Villa Ippocampi

Koutouloufari, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £88 per night

Small, family-friendly hotel near Crete's north coast, set in a walled garden with a sparkling pool
In the hillside village of Koutouloufari, with views down to Crete’s busy north coast, Villa Ippocampi makes a surprisingly blissful retreat for a family summer holiday or an off-season escape a deux. The owners are a Greek-Dutch couple. Nikos, whose parents started the hotel in the 1980s, originates from the village, while his Dutch wife Lydia has lived on the island since 1984.

Laid-back and restful, the white Cycladic-style building offers 13 simple but stylish suites of various sizes, each with a kitchenette. Set in a walled garden planted with lavender, bougainvillea, geraniums and a towering palm tree, it gives onto a lovely pool and poolside café serving coffee, cocktails and light meals till sunset, after which peace reigns.

Highs

  • Really personal service and friendly welcoming atmosphere - many guests are return visitors
  • We loved the simple but attractive blue-white décor, pepped up with pink flowers, ceramic jars and flickering lanterns
  • Very peaceful and private, thanks to the hedges and walled gardens, plus a lovely pool
  • Kids will love the sociable pool, family cats and countless ceramic and soap seahorses - Ippocampi means ‘seahorse’ in Greek - which are dotted around the suites
  • Lying between the sea and mountains, low-key Koutouloufari offers a handful of authentic eateries and informal cafes frequented by locals

Lows

  • The horribly commercialised resorts of Hersonissos-Malia-Stalida are only 5km away, but easily avoided
  • No restaurant - the poolside cafe serves breakfast and light meals until 9pm, but for a proper dinner you’ll need to go out
  • The terraces of the ground-floor suites at the front look straight onto the pool area, so lack privacy
  • If you're here as a couple in the summer holidays, you might feel overwhelmed by kids

Best time to go

To avoid the crowds, try to visit in shoulder season (May-June or September-October) when the days are sunny but not too hot (ideal for hiking) and the sea still warm enough to swim. During high-season (July-August), the island swarms with visitors, while in low season (November-April) most tourist facilities close down completely. The hotel is closed from November-mid April every year.

Our top tips

Take The Island by Victoria Hislop with you. An award-winning novel based on the leper colony past of nearby Spinalonga, it sets the scene for your surroundings and is an excellent read.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13 suites
  • Poolside café (+ walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • 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

We stayed in the Honeymoon Suite on the top floor - definitely our favourite and recommended for couples. Light, airy and open-plan, it has a whitewashed wood-beamed ceiling, a sitting area with fireplace, and an elegant four-poster bed hung with white drapes. Bougainvillea flower heads had been arranged to form a heart on the bed, and there was a vase of fresh flowers on the table and bottle of white wine in the fridge, so it all felt very welcoming. It opened onto a terrace with a table, sunbeds, and views of the sea. The bathroom was simple but functional, with a spacious walk-in shower and a horde of delicious smelling Mastic Spa toiletries.

Also on the top floor is the Penthouse Suite. Equally light, airy and spacious, also with a four-poster bed, it's another gorgeous option for a couple.

The remaining 11 suites are more rustic, done in classic blue-white Cycladic style. Most are 2-Room Apartments, which have a double bedroom and a living room with built-in sofas that can be made into beds to sleep 1 or 2 children. The 3-Room Apartments have a second twin bedroom which, being separate, is more suited to a family with older kids. All have tiled floors (the nicest ones are terracotta), whitewashed walls, and simple wooden furniture, some of which is whitewashed. Doors and shutters are Grecian blue, as are the sofa covers.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Safe box
  • WiFi

Eating

Ippocampi has a Cycladic-style poolside café open 9am-9pm for a la carte breakfast, drinks and light snacks - including sandwiches and Greek salads using Nikos and Lydia’s home-produced olive oil. Their specialities are Dako (Cretan bread with tomatoes and feta), and Italian coffee, tea, fresh juices, bruschetta, croissants for breakfast and Greek yogurt with honey.

Each suite has basic self-catering facilities - a small kitchenette with hot plates (but no oven), a kettle, filter coffee machine and fridge. Parents will find them useful but they're better for preparing snacks than meals. There is a small shop and bakery within easy strolling distance, and upon arrival you’ll find a bottle of mineral water and wine in your fridge.

For eating out you could try David in Piskopiano, a family-run kafeneio serving mezedes (savoury appetisers), or Mpaoula in Koutouloufari which serves Mediterranean fare.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Kitchenette
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Swim and sunbathe at one of the nearby beaches: we liked the quiet coves at Sarandaris, west of Hersonissos’ main beach, and also the sandy bays just east of Malia (where you can see ancient slipways cut into the sea rocks); but if you don't mind company, there are sandy strips at Limanakia (with umbrellas), the main harbour (with watersports), Star Beach (with bungee jumps) and Nana Beach (sheltered and safe)
  • Explore the hillside villages of Koutouloufari, Piscopiano and old Hersonissos, all within walking distance and packed with friendly small tavernas and cafes - a world away from the commercial resort of Hersonissos; they can recommend bike rental companies
  • Drive up to the Lasithi plateau, a fertile plain known for its unspoilt rural villages and white-sailed windmills (though most have notw lost their sails); plus, a short hike uphill, the Diktean Cave - where, according the Greek mythology, Zeus was born
  • Check out the archaeological site at Malia - Lydia can arrange a private guide to show you round the ruins of this Minoan palace, dating back to 1900BC
  • Visit the archaeological site of Knossos (5km southeast of Heraklion), to explore the 4000-year-old Minoan Palace, a labyrinth of frescoed rooms built around a vast central courtyard
  • Crete is a wonderfully diverse island with plenty to see and do. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our destination guide

