The Top 10 Hellenic Havens
From rustic cottages and historic townhouses to modernist whitewashed retreats, Alastair Sawday takes his pick of the most stylish places to stay
Sunday 04 June 2006
1. Sheer style on Crete
Set above the larger resorts of the area, Elounda Gulf Villas look out through olive branches to the merging blues of the rimless pool and Mirabello Sea. The patio table is decked with fruits and wine, the wicker loungers with fluffy towels. Inside, English elegance (striped wallpapers, parquet floors) is lightened by quirky touches (leopard skin chairs, a sax hanging from a frescoed ceiling). More modest suites share a gym/spa and seawater pool, where classy Med cuisine is served at lantern-lit tables. By these standards, the area's beaches and restaurants may seem mediocre.
Wow factor: Unparalleled comfort in a magnificent setting.
Contact: Elounda Gulf Villas, Lasithi, Crete (0871-990 3010; elounda villas.com). Suites from €220 (£157).
2. The perfect peace of Patmos
Patmos is a divine little island. You can hire mopeds, zip down to the beach, or pop up to medieval Hora. But the Nine Muses may scupper such plans. The temptation is to surrender yourself to sun, sea and silence in the peace of its hill. The hotel drops down over four terraces, facing the sea. Plants cascade over whitewashed walls; a pool shimmers down by the bar; an open-air sitting room frames views of the bay. Inside you'll find terracotta-tiled floors, beamed ceilings, blue-shuttered windows and garden flowers - simplicity and comfort both.
Wow factor: Tranquillity with breathtaking views.
Contact: 9 Muses Grikos, Patmos (00 30 22470 34079; 9muses-gr.com). Doubles from €100 (£71.40).
3. Discover Aegean chic in Santorini
Perivolas hotel is just how you hoped Santorini would be, only better: vaulted white rooms of sparse beauty, an immaculate pool merging seamlessly with azure seas miles below. Snug bedrooms are dug into cliffsides; sitting rooms are airy, with sunlight shafting through icon-shaped openings in the wall. All have a terrace; some have private Jacuzzi, plunge pool, even a garden with a olive tree.
Wow factor: Rainbow- on-white interiors and blue-on-blue sea vistas.
Contact: Perivolas, Oia, Santorini (00 30 22860 71308; perivolas.gr). Doubles from €370 (£264).
4. Harbour life in Rethymnon
Palazzo Vecchio is as cosmopolitan as Crete itself. Behind its Venetian façade, this apart-hotel features solid wood from Germany, elaborate lights from Italy, plush curtains from England and Turkish-style enclosed balconies. What bedrooms may lack in character they make up for in comfort: wide beds, huge TV, kitchenette, dining table (no MDF here). The manageress recommends restaurants in Rethymon's bijou harbour, or museums among narrow, minaret-spiked lanes. Nearby are beaches, historical Arkadi monastery and oleander-lined Prasano gorge.
Wow factor: The raised Roman-style pool and cobbled atrium.
Contact: Palazzo Vecchio, Rethymnon Town, Crete (00 30 28310 35351; palazzovecchio.gr). Studios from €100 (£71.40) for two .
5. Turkish delight on Rhodes
Marco Polo Mansion is the best place to stay in town. This 16th-century Turkish house is stunning. The first-floor hall has a 400-year-old timber ceiling of staggering beauty. Three bedrooms are in the house, their architectural integrity giving a window into the past. One includes the old harem; another has a shower in what was the hammam, and the third (and most gorgeous) has a sari-draped four-poster and juts out over the alley below. In the courtyard garden, bougainvillaea shades the pagoda and a mandarin tree offers shade from the sun. Drinks are served on hanging Turkish trays; classic Greek dishes can be ordered for lunch or dinner.
Wow factor: The dazzling architecture.
Contact: Marco Polo Mansion, Rhodes Town, Rhodes (00 30 22410 25562; marcopolo mansion.web.com). Doubles from €100 (£71.40).
