Our stay at Milia Mountain Retreat in western Crete

Our stay at Milia Mountain Retreat in western Crete

The approach road to Milia Mountain Retreat is not for the fainthearted. It involves a narrow 3km zigzagging track up through the mountains. The views if you look up, are jaw-dropping. The views below are heart-stopping.

We’d had a long day driving from central Crete via a lunch stop in the harbour town of Rethymnon and as we rounded another hairpin bend I was starting to panic that our destination might not justify the length of time we’d pinned our children into the car for.

Milia scenery

Scenery surrounding Milia

Hidden deep in Crete’s White Mountains, some 50km south west of Chania, Milia Mountain Retreat turned out to be the highlight of our family holiday. This magical retreat has created lasting memories for all of us.

Milia woodland

Woodland at Milia

Why was it so special? Well, the setting, particularly in spring, is quite spectacular. Milia is nestled amid lush mountain woodland; oak, chestnut and olive trees all thrive here along with carpets of wildflowers. Goats scatter as you rumble along the approaching track and in the morning you are greeted with birdsong. There are walking trails from Milia of varying lengths, leading to magnificent gorges, a tiny church or down to the village of Vlatos. We enjoyed walking through the ancient olive groves which are undergoing a restoration project similar to the medieval stone buildings of Milia itself.

Milia is a collection of 15th century stone houses, restored in the 1980s by two friends who wanted to create a sustainable tourism project at a time when other areas of Crete were embracing quite the opposite. Today there are 14 units which sleep between one and five people. We took a family apartment which has two separate bedrooms, an en-suite bathroom and an open fireplace.

Milia apartment

Our apartment at Milia

The hub of Milia is without doubt the restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. On Easter Sunday, people drove from as far afield as Heraklion (2.5 hours’ drive) to feast on the traditional spit-roasted lamb, such is Milia’s island-wide appeal.

There is great pride in the food here. In keeping with the low-impact philosophy at Milia (water comes from the mountain springs, heating is from solar energy), the produce is all locally grown or reared. Everything we consumed, from the cheese pies, bread and honey at breakfast, to the fresh salads, tender meats and the complimentary raki and desserts in the evening, was delicious.

Our children loved clambering around the rocky terrain of Milia. There was an arrangement of carved stones opposite the restaurant which one of the owners had collected. This little area kept our children entertained for quite some time, fuelling their imagination with ideas of what each slab might have been used for. There were sticks galore to collect on our mountain walks and endless trees, rocks, plants and creatures to explore and examine. The wildflowers came in every imaginable colour.

Although Milia feels remote, it’s easy to explore the region. We visited the famous beaches of Elafonisi and Falasarna on sunny days. Closer to home, we enjoyed taking in the views at the village of Topolia with its lovely cafes, bakery and wood art shop. We paid a visit to the atmospheric Agia Sofia Cave complete with tiny church, where Neolithic and Minoan artefacts have been discovered.

The roads in this region pass through many tiny villages, known as Innahorion (meaning nine villages) with stunning scenery all around. However, tourism is taking its toll on the region as it does on anywhere with such great natural beauty. In summer, tourists flock to the west coast, transported by coaches from Chania along the narrow village roads, creating a real strain on the area and its authentic character. A new road is currently being carved through the mountains; it might make reaching the beaches easier but it could also mean a loss of business which locals have come to rely on.

mountain village Crete

Mountain village scenery

After our days out, it was incredibly gratifying to return to Milia for dinner. The candlelit dining room felt like a true mountain refuge, filled with walkers enjoying the hearty food. Although it was a peaceful setting, our two energetic children were warmly welcomed and the staff were incredibly kind and friendly towards them. It’s easy to trot out phrases like this but it felt like a genuinely hospitable place.

Milia taverna

Milia’s candlelit taverna

phones charging

Some habits are hard to break… phones charging in the taverna

Although on Milia’s website it suggests a stay will be about returning “back to basics”, in terms of comfort it’s anything but. Sure, there’s no electricity points in the bedrooms and no WiFi (sadly there is a surprisingly good 4G signal), but the beds are very comfortable with good quality mattresses and duvets, there’s central heating in the rooms and the showers are pretty good too. It was just cool enough in the evenings for us to justify lighting a fire in our bedroom; what was once an essential means of survival for the previous inhabitants of these houses was definitely a luxury for my little family.

walk at Milia

A last walk at Milia

A family apartment in high season (25th March-9th November for 2018) costs 145 Euros per night including breakfast, based on four sharing.

California Globetrotter
“hilarystyle
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38 Comments

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/07/2018 / 10:34 pm

      Yes, the beaches were lovely. We’ll have to return when the water is a touch warmer!

  1. 06/06/2018 / 12:48 pm

    This looks like just our kind of place. I love trying to find places to stay which have an emphasis on sustainability. It’s lovely that your kids were introduced to some elements of Greek culture too. #FamilyFriendlyStays

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/06/2018 / 10:05 pm

      The staff were so lovely with the kids, it makes such a difference.

  2. 06/06/2018 / 1:13 pm

    It sounds lovely. I especially like the fact that it is low impact and environmental. Thanks for hosting #FamilyFriendlyStays

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/06/2018 / 10:04 pm

      Yes, it makes a holiday even more enjoyable when you feel you’re making less of an impact.

