Numo Ierapetra, Crete
The phrase ‘off the beaten track’ can often be overused these days but it couldn’t be truer of Numo Ierapetra, a resort tucked far away from Crete’s main tourist trail on its south-eastern coast. While most people make a beeline for the golden beaches around Heraklion, the coastal town of Ierapetra – Europe's southernmost town – remains firmly off the radar. It's a portrait of Crete at its most authentic, where villages move at a languid pace and tavernas are alive with the chatter of locals and clink of coffee cups.
Though it's a resort by name, the heart, soul and feel of Numo Ierapetra is akin to the traditional Cretan villages dotted around this part of the island – just with a modern twist. The lush gardens, authentic marketplace and quaint church of St. George make you feel as if you're living like a local and it's an experience you're encouraged to enjoy barefoot. Like the rest of Crete, Numo Ierapetra embraces the landscape around it, from the tamarisk and olive trees around the resort to the wild earthy tones and sprigs of herbs which decorate the rooms. Everything here is geared towards connecting the inside with the outside and that includes diving into Cretan culture, with Numo Ierapetra offering an incredible wealth of activities that give you more than a taste of local life.
Being a beach resort, Numo Ierapetra sits in front of one of the longest in Crete, Koutsounari. Its 5km-long stretch of silvery sand is a fine place to relax or for a swim in the turquoise waters but, in truth, this is a secret corner you'll really want to immerse yourself in. This is the real Crete.
Every room at Numo Ierapetra is designed with the surrounding landscape in mind. Light tones dominate the interior, while soft furnishings and fabrics not only offer comfort but serve as reminders this is a cocoon to be enjoyed barefoot. Splashes of grey and green throughout are inspired by the sands of Koutsounari beach and the tamarisk trees which speckle the resort's grounds. Potted plants dotted around each room help to bring the outside in, while sprigs of fresh herbs are a nod to the Cretans' living-off-the-land culture.
In keeping with their philosophy to bring you closer to nature, most rooms have an outside space, whether it's a terrace, balcony, expanded outdoor living area (which has a daybed, table and chairs) or even your own private pool. They all look out onto the resort's lush evergreen garden, too.
Numo Ierapetra has three restaurants, all of which heavily focus on Cretan cuisine. Menoa celebrates the resort's Cretan roots in a modern, innovative way, using herbs and vegetables picked from nearby villages and hillsides and turning them into dishes with a contemporary twist. Tamarisk, named after the trees found throughout the resort, bases its menu around the fresh fish caught off Crete's shores and fine meats that locals adore, like lamb. If you want something to keep you going during the day, Kafené is a great option for drinks and light bites crafted by local producers. On the beach, you can also try fresh fish and meats at the exclusive pop-up Fisherman's Corner, where only a handful of tables will bring you even closer to authentic Cretan food.
Numo Ierapetra is also home to two bars. Adjacent to the resort's huge main swimming pool, Màre Màre serves a selection of signature cocktails using spirits which can be distilled with Cretan herbs. Inside, The Modern is a lobby bar which has everything from coffee to freshly blended smoothies and rose wine from some of the island's finest wineries. The Beach Lounge is a great place to relax with your choice from its impressive menu of drinks, under the shade of olive trees and soundtracked by a live DJ.
This corner of Crete was meant for exploring and Numo Ierapetra are extremely well-placed to help you do just that. In fact, they heartily encourage it.
The opportunities to get involved in local culture seem limitless. You can take part in pottery workshops, learn how to make Cretan pie (a favourite on the island) in the village of Kritsa and get an insight into the making of olive oil at the award-winning Skoutari olive press. The resort's experiences go beyond the traditional as well and you can even design your own fragrance with eco-friendly Cretan beauty brand Bioaroma or take a visit to the Karalakis greenhouses to discover how pretty much anything can grow in Cretan soil, from mustard to lemongrass.
There are many different ways the team at Numo Ierapetra can help you explore Crete's landscapes, whether it's from the saddle on a horseriding lesson, onboard a boat while you're learning to fish or through a lens on a photography class.
The coastal town of Ierapetra has plenty of fascinating history itself, with its fortress harbour once commanded by Romans and Venetians, while its labyrinthine lanes are a legacy of Ottoman rule. The town is also a springboard for a mini tropical escape, where you can catch a boat (the resort will pack you a picnic) to the uninhabited Chrissi Island. Cedar forests studded with Minoan ruins blanket its interior while its golden beaches are famous for being composed of thousands of shells.
In case you do just want a relaxing night at the resort, there's always an al fresco cinema experience under the tamarisk trees and beneath a blanket of stars.
While Numo Ierapetra is a resort geared at getting you out and exploring Crete, it also recognises you can't be on the go all of the time. Its Etherea Boutique Spa is the perfect antidote, with a wellness programme that features soothing massages which use luxury oils and invigorating beauty treatments.
Where is Numo Ierapetra?
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