Caretta

Kastellorizo, Greece Book from Book from £39 per night

A simple but lovingly run guesthouse, plus a gorgeous little cottage, on the idyllic tiny island of Kastellorizo
This is the Greece of Mamma Mia: azure seas fringed by green pines, a horseshoe of pastel houses fronting a tiny harbour where painted wooden boats bob. The film wasn't actually shot here (thank goodness), but it could have been. Kastellorizo - the smallest and remotest of Greece's permanently inhabited islands - is a 10 sq.km rock sitting in indescribably turquoise waters off Turkey's southern coast. There's only one road, running the 3km from port to airport (a 40-seater twin prop shuttles to Rhodes); and Giorgos, the island's sole taxi driver, has bumped up and down it 5,000 times.

A couple of blocks back from the quayfront, one of the handsome 2-storey houses hides 5 deliciously simple bedrooms, with white curtains wafting in the sea breeze and strings of seashells on saffron walls. This is Monika and Damien's 'pension' - he's an Aussie of local descent, she's a smiling German who came island-hopping 20 years ago and never left. They also run a bijou house rental, a pair of studio apartments and the excellent Olive Garden taverna, a laid-back outdoor restaurant shaded by a rubber tree. Come for lazy days of swimming and snorkelling, reading or painting, fresh seafood on starry evenings, and very little else. We fell in love with Greece all over again here.

Highs

  • Kastellorizo itself: if you know Greece, think Symi without the day-trippers or Hydra without the attitude; if you don't, just come - you won't regret it
  • Monika and Damien - a welcoming, sincere, hard-working couple who will make sure you relax and have a great time
  • Their cottage, a 5-minute stroll away in the sheltered inlet of Mandraki, makes a gorgeous budget honeymoon escape
  • The studio apartments and family suite (with kitchenettes) are perfect for a couple with one or 2 children; the village is safe, friendly and car-free
  • Boat trips to the Blue Grotto and the islet of St. George were highlights of our all too brief time here

Lows

  • The rooms - especially the bathrooms - are deliberately simple (no A/C, TVs or WiFi) but they're spotless and lovingly decorated, and you do get a fan and fridge
  • The island has no sandy beaches, but that keeps the crowds away and the waters clear
  • It's not easy to get to (that's half the point, of course): a short plane hop or 2-3 hour ferry journey from Rhodes, or a half-hour boat ride from Kas in Turkey, which is 3-4 hours from Antalya and Dalaman airports
  • The quayside can get busy with passing yachties in summer, and the occasional small cruise boat
  • No double beds in the guesthouse, only twins (though they can be pushed flush together)

Best time to go

Any time from May to early October, except for August when there's an influx of Italian visitors reliving the film Mediterraneo. September is perhaps the best month, with warm seas and clear light; we also loved our visit in May. The heat ratchets up in June; July gets hot and busy, but mitigated by the island's water festival (19-20 July), when the priest gets thrown into the harbour and everyone ends up getting sprayed one way or another. April and late October are also an option if you're not set on long swims. And, if you have a book to write or a break between jobs, come in winter for a total escape: Monika and Damien will do a deal on long rentals.

Our top tips

Bring your own soap and shampoo, plus beach towels (they provide a couple of small white towels each, for after-shower use only).

To get in the mood, watch Mediterraneo, a heartwarming (if slightly saccharine) Italian film about some inept soldiers stationed here in WW2, who end up befriending the locals and being absorbed into village life. It was shot entirely on Kastellorizo.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Guesthouse & Apartments
  • 7 rooms/studios + 1 cottage (for 2-4)
  • Limited self-catering; restaurants nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • 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 simple but pretty guesthouse rooms have everything you truly need and nothing you don't: comfy twin beds (which can be pushed right together for gapless doubles), a wardrobe, small fridge and standing fan instead of A/C (there are good breezes, too). The tiny but serviceable bathroom has a curtained shower with good hot water but no toiletries. Two large and lovely first-floor rooms have an additional daybed - extremely comfy, as our son can attest; while the top-floor family suite is divided into a twin bedroom for the kids, a boxy double for mum and dad (note that the bed is only 1.4m wide), and a separate kitchen. With their cream-painted floorboards and yellow walls offset by sea-blue window frames, it all feels quintessentially Greek. Spotless surfaces and loving touches - a lattice of shells, sun-bleached fisherman's rugs - are proof of great TLC. All rooms have space for a small table and chairs for in-room DIY breakfasts.

