White River Cottages

Makriyialos, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £72 per night

A delightful hamlet of 13 restored stone cottages, in a secluded valley by Crete's southeast coast
Much of eastern Crete has suffered from modern development, but there’s one little area – like Asterix’ village in those comic books – which has resisted the invasion of mass tourism. It’s a pine- and olive-studded valley surrounded by rocky peaks, just inland from Makriyialos beach. At the end of this is a small hamlet of old stone houses, tastefully restored by local man Vangelis Mavrakis, and rented by the night or week to couples and families seeking the ‘real Crete’. They are simply and rustically furnished, with sitting-dining room, kitchen and 1 bedroom.

A short drive away are the beaches and harbour town of Makriyialos, the gorges of Pefki and Perivolakia, the palm-shaded beach of Vai, and the Minoan palace of Zakros. All in all, it’s a kind of coastal equivalent of Milia mountain hamlet in western Crete, along with which it would make an excellent 2-centre introduction to this fascinating and varied island. If only there were more places like these in Greece!

Highs

    • We loved the wonderful pool in the heart of the hamlet
    • Exceptionally friendly owners and staff
    • A sandy, family-friendly beach with tavernas 15 mins' walk down through olive groves
    • The thick walls keep the interiors blissfully cool even in the height of summer (and there's A/C, too)
    • The larger cottages (which come with sofabeds) are ideal for families

Lows

  • The cottages are simply (but tastefully) furnished
  • Bathrooms are fairly basic
  • You have to walk (15 minutes) or drive to dinner; or, of course, cook it in your kitchen
  • Some of the coastline nearby is scarred by polytunnels and drab development

Best time to go

The best times, in terms of pleasant climate and avoiding the crowds, are either April - May, when the weather is pleasantly warm and the hillsides have some colour (but the sea is cold); or mid-September - October, when the sea is warmer but the days shorter. Try and avoid July and August if you can – quite busy and very hot. It is closed from November to March (there is no central heating).

Our top tips

Don't miss the lovely 2-3 hour hike through the pine-shaded gorge above the hotel: ask Vangelis for a sketch map. Ideally, get a lift up to Pefki village (marked as Ayios Stefanos on google), so you can walk downhill and end with a swim in the pool. In summer, start early; in spring or autumn, leave around 1pm for a wonderful outdoor lunch at Piperia in Pefki, before starting the hike back down.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 7
  • Self catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 17 Nov 2018 - 30 Apr 2019
  • 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: Large Cottage

Rooms

The 13 tiny stone houses ooze rustic charm. Unlock your stable door with the massive iron key and you’ll find yourself in a cosy sitting-dining room built against the rockface. They are simply but brightly furnished, with white-washed walls, beamed ceilings and mauve-striped bedspreads (the inbuilt sofas double up as extra beds). Off this lies a small kitchen, a bedroom and a simple bathroom (curtained shower, hairdryer). It may not be the height of luxury, but it is clean, well-kept, tranquil and extremely cosy. And the beautifully tended gardens around add a splash of colour and softness to the views.

The houses are divided into three types; you should specify which type you prefer (but the actual house is normally allotted later, not at the time of booking).

The Studio is the smallest, with a single open-plan space incorporating bedroom, sitting area and kitchen corner.

Small cottages (or apartments) have a double bedroom and a separate kitchen / sitting room, normally with one inbuilt sofa which can double up as an extra bed. They would suit a couple with child. #7 has plenty of charm and is very near the swimming pool – which could be a plus or a minus.

Large cottages (or apartments) are similar but with two (or more) sofabeds, thus suiting families. House #6 has a sitting-dining room with double and single sofabeds, a separate double bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a shady sitout at the back. House #11 has, besides its double bedroom, bathroom and outside patio, a decent-sized kitchen-diner separated from the sitting room (2 sofabeds) by an arch growing out of the living rock.

All rooms have air-conditioning (cold or hot air), solar-and immersion-heated hot water, mozzie screens on the windows (which weren’t totally effective during our visit), a phone, an iron and a hairdryer. There is also free WiFi in all the cottages.

