Hideaway Houses

Megalohori, Santorini, Greece Book from

A pair of beautifully restored wine merchants' houses (sleeping 2-4 and 4-6), hidden away in one of Santorini's prettiest villages
At first, we were skeptical. Why come all the way to Santorini, famed for its breathtaking views over the sea-filled crater, only to stay inland among the vineyards? But then we unlatched the gate off one of Megalohori's car-free lanes, stepped inside, and were instantly converted. A quite unexpectedly pretty courtyard, laid with round volcanic pebbles and centred on an emerald green plunge pool, was fringed with potted pink geraniums. There were inviting sunbeds, a huge hammock, glimpses of whitewashed roofs; the only sounds were the trickle of water and the hourly peal from the blue-domed church.

Behind it, ochre-coloured Sophia's house offers 4-metre-high rooms with thick walls and shuttered windows, cool even in midsummer (though there's A/C too). The sitting room - once a storage vault for a 19th century wine merchant - combines antique dressers with flatscreens and a fully primed iPod. Off it lies a glorious master bedroom with vast four-poster, and a smaller room where our young son, when not splashing in the pool, slept. There's a chunky pebbled bathroom and a small but serviceable kitchen, too. But most of our time was spent outside: mornings in the courtyard, lunch at the bamboo-screened dining table, evenings at one of the 2 delightful tavernas a minute's walk away in the village square.

We also looked at nearby Kyani, which sleeps 6 in three separate suites. It's in the same dark-pebbled, pastel-painted style, with white-washed vaults, vast grape-vat baths, a similar plunge pool and no shortage of sheltered sit-outs. For anyone seeking a true hideaway on Santorini, away from the crowded caldera in one of its prettiest villages, either house would make an excellent choice.

Highs

  • After a sunset stroll through Oia or a boat trip to the lava islands, you feel super smug knowing that you can retreat here afterwards, away from the crowds
  • Sophia's house is perfect for a family with one or two children (or a honeymooning couple on a splurge), while Kyani would suit 3 couples travelling together (or 2 couples with children)
  • The courtyard and plunge pool (each house has one) are a blissful refuge from wind, sun and clicking crowds
  • It's great having the option of self-catering or wandering down the lane for a lazy dinner at Raki, one of the island's loveliest tavernas
  • Megalohori is a pretty little village: largely car-free, with just one resort and plenty of picturesque churches

Lows

  • Service is minimal: after meet-and-greet, you’re left alone (with a concierge on call)
  • There's no welcome hamper, so you'll have to stock up on arrival (there are shops nearby, including a late-opening baker and supermarket)
  • The kitchen and bathroom in Sophia's house are a bit poky by comparison with the other rooms
  • In Kyani, there's no real sitting room: it's a house for summer stays. Also, instead of a proper kitchen, Kyani has 2 in-suite kitchenettes, so it helps if all guests know each other well
  • Like all Santorini accommodations, it's not cheap, but rates include a rental car

Best time to go

The houses are open from April to October, and we think May, June and September are the best months to visit, being not too hot. However, even in midsummer, these houses remain cool and relatively quiet, plus they have their own pools for cooling off in.

Our top tips

The rizogalo (rice pudding) from the village baker makes a delicious breakfast. And put a stash of their mini ice creams in your freezer compartment, for afternoon treats.

Bring any toys, games and DVDs you might need as the house does not have any. It does have nice toiletries (from Korres), though, plus robes and slippers.

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Villas
  • 2 villas for 2-6
  • Limited self-catering, restaurants a short walk away
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Dec 2015 - 31 Mar 2016...
  • Plunge 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

There are 2 houses a short walk apart: Sophia, which sleeps 2-4 in 2 bedrooms (or 5 if you use the sitting room sofa), and Kyani , which sleeps 6 in 3 semi-independent bedroom suites (or 7-8 if you use the sofas).

