Villa Kynthia

Panormos, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £100 per night

An intimate guesthouse-hotel, with antique-filled bedrooms and blissful pool, in an unspoilt village with beaches
Panormos is a small, pretty-much undiscovered village on the north coast of Crete, near the historic town of Rethymnon. It’s the kind of place you could easily drive past, were it not for the fact that it hides one of the island’s most charming guesthouses. This 1890s residence was built for a merchant of aromatic kitra (grapefruit-sized lemons), which were exported, along with carobs and olive oil, from its sheltered port.

Twenty years ago it was lovingly restored by wine producer Antonis and his sister Korina in memory of childhood holidays. Step through the ornate gateway and you find yourself in an enchanting courtyard, shaded by a venerable pine tree and scented by gardenia. Swallows skim the pool and wood pigeons coo. Behind blue shutters, 5 elegant bedrooms reveal polished parquet floors, beamed eaves, Persian rugs and antique iron four-posters; one has a balcony, another a terrace. On your doorstep are 18 tavernas and 2 sandy beaches; the bus for Rethymnon (22km) is a short stroll away. One of our favourite beachside places in Crete for families and couples alike.

Highs

  • The secluded courtyard, with its delicious greenery, prettily furnished pool and romantic candlelight
  • Charmingly decorated bedrooms, authentically Greek in style
  • Intimate atmosphere, with a maximum of 12 guests
  • The breakfasts are superb, with homemade cheese pies and fresh squeezed juices
  • The village of Panormos: a perfect size, with plenty of tavernas and 2 sand beaches
  • Easy access to all of central and western Crete - the bus stop is a 5-minute walk away, so you don't have to have a car

Lows

  • There’s a minimum stay of 4 nights (though that should be no hardship)
  • The smallest room, Nefeli, is a little poky by comparison with the others, with a private but separate bathroom down the stairs
  • The double beds are quite narrow
  • Outside midsummer the owners spend most of their time in Heraklion, but the housekeepers from the village know the ropes well enough
  • The bar and snack service are only open sporadically

Best time to go

The house is open April to October. Greek Easter is a massive religious and social event, while midsummer sees more in the way of culture, music etc.

Our top tips

If you're looking for one base from which to explore all of western and central Crete, this is your best bet. Either hire a car - Rethymno is 15 mins away, Heraklion 45 mins and Chania 75 mins; or go by bus - there's a stop 2 mins' walk away, and buses come buy at least hourly. Given the wealth of things to see, and the prettiness of Panormos itself, you could easily spend 2 weeks here. And that would give you time to check out almost all of the village's restaurants!

Great for...

Beach
Family
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 5
  • Breakfast and snacks served; restaurants nearby
  • 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
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

The interiors feel more like a Venetian palazzo than a Greek island villa. The 3 first-floor rooms are the most lavish, with shiny wooden floors, beamed or panelled ceilings, wrought-iron four-poster beds, faded Persian rugs and beautiful antique dressers or washstands.

Pride of place goes to Artemis, a truly charming room with 4 shuttered windows overlooking the pool and courtyard. A folding Chinese screen separates the white canopied bed from the sitting area, whose red-brocade sofas open out into 2 comfy single beds. The same arrangement applies in Odyssey, which has a modern ceiling frieze depicting Circe, the Sirens et al, in place of more characterful rafters. There’s a long narrow balcony overlooking the street and hills - searing hot until shade hits at noon - and enough floorspace inside to practise your syrtaki. The bathroom is a good size.

Pandora and Nefeli are smaller – as befits mere mortals alongside a pair of gods – but Pandora is still pretty roomy, and could easily hold a couple and a young child. Split-level Nefeli sits sweetly under the rafters, with its shower room down the windy stair and just outside the door. Lovely Pandora has the further gift of a large private terrace with a view to the hills – a perfect place for a quiet aperitif. These rooms would combine well as private family quarters.

