Villa Ippocampi

Koutouloufari, Crete, Greece Book from

Reviewed by Jane Foster
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
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13 suites
  • Poolside café (+ walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 10 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
  • 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 Suites, 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 Suites 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
  • Phone
  • Safe box

Eating

Ippocampi has a Cycladic-style poolside café open 9am-9pm for breakfast, drinks and light snacks - including sandwiches and salads using Nikos and Lydia’s home-produced olive oil. Their specialities are Greek salads, Dako (Cretan bread with tomatoes and feta), various mezedes, and Greek yoghurt with honey.

Breakfast is colourful and generous - freshly squeezed orange juice, local yoghurt with honey, fresh fruit, platters of cheese and cold meats, and eggs cooked to order. It's not included in the room rate, but we'd recommend it.

For other meals, good places in Koutouloufari include Asotos, a friendly family-run kafeneio, serving platters of mezedes (savoury appetisers) - which can make a satisfying meal, if you order enough! We also liked Petros: creative Mediterranean cuisine at reasonable prices.

Back at Villa Ippocampi, 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 more suited to 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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Kitchenette
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • 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
  • 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 Suites 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 Suites have 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 blenders, a fridge, kettle and hob so you can whip up snacks and baby food if needed. 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...

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

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