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Mourtzanakis Residence: Heraklion Eco-Villa Beauty

Embraced by lush slopes of ancient olive trees, the Mourtzanakis Residence is tucked just above a discreet sea-facing village. A villa guesthouse stay that embodies the natural side of  Crete’s capital city, Heraklion. 

Where to Stay in Heraklion: Mourtzanakis Residence

Hidden in the hills of Achlada village, you can uncover a traditional Crete island stay at the Mourtzanakis Residence.

When I say hidden, it really is.

As we drove away from Heraklion, Crete’s capital, the view out of the car window changed into that ideal Greek island scene I love to escape to: blue swirling seas, colorful bougainvillea, beach coasts and green hillsides.

Within 30 minutes we exited onto a tranquil stretch of road, the kind where you hear rocks crunch under the tires. It was the kind of road where you need to swerve a bit sometimes to avoid hitting a wild – something, in this case a hopping rabbit. Next, we passed a lone goat.

Achlada Crete
Achlada is in the Pelagia region of Crete, near Heraklion.

Our GPS took us a little off track and we ended up at the old town of Achlada, a fascinating village.  A quick call to the owner Marcos Mourtzanakis and we were back on track, just two minutes more up the hill to find ourselves at the lone wooden gates to the Mourtzanakis Residence.

Heraklion Villa – Mourtzanakis Residence

The cheerful and incredibly friendly Marcos, who runs the guesthouse villas and studios with his wife Smaro, greeted us.

I learned the couple has an interesting international background. Both of Greek descent, he grew up in Beirut and she lived in Paris.  After spending years in Athens, they came back to their Cretan roots and fulfilled their dream to open their own eco-friendly guesthouses.

Touring their property was like walking through a teeny tiny whitewashed Greek island village.  The dining hall and reception house stood on one end, which features the feel of a homey kitchen — run by Smaro.


A great little kiddie pool and a regular pool with sunbathing areas were situated at the core.  The various villas and studios surrounded the area. The stonework lanes lined with fragrant roses and beautiful shady trees completed the getaway’s ambiance.

The property was built like an amphitheater into the ridges of the landscape, tucked in a sea facing angle looking out to the distant sea in Crete’s Pelagia region. Postcard perfect hills tumbled with ancient olive groves.

A Traditional Eco Stay Near Heraklion

The villa guesthouse we stayed in resembled a whitewashed Cycladic island home.


The open ground floor space featured a spacious living room with a fireplace, TV, kitchen and bathroom.

The kitchen was fully stocked with utensils, pots and pans. We had decided to prepare our own breakfast daily and had everything we needed to enjoy it.

Stairs took us up to a bedroom loft which overlooks the living room area. A charming desk sat in the corner.

Balcony doors opened up to a wide porch with this view, a nice place to tip up our welcome raki. Cretan hospitality!

The details were simple and bright. Handmade wood furniture, soft colors and a locally made glass-blown light fixtures created a comfortable yet cozy feeling all around.

There are four independent villas at Mourtzanakis Residence.  There are also several smaller studio apartments.


As for the eco element to the stay, the water comes right from a mountain source, energy is derived from solar panels and the meals ordered on premises are prepared with produce right from the family’s gardens.

The View is Amazing

Whether you choose a villa or studio, at the Mourtzanakis Residence, you are pretty much guaranteed calm moments and a stunning view.

It was no surprise to learn the property continues to be a popular getaway with group yoga or meditation-relaxation retreats. Such groups rent out the whole place to go about their classes while having all the nature of Achlada to themselves — like having their own little Greek village.

Heraklion, Go!

Before I visited Crete, every one of my friends or acquaintances advised me that Heraklion wasn’t so worth my time. The truth is Heraklion is hardly picturesque compared to Chania or Rethymno, especially considering its gritty city feel and urban vibe. However, the other truth is Heraklion boasts amazing sites, must-see places like Knossos, beautiful villages, beaches and great restaurants. When in Heraklion, I suggest retreating to a village like Achlada — not too far away but feels far away. In Crete, you will definitely want to enjoy its nature as much as possible.

Conclusion: Mourtzanakis Residence

Priced at around 100 euro a night, I found the Mourtzanakis Residence to be amazing value for money. I learned many regulars make it a point to revisit year after year. It’s the perfect hidden place for those who simply want to relax and feel totally at home.

It’s a perfect stay for groups and couples.  The Mourtzanakis Residence would also be ideal for families traveling with small children, who would love the kiddie pool. The equipped kitchen is great for preparing your own meals. It’s the type of place you’d want to stay at least a week or two.

The hosts, Marcos and Smaro, live on the property; they are a hard-working and dedicated couple who know their island well, both with roots from Crete.  We loved their honest advice, authentic stories and their availability to help us out with anything we needed or were interested in learning more about. They also speak several languages fluently: Greek, English, French and Arabic.

About the Location

The fact that Mourtzanakis Residence isn’t located right in Heraklion turned out to be a big plus. It was situated at a good distance, an easy commute to Knossos, the city center and other points of interest.

I don’t think it’s necessary to stay in Heraklion to see what Heraklion is famous for.  After a few excursions we had in Heraklion we drove back to our guesthouse easily, a straight shot on the main national road. We were experts on the country road by then, which at night was full of the cutest Cretan wild rabbits hopping about.

Anchoring yourself at a hidden gem like the Mourtzanakis Residence, will give you the best of both worlds when visiting Heraklion.

The Mourtzanakis Residence also features:

Concierge Service
Special traditional meals can be arranged
Breakfast service optional
Open year round
Achlada village (Heraklion Crete)

Check availability and the best prices by clicking here.

Prices range for a villa guesthouse stay for two people during July and August start at 100+ euro per night.

In case you missed it here’s my post on the 10 Things I Learned in Crete in 10 Days.

Have you ever stayed at a traditional guesthouse in Crete?

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