The fifth room is Rea, a delightful apartment sleeping 2-4 in a white light-filled bedroom (its window overlooking a tiny street) and a low mezzanine twin/sitting area; ideal for a couple or a family. It comes with a kitchenette, dining table and direct access to the courtyard garden through a wide arched door.

All rooms have heating, air-con, TV and mini fridge; most have ceiling fans. Do bear in mind that the old iron bedframes are not as wide as modern hotel doubles. Three of the bathrooms have baths as well as showers. Mattresses are super-comfy, linen is snowy white.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

A buffet breakfast is laid out on the downstairs table, and you can help yourself to cakes, cereals, biscuits, fresh orange juice, yoghurt, honey, cheese, ham and homemade jams, and sit outside in the dappled shade of the pine tree. As if that's not enough, Korina will sometimes whip up a deliciously crumbly tiropita (cheese pie), or proffer some of her latest glyka tou koutaliou (preserved fruit). It’s a great start to the day, and slips quite easily into the middle of the day with a few refills from the coffee machine.

For lunch and dinner, there are many tavernas - 18 at the last count - their tables spilling onto pedestrian streets and glittering quayside. One of them, the Steki tou Sifaki, can deliver dishes – cheese pies, baked aubergines, oil-drenched rusks with tomato and crumbled feta – to the hotel’s courtyard tables. Our favourite was Maki's, whose chef (Maki's wife) turns out a small number of wonderful Cretan dishes each night; no need for a menu. Another gem is George and Georgia, just around the corner: their baked lamb was as soft and juicy as can be. Family-run Geronymos also comes recommended, for its deep-fried courgettes and delectable lamb chops, and The Anchor, for its calamares and sea views.

Wine (their own organic red included) and ouzo may be served in the courtyard, or you can join locals for a raki at streetside tables in the square. Guests in the Rea apartment can prepare simple meals in the diminutive kitchenette; there are a handful of mini marts in the village, open all hours.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

Panormos has a lot going on for a village of its size. You’ll find a small harbour, a couple of Byzantine chapels, a post office, a sprinkling of mini marts and tourist shops and an old carob-bean mill that has been restored by Kynthia's owners as a cultural centre. In summer, occasional music recitals and chamber concerts – from classical to Cretan, Spanish to Argentine – are arranged by the Epimenides Cultural Society, as well as street theatre performances. Best of all, the sand beach is a 3-minute stroll away, with loungers and parasols to hire, and a slightly larger beach a little further, with a good beach cafe. The sea is shallow and crystal clear.

This is also a great base for exploring central and western Crete, with the main north-coast road just a few km away, easily reachable by bus.

The university town of Rethymnon is perhaps the prettiest of Crete’s Venetian cities, with a massive walled fortezza full of crumbling storehouses and later Ottoman mosques. Its characterful tight-packed streets, lined with Turkish balconied houses and tourist paraphernalia, lead to a historic inner harbour, now disfigured by garish eateries. However, there are some delightful little restaurants and bars in the Old Quarter.

Chania, its main rival for Italianate prettiness, is an hour to the west, and well worth a day trip for its sea walls, archaeological museum, covered food market and romantic restaurants.

Heraklion, Crete’s vibrant capital and home of its finest archaeological collection, and the Minoan palace at Knossos, imaginatively excavated by Sir Arthur Evans, are both 45 mins drive east; don’t miss them.

The White Mountains are Crete’s most dramatic range (over 8000 feet high), popular with hikers, birdwatchers and botanists; join them on a trek through the 14km-long Samaria gorge, or escape the crowds in the quieter ravines of Ayia Irini or Imbros (you’ll need to start early for any of these).

Arkadi monastery, where a group of monastic rebels famously blew themselves up in the face of a Turkish siege, lies just inland, under a cliff in the foothills of Mt. Psiloritis (or Ida). You can hike here using a sketch map provided by the owner. Further afield on the south coast, you can explore Preveli monastery and go for a swim at its idyllic, palm-shaded beach.

