Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
We’d visited Zaros in Crete several years earlier while researching a guidebook. We didn’t have time to stay there while we did our Rouvas Gorge Walk, but we had time to look around the small village (population about 3,000) and found it a really interesting and charming place. We were determined to return, and eventually got the chance, but this time to stay overnight.
Zaros could hardly be more central on Crete. Just look at Google’s map. It’s about an hour’s drive south-west of Herakleion, just under two hours’ drive south-east from Rethymnon, and about half an hour from Matala and Phaistos on the south coast. If you have a car, Zaros would make a great place to be based.
Keramos Studios was easy to find, in the centre of the small village, and there was plenty of parking nearby. Though they call themselves ‘studios’, it’s a combination of guesthouse and 2-star hotel. If you think two stars doesn’t seem much, don’t worry.
While the accommodation is simple, it’s super-clean, has everything you need, the family which runs it are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the room rates are remarkably cheap. We thought it was excellent value for money and would go back like a shot.
Our room was on one of the upper floors, and there’s a very old-fashioned elevator, which we loved. Our room key was a very old-looking and enormous metal key – yes, a real key! We had a large and comfy double bed, kitchenette (which we didn’t need), an en suite bathroom, a big wooden wardrobe, and a lovely traditional feel to it. We also had a balcony where we could sit and gaze out at the mountains.
By the time breakfast came round, we couldn’t believe it after the feast at Vergera but we were actually hungry again. It was just as well as we’ve never been served such a breakfast spread. It didn’t surprise us when we discovered that the woman who makes the breakfasts fresh every morning is Katerina, the aunt of Vee-Vee who runs Vergera. Cooking and generosity obviously run in the family.
Katerina’s baking is her speciality and she starts very early in the morning in the Keramos kitchen. As well as making bread, she makes about twenty different pies, and between us we managed to sample fifteen of them (I counted)! The waiter just kept on bringing them. He more we praised them, the more he brought.
They included banana pies, several different types of cheese pie, zucchini and mint pies, marmalade pies, raisin pies, milk pies, spinach pies, pumpkin pies with honey and nuts in them, two kinds of chocolate pie, one baked and one fried - eat them with honey, the waiter told us. Chocolate with honey? Yes, it was brilliant.
And as if this wasn't enough, we were also told to tuck into the buffet of cold meats, cheese, tomatoes, yoghourt, and honey. We admit we did take a small plate, just to keep him happy. Finally, when we assumed we'd finished, he bought us each an omelette. A chip omelette.
Katerina’s son, Mikalis, runs the family farm, called the Kamihis Farm. At Keramos Studios you can book a farm tour, so of course we did one before leaving Zaros. There are three types of tour available, and we did the basic tour as that’s all the time we had.
You can also add a cheese- and bread-making class, or go for the luxury option which adds an outing to gather wild herbs and going back to the farm and making pies with them. You might also join in wine-making, raki-making, or making olive oil, depending on the season.
Our farm tour was wonderful. We were accompanied by Mikalis’s two young daughters, who helped introduce us to all the animals. The chickens had chicks that were a few days old, and one of the goats had a tiny kid with it, which Mikalis picked up and brought over to us. There was a horse, too, and rabbits, pigs with little ones suckling, and donkeys.
Afterwards we went back to the farmhouse where Katerina was baking bread, then started frying chips and eggs, cutting cheese, and we were treated to a lovely lunch with everything from the farm: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, peaches, bread, cheese, and of course eggs and chips. Oh, and a little raki. It was delicious and delightful. We highly recommend it, and the Keramos Studios in Zaros. It’s more than just somewhere to stay, it’s a very Greek family experience.