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Waterskiing
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Villa Ippocampi is a lovely hotel for families, particularly as the suites have kitchenettes and there are sofabeds in the living rooms for extra sleeping space. Although the hotel does not have special facilities for kids, they will love the pool and there are plenty of family-friendly activities nearby.

A cosy small hotel popular with families, it's easy to make new friends here, whether parent or child.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The 3-Room Apartments are best (especially for older kids) as they have a double and a twin bedroom plus a single sofabed in the sitting room and space for a baby cot. The 2-Room Apartments have 1 or 2 single sofabeds in their living rooms and can fit a baby cot, too

Baby listening:

No baby monitors provided, but if you BYO the signal works everywhere, so you can eat in the restaurant while little ones sleep in their rooms

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • High chairs
  • Bottle warming

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

Children's meals:

The suites' basic kitchenettes have a fridge, kettle and hob so you can whip up snacks and baby food if needed (you can ask for a blender if required). The restaurant serves food all day until 9pm; there are also takeaways and child-friendly cafés and restaurants nearby. The nearest supermarket and a bakery are 20 metres from the hotel

Kids Activities on site:

  • Pool (unfenced)
  • Playhut styled as surf shack behind the poolside cafe, made from recycled material including an old surf board, decorated with driftwood, with hammocks and benches inside
  • Surfing/paddleboard surfing
  • Cat cafe (where kids learn about how to control stray cats - TNR - trap, neuter, return)

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Starbeach (1.5km) has children's pools and a playground
  • Thalassocosmos aquarium at Gournes (15km)
  • There's an animal farm and donkey rides nearby
  • And plenty of beaches, plus Knossos palace, to explore

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced and doesn't have a shallow end

Distances:

  • Airport: 20 minutes
  • Doctor: 5 minutes
  • Shop: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 12 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

I am very happy to rate the Villa Ippocampi 5 out of 5 on all fronts. An elegant, comfortable small hotel catering for every need with very friendly helpful staff. The location is excellent as a base for exploring Minoan historical sites. It is situated in the hills above a fairly brash touristy town (Chernonissos) but in a village, Koutouloufaris, that has plenty of tavernas and basic food shops. Highly recommended for couples or families.

10/10,

A lovely villa set in grounds around a nice pool. Staff were very friendly.
I would prefer feather pillows rather than foam ones.
In not topping up the shower gel (which was very small) for a 4 night trip, seems very tight and leaves a slightly negative impression.
I don't think guests should be required to pay the balance in cash. Very few hotels do this and in doing so the guests get penalised by having to withdraw cash from ATMs with punitive exchange rates. It would be much more convenient to use a credit card.
Staff were lovely.

7/10,

Wonderful villa in a great garden and a nice pool in a quiet and nice hill location above big, noisy party hotels. There's nice beaches nearby on a short drive but the beaches close by are all all-inclusive, water-slide, loud music kind of entertainment.
We, therefore, had some very nice afternoons at the poolside which is big with nice sun loungers - but no paddling pool for smaller children.

9/10,

Amazing place, the owners were wonderful, warm and welcoming and the place is just right, and very relaxed. Hope to return some day soon

10/10,

An excellent place to stay with kids. We would definitely return.

10/10,

Nice place with mainly Dutch tourists (though during Dutch hollidays). Very kind personel and helpfull.

7/10,

Lovely clean, good-sized room in pretty small hotel. Within walking distance to lots of lovely bars and restaurants.
Hotel had 2 x cots and also put 2 highchairs in our room for our twins. Basic cooking facilities come in handy for simple meals.
Very friendly, helpful staff

7/10,

We had a wonderful stay at Villa Ippocampi. Everything about the place has a lovely, relaxed, beautifully cared for feel. It is a wonderful place to go with young children (but yet doesn't have that overrun with children feel). We would highly recommend it. It's like an oasis of calm and tranquility within an area that offers lots of fun an excitement when you chose to go out and explore!

9/10,

A beautiful magical haven. Excellent accommodation and perfect swimming pool. Thank you for a wonderful holiday and for being so kind and warm to our family.

10/10,

The hotel was beautiful, and the service was impeccable. The room was lovely, perfect for a family or a couple. The food at the hotel was perfect for by the pool. Restaurants we loved in the nearby village (walking distance!) were Taverna Kostas and Mpaoula - both traditional Greek and Cretan food with great service. Beaches walkable, but some really lovely beaches a short cab ride away too. A perfect place to stay.

10/10,

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Rates for Villa Ippocampi