-minute transfer at the other end.
When should I go?
Between April and October. Temperatures reach the thirties in June and July, but a low-season trip at one of the quieter ends of summer is ideal if you want to avoid the crowds (or tend to burn). The advantage of a holiday in September is that it is still warm enough for sunbathing and swimming in the sea, but you won’t get a Sula on your way to dinner. We hardly saw a cloud for six days.
Try the hotel’s sister resorts in Crete – Domes Zeen Chania and Domes of Elounda – if you don’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