“A pair of beautifully restored wine merchants' houses (sleeping 2-4 and 4-6), hidden away in one of Santorini's prettiest villages”
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.
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.
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!
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.
Children (4-12 years)
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.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
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.
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.