There is sometimes evidence of damp, so bring a warm jumper if visiting in April or October, and check there are spare blankets. Be aware these are not full service rooms - there is cleaning and linen changing every few days but guests are expected to dispose of garbage in the bins provided; it will not be collected daily.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Mosquito panels on windows
  • Phone
  • WiFi

Eating

The cottages are self-catering, with small, simply-equipped kitchens and a dining area. There’s a little electric cooker (2 rings, mini-oven and grill), a fridge (with ice tray – very important!), a kettle, toaster, basic tools (saucepans, corkscrew, grater, lemon-squeezer, knives) and enough cutlery and crockery for 2-4, depending on the house. There’s a table inside, but chances are you’ll be eating outside on the private terrace – each cottage has one, but some are prettier than others.

It’s certainly adequate for a breakfast of fresh yoghurt and delicious thyme honey (bought from the cleaning lady!); or farm-fresh eggs (bought from reception) fried on toast; or a crunchy Greek salad and feta for lunch; or even a simple pasta dish for supper (there’s a cookery book if you need inspiration).

For anything more complex you’ll have to drive 1km to the coast (or walk), which offers a range of tavernas, restaurants and cafés in and around Makriyialos. Olympio café serves good snacks and pizzas; or check out the Italian restaurant in neighbouring Analipsi.

For delicious, unfancy home cooking we recommend Kaliatzina taverna, slightly further afield in Koutsouras village (ask Vangelis to draw you a sketch map). Here, on a tamarisk-shaded courtyard overlooking the sea, 2 sisters (plus the obligatory yiayia) serve you whatever they’ve cooked that afternoon – stuffed tomatoes and peppers, arni avgolemono (juicy baked lamb in and egg and lemon sauce), beef stifado (stewed with onions), all washed down with a small carafe of local wine.

For a bizarre dinner experience, drive to Kalo Nero (20 minutes east) and you can eat at the foot of an illuminated cave, the ‘Dragon’s Cave’.

Features include:

  • Children's meals
  • Full kitchen
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: Large Cottage
Activity:

Activities

  • Makriyialos is the prettiest town on this stretch of coast, with a lovely fishing harbour, restored waterfront houses, traces of Minoan and Roman settlements and a wide choice of bars and tavernas
  • Swim from its sandy beach, or for a change drive west to Achlia or Koutsounari beaches
  • Heading east, visit the forbidding monastery of Kapsa (9km away) and the dramatic Pervolakia gorge, then stop for a swim at the shingly cove of Kalo Nero near Langada
  • Take a boat trip from Ierapetra to the beautiful island of Chrysi
  • Climb the panoramic 1500-metre summit of Afendis Estravromenos; start from the village of Orino, 30 mins drive away
  • Save energy for one longer day trip: eastwards to the atmospheric ruins of Zakros Minoan palace, at the estuary of the oleander-lined 'Valley of the Dead'; combine it with a swim at Xerokambos or, further afield, the palm-beach of Vaï

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome and this is a great place for them, with beaches nearby and wild nature on your doorstep.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The larger cottages can sleep 4-5, with one double bedroom and two sofabeds in the sitting room; smaller cottages work well for a smaller family, with a sofabed in the living/kitchen area. Extra beds are also available.

Baby equipment:

  • 2 cots
  • High chair

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

Children's meals:

The basic self-catering cottages have everything you need for families meals (but no microwave or blender). Tavernas, restaurants and takeaways are a short amble away.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Playground
  • Watersports and more in Makriyialos
  • Lots of lovely beaches nearby

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced and there are steps around that could be tricky for toddlers. You can buy everything you need in the village (1km walk), including nappies, beach toys and baby food. A doctor can be called out to the villas if necessary.

Distances:

  • Airport: 2 hours
  • Hospital: 30 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

The cottages are 1km inland from Makriyialos at the end of a small track, in a secluded valley by Crete's southeast coast.

By Air
The airstrip at Sitia has been upgraded to accept international flights in summer, but you will more likely fly to Heraklion (or Iraklion), 2 hours (130km) away.

By Boat
There are daily overnight ferries from Piraeus (Athens) to Heraklion, and less frequent, slower sailings from Piraeus to Sitia.