Other beaches worth driving to are burgeoning Plakias, gorgeous Damnoni, nudist Amoudi and hippy Matala, all on the south coast; and the endless open sands east of Georgioupolis on the north (a windsurfer’s dream).

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, and will be very well looked after by the extremely accommodating owners and staff. The walled garden and pool make a safe, shady play area (you will, of course, need to supervise your kids poolside), and there are beaches a short walk away.

The village is partly traffic free. With only 5 rooms, the mood will depend largely on whether the other guests are families or couples, so it's worth asking at the time of enquiry. When our editor visited in May 2011, the other 2 occupied rooms were both families, who rapidly befriended each other.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Book either a double with 2 single sofa beds (Odyssey, Artemis and Rea) or connecting rooms. Rea has a kitchenette and Pandora also has a sofabed.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged, given advance notice.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

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

Children's meals:

Only breakfast is served; there are plenty of tavernas and takeaways nearby serving child-pleasing food. Rea has a basic kitchenette.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Walled garden to play in
  • Pool
  • Donkeys and other farm animals nearby

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Horse-drawn carriage rides through the village
  • Safe sandy beaches nearby, with parasols (but no lifeguards)
  • Plenty of lovely villages to visit if you need a change of scene from the beach

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced and there are some steps and terraces that toddlers could tumble around. There have been reports of weever fish in the sea here - jelly shoes are a good idea for little kids.

Distances:

  • Airport: 45 minutes
  • Hospital: 1 hour
Kid Friendly:

Location

Villa Kynthia is set in the small resort of Panormos, 90 minutes east of Chania, 45 minutes west of Heraklion.

By Air
From May through mid-October there are direct charter flights to Chania and Heraklion from London and many European cities. Click on the links below for a list of airlines.

By Boat
For a really romantic approach – fly into Athens and then take the overnight ferry from Piraeus into Rethymnon (22km east) or Chania-Souda.
There are also occasional sailings from Gythion (Peloponnese) to Kastelli, also called Kissamos.

From the Airport/Port
Villa Kynthia can organise a taxi. There is also a regular bus service between Panormos, Chania and Heraklion. Or you can hire a car (see below).

By Car
See our car rental recommendations.

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

More on getting to Greece and getting around

Airports:

  • Heraklion, Nikos Kazantzakis 65.0 km HER
  • Chania, Souda 90.0 km CHQ

Other:

  • Beach 0.4 km
  • Shops 0.2 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 29 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

Villa Kynthia is a magical place to stay. The garden and pool area is full of flowers, trees giving shade where needed and everything is maintained to tiptop condition. The villa is looked after by Yanna helped by her sister Maria. We can't speak too highly of Yanna. She was extremely helpful, a mine of information, friendly and engaging. Nothing was too much trouble and her cooking was simply wonderful. The breakfasts included her homemade cakes and jams and we were really impressed by being offered a glass of wine and freshly baked cheese pie when we arrived at 10.30pm! The room was beautifully furnished and overlooked the garden. This is a real gem hidden behind high walls. A real find!

9/10,

Loved my stay here. The villa was very homely and welcoming. Loved my room which was spacious and had the added bonus of a sunny terrace. Would have given a score of 5 for the room but the bathroom let it down slightly. The outside space is very attractive and peaceful. Panormo is an unspoilt village but with plenty of good quality restaurants and cafes to choose from. Day trips were easy to organise from here and the local buses were a doddle to get further afield.

9/10,

We had an absolutely wonderful stay at Villa Kynthia. Hotel hotel itself is incredibly unique and full of charm, and Yanna and Maria could not have been more accommodating.
Panormo is a very sweet town which has two beaches and lots of Tavernas. These were all largely the same with practically identical menus, so if you were there for a week or longer, I would advise branching out and going further afield for supper or lunch a few evenings. Our favourite Taverna was George and Georgia where the food, in our opinion, was the most authentically Greek.
We stayed in two bedrooms at Villa Kynthia, due to availability. We stayed firstly in the smallest room, Nefeli. This room, although very sweet, did not suit us well. The bathroom is not attached to the bedroom so it wasn’t great for privacy. The bed itself was on a balcony overlooking the dressing area of the room. As I was 6 months pregnancy, this was not ideal as it meant going down the staircase in the dark at night to use the bathroom. It also got quite hot up on the balcony. The second bedroom we stayed in, Pandora, was absolutely lovely. Much more spacious, private and also cooler and with its own balcony.
What a fantastic trip and we very much look forward to returning again!

