Thalori: Where the Cretan sky, mountains and sea meet — Set high on a ridge overlooking the Libyan Sea, the speck of a village known as Kapetaniana is an enigmatic reminder of what life on Crete was like millennia ago. Situated halfway up the Asterousia Mountains, this solitary refuge from the moderns of 20th century live, it is also home to one of Crete’s most fascinating ecotourism resorts.

The 20 Thalori Guesthouses are a individualistic and perfectly camouflaged luxury, possessing inexorable traditional Cretan style. In a place named for King Asterion even the name “Thalori”, which means literally “sea” and “mountain”, bespeaks of epic nature. Lots of hospitality entities tell us they are “unique”, but the visionaries of this retreat excel at being different.

As an exclusive ecotourism spot, Thalori and the surrounding villages are a near perfect hideaway from the industrialized chaos that threatens our senses and sensibilities every day. The mountains here echo ancient Minoan legends, and remind us of the spirituality of such places, alongside induced practicality.

Rumors of pirates and lookout spots, hidden caves full of unspeakable treasures, these and more magical traits embellish a nature preserved for all time simply by remoteness. These legends sit alongside the Asterousia Mountains of today, a region that contributes the island’s economy via animal husbandry, bee-keeping and especially the growing tourism on the south coast.

This is the place Markos Skordalakis chose to integrate his dream of nature touristic bliss. Relying on Cretan architecture and traditional Cretan cuisine, as well as the now notorious Cretan brand of “filoxenia”, Skordalakis has become something of a legend himself, especially for his warm smile and rare brand of confident humility. An interview I read recently had the Thalori founder bristling with assuredness, telling an interviewer he’d “never doubted people would like Thalori”. To find out about this hidden gem of a nature retreat, I sent my son Rhett to explore the offering, here is what he discovered.

In a sentence my suspicions about this south coast nature nest were codified; “Dad, I never want to leave this place.” And a few selfies with Markos and the gang, the beaming eyes and those fantastic landscapes further illuminated for me just what a magical place Crete is. Thalori is magnificent, but the surroundings make the people there glow like the finest lapis, reflecting on what Rhett told us, I’ll go there on my next visit. But enough about ethereal enchantment, the reader will want to know what’s in store accommodations and activity wise, so here goes.

For the guest the first impression of Thalori’s guest houses is always one of harmony. Each individual house has its own character, while at the same time blending in to a natural congruence that is striking. From the outside the stone domiciles seem Spartan almost, like the rock faces of the nearby cliffs, the guest houses could as easily be hand carved benches of some long forgotten mountain god. Inside though, Skordalakis has hewn out the essence warmth that is Crete.

These neo-traditional Cretan villas are lavish in a way that is unpretentious, comfortable being the best adjective I can offer in description here. It is impossible to tell you about this place without the use of such embellishments, metaphors, and adjectives. Of course there’s all the amenities; WiFi, TVs, mini-fridge, entertainment devices and other usual suspects, but the fireplaces and cozy surrounds instill a calmness that says “home”. The guesthouses range from 1 bedroom  to a whole split level home with 3 bedrooms. As you can see by the images provided, rustic becomes chic at Thalori.

Another main feature at this retreat is the restaurant. Purely Cretan, the culinary adventure at Thalori is no less magical than hiking the gorges and exploring nearby caves is. If adrenaline packed rock climbing suits your sense of adventure, then the traditional healthy gastronomy of Crete is an equally majestic journey. For my American countrymen and my son Rhett especially, Thalori’s cuisine gives a positive shock to any fast food induced system. Skordalakis’ team uses the recipes passed down from grandparents, expertly created with local ingredients, to create traditional favorites guests will remember. The fragrant honey and bread, fresh dairy products, and the fruits of local producers are a perfect accent to an otherwise genuine experience. Cretan food is a big item for travelers who visit, and the old fashioned culinary journey at Thalori was one aspect of this stay our reporter raved about.

Activities in this neck of the woods tend toward pleasing two basic types of travelers. They are, the “would be” Indiana Jones enthusiast, and the weary business types who had rather seek rest and solitude than an analysts couch. Hiking, climbing, bird watching, scuba diving, fishing, cooking classes, 4 x 4 adventures, canoeing, these are but a few of the outdoorsy things Thalori guests can get into. And for those wanting to get in touch with their inner farming self, Thalori has a private garden and sheep flock to tend to, so getting into the act is a big attraction for immersing one’s self.

The value of places like Thalori Guesthouses resides in the level of care the hosts exhibit, of course. And on this we are assured by everyone we talk to that Markos Skordalaki excels at. However kind and caring this man may be though, there’s no denying location has a great deal to do with any guest’s experience, and in this the ecological value of Thalori is certified in the region’s inclusion in the NATURA 2000 network. In short, the place is magnificent, pristine, stunning in its natural and spiritual delights. The images I present do not even come close to showing what my son tried hard to relay. Everybody I talk to says; “You’ll simply have to go there Phil”, and so I shall. For now though, all I can do is whisper in your ear, about the place where the sky, the sea, and the mountains meet. Thalori is on my “bucket list”, that’s for sure.

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