Skites

Ouranoupolis, Macedonia, Greece Book from Book from £78 per night

A laid-back bohemian retreat near mystical Mount Athos where you can switch off in style
Secluded Skites, a 25-room hotel just 2 hours from Thessaloniki, was created by the Bohn family in the 1980s, and retains an arty, unconventional vibe that feels blissfully off the beaten track. The road dividing the low-slung rooms and lush fragrant gardens from the pool bar and pebble beach is still unpaved. Road signs are scarce; we drove past it twice. On arrival, it came as something of a surprise to see a convivial gathering on the terrace, Parisian jazz drifting on the sea breeze and moules marinieres on the menu.

Karin, who now runs Skites, has infused the place with her unique personality. There are chandeliers from Morocco (where she grew up), candelabras from nearby monasteries, lace curtains from local farmhouses, and hand-made driftwood sculptures. Rooms are pared down to the essentials, but the welcoming salon, pool and garden areas are where you’ll spend most of your time. If you want to head out, it’s just a short walk to the small town of Ouranoupolis - the jump off point for Mount Athos (the men-only monastic republic, established in 1927 and unchanged for decades). With its wonderfully restorative, meditative atmosphere, Skites is about as close to this as you can get: ideal for artist gatherings or romantic escapes.

Highs

  • The remote setting and relaxed staff create an atmosphere of absolute calm
  • Alfresco restaurant serving the best Meditarrean food in the area
  • The flower-filled pool area and pretty beach has the feel of a laid-back private villa
  • The beach bar is magical at sunset and by moonlight; in summer Karin holds poetry readings and silent movie nights
  • Seeing the historic Unesco-listed monasteries of Mount Athos either up close (men only; permit needed) or from a boat cruise

Lows

  • Rooms can seem a little dark and sparsely-furnished, though you do get air-con
  • The small beach is a rock and sand mix, though the sea is a wonderful translucent green and there are sandy beaches in nearby Ouranoupolis

Best time to go

The hotel is usually open from early May until late October. Best to avoid the first 3 weeks in August, when all of Greece is on holiday and the beaches are packed. Our favourite months are June and September, the former for more active types (hiking, cycling etc), the latter for water babies (warm seas). If you're into Greek culture, ask about the midsummer music and literature events.

Our top tips

Instead of taking the ferry to Ammouliani, rent a motorboat from Ouranoupolis and find your own castaway cove.

In July and August, Karin organises cultural events and concerts at Skites - from classical music recitals to rembetika nights (a kind of Greek blues music) and poetry readings.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • Beach Hotel
  • 25
  • Restaurant and bar
  • Allowed but not ideal
  • Closed: 18 Oct 2018 - 14 May 2019
  • Outdoor 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

Backed by pine-forested hills and only a few steps from the sea, the rooms are enclosed by blooming gardens of fig, olive, gardenia and honeysuckle. They are spread amongst several buildings and fall into 3 categories: 13 twin-bedded ground-floor Bungalows, with private terraces and garden views. Above them sit 8 Upper-Floor Rooms with sea-view balconies. The 4 spacious Suites are standalone buildings with a bedroom and living room, plus an alcove with twin beds where children can snuggle up. All the terraces and balconies come with iron tables and woven chairs.

The plain architecture and slightly spartan interiors are inspired by the hotel’s namesake: ‘skites’ are secluded dependencies of the monasteries of Mount Athos. Some fittings are past their prime but in general the rooms have plenty of charm. Quirky ornaments like ecclesiastical oil lamps, and a few choice antiques and icons liven up the whitewashed walls. Bathrooms are small and basic with showers and local toiletries. Concessions to modernity include WiFi, air-con, a mini fridge and hairdryer.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Meals at Skites are as much about setting as substance: tables are laid on a sea-view dining terrace brimming with bougainvillea. Chef Ioannis Sarris has cultivated a diverse menu which focuses on the many classic dishes of the Mediterranean. Expect a wide selection of Greek mezes (highlights include fried feta with sesame and honey, zucchini balls with tzatziki and baked aubergine with sweet peppers), fresh seafood (such as calamari, octopus with prunes and mussels), and incredible homemade puddings, including baklava.

The breakfast buffet focuses on local produce: homemade jams, pine honey, seasonal fruit, Greek yoghurt, pastries, cakes and boiled eggs often with an oven-fresh traditional cheese or spinach pie.

There’s a pool bar and wooden deck overlooking the beach that seems made for sundowners. Drinks come served with a side of fresh almonds in their shells. (Note that the bar and restaurant can only accept cash payments.)