Monika and Damien have also resuscitated an ancient fisherman's cottage (sleeps 2), 5 minutes' walk away in the sheltered harbour of Mandraki, ideal for a couple on a week's break. It's one row back from the quay, but you can still glimpse the sea from the balcony. Downstairs is a cool, dark living-kitchen area with table and chairs, gas hob, fridge and sofabed. Shelves are lined with novels and crockery, there are hand-painted model boats on the mantelpiece, an ecclesiastical icon cabinet in the corner. The small bathroom has a tub in a blue-tiled alcove. Upstairs, the airy double/twin bedroom has a chandelier hanging from wooden beams and a window in each direction: perfect for lazy lie-ins. A small walled garden has sunloungers and a shower for post-swim rinses.

Finally, 2 studio apartments lie a minute's walk from the harbour, up cobbled lanes. Couples with an older child should grab the upstairs one. From the sage-green double bedroom, 3 windows look out over the harbour (low sills mean no toddlers); a second bedroom with French bed leads through to a small interior kitchen and simple white-tiled shower room. The downstairs apartment is similar but without the extra bed or the views. A small tiered garden bursts with pink dogrose, oleander and bougainvillea; you can sunbathe beneath a fig tree. Be prepared for visiting cats and barking dogs, though.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fridge
  • Mosquito net

Eating

The guesthouse rooms come with a small fridge, a kettle, a few plates and mugs, cutlery and a round blue table with café chairs. It's enough for simple DIY breakfasts or Greek-salad-lunches (there's a mini-supermarket a minute's walk away); and if you prefer there's a walled, geranium-specked garden outside the front door where you can eat under the shade of a fig tree.

The 2 studios and the cottage have kitchenettes with gas hob, mini-oven (no microwave), fridge, sink and enough implements for breakfast and simple dinners: saucepans, kettle and coffee machine, colander, chopping boards, teapot, eggcups, that sort of thing.

Otherwise head to Monika and Damien's Olive Garden Restaurant near the harbourfront: just follow the smell of barbecuing and look for the rubber tree. Imaginative salads (rocket, shaved parmesan and sun-dried tomato; or artichoke and potato) and meaty mains draw from the owners' combined Greek, German and Australian heritage. There's pork fillet in feta sauce, goat in the oven, grilled sausages, as well as a small selection of seafood.

But for the catch of the day, stroll down to one of the dozen eateries lining the harbour; inspect their display cabinets, double check the price and take a pew literally on the water's edge. We had a fantastic sargos (sea bream) and a satisfying 20-euro lobster at Billy's, along with chickpea fritters, chunky tomato and cucumber salad, chips dunked in tzatziki, and decent white wine out of a copper jug.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Swim or snorkel in the crystal-clear seas, looking out for darting fish, octopus, even monk seals: you can plunge in from the pier at Mandraki, or the headland in between, but not the main harbour (as there are too many boats coming and going...)

