BanSala

near Koroni, Peloponnese, Greece Book from

A blissful couples' sanctuary above a sandy beach: 5 cottages with shared pool, lawned gardens and breakfast bar
OK, I’ll come straight out with it. This is my new favourite place in Greece: an immaculate Aegean-meets-Oriental sanctuary with 5 pared-down cottages for 2, set in colourful lawned gardens with a sea-facing pool. There’s a laid-back bar where you are served wonderful fresh fruit and clay pots of yoghurt for breakfast, chilled white wines at sunset, and local advice in between (the cottages are otherwise self-catering, with small kitchens and indoor/outdoor sitting areas). Service from likeable Lyn and her brother Peter is just right; not 24/7 but there when you need it. Best of all, it’s just 3 minutes to a secluded sandy beach, and 10 minutes’ drive to gorgeous, castle-crowned Koroni, with its handsome pastel houses and waterfront tavernas.

I love this prong of the Peloponnese, with its shimmering olive groves, idyllic coves, Venetian castles (don’t miss Methoni) and untrodden antiquities (ancient Messene springs to mind). If you can grab a flight into Kalamata - 40 minutes away - you’re laughing; otherwise it’s 3 hours’ spectacular drive from Athens or Patras. The only issue for parents is that they don’t accept children, but we fully intend to turn that to our advantage and drop ours with grandparents, to enjoy a restorative week in one of Greece’s loveliest - yet least discovered - coastal corners.

Highs

  • The gardens are blissful - terraced lawns and vivid red bottle-brush trees merging seamlessly into silvery olive groves
  • The cottages are cleverly designed, with compact but well-equipped kitchens, mosquito-netted windows and secluded terraces for alfresco dining
  • Having lived in Sri Lanka and Thailand (hence the hotel’s name), Lyn has captured that graceful intelligence that fixes everything before you realise you need it
  • We loved the thoughtful extras - pool and beach towels, local guidebooks, delicious mezes and wine in the fridge in case you’re hungry on arrival
  • If you tire of the 2 local beaches, it’s only a short drive to the astonishing horse-shoe sands of Voidokilia, the lagoon of Pylos or the windsurfers’ paradise of Memi

Lows

  • All the cottages are double-bedded (no twins) - this is firmly a couples’ retreat
  • If you’re hatching plans for a winter escape, you’ll be disappointed - it closes from November to May
  • Not a place for nightlife, boutiques or chilled tunes by the pool; instead you get the buzz of cicadas and a village taverna with tables in the church yard
  • The cottage interiors are still perhaps a bit soulless - bare white walls, tiled floors - but Lyn intends to soften that with wafting curtains and local art
  • With the opening of a new resort in the village above, the beaches may get a bit more crowded - but they’re still pretty empty outside July-August

Best time to go

BanSala is normally open from mid May to end October. We came in mid May and found it perfect for a tranquil off-season break, with seas just warm enough for a dip, meadows full of spring flowers, and none of the rains that were affecting other parts of Greece. September and October would be equally magical, we suspect. July and August would be busier of course, but with only 5 cottages and plenty of garden space, not to mention a wide choice of beaches nearby, you won't feel crowded.

Our top tips

  • Buy a copy of the 2014 Sunflower guide to the Southern Peloponnese (full disclosure: I wrote it), which contains a selection of my favourite local hikes short and long, as well as other excursions
  • If you're coming for the nightlife and poolside buzz, think again: this is a tranquil place aimed mainly at an older clientele, with a few pre-baby 30-somethings and happy honeymooners to mix it up

Great for...

Beach
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 5 cottages for 2
  • Self-catering (breakfast on request + restaurants nearby)
  • Over 14s only (unless renting whole property)
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

The 5 cottages are nearly identical in layout, with a living area (including sofa, fireplace, kafeneion table and small kitchen) separated from the bedroom by a 3/4 height wall so as to maintain a sense of airiness. Off these is a shower room with spoiling towels and gels; outside is a shaded sitting area where, in truth, you’ll spend much more of your time. Most have views rolling down to the sea; one is tucked at the back, facing olive groves.

The style is more Cycladic than Peloponnesian, by which I mean white walls with a smattering of colour, bamboo-lined ceilings and flat roofs (apart from one lovely pitched-roof cottage overlooking the pool). It’s the smattering of colour that differentiates them: yellow, lime green or bright pink in the cushions on the sofa and the crockery on the shelf.