10/10,

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the lovely village of Panormos. Villa Kynthia with its beautiful, peaceful courtyard and pool is a tranquil haven yet only a short distance from the beach and numerous tavernas. The Villa is superbly run by Yanna ably supported by Maria and they looked after our every need with quiet efficiency and great charm. All in all a truly relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

10/10,

Restaurants: George and Georgia, Geronymus both within 2 minutes and excellent. Things to do: Milli Gorge, Heraklion Archeological museum, Arkhady Monastery, Rethymno Venetian fortress.

10/10,

There is absolutely nothing negative to say about Villa Kynthia! The hotel is quiet, charming and well equipped, with a lovely pool. Panormos, as a village, has everything that you want - and retains its quaint character. It is within easy reach of a wide of choice of interesting places to visit. We had a car, which we think is fairly essential. But by far the most outstanding part of our stay was the wonderful service that we received from Jana and Maria who were absolutely superb!

10/10,

Villa Kynthia is a little oasis in the very small town of Panormo. Yanna and Maria were so kind, could not have been more helpful when needed and were unobtrusive the rest of the time. The breakfasts are immense, with loads of options including fresh Creta yoghurt, honey, walnuts, cheese, tomatoes, olives etc. and Yanna cooked lovely Creta pancakes one morning - delicious.
This week we were (inexplicably/luckily/happily) the only two guests at Villa Kynthia so had the pool to ourselves. The weather was allegedly 20-ish degrees but the enclosed position of the property made it more like 25 - a fantastic and private sun trap for lazing about with a book or five, with various seating areas to sit out of the sun too.
There are enough places to eat out in Panormo, the most enjoyable of which was George and Georgia's around the corner from Villa Kynthia. We had a hire car but the town is served by buses and tours to various places, it was all so easy.
With the accommodation at Villa Kynthia Maria and Yanna made sure the place was spotless every day. If I was to be critical, the perfectly fine thin duvet could do with a cover, on close inspection it doesn't pass for an eiderdown. The bed was comfortable, the room just as seen in the pictures. A parasol and a couple of the sun lounge pad things are a bit tired and could do with being replaced.
Overall, a relaxing and charming stay that I would like to keep secret but must happily recommend to all!

9/10,

Beautiful courtyard to villa in a charming village with many nice tavernas and Cretan life. We thought the room was rather expensive given that in reality it does not have a window except at street level in the sitting area of the apartment. Janna was delightful and charming. Place kept spotless. We were lucky to find anywhere at such short notice.

8/10,

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful stay at Villa Kynthia. Antonis and his staff were fantastic - warm, friendly, informative and attentive. We were even treated to a cold beer and cheese pie on arrival - very much appreciated after lots of travel! The room was brilliant value - large, comfortable, with a gorgeous balcony overlooking the small street outside, close enough to enjoy the atmosphere of tavernas in the evening, but just removed enough to remain private and peaceful. Everything was spotless, with a lovely traditional charm. The breakfasts were delicious - a huge amount of choice, with freshly prepared omelettes, pancakes and other delights at your request (special mention must go to the hand-baked cakes and freshly squeezed orange juice!) The staff were also very helpful with recommendations on where to eat, hints and tips about day trips, and helping us arrange car hire or airport taxi transfers. All in all we had a splendid time, with zero stress, and will be recommending Villa Kynthia to friends and family.

10/10,

A wonderful renovation of a stylish townhouse, now an oasis where families can enjoy a fantastic holiday. Friendly, intimate and I would highly recommend.

10/10,

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