The Architect's House

Tsangarada, Pelion, Greece Book from

A bright and beautifully styled country home set in shady grounds between mountain village and rugged coastline (sleeps 4-8, or 12 with outhouse)
When you come across a house designed - and in this case largely reconstructed - by a successful architect as her dream holiday home, you know you're onto a good thing. Gorgeous airy living rooms which flow into each other, canopied beds with windowfuls of Aegean sea framed by wrought-iron balconies, ceiling beams painted in warm dove greys, polished concrete floors which gleam in the dappled sunlight from chestnut trees outside... I challenge you to find a more graceful, aesthetically pleasing house on the Pelion peninsula.

But the Athens-based owners are not remotely precious about letting their house out. They leave board games and novels, a table football outside the kids' bedroom, beautiful lamps and porcelain, and a kitchenful of equipment that will cope with the challenge of extended family dinners, indoor or out. You can use the wonderful stone-built barbecue too, and the separate outhouse if 4 bedrooms aren't enough. It may not have a pool, but there are leafy gardens with plenty of spots for al fresco lazing, and 3 of Pelion's loveliest coves within 10 minutes' drive. The handsome stone village of Tsangarada is just up the hill, for tavernas and shops.

Highs

  • This part of Pelion offers a magical combination of mountain and sea, from cool beech-cloaked summits to a rugged turquoise coast ripe for snorkelling and kayaking
  • Footpaths link many of the handsome stone villages; one leads from your door down to Damouhari (which you might recognise from Mamma Mia)
  • Astonishing value for money, especially if you use all 6 bedrooms (4 in the main house, 2 in the outhouse), though it's still affordable for a family of 4-5
  • It's only sold on a few select channels, so you've a good chance of finding availability (except at Christmas)

Lows

  • There's no pool (not many of Pelion's restored mountain houses have one)
  • A bit of a devil to reach: on the far side of Mt. Pelion, with only sporadic flights into the nearest airport (Volos)
  • Only one twin-bedded room (though a 2nd may be available by arrangement), and only 2 shared bathrooms (3 if you include the outhouse)
  • The access drive is very steep - not for tiny hire cars or nervous drivers
  • The owners tend to use the house over Christmas

Best time to go

The house is available year-round, apart from a few weeks which are set aside for the owner. The hills remain refreshingly cool throughout the summer, though don't expect to have the coves at Fakistra and Damouhari to yourselves! June and September are ideal, especially if you fancy doing some hiking or biking. Spring comes late here - typically early May. Winter weekends can be surprisingly busy as city folk head up in the hope of snow; but midweek it's empty. The house has central heating and fireplaces, and the ski station of Agriolefkes normally operates from January to March.

Our top tips

  • Be aware that there is no TV or DVD player - bring a tablet or laptop if that's important to you. There is WiFi, though we didn't test it, plus lots of board games and a CD/radio.
  • Bring toiletries, beach towels/mats, bathrobes (if required) and sun lotion, as none of these are supplied - though mosquito tablets and a hairdryer are
  • There is a washing machine, so you won't need many clothes; but remember that evenings can be cool here, even in summer
  • Great for...

    Cheap & Chic
    Family
    Great Outdoors
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Villa
    • 6
    • Self-catering
    • All ages welcome
    • Closed: 17 Dec 2016 - 6 Jan 2017
    • 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
    • Laundry Service
    • Twice weekly maid service & linen change
    • Table football
    • Dartboard
    Room:

    Rooms

    The main house has 4 bedrooms - 3 lovely doubles and 1 simpler twin, which share 2 bathrooms between them (1 with shower and 1 with tub). If you need more space, the outhouse has 2 more double bedrooms (1 upstairs, 1 downstairs), sharing a small shower room. If 1 twin room is not enough, the owner can, by prior arrangement, convert one of the doubles into a twin for you.

    The 3 main-house doubles are gorgeous, especially the master double with its 4 windows and pretty wrought iron balcony, and the other corner room, with its muslin-canopied double mattress on a low wooden platform. All share views over chestnut boughs to the Aegean Sea. The twin room is best suited for kids, as the beds are smaller and there is less privacy (it is set off the landing, behind a thin wood-and-glass wall).

    Rooms are beautifully understated, with unadorned white walls, dove-grey ceiling beams and shutters, a colourful rug on gleaming tiled floors, a handsome dresser or wardrobe, and a few decorative finds - a basket of wave-smoothed pebbles, a reading lamp tucked in a niche. Thick walls and mountain breezes keep rooms cool in summer (you won't need A/C), and there's central heating for the cooler months.

    The outhouse is simpler and more compact but (we think) perfect for teenagers, who won't mind spiralling down a narrow staircase to the downstairs loo. The bright upstairs room is another mattress-on-wooden-platform affair, the darker downstairs double has a venerable iron bedstead.

