Six Keys

Afissos, Pelion, Greece Book from

A stylish seaside guesthouse set on its own beach, with 7 spacious suites and delicious, inventive Greek cuisine
We were thrilled to unearth this gem. It has that elusive alchemy of a semi-private beach, contemporary styled suites and – unexpected bonus – truly outstanding Greek cuisine. If you think that’s a contradiction in terms, imagine still-warm chocolate-brown carob bread with homemade baba ganoush, fillet of red mullet with lemon and fennel confit, or bitter chocolate soup with frozen strawberries – washed down with superb sauvignon, while waves lap at your flip-flops and the sun sinks into an inky sea. Life doesn't get much better.

The setting is magnificent. You look out over the placid waters of the Pagasitic Gulf, its horizon ringed by rugged lilac mountains. Take a swim before breakfast - flying fish skimmed the water in front of my nose - then wander into the pretty fishing village of Afissos, or explore Pelion's wooded hills by bike, horseback or miniature train. Service comes with a smile, and rates are reasonable. Each suite sleeps 2-4, thanks to a separate sitting room, though we think this would be perfect for couples without children who fancy an upmarket Greek beachside hideaway.

Highs

  • The food really is an eye-opener: we thought it some of the best we've ever tasted in 15 years of visiting Greek hotels
  • We also liked the chic minimalist suites, with their brushed concrete-effect walls and large abstract tableaux - though it may not be to everyone’s taste
  • If you tire of the lovely sand-shingle beach on your doorstep, there are 2 more within 15 minutes' walk
  • With only 7 suites (one of them added, presumably, after they chose the name), it feels delightfully exclusive
  • Pelion makes a refreshing change from the barren Greek islands, with cooler summers, dappled olive and beech woods, and picturesque stone villages

Lows

  • You'll need to book early: the season is short, and Exi Kleidia (to use its Greek name) has a faithful following among the cognoscenti of Athens and Thessaloniki
  • The near-constant soundtrack of chilled music irked me a bit, but it's only from lunchtime - so you can wake to the sound of the waves at least
  • You may never use your ensuite sitting room: the outdoor seating (both private and communal) is much nicer
  • Some suites come with a fireplace or sunken jacuzzi, but these tend not to be operational
  • It's a bit of a devil to reach (unless you can find a rare flight into Volos): expect 3 hours' drive from Thessaloniki, 4 from Athens

Best time to go

Six Keys is open from mid April to early October, and we think the ideal months are June and September: pleasant temperatures (typically 22-30 celsius) and no crowds. Generally, Pelion tends to be a few degrees cooler than the Greek islands and southern mainland, so July-August are bearable; but be aware that in August the beach in front of the hotel can get very busy.

Our top tips

Do be aware, if they haven't corrected it on the English breakfast card, that "Choose one of the following" should read "Choose any of the following"!

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel & Restaurant
  • 7
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 6 Dec 2016 - 31 Mar 2017
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The suites each have a double (kingsize) bedroom and a separate sitting room, with a small shower room in between. The palette is glistening gold and grey, with large abstract tableaux on brushed concrete-effect walls (actually just stud walls, as we discovered when noisy neighbours arrived), softened by cherubic candlesticks and provencal dressers in the sitting room. We liked it, though if you're after that simple whitewashed Cycladic look, you might not.

Open eaves keep the bedrooms tall and airy while, most importantly, the beds are fantastically comfy, with sink-into Cocomat mattresses and vast stacks of pillows. Tiled wetrooms have a generous assortment of Cote Bastide smellies.

Deluxe Suites boast a small sunken jacuzzi in the sitting room and a big stone fireplace in the bedroom, but the former seems superfluous with the sea on your doorstep, and the latter is purely decorative (anyway the hotel is closed in winter); so in all honesty you'd be better off booking the cheaper Standard Suites. These can sleep up to 4, using both sofabeds, but for more space families might prefer the larger, split-level Executive Suite. There are no twin-bedded rooms.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player (on request)
  • Hairdryer
  • Jacuzzi (some rooms)
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Food here is a highlight, as you may have gathered. Under the tutelage of Athenian superchef Iannis Baxevanis - Greece's Heston Blumenthal, if you will - the kitchen produces some astonishing dishes based on traditional Hellenic recipes with innovative twists and underused (often foraged) ingredients.

Our melitzanosalata (aubergine purée) came with still warm carob bread and beef carpaccio; our rolled pites were packed with wild greens or minced lamb, and served on a slate alongside dollops of tangy cottage cheese dusted with pomegranate seeds. Every mouthful was a delight.

When it came to the mains, our sea bass stuffed with herbs and ouzo was wonderfully juicy, the fillet of red mullet enhanced by a rich confit of lemon and fennel. It may sound showy, but it really works. There are meats too (rib-eye steak, pork belly from the tiny island of Schinoussa), handmade pasta and refreshing desserts, including pepper sorbet with stuffed figs and lavender from the garden. The well-priced 15-page wine list is mostly Greek - but not a retsina in sight.

You eat in the rustic-chic dining room, among vintage posters, fresh flowers and glass candlejars; or grab one of the sea-facing veranda tables for a prime sunset view.

For breakfast, choose (the previous evening) from a menu card of pastries, homemade jams, pancakes with cheese and honey, cold cuts, omelettes, local yoghurt and seasonal fruit. Lunch is also available, but we liked to wander in to Afissos (15 mins) for a light snack at one of the waterside tavernas or bars.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • This is a place to indulge and do very little: swim in the sea, sunbathe on one of the beachfront loungers, top it off with fantastic cocktails and dinner
  • When the mood takes you, wander into pretty Afissos (15 mins) for laid-back bars, simpler tavernas and fishing boats; on the way you pass a smaller beach for cooling off
  • With a car (or mountain bike or horse, both of which can be arranged), explore Pelion's wooded hills and unspoiled stone villages; Milies has a vividly frescoed church and historic library, Pinakates is quietly authentic
  • In high summer, a miniature train cuts a scenic swathe through the hills from Agria to Milies; jump off at the tiny station of Ano Gatzea for ancient footpaths through olive groves to the sea
  • Just along the beach from Six Keys is a dive and sea-kayaking centre, which opens sporadically
  • If you're based here for a while, you might want to drive round to Pelion's wilder east coast; we love the hidden cove of Fakistra tucked beneath the handsome scattered houses of Tsangarada, as well as the tiny photogenic fishing harbour of Damouhari

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are welcome and each suite has 1 or 2 sofabeds in its sitting area, plus space for a cot (available on request), so they can sleep a family in reasonable comfort. But on balance we don't think this in ideal place for families, given the lack of facilities (no pool or high chairs, for example) and the refined gourmet angle. Most of the guests we encountered were couples.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Family Rooms

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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