  • Wander the car-free lanes and rainbow-coloured quayfront, where fishermen mend their nets and local kids ride bikes: bring your camera or sketch book too, as the light is magical

  • Book a boat trip to the astonishing blue grotto (Damien can advise): after a 15-minute hop across the waves, you duck under an improbably low opening and find yourself immersed in shining cobalt blue waters, lit from beneath and dripping with stalactites

  • Ask the boatman to drop you at the tiny rock-isle of St. George, for secluded swimming (except in August) and sunbathing on a raised wooden deck; other islands further afield include Ro and Strongili, both uninhabited except for their lighthouse keepers

  • Hike up the zigzagging path behind the harbour to the monastery of St. George of the Mountains: there are great views across to Turkey, and paleolithic graves hidden among aromatic scrub - but start early and take lots of water

  • Visit the 14th-century castle of St John atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the horseshoe harbour. On your way back down, call in at the Archaeological Museum (free; closed Mondays), which houses some interesting folk art, Lycian relics, salvaged murals and an old diving suit

  • For a complete change, take a day trip across to Kas in Turkey, a likeable town with shops and bazaars, swimming decks, even a spot of nightlife if you decide to stay over (take your passport!)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Day trips to Turkey
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Sea caves
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming

Kids

This would be a great adventure for parents with children of 5 and over. The island is practically car-free, and fills with multi-national families during the summer holidays, so that the harbour becomes one big playground. The sea is warm from May-October, and with boat trips to sea caves and deserted islands, there's no shortage of excitement... so long as the kids can swim! Be aware that there are no sandy beaches on the island, and that the accommodation has no equipment for children besides a baby cot.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The family suite in the guesthouse is designed for parents with 2 children, and is excellent value, though space is limited. The upstairs studio apartment is perfect for parents with one older child; the guesthouse rooms are ideal for parents with one younger child (or on a tighter budget), using the daybed.

Families Should Know:

There is only a small health centre on the island (no hospital). Staircases are steep.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 6 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Rooms
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

The house is in such a perfect, peaceful location - an easy walk to the centre of town but away from noise and passersby. The water is some of the clearest I have ever swum in - but it would be tricky for somebody with limited mobility - there are steps into the water in places, but even so they were very slippery and it's a bit tricky to pick your way in over the rocks. The walk to and from the centre of town is also steep, with lots of steps. A walk up to Paleokastro, an archeological site on one of the highest hills of the island, gives incredible views. <br>The flight in/out from Rhodes is a risky option! It's a tiny plane and a tiny airport, with a tricky take off/landing approach. On the way out, our flight was cancelled due to high winds - we had to stay in Rhodes that night, and missed the first night of our booking. On the way back, a thunderstorm knocked out the airport electrics and all flights were cancelled for the foreseeable. We had to take a ferry to Turkey and book new flights home from there. Far better to time your international flights to the Rhodes ferry, which crosses once/twice a week. Restaurant Mediterraneo, which is up away from the harbour in a small square in front of the cathedral, has a limited menu of home cooked dishes that changes every night - it's fantastic food and much better value than down on the waterfront. <br>

10/10, , September 2015

We've just come back from Kastellorizo Island. What a wonderful experience. This small place is so special that you feel you belong there from the very first moment. It's because of its colours and its friendly people that make your stay there just perfect. After a trip to the beautiful surroundings( the gorgeous Blue Cave and St.George Beach), the peaceful island is all you need for a good rest. And this couldn't have been possible without the hospitality of Monika & Damien, the owners of Caretta. The room was really comfortable, very clean, simply yet tastefully decorated.The food was also excellent and the dialogue with Monika and Damien was so good that we felt we knew them for a very long time. We look forward to going to this beautiful island again and without a doubt Caretta will be our place to stay.

10/10, , July 2015

Fantastic, kind generous hosts, great staff and food. Kastellorizo is amazing ! The room does need air con in the hot months. We will return and wouldn't consider staying with anyone else, thank you Monnika and Damien!

9/10, , July 2015

We really enjoyed our stay. A wonderful location and beautiful renovation. Our hosts were gracious and welcoming. We really had a once in a lifetime experience.

10/10, , June 2015

Lovely hosts, excellent place.

9/10, , May 2015

We were on our second honeymoon, so the peace and seclusion were ideal for us. If you are looking for somewhere to completely unwind and enjoy the sea and nature then Kastellorizo is perfect.

10/10, , June 2014

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