  3. 06/07/2018 / 1:52 pm

    What a lovely place. We’ve never visited any of the Greek Islands but would certainly love to one day #FamilyFriendlyStays

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/07/2018 / 1:57 pm

      I’m really keen to explore Greece more following our trip to Crete!

  4. 06/07/2018 / 9:07 pm

    I’ve been around Greece quite a lot but not to Crete:) beautiful place to stay at #FamilyFriendlyStays

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/07/2018 / 9:12 pm

      You must visit Crete, it’s amazing, especially in spring.

  5. 06/09/2018 / 8:46 pm

    This looks like a lovely place to stay – I’ve been wanting to go on a family trip to Crete for some time, so will have to remember this, thanks #FamilyFriendlyStays

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/14/2018 / 10:43 am

      Definitely go there! It was so lovely. We stayed at some other amazing places too, have a look at my post about Crete if you need any other ideas. I’d recommend all of them 🙂

  6. 06/14/2018 / 12:47 pm

    Don’t know how I would survive with wifi and power outlets! It’s amazing how much we rely on technology now! I think I would die if I could do my hair with a blow dryer and straightner! But I guess at some point, I’d need to try! #FarawayFiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/14/2018 / 4:00 pm

      I think we should all forget our tech and appliances from time to time!

  7. Clare Thomson
    06/15/2018 / 3:03 pm

    Oh this looks just wonderful, Annabel! We drove across the White Mountains on our way to Loutro and it did look like the sort of place I’d have loved to have lingered. I think spring would be the ideal time to appreciate the scenery and there’s something about Greece that makes me want to go back to basics – throw away the hairdryer (I can hear Lori from Caliglobetrotter gasping!) and lock the phone away in the safe. #FarawayFiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/15/2018 / 7:50 pm

      Before we went to Crete I was worried that the scenery would be dry and arid but it was so spectacular, we’ll definitely be returning to Greece at that time of year again.

  8. annette @afrenchcollection
    06/16/2018 / 11:40 am

    Gosh the food must have been great to drive 2.5 hours for a Sunday lunch. How fortunate to have experienced all this. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/16/2018 / 3:07 pm

      The food was great, we really looked forward to each meal!

  9. 06/16/2018 / 2:42 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit Greece and this looks like such a wonderful way to experience it. Looks like you had the best of all worlds with both forest and beach and I’d have loved to gather at the Taverna getting to know the other visitors. #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/16/2018 / 3:10 pm

      It was a really special place. We all agreed we want to go back. Definitely put it on your list!

  10. Anisa
    06/16/2018 / 9:23 pm

    The area and the retreat look wonderful. I love that you could go back and relax with the candlelit dinners. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/16/2018 / 9:26 pm

      I quite fancy returning in winter. The houses were so cosy with fireplaces and the taverna was simply amazing!

  11. 06/16/2018 / 9:24 pm

    We’ve been thinking of visiting Crete lots of times. It seems like a great destination for hiking! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/16/2018 / 9:24 pm

      It’s perfect for hiking but do avoid summer!

      • 06/16/2018 / 9:28 pm

        Yes, this is our problem with Greece. This summer we were thinking of visiting Greece but everything was so expensive!

        • smudgedpostcard
          Author
          06/16/2018 / 10:55 pm

          Well, I’d avoid the summer for the heat if I was hiking. Spring is a perfect time for the mountains with all the flowers although I think Samaria Gorge is not open at the very beginning of spring.

  12. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    06/17/2018 / 12:09 pm

    The paths look similar o those we walked on in Mallorca – and the roads look just as scary! But so worth it for your holiday which sounds lovely. #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/17/2018 / 8:39 pm

      We’ll have to take our boys to Mallorca. We last visited when our older son was 6 weeks old so we’re due a return visit! Mediterranean islands make such great holiday destinations!

  13. 06/17/2018 / 11:52 pm

    I remember backpacking across Crete long ago and long before a sustainable retreat like Milia was conceived. This sounds idyllic for a family or anyone interested in experiencing the off-the-grid lifestyle, ancient no?

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/18/2018 / 11:53 am

      Yes, it’s perfect for a grown up escape too. I reckon retreats from technology are likely to become a “thing” quite soon!

  14. 06/18/2018 / 3:51 am

    Like Trish said, so much of this reminds me of Mallorca – check out Western Mallorca some time, you would love it! I would love to visit the cave with its little church. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/18/2018 / 11:54 am

      Yes, the scenery is like Mallorca. We’ve driven through the Tramuntana mountains, stunning!

  15. 06/18/2018 / 10:09 am

    What a beautiful place to stay! Actually the whole area looks amazing!
    #mondayescapes

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/18/2018 / 11:54 am

      It is a spectacular area, we definitely want to go back.

  16. 06/18/2018 / 12:03 pm

    Look at those views! Oh my goodness I want to go here so much now! Such a beautiful place!

    • smudgedpostcard
      Author
      06/18/2018 / 10:18 pm

      The views were stunning, we could have easily stayed there a lot longer.

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