I had the great privilege of spending an entire summer season on the incredible island of Crete working as Powder Byrne's Resort Manager. It was my first visit to Crete and my first impression was... WOW! What a beautiful island and the locals were some of the friendliest people I had ever met. The days are generally an ideal temperature for swimming and outdoor activities, with occasional days of intense heat, but with a welcome, gentle breeze to help keep cool. Under bright blue skies, with nonstop sunshine and crystal blue oceans, this is paradise.
This is a perfect destination for those who want some real rest and relaxation, with gorgeous sparkling pools, pristine beaches, an award-winning spa and serene gardens, but for those who are looking for a more active, action-packed holiday (or a middle-ground in between the two) there are loads of incredible options in terms of activities, both inside the resort and externally.
Part of my job as RM was to recommend activities and excursions to clients, based on their interests and preferences, and ensure that clients always have the restaurant and activity bookings they require.
In terms of activities outside of the resort, I can highly recommend day trips to the historic island of Spinalonga. Interestingly, this is a man-made island: initially it was join to the mainland of Crete, but during the Venetian occupation it was carved out of the coast and a fort was built on the newly-formed island, in order to help with defence. Another great day trip is a visit Knossos, Europe's oldest city. It's a fantastic real-life history lesson! Both Spinalonga and Knossos are ideal for the whole family.
Another great excursion is to Samaria Gorge, one of the longest gorges in Europe at 16km. It lies in south west of Crete and offers hiking and walking trails of varying distances and difficulty levels, as well as canyoning. In 1962, Samaria Gorge was made a nature reserve in order to protect the Cretian Wild Goat (or agrimi) and all human inhabitants were relocated at this point. It is a really beautiful part of the island and really worth a visit.
One great activity is exploring this gorgeous area on a bicycle. The cycle routes range from easy to really challenging and, of course, have gorgeous views of the turquoise bay. There are experienced guides on hand, but you can also choose to discover the area on your own.
There are also exciting water sports on-site at the resort. Three state-of-the-art tow boats are on hand at the hotel for waterskiing and wakeboarding, and the coaches are available to teach you, no matter if you've never skied before or if you're just looking to refine your technique. There's even a slalom course for those proficient mono-skiers looking to test their skills.
There are also inflatables that are pulled behind the boat, canoes, pedal boats and wave runners, and you can even learn to windsurf or sail. It's a great way to explore the area. Clients can also discover the beautiful bay of Mirabello on a guided speedboat tour or by taking out a smaller motor boat themselves.
Always a hit with our clients is cruising on one of the hotel's beautiful private boats and exploring the Aegean Archipelago and beyond, stopping at breath-taking coves and remote beaches to swim in the turquoise sea. There are a boats of all sizes to choose from, including a yacht which is hired out for the day complete with a captain and staff to ensure you can relax and enjoy your day out enjoying the ocean.
There's a PADI-certified dive centre, which offers certified dive courses. Diving in the clear water here allows clients to experience the beautiful flora and fauna that live amongst the unusual rock formations of the area.
The Six Senses Spa in the hotel always receives enthusiastic praise from clients who've visited for treatments. Its a must for spa-aficionado.
There is a golf course within the resort and another a short drive away near the water park that the children visit, so golfers are well catered for here.
For those who like to keep fit on holiday, the hotel offers a wide variety of great fitness classes that clients can take part in.
Within the resort are great tennis facilities and Powder Byrne runs a fantastic programme for all ages and abilities. It's definitely a favourite of our clients! An experienced, LTA-accredited coach forms an integral part of each in-resort team, providing a wide array of tennis-related activities for clients.
Every Monday morning, the tennis coach runs a ‘meet the pro’ session that allows all of our new clients to meet the coach, to ask any questions and to plan their tennis sessions for the week.
In the Scallywags (4 - 9 year olds) and TheZone (10 - 15 year olds), the weekly programmes always include 4 sessions of tennis per week, which are hosted by the pro. They always take place in the morning before it becomes too hot. Sessions are based around fun games, with a focus on improving technique and using the LTA “traffic light system”, which many children who’ve had tennis lessons previously may be familiar with.
We find that even the kids who were not so keen on tennis before their holiday generally really enjoy it. We’ve even received reports of children begging their parents to let them have tennis lessons once back at home in the UK. Private sessions for children can also be booked with the coach in order to fine-tune the child's game and work on aspects that could use improvement.
For even more of a focus on tennis, the LTA coach in Elba runs the PB Tennis Academy, which offers kids an extra hour of tuition each morning before the Scallywags and TheZone programmes begin for the day, making it a great add-on programme. It’s incredible how quickly the kids progress in just a week with fun but intensive tuition!
The children really get into the tennis spirit during the month of July when the Wimbledon Championships are on, with Wimbledon-related games and even Wimbledon quizzes to teach the children some of the intricacies of the game. The kids really get "Wimbledon Fever", recounting their favourite moments of previous games and challenging the coach to repeat some of the incredible shots they saw on the TV. Wimbledon really is a catalyst for getting more of our kids interested in the game.
Tennis is also definitely on the agenda for adults, with private and group lessons available and social and cardio tennis organised for all clients who choose to join in.
The private lessons are very popular amongst clients looking to really improve their technique and pick the brain of the tennis coach. They often end with a game against the coach, which is a great way for the client to test their newly-improved technique.
Group lessons are hugely popular throughout the summer, be it with groups of family, friends or simply other PB clients. They’re a great social event, and a great opportunity to meet and interact with other like-minded clients. The lessons often end with a well-deserved G&T in the evening sun, chatting to some newly-made friends.
Cardio tennis is an interesting new concept that runs in the early evening from Monday to Saturday and incorporates a real emphasis on improving physical fitness. Sessions are designed to be fun and approachable, with lots of different tennis-related games. It’s a perfect way to get some exercise and everyone is welcome, regardless of ability.
A great advantage of the PB tennis programme is that PB receives priority with regard to booking the tennis courts, in most cases avoiding disappointment for our clients. A great advantage of the Powder Byrne tennis programme is that the tennis courts and coaching sessions can be booked well in advance with the Client Concierge team in London in order to ensure availability, but court hire and tennis lessons can also be booked in resort. The majority of our clients schedule lessons pre-travel, but many book more lessons in resort when they notice marked improvement in their game and enjoy the sessions... especially if they’re scoring lots of points against the coach!
When it comes to treating your tastebuds, this is the place to be. There are eight incredible restaurants in the resort, catering to a variety of tastes (from Pan-Asian to traditional Greek) and many lovely restaurants nearby, so clients have the opportunity to try the delicious fare from a different restaurant every day of the week, if they choose. Pelages, in the coastal town of Agios Nikolaus, is one of our clients' favourites for its fresh fish, always caught the same day as it's served. Its also a great town for some shopping. And try The Ferryman in the nearby town of Elounda, with a great atmosphere, delicious food and faultless service from Akis and his team.
Working for Powder Byrne during the summer was fantastic. It was a privilege to spend the summer interacting with PB clients, helping out in the children's programmes, working with such an amazing team and developing an intimate knowledge of this one-of-a-kind destination.
To find out more about gorgeous Crete, visit our website or call 020 8246 5300 to speak to one of our expert Travel Consultants and start planning your summer escape.