Of the two, we preferred Sophia, which was the perfect size for a small family, though we could also imagine a honeymoon couple enjoying its space and seclusion. From the courtyard you step into a cool, dark sitting room with a 4-metre vaulted ceiling, shuttered windows and polished wooden floors. It feels almost monastic - though in fact this was once a wealthy wine merchant's house. You'll find a sofa and chairs, a coffee table made from an old stable door, a pretty ceiling light of coiled olive branches. In case the weather turns, there's an antique round dining table, while a flatscreen TV-DVD (bring your own films) and a fully primed iPod (plus dock) should keep you amused.

Off this room, one on each side, are the master bedroom with its vast four-poster stacked with pillows, and a smaller double (or twin, at a pinch) ideal for kids. By comparison, the bathroom - with curtainless, cymbal-sized shower and pebbled floors - and the adjoining kitchen (see Eating) feel a little poky, though they do the job. But you'll spend most of the time outside, either around the pool or in the smaller rear courtyard, which has a bamboo-screened table for 6.

Kyani has 3 bedroom suites, each with its own separate entrance, and 2 of them with their own kitchenette; other than that, there's no communal indoor dining or sitting space. It's an odd layout, best suited to 3 couples, or possibly a pair of families, who know each other well. But it also has some gorgeous touches: the panoramic dining terrace, the raised pool with its soft LED lighting echoing the illuminated church opposite.

You enter into a larger courtyard, laid with the same black pebbles and with a raised plunge pool at the end. Behind are some wind-sheltered sit-outs tucked amid part-ruined walls. The largest and coolest suite is downstairs: a white vaulted canava reminiscent of a Cycladic chapel, with a groovily curved bed base in grey polished cement, and a huge tub in its adjoining bathroom (there's a shower, too). The other downstairs suite is lighter, with a smaller bedroom (also queensize) and a large, rustic bathroom (the stones still have some sharp edges). It's the only one without a kitchenette.

Head upstairs, past the dining terrace with its lofty views of the village church, to the 3rd suite, the largest. This has its own sitting/TV room with a kitchenette (no oven) hidden behind a bar counter; this could be used as a communal space if all agree. The queen bedroom, dressing room and bathroom lead off it. There's another of those huge bath vats (we did wonder how long it would take to fill them), more olive branches, white walls and the odd piece of simple art. It's all quite comfy and very charming - but don't expect the all-out design flair of some of Santorini's top end hotels.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee maker
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Kitchenette
  • Mobile phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Plunge pool
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Both houses have kitchenettes with basic cooking facilities, and an outdoor dining terrace or courtyard (Sophia also has an indoor dining table). These are fine for making breakfasts and simple lunches, but not for anything fancy. But that's no problem, as there are 2 excellent tavernas within walking distance (see below).

Bear in mind that you'll need to buy all provisions, as only the very basics (salt, pepper, oil, 2 bottles of water) are supplied. Again, not a problem with a great bakery (open 20 hours a day!) in the village, and a supermarket just outside.

Sophia has a small kitchen with fridge-freezer, electric oven, sink, a few appliances (kettle, coffee machine, sandwich maker) and basic cutlery and crockery. There is a small but pretty dining courtyard, screened by bamboos, with a table for 6. Or you can snack around the pool.

Kyani has simpler kitchenettes in 2 of the 3 suites, but not in the third. Both kitchenettes have electric rings, fridge-freezer, sink, kettle, toaster and basic cutlery-crockery. The upstairs kitchenette is in a bar layout. There's a panoramic outdoor dining terrace, seating 6 (or 8 at a squeeze), with lovely views over the village to the sea.

There are 2 delightful tavernas in the village square, about 100m away: Raki, with its outdoor tables under a shady pergola (June-Sept only), and Marmita (open all year) just opposite. Both serve classic Santorinian and Greek dishes, such as fava (split pea puree), fresh fish in local herbs, and various salads incorporating the capers and sun-dried tomatoes for which the island is famous. The chef at Raki also offers excellent private cooking lessons by arrangement.