From Heraklion Airport/ Port
It's a 2-hour (130km) drive via Agios Nikolaos and Ierapetra. If you choose not to hire a car you can catch a taxi from Heraklion - note it's best to agree a price before accepting the ride - or catch a bus to Aghios Nikolaos or Ierapetra and a taxi from there.

By Car
Hiring a car will allow you to explore the area better - see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions to the houses will follow when you confirm a booking through our site.

More on getting to Greece and getting around.

Airports:

  • Heraklion, Nikos Kazantzakis 130.0 km HER

Other:

  • Beach 1.0 km
  • Shops 2.0 km
  • Restaurant 2.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 11 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

We stayed in room 11. The interior of this room was lovely, no complaints at all. Sadly the outside was not. There are two outside areas for this room. The first is a tiny area accessed through a door in the bedroom where, when seated, one stares directly at the hedges a few feet away which box you in. Not a particularly nice place to sit and relax. The second area is accessed from the front door - it is enclosed on three sides. The view from the outside table where we ate on most days was of the pathway used by other residents. In the evening you stared directly at the bright lamp which lights that pathway. There also appears to be a drain underneath this area so you regularly hear what appears to be the sound of water draining away.
We had a fantastic time in Crete but this room was deeply disappointing that it did not include an outside area where we felt comfortable. We complained again when we left and were assured our feedback would be passed onto the owners though that was of little consolation to us at that point.

4/10,

White River Cottages are quite enchanting, and exceeded my expectations! The accommodation was spacious, comfortable and a bit quirky. I loved the pool, much bigger than I anticipated, and the whole pool area was very welcoming. I also enjoyed reading the Greek cookery book, though didn't get around to much cooking! I would love to go again in spring or autumn to walk up the gorge.

10/10,

Peaceful location with very comfortable rooms. Rustic but still all mod cons. well equipped including sun umbrellas - essential for quieter beaches. The pool was lovely & never crowded - ideal for our teenagers as deep enough for diving. A 5 minute drive (too hot to walk a mile into town) to local shops, restaurants & bustling sea front. Our favourite restaurant was Stratos - fantastic food & friendly staff. The beach at Cala Nero was good for snorkelling then lunch at Oasis Taverna. And Green beach fun as you can rent shelters with hammocks & a beachside taverna.

10/10,

We loved our stay! We didn't want to move from our cottage. Only down sides are bed mattress was little bit to firm and as I am not a cat person it was a little annoying that cats we waiting in front of our door for something to eat. We would like to stay again.

9/10,

We had the chance to stay in one of the small cottages and also one of the big ones, they were both amazing! This is a very original place, clean, cozy, well decorated and full of light. The swimming pool is also very beautiful!
It would have been great to have breakfast service to make it complete.

9/10,

What a jewel this place is. Do go to the peppled beach 10 minutes drive east and visit the Oasis Taverna for lunch before your swim.

9/10,

Beautiful retreat located in a quiet part of Crete, sympathetically integrated into the surroundings to make a wonderful holiday.

9/10,

This place is fantastic, but be aware this is not your typical hotel. We really loved our stay there. Plus: fantastic pool, great location at the mouth of the gorge and possibility to hike up or drive to Pefki for the best meals of our stay in Crete, peace and quiet and cicadas. There are some great, but really great, tavernas just a quick drive away. Terraces of the houses have great ambience and lovely to enjoy breakfast...Minus: Little pesty bugs crawling the bed wall a number of times throughout our stay. As far as food you're really on your own: there are small local shops down in the town (fruit and veg in particular) and a basic supermarket 5 minute drive away. I really enjoyed though discovering this side of the island - it is quite dramatic and wonderfully varied.

9/10,

We had a lovely week long stay at White River Cottages July 2016. We travelled with our three year old and the "hamlet" was perfect for a young child. The cottage was lovely and clean and the pool area was great and never too busy. One thing I would say that in the heat of summer the walk into the village isn't suitable for a youngster, so you would need to drive and the village itself isn't quite picture postcard, but the cottages themselves are really lovely.

9/10,

Fantastic apartments and very good service. Nice area and location. Reccomend this place .

10/10,

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