I arrived in Chania late at night and was met by a taxi driver Ammos Hotel had arranged for me. As we set off, the driver took great care to explain the circuitous route we would be taking. I wasn’t sure why he went to such lengths to describe the short trip, but I was excited to have arrived, and quickly put it out of mind. Some 15 minutes into the cab ride the scenery was not quite matching up with my expectations of where I would spend my holiday. The area around the hotel was filled with suburban-looking buildings and garish shopping malls, punctuated by abandoned construction sites. A distinct 1980 package-holiday feeling came to mind. I now understood why the driver had taken such pains to adjust my expectations.
But then, after turning off the main road, winding down a quiet neighborhood street, and making a quick right turn into the hotel drive, a very different picture emerged. Nestled by the sea at the end of the street sat the Ammos Hotel – a 33-room hotel built by the Tsepetis family in the 1970’s. Their son, Nikos, a journalist by trade, took over management of the business, and in 2008, in collaboration with architect Elisa Manola, did a complete redesign. I was greeted and delivered to my room by one of Nikos’ lovely staff members, Nektaria, who made me feel at home right away.
The next morning I met Nikos behind the reception desk. He can be found there every day, in his uniform of jeans and a revolving collection of eclectic T-shirts. He is one of a rare breed of hotel owners. He’s charming, funny, immensely patient and deeply knowledgeable about all the interesting happenings around Crete (Nikos’ blog about things he likes in Crete is worth checking out). And his personal traits extend further than just the front desk. Nikos’ keen sense of easygoing design and fashion can be seen and felt throughout the hotel. I was immediately inspired and relaxed.
The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort. The mixture is intoxicating. The layout of the hotel flows effortlessly, with its lounge, terraces, pool, and beach access. The beach is public but the Ammos Hotel maintains its own beach chairs and palm umbrellas for guests. With pool and ocean adjacent to each other you can easily satisfy your bathing whims. There is always a perfect place available to lie in the sun.
The rooms are impeccably designed and well-appointed. Beds are comfortable and the bathrooms are just right. Furnishings are minimal and custom-designed for the purpose. Each room is outfitted with a simple kitchenette. The freedom to be able to prepare a small meal and watch the sun set from your own balcony is a big plus for longer stays. I, for one, was glad for the opportunity of an occasional night in.
On my first day out and about in the hotel it occurred to me that the hotel’s clientele was distinctly on the young side. I mean really young … less than two! Families and small children are welcome at the Ammos Hotel. In fact they are catered to, and I think that is what makes it work so well. Even though I arrived with no little ones in tow, and was momentarily nervous at the sight of several toddlers, it turned out that some youthful enthusiasm actually added to the pleasant ambiance.
At the Ammos Hotel, I sometimes felt like I was a guest at a friend’s house rather than at a hotel. Nikos and his staff took every opportunity to engage with me, whether I needed a fresh beach towel, a trip into Chania, or a rental car for a longer excursion.
The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort.
I had decided that I wanted to hike the Samaria Gorge, a hike that starts high in the mountains and ends at the sea. My plans were the subject of much discussion with the reception desk staff for the few days leading up to the event. I got a range of comments, from helpful tips to genuine concern. “Are you sure you want to do that?” I was asked more than once. On the day of my hike, I had been absent all day and tried to sneak into the hotel unnoticed after dusk, but was spotted by Penelope and Yannis, of the wait staff. They noticed my wobbly legs and said one word, “Samaria?” We laughed and exchanged some jokes and stories about the day’s amazing activities.
If you like, you can eat all your meals at the Ammos Hotel. They have a great kitchen that cooks everything fresh from locally sourced ingredients. The regular menu of simple Greek fare is outstanding, and with daily specials written on the notice board each morning, you can dream about your next meal as you lay in the sun. Even the wine is sourced from a nearby winery, and Nikos can arrange a tour for an afternoon excursion.
I enjoyed the great weather and the lack of crowds during my stay. As with many places around this latitude, summer-like temperatures often extend into October and with the school holidays over you will have a much more pleasant experience at local attractions if you go off-season. I am planning another trip for April or May, as hiking in the beautiful Cretian mountains will be fantastic then.
As I write this story it is raining in London. The memory of falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the waves each day is still fresh in my mind. I email Nikos to check some of my facts. He emails back right away relating that he has just finished shutting down for winter and that he was a bit sad that the season was now over. I got sad as well, imagining the hotel quiet and empty, everybody gone home until April. Looking forward to a new season opening …
We suggest you visit Chania off season, April to June or September to the end of October.
Nearest Airport: Chania Airport. Easy Jet, Condor, Aegean, Olympic and Lauda Air all maintain service to Chania Airport.
Or take the ferry from Athens/Pireas To Chania. Ferries run daily service year round. The trip takes approximately 5-8 hours and voyage is overnight.
For Accommodation contact the hotel at:
Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger
Planning a visit to Visit the Ammos Hotel? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.63°partly cloudy80% humiditywind: 14mph WH 65 • L 5966°Fri65°Sat66°Sun63°Mon61°TueWeather from Yahoo!