The philosophy of the Xenia hotel is simply summed up in the March 2010 edition of the Lonely Planet Guide where it nominates the Xenia hotel as its choice of place to stay in Chora Sfakion and refers at the outset to the hotel manager, “the friendly George Lykoiannakis”. It speaks volumes that literally scores of clients return year after year and many come back twice a year. Guests are made to feel genuine and are enjoying a truly hospitable stay, as is only proper, given that the Greek word Xenia means “hospitality”. The actual buildings are meticulously maintained and cared for: the house-keeping is of the highest class and George and his colleagues truly value their guests who quickly become their friends. The Xenia Hotel is very fortunate in its setting, chosen by the Greek National Tourist Organisation when it developed quite a small hotel in the then remote village of Hora Sfakion. The structure was sympathetic to traditional buildings of the area: indeed the main entrance retains the characteristic arch which epitomises houses of the area. Gradually the GNTO moved out of running the hotels itself and this hotel was sold to Giannis Braoudakis who, with George Lykoiannakis as his manager, has extended and improved the hotel to its present state. Of the 19 rooms, some face East into the old harbour, others South over the Libyan Sea and others West towards Loutro, the mountains and the setting sun. No other hotel has such a superb location in the town: and no other hotel has its own large landscaped car-park in its large site. Facilities for guests include a lift – Xenia is the only hotel in the village itself to have this facility – satellite TV in every room, air-conditioning, room safes, refrigerators, hair-driers, as well as the normal shower and toilet facilities. The rooms are spacious and the views from all of them spectacular. If guests wish to stay in the hotel all day, they can get into the sea either by way of a well built walkway and steps into the deep sea or by steps down to the little Vryssi Beach – or if they wish to soak up the sun, there are sunbeds in cleverly adapted recesses overlooking the sea. Another major advantage is that the hotel has its own very modern taverna. The ingredients used are always fresh and George Lykoiannakis prides himself that the large kitchen is kept spotlessly clean – any customer is very welcome to walk in to see for themselves. In addition to food cooked inside on the grill or in the oven or on the hob, meat is often spit-roasted over charcoal – from whole young lambs at Easter to chicken and pork later in the year. A specialty of the taverna is excellent fresh fish, grilled to perfection.
Hora Sfakion is unique among Cretan towns in that it has been developed in recent years with restored and new buildings as far as its terrain permits yet the town still retains its majestic setting, delightful ambience and beautiful tranquillity. It is the capital of Sfakia, the county within Crete that encompasses most of the awesome White Mountains that press around Chora Sfakion itself. Before the road from the North and East reached the town in the late 1950s, the inhabitants were mainly fishermen, shepherds, farmers and cheese-makers. The Sfakians are fiercely independent, while also extremely hospitable, and were famous for their resistance to the Venetians and the Turks. In the Second World War many Sfakians helped Australian and New Zealand soldiers escape on the night of May 3 1941 – and a fearful penalty was paid as witness the skulls visible in the War Memorial -: and in 1821 the revolution began nearby. It is now an ideal base for walking and other excursions up into the mountains or by ferry along the coast and there is good swimming. Its setting is spectacular. The town is well provided with facilities – 2 ATMs, a Post Office, a butcher, more than one bakery, supermarkets, tavernas and hotels. The town appears to have grown out and up from the old harbour, now no longer used by ferries since in recent years a much bigger, and much safer, harbour has been built just to the East of the town.