If you want to eat out for a couple of evenings, head into Ouranoupolis (a 15-minute walk away). O Kritikos has an impressive wine cellar and exhaustive seafood menu, including stewed octopus and excellent orzo with prawns.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Mostly, you’ll just want to laze by the pool or on the beach, reading and daydreaming. Although it's a pebbled beach, there are segments of sand for sunbathing
  • Make a pilgrimage to the spectacular monasteries of Unesco-listed Mount Athos. You’ll need to be both male and organised - visa applications must be made 6 months in advance. Alternatively (ladies), arrange a boat trip around the Athos peninsula from Ouranoupolis and admire the breathtaking monasteries from afar
  • Hike through pine forests to the crumbling 10th-century monastery of Zygou, just outside Mount Athos
  • Walk to the bustling town of Ouranoupolis, 15 minutes away, with its long sandy beaches, pretty fishing harbour, fortified Byzantine tower and tacky religious souvenirs
  • Take a boat trip to Ammouliani Island, which has a string of powdery sand beaches lined with fish tavernas. It’s a 5-minute ferry ride from nearby Trypiti
  • Have Karin arrange boat hire and enjoy the independence of exploring the white-sand beaches of the nearby uninhabited Pena islands

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Tennis
  • Waterskiing
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are allowed but it is not an ideal place for them - this is an incredibly peaceful hotel.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Suites have a bedroom, an alcove with twin beds where children can snuggle up, and a separate living room.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Skites is set on the Halkidiki peninsula of mainland Greece. It's a 2-hour drive from Thessaloniki and a 15-minute from Ouranoupolis, gateway to the monastic community of Mount Athos.

By Air:
Thessaloniki Airport is 139km away. A taxi transfer can be arranged by the hotel, but we'd recommend hiring a car.

By Car:
From Thessaloniki, it’s a beautiful 2-hour drive to Skites, through the lush pine forests and mountain villages of northern Halkidiki. You can park outside the hotel. See our car rental recommendations.

By Bus:
If you'd prefer to travel by public transport, take the bus from Thessaloniki airport to the city bus station, then catch a bus to Ouranoupolis (approx 2-3 hours). Someone from Skites will pick you up from the bus station in Ouranoupolis.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Greece and getting around.

Airports:

  • Thessaloniki Macedonia International 139.0 km SKG

Other:

  • Beach 0.1 km
  • Shops 0.8 km
  • Restaurant 0.8 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

8/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
10/10
Value
9/10
Overall

I went to Skites in need of some time out and peace of mind. That is exactly what I got plus really good food.

10/10,

We loved Skites - it is a really beautiful hotel and gorgeous rural setting with pretty gardens, a sweet pool and an amazing beach and cute jetty. Flowers, swallows, the clear blue sea surround you and make for a very relaxing little paradise! The hotel is beautiful too and very tasteful with a World of Interiors/Kettles Yard feel. We spent some very lovely hours on the veranda relaxing and being fed delicious food. The staff are really lovely and friendly and helpful. Would very much recommend as a place to unwind and treat yourself!

10/10,

We fell in love with Skites at the first glance, a little piece of paradise almost at the end of the dirt road going to the borderline of Mount Athos. It is an incredibly peaceful and calm place where you can truly relax and switch off. The rooms are very clean (not everything is new and shiny but all is well maintained), the staff really friendly - helpful but not intrusive, the music is refined – mixture of classical, fado, Cabo Verde and Club Buena Vista, the garden is gorgeous, the sea translucent, the sky is clear blue and the food… well the food is simply delicious. We tried some other places to eat and after a few days decided that Skites actually has one of the best restaurants in the area.
The beach is mostly pebbled but the sea near the shore is shallow and the sea floor is rocky, so we strongly recommend swimming shoes – once you have them swimming becomes a great joy. There is a little jetty that you can use to enter the sea. The garden around the pool and the pool itself are well maintained, there are deckchairs and some natural and artificial shade.
If you have a car it is possible to make some excursions to the inland or other small towns and beaches. Or you can just stay at Skites and soak in its serenity, scents and vistas, charging your batteries for the inevitable return to the stressful mess that our everyday life has become nowadays.

10/10,

If you want a week of soaking up the sun, reading books, lazing by a pool and just switching off this is a good place to go. We found it simple, unaffected and very laid back. The service is watchful but never intrusive - which we loved. Karin, the owner, is warm, witty and idosyncratic.
Even with a car the options for sightseeing are limited. You obviously can't get to the rest of the Athos peninsula, but you can drive into the mountains or cross to the beaches on the other side (dirt track roads). That said, we discovered lots of little deserted sandy coves within walking distance - the better ones usually required a lot scrambling over rocks to get to them and the swimming is first rate. Eating options are limited to the string of beachside restaurants in Ouranoupolis and the good little hotel restaurant (although why the menus have to be laboriously spoken rather than written and why you have to pay cash separate to your accommodation, is odd). We liked the fresh, healthy breakfasts too.
The L-shaped swimming pool is pleasant with deckchairs rather than sunbeds - although you can stretch out on the small area of sand on the mainly pebble beach below. The little pool bar was sadly closed while we were there, but the quiet beach location, the wooden jetty and little deck where you can watch the sunset and gaze at the tremendous views are what makes this place special.

7/10,

I had the most heavenly stay at Skites - it is a little slice of paradise.

10/10,

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