Otherwise, expect a uniform and functional design: long cream wardrobes, white-tiled floors, mosquito-netted windows in the bedroom, sliding glass doors in the living area. The kingsize bed is very comfy (A/C keeps you cool in midsummer), the shower reliable and strong - as is the WiFi signal.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Mosquito net
  • Oven
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Each cottage has a kitchen with fridge, mini-oven (with 2 rings and a grill), pots and pans, kettle and toaster, chopping boards and knives, cafetiere and teapot, corkscrew and scissors, candles and matches... In short, everything you'd expect from eagle-eyed Lyn. It's certainly more than adequate for preparing a light lunch or supper, which you can enjoy on your shady patio, looking out to a blue strip of sea while the breeze rustles the palm and oleander leaves.

In your fridge you'll find a neat triptych of delicious mezzes - fresh Greek salad, maybe tzatziki and a vivid red pepper tapenade - along with rusks, Cretan wine, cake, fruit and a bottle of their own olive oil. It's typical of their generosity, and makes a lovely first supper or lunch. For more supplies, there are shops and supermarkets within 3km.

There's no shortage of eateries nearby, including a couple by Peroulias beach (10-15 minutes' walk) and a charming outdoor taverna-grill up in the village of Vounaria (a similar distance), whose tables sit in the shadow of the Byzantine church. For more choice, drive to handsome harbour town Koroni (10 minutes), where a string of fish tavernas line the waterfront. Lyn can tell you her favourites, or take pot luck - at Angelianos we enjoyed a delicious seafood soup with chunks of scorpion fish, oregano-crusted toast, crunchy salad and a carafe of wine, all for 10 Euros a head.

If you're feeling lazy at breakfast, Lyn will lay out a colourful spread of small dishes on a table near the pool - clay ramekins of yoghurt, fresh walnuts, muesli, home-stewed plums and seasonal fruit (apricots, peaches, kiwis, maybe strawberries). It's a glorious start to the day, and very handy on your first morning - the only danger being that you'll want it every day (but it's very fairly priced). She also serves daytime drinks - her iced watermelon crush is already legendary - and mixes a mean G&T at sunset.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Toaster
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander down to the secluded sandy cove (5 minutes), with its safe, sun-warmed waters; or further along the coast to endless Peroulias beach (10-15 minutes), where a few loungers and eateries fringe the blond sands
  • Explore the pretty town of Koroni (10 minutes' drive), with its close-packed, pastel-painted houses spilling down from a clifftop Venetian castle to a fishing harbour lined with bobbing boats
  • Beyond lie the beaches of Memi and Zagas, perfect for wind- and kite-surfing, not to mention people-watching and tan-topping (though in all honesty none of the beaches round here get very busy)
  • Drive to the Homeric town of Pylos, set on the Navarino lagoon beneath another hulking castle; shuttle boats will take you to Golden Beach and the stunning horseshoe bay of Voidokilia, from where you can hike up to Nestor's Cave and a Mycenaean beehive tomb
  • Nearby Yialova has some lovely cafés, boutiques and a day spa, while the resort of Costa Navarino has 2 fabulous waterside golf courses (1 hour's drive)
  • Stop at ancient Messene, with its stunningly preserved 2300-year-old city walls, theatre and temples; allow at least an hour
  • Escape into the rolling olive and citrus groves on horseback (a lovely German lady has stables at Hrani) or on foot (Lyn can recommend short circular walks, including the waterfalls and pools of Polilimnes)
  • Rent a 5-metre dinghy with an outboard motor and canopy for some lazy fishing, or a day trip to stunning Sapi cove (EUR 90/day in 2014)
  • Go sailing from Ayios Andreas: the Greek skipperess and her yacht can even take you across to the Mani (middle peninsula), winds permitting
  • Don't miss Methoni, a lovely laid-back town with 2 sandy beaches and the crowning glory of all Venetian castles

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kitesurfing
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children under 14 are not accepted - unless of course you take over the whole place (some of the cottages can then sleep up to 3), in which case you could have a whale of a time, sleeping independently but coming together for breakfast (and perhaps lunch) at the pool bar, not to mention beach and castle trips by day. As there are no full-time staff on the premises, you would need to keep an eye on the children - especially near the unprotected drops by the pool and car park - and have a sensible adult-to-child ratio.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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