Levendis Estate

near Stavros, Ithaca, Greece Book from

Reviewed by Rachel Howard
Remote retreat on Odysseus' mythical island, where nature-lovers, honeymooners and frazzled families escape to recharge
Homeland of Homer's exiled hero, rugged little Ithaca remains surprisingly untarnished by tourism. Yachts cruise the azure coves, but few visitors venture into the lush hills that conceal ancient ruins and dramatic hiking trails. Nestled on a wooded slope with stunning sea views, Levendis is a cross between an elite gated retreat and a homespun organic farm. 4 modest cottages are camouflaged among terraced gardens perfumed with sage, rosemary and thyme; stone steps lead to an infinity pool straight out of the Hollywood hills. Only the chime of church bells punctuates the peace.

When Spero and Mal built the estate in 1997, their dream was to share the natural beauty and bounty with others. They run the place with easy-going grace, despite the gritty labour involved in maintaining the organic orchards and olive groves. Even the toiletries are home-blended and homeo-pathic. Water comes straight from Kalamos spring; allegedly, those who drink from it will always be happy, healthy and return to Ithaca. Perhaps that’s why over half the guests are regulars.

Highs

  • Overwhelming sense of escapism the moment you enter the gated estate
  • Moonlit midnight swims in a glittering infinity pool above a cliff-backed bay
  • Seasonal organic goodies plucked straight from the orchards
  • Alfresco aromatherapy massage in a shady glade to a soundtrack of lapping waves and whirring cicadas
  • Personal, relaxed service and insider tips courtesy of Greek Australian owners Marilyn (Mal), Spero and their kids make you, your friends and family feel instantly at home

Lows

  • Interiors are rustic rather than luxurious
  • Unruly toddlers in neighbouring cottages might disturb the peace – be sure to ask who else is staying when you book
  • It's not cheap, and there are charges for breakfast; but on the other hand rates do include transfers and car hire in summer

Best time to go

We think June and September are perfect if you can take time off then. July-August are the most popular months; book well in advance. In spring (April-May), free activities are laid on, including wildflower walks, painting workshops, and cookery classes.

Our top tips

If you come in summer, try and experience one of the local church festivals (Exogi, July 17; Kioni, July 20, Stavros, August 5 & 6; Anogi, August 14; Platrithia, August 15). After the service, there's usually moonlit song and dancing, fuelled by masses of roast meat and wine.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 4
  • Self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 3 Dec 2016 - 31 Mar 2017
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Comfortable and cosy, but far from plush, all 4 cottages have the same layout and design: an open-plan living/kitchen area with flagstone floors, primrose walls, and simple wooden furniture; a modern, tiled bathroom with 'Levendis Naturals' home-made homeopathic toiletries; a rather sparse twin bedroom with stone-built beds; and a slightly grander master bedroom draped in old-fashioned lace curtains and a muslin mosquito net. Storage space is basic: wire shelves and some hangers, screened by a curtain. Black and white prints of bygone Ithaca, wildflower bouquets, collections of sea shells, tea lights resting among pebbles, and battered sun hats add a personal touch to otherwise functional décor. There’s no AC, sound system or TV – just a radio, a fan, and bug-proof screens so you can sleep deeply with the windows open.

This simplicity allows the breathtaking views from the verandah and garden to do the talking. Sun loungers shaded by a mulberry tree look down on the gin palaces moored in Aphales bay; wooden tables beneath brilliant bougainvillea are perfectly placed for sundowners.

There are a few eco-friendly touches: a swinging branch for drying laundry, energy-saving light bulbs, and compost bins.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Internet access
  • Mosquito net
  • Oven
  • Radio
  • Toiletries

Eating

Kitchens - each cottage has its own - are well-equipped, including a kettle, toaster, Villery and Boch crockery and Bodum coffee pot. There's an electric oven with 4 hobs, a fridge/freezer and plenty of crockery, pans, cutlery, glassware etc. On arrival, your kitchen is stocked with organic treats including home-made muesli, sheep’s milk yoghurt, Ithacan thyme honey, fresh bread and preserves, (plum and sage, lemon and ginger), local wine, and extra virgin olive oil.