6. Exquisite detail on Corfu
All is grace at Villa de Loulia. The village is tiny and untouched. On its eastern flank, pine-covered hills slope down to the plain; a mile west the island falls into the sea among wind-sculpted cliffs. Paths lead down to sandy Logas Beach. As for the villa (now a small hotel), it was built in 1803 and has been in the family ever since. Step in and you find a shimmering pool in a lawned courtyard garden. Jasmine shades the bar; trees bulge with fruit; lavender scents the air. Outside loungers and parasols circle the pool; inside Corfu colours - reds, pinks, yellows, blues - brighten the walls. You'll find wooden floors, beamed ceilings, crisp linen, antique armoires and liqueur-filled carafes.
Wow factor: The Eden-like ambience.
Contact: Villa de Loulia, Peroulades, Corfu (00 30 26630 95394; villadeloulia .gr). Doubles from
7. Designer sleek on Patras
Primarolia Art Hotel on Patras's seafront may not look special from the outside, but inside it's a different story. Cool creams and bold splashes of colour, and huge objets d'art, designer furniture and smart, black-clad staff bring a surprise burst of contemporary chic to the Peloponnese's largest ferry port. Its centrepiece is an oval, canvas-roofed atrium with a glass lift running down one side, and an inviting mezzanine of Eames easy chairs and Arne Jacobsen lamps. There are 14 bedrooms, variously done up with calm creams and dark African fabrics. Plasma screens abound, while fluffy robes and wheat-germ soaps sit alongside multi-jet shower booths in the brightly-tiled bathrooms.
Wow factor: In Patras's concrete jungle, this is an unexpected oasis of cool.
Contact: Primarolia Art Hotel, Patras, Achaia (00 30 2610 624900; arthotel.gr/primarolia). Doubles from €150 (£103).
8. Rich and rustic in Mani
House of Baba Spiros is hidden in one of the Outer Mani's quietest villages. This old stone cottage is a gorgeous blend of rustic Greece and contemporary cool. Within rough chiselled walls are interiors so chic that old Spiros would not recognise them as his former sheep-milking quarters. On a white wooden dais sits a four-pillowed, eco-mattressed bed; beside it, a wicker chair is painted in the same sky blue as the doors that lead to flower-filled gardens. The living area is open-plan, with patinated floor- boards and antique sofa.
Wow factor: Pure white walls frame window tableaux of rippling olives and silky seas.
Contact: House of Baba Spiros, Doli, Messinia (07703 345231; housein greece.co.uk). A cottage for two to three costs from £350 per week.
9. Magnificence in Macedonia
A vast, sand-coloured seminary, Imaret was built in 1817 by Mehmet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, as a gift to his birthplace. It reopened in 2004, impeccably restored. The scale is vast: long vaulted corridors, a sea of tin-domed roofs bubbling above a princely view of the port - yet every last detail is perfection. Rose petals float in a marble bowl, bonsai orange trees shade the patio, grape balls with Roquefort adorn your aperitif. Many rooms have domed ceilings and original chimneys; suites have a huge bathtub. On the terrace, Greek-Anatolian cuisine is served with finest Macedonian wines.
Wow factor: All the romance of East meets West is here.
Contact: Imaret, Kavala Town, Macedonia (00 30 2510 620151; imaret.gr). Doubles from €220 (£157).
In its setting of bare hills dotted with almond and pepper trees, tiny Folegrandos moves at a slow place. It is also home to one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades, Hora, its medieval kastro crowded with bougainvillea-draped homes.
Where to stay: The Anemomilos Apartments (00 30 228 60 41309; i-escape.com/anemomilos apartments.php) overlook the Aegean. Doubles start at €75 (£53) per night b&b.
Readers of 'The Independent on Sunday' can purchase Alastair Sawday's 'Special Places to Stay Greece' for the special discounted price of £9.99, including free p&p. To order telephone 01275 395431 and quote 'Independent on Sunday'
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