    Features include:

    • Barbeque
    • Cd player
    • Central heating
    • Coffee maker
    • Dishwasher
    • Extra beds
    • Fireplace
    • Food blender
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hairdryer
    • Hob stove
    • Iron
    • Phone (local & incoming calls only)
    • Radio
    • Swimming pool
    • Terrace
    • Toaster
    • Washing machine
    • WiFi

    Eating

    There's a small but well equipped kitchen which looked more than adequate for rustling up dinners for up to 12 people: no surprise, given that the owners often cook here for extended family. We saw 2 coffee machines (1 filter, 1 Nespresso), a kettle on the electric hob/oven, a gorgeous marble sink with pull-down spray tap, at least 2 dozen stemmed wine glasses, stacks of white crockery and pretty ceramic bowls, a very professional looking block of chef's knives, and a few staples (seasoning, herbs) on the shelves. There's a marble-topped kitchen island too, and a vast fridge-freezer.

    The same stylish white-grey colour scheme continues here, reflected in a strip of pretty geometric floor tiles which leads to the bistro-style dining table for 8. But most likely you'll eat on one of the terraces, either under the shade of the chestnut tree or the other side in the sun overlooking the lawn.

    If you don't fancy cooking, Tsangarada is a few minutes' drive (or 15-20 minute walk) uphill. In the central part of the village, near the famous "1000-year-old" plane tree, we recommend the Lost Unicorn for upscale cuisine from a delightful English-Greek couple; Aleka's House on the main road for more trad (but still delicious) Greek fare; or Dipnosofistis (July/Aug/weekends only) for cocktails and jazz. If you're willing to drive a bit further, there's no more picturesque spot than one of the seafront tables in Damouhari.

    Features include:

    • Coffee maker
    • Food blender
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hob stove
    • Shopping service
    • Toaster
    • Barbecue
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • It's a 5-minute drive to one of our favourite beach hideaways in Pelion, the pirate-like cove of Fakistra; and a 10-minute drive to the cliff-backed beach of Mylopotamos, with its crystalline waters and much-vaunted rock arches
    • It's a delightful 30-minute hike down an ancient footpath to the tiny fishing harbour of Damouhari, used as a location in Mamma Mia
    • At Damouhari you can hire sea-kayaks to explore the rugged turquoise coast, with its hidden coves and sea-washed rocks - one of which hides a kryfó scholió, or secret school, in a cave
    • Heading upwards, you reach the leafy squares and handsome stone-and-slate mansions of Tsangarada (10-15 mins walk), a scattered village with 4 'parishes'; have a coffee under a 1000-year-old plane tree, or visit Doris' Serpentin Garden, a one-woman labour of love which bursts with berries and herbs and flowering shrubs
    • Above that lie the beech- and oak-shaded flanks of Mt. Pelion, perfect for hiking or mountain biking in summer, mushroom picking in autumn, or skiing in midwinter (normally open from Jan-March)
    • It is also possible to arrange horse-riding to a hilltop church, scuba-diving, windsurfing in Horeftó, and canyoning trips down the Mylopotamos gorge - though you'll need to make the arrangements yourself
    • Nearby Kissos has a handsome 17th-century church with intricate wood carvings; Anilio a women's co-operative selling preserves and baclava; Zagorá a bustling high street with cafés, fountains and apples galore

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Canyoning
    • Hiking
    • Horse-riding
    • Kayaking
    • Mountain biking
    • Scuba diving
    • Snorkelling
    • Swimming
    • Windsurfing

    Kids

    Children of all ages are technically welcome, and this would make a lovely spot for an extended family (or two-family) gathering – though it's not ideal for toddlers or high energy kids, given the unprotected drops in the garden and the lovely furnishings. We think it's perfect for adventurous older children, who want to get stuck in to the outdoorsy activities hereabouts. There's no TV or DVD player so bring your own if that is important. And there are no cots or high chairs for very little ones.

    Best for:

    Teens (over 12)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Families can use any room if they do not mind sharing a double bed with their kids or if bringing smaller kids, a small mattress (e.g. for 2-5 year olds) can be put next to the low double bed in the 2nd double bedroom. If bringing teens, the only room with 2 twin beds is a bedroom on the upper level of the main house.

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Table football
    • Darts

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Hiking
    • Swimming and kayaking
    • Mountain climbing, mountain biking and canyoning
    • Horse riding
    • Tennis
    • Beach volleyball
    • Snow skiing at Hania (50 min drive)
    • Older teens will enjoy the local nightlife

    Families Should Know:

    The main staircase to the upper floor has no balustrade, there are other stairs without balustrades in the garden

    Distances:

    • Airport: 5 hours (Athens) / 4 hours (Thessaloniki) / 90 minutes (Volos)
    • Doctor: 30 minutes
    • Shops: 7 minutes
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

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

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