Otherwise, we can recommend Kallisti taverna in the square of Pyrgos, Nikolas in the main street of Fira, or Roka in Oia: all 3 serve unpretentious Greek fare at sensible prices (a rarity on Santorini!). For something more upscale, try Koukoumavlos in Fira or 1800 in Oia - both continue to get rave reviews. By comparison, we found Ambrosia and Nectar, sister gourmet eateries in Oia, a tad overpriced and pretentious.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Cooking classes
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Toaster
Eating: Sophia
Activity:

Activities

Being in Megalohori, which is in the centre of the island, and with a rental car included in the price, you're well placed to explore the whole of Santorini. Though equally, it is the kind of place where you could easily spend a week sitting and doing very little!

  • Visit one of the nearby wineries for a tasting of local vinsanto and other (mostly white) varietals; Boutari and Santo (both about 1km) are the nearest of the dozen or so on the island
  • Megalohori is a pretty, tranquil little village; there's not much to visit (beyond 3 tavernas, 1 resort and several churches), but it's all very picturesque, and mostly car-free
  • Pyrgos (3km) is also worth a trip: the highest village on the island, with a ruined castle, a pretty outdoor cafe under the church tower, and a surprisingly decent taverna on the square
  • For the best caldera views, drive to Imerovigli and follow your nose towards the amazing plug of rock which sticks up in front of you: small paths lead up to the ruined castle on its summit, others round the left to a hidden chapel (Theoskepasti) with amazing views over the sea-filled crater
  • A boat trip to the lava islands in the caldera is a must, even though you will by no means be alone: lunar-like rocks and a still smouldering crater await you. Prebook at any local agency (ask which trips are least subscribed, and allow time to get down to the old harbour by cable car or on foot); some include a visit to the "hot springs", where you can swim in thermally warmed, slightly metallic smelling sea water
  • Take the obligatory sunset stroll through Oia, the oh-so-pretty, couply village in the north: the caldera views are truly amazing, and there's some tempting shopping too (avoid the overpriced art and jewellery, but do check out the amazing Atlantis bookstore)
  • Swim or snorkel at one of Santorini's black-sand beaches: Perissa and Kamari are the biggest and busiest, with organised watersports; Red Beach and Vlyhada more secluded (all are 10-20 mins' drive)
  • From Kamari, drive up to the hilltop ruins of ancient Thira for stunning views and an insight into the island's classical past; older still are the ash-preserved streets and houses of Minoan Akrotiri

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Volcano visits
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome, and Sophia in particular works well for a family with 1 or 2 children. In both houses, the secluded courtyard and private plunge pool are a real blessing - you don't need to worry about disturbing neighbours - and there's no traffic outside.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Of the 2 houses, Sophia is best, sleeping 2-4. The children's bedroom is quite narrow, so if set up as a twin the beds will be close together; alternatively you could use the sitting room sofa bed as the 2nd child bed.

Kyani would be ok for a family with older children who are happy in their own separate suites. All 3 bedrooms are double, not twin.

Baby equipment:

  • Cot
  • High chair

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Houses are self-catering; the kitchenette means that you can make your own breakfasts and snacks easily and cheaply. There are family-friendly tavernas nearby if you prefer not to cook.

Kids Activities on site:

  • TV and DVD player
  • iPod and dock
  • Unheated plunge pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Megalohori has a playground by the main car park, and there are lots more dotted around the island
  • Take a boat trip to the Lava Islands
  • Swim or snorkel on the island's black sand beaches

Families Should Know:

It's not ideal for toddlers, because (in both houses) the pool is unprotected and the courtyard has a chunky pebbled surface. There are no kids' toys, games or DVDs, so bring your own.

Distances:

  • Airport: 10 minutes
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Nearest shop: 3 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Service
7/
Value
9/
Overall

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