Every morning, guests may help themselves to seasonal treats - cherry tomatoes, plump figs - hung in baskets outside the Coffee Shop, a wooden shack where Marilyn and her daughter Katie whip up delicious, nutritious breakfasts: excellent coffee, fruit smoothies, vanilla waffles with cinnamon butter. They will even make up picnic hampers for the beach or a boat trip, or marinade meat for you to barbeque, accompanied with mezedes like persimmon chilli chutney and red pepper and feta dip. Don’t worry about the washing up: the housekeeper will take care of it.

There’s no restaurant, but you can order ‘room service’ (24 hours notice), delivered by live-out chef Nadia on her moped. The Mediterranean menu reflects her diverse (Jewish / Lebanese / Belgian) background: maybe tomatoes stuffed with rice and feta, or sweet and sour chicken with basmati.

The nearest restaurant, Yefyri in Platrithia hamlet, is – happily – the island’s best. Bangers and mash and sublime cheesecake are a welcome reprieve from taverna fare. Bustling Stavros has several grocery stores and restaurants. Try Margarita’s crumbly kolokythopitta (courgette and feta pie) or dinner à deux in Polyphemus’ pretty garden. For fresh fish by the sea, your best bet is Remezzo at Frikes, where Kiki’s super-market stocks Marmite and Crunchie bars for homesick Brits.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Oven
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Rent a motor-boat (from Kioni or Polis) to explore secluded bays, take a day cruise around Ithaca, or learn to snorkel with marine biologist Jamie Stirling, who leads expeditions on a traditional caique with on-board aquarium

  • Wander through olive groves to pebbled Perivoli beach, a 15-minute walk. Further afield, dip into the pristine coves of Ayios Yannis, Kourvoulia, and Sarakiniko.

  • Trek Ithaca’s overgrown network of cobbled footpaths. The hotel provides maps, guides and even a mobile phone in case of emergencies

  • Or borrow one of their mountain bikes (they have 10, of varying sizes) and cycle en famille along the dirt roads which lace the hillsides, stopping for a picnic or a swim

  • Follow in the legendary footsteps of Odysseus at the archaeological sites of Pilikata, Homer’s School, and the quaint museum in Stavros

  • Explore the crumbling villages of Exogi and Anogi, perched on Ithaca’s twin peaks, with spectacular views across the Ionian archipelago

  • Buy beautiful embroidered linens and lace bedcovers from Yorgos Simiris’ shop in the postcard-pretty capital, Vathy, one of the world’s largest natural harbours

  • Take a chauffeured day trip to Cephallonia, with its wineries, underground caves, and fancy restaurants in Fiscardo (45min ferry ride from Frikes)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting

Kids

This is a perfect place for a family holiday, and a safe haven for kids of all ages. Send kids off to help Spero feed the sheep or Mal harvest vegetables, or take advantage of the flexible babysitting service. Wherever possible, bookings are arranged so children of similar ages coincide. Mal and Spero also have 4 (older) children of their own.

Children under 2 years old are free. Ask about car seats for the rental car that comes with the cottage when you book.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The family friendly cottages sleep 4 in 2 twin beds and a double bed; all cottages have a folding sofabed in the living room which can accommodate an extra child (extra cost).

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement. The babysitter when we visited in 2006 was delightful – friendly, polite, and great with kids.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot
  • High chair
  • Car seat
  • Pushchair






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

Children's meals:

There's a full kitchen with fridge, barbecue and oven; don't worry about the washing up - the housekeeper does it! You can help yourself to seasonal fruits and picnic hampers can be made up at the cafe. Have a night off and book the services of a local chef ('room service') with 24 hours notice if you like. Children missing the taste of bangers and mash will find it at Yefyri nearby; there are plenty of nearby eateries and grocery stores.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Infinity pool
  • Beach toys
  • Toys and games
  • Gardens, orchards and olive groves to run wild in
  • Feed farm animals
  • Hammocks

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Take the motorboat out for a spin
  • Take a 15 minute walk to the beach
  • Learn to snorkel with a marine biologist
  • Mountain bike around the hillsides
  • Get down and dusty at the archaeological sites

Families Should Know:

There are some stone steps in the garden. It's not an easy place to get to - you will be met by the Levendis chauffeur after your charter flight, who will transfer you to the Estate by car, boat and car (an additional 90 minutes). On-call doctor who can be on-site in 10 minutes, plus staff are qualified first-aiders.

Distances:

  • Port: 30 minutes
  • Ferry: 3-4 hours by ferry from the mainland
  • Pharmacy: 2 km
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

Rates for Levendis Estate