White River Cottages

Makriyialos, Crete, Greece Book from Book from £68 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!

Information provided by White River Cottages on 06/06/2021.

Cleaning and hygiene
Additional cleaning and hygiene measures in place. Amended arrangements include clean sheets and towels provided in sealed bags for guests on request, guests to leave their laundry in the empty bags for collection outside their cottage. Anti-bacterial sprays available in pool area for guests to spray the chairs/sunbeds before use, and there are multiple hand antiseptic dispensers in communal areas, as well as in each cottage. Cottages are vapour cleaned between guests' departure and arrival. All staff are fully vaccinated and tested regularly. White River Cottages are also certified in covid regulations.

Facilities
No pool towels available during summer 2021.

Other
Check-in 1500; check-out 1100.

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 bedrooms
  • Self catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 26 Nov 2021 - 21 Apr 2022
  • 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:

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. Cots and 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 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Loved every aspect of our stay at White River Cottages. Helen in reception was truly wonderful - she could not have been more welcoming or helpful with even the smallest request, from bus times to advice on beaches to locations for a travel test for covid.
We only had a week, were travelling without a car, and wanted to be somewhere quiet and close to nature, but not too far from the sea. White River cottages provided all this in a beautifully tended environment - the gardens especially are lovely, and the cottages are well maintained and full of rustic charm. Everything from the paths to the pool and cottages was scrupulously clean and you can feel that the place is maintained with enormous care. Wifi is good there too.
The studio (no. 14) is a little on the small side if you are not particularly tidy but is well thought out and has space for everything. It has a lovely private, outdoor terrace for breakfasts and dining with views over the valley. Number 11, which became available later, felt luxurious in size even if a little darker indoors; it would be a lovely cool haven at the height of summer.
It was not a problem to be without a car - in June there was a bus 2-3 times a day and the cottages are right at the bottom of the beautiful Pefki Gorge which you can only visit on foot - a must do if you are staying so close. There is a cafe and a taverna up in Pefki to fortify you for the walk back.
There is also the remnants of a Minoan settlement and of Roman villa at the far end of Makrigialos though there is not much info about them and the signpost for the former is concealed by bamboo.
Makrigialos doesn't have as much charm but is super friendly and has a lot of options for meals, plus small supermarkets and several ATMs. It has a sandy beach and very clear water so is super safe for families. There is great food at the taverna Faro in Makrigialos and also at Kalliotzina in Koutsouras.

10/10,

starting from the first email to the last goodbye, Helen and Sue supported us with never-ending patience and heartfelt care. We felt welcome, taken care of and able to wind down in this tranquil hideaway immediately. There are plenty of nice beaches close by, the taverna Piperia in Pefki is particularly excellent and located in a most beautiful village in the mountain behind the hotel.
We lived in cottage #1, which was spacious, beautifully designed and has a big terrace with sea view! All in all, we truly enjoyed our stay at the White River Cottages.

10/10,

The overall development of cottages was stunning and the cottage itself was well appointed. Architecturally inspired and gave lovely seclusion. Lovely pool. We also loved the location next to the Pefki Gorge path...drive into town was a bit rough but not a real issue. Makry Gialos is a pretty town with good amenities and lovely beach
The cottage was only serviced once in the week....could have been done twice. We wondered whether there would be interest in a barbecue evening one day in the week for people to meet (if they want to!) Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the stay.

9/10,

We had a delightful family stay. Almost everyone we met was a repeat customer and I can understand why. The interiors get rave reviews but the landscaping and setting are equally as beautiful. The walkways and plants are stunning. It feels remote without being actually far from town. You will have to fend for yourself as far as food goes and make sure you have everything you need because you won’t feel like doing the drive into town too often.

10/10,

White River is a beautiful little oasis. The cottages themselves are very quirky and may not be to everyones taste if international hotels with spas etc etc are preferred but we loved number 6. The interior felt very natural with lots of rock, stone and wood but full of style and we loved all the thought out little details. They were beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean and well equipped. I couldn't find a single fault. Helen was a lovely hostess and couldn't do enough to help. I would add - ignore Googles directions when you try to find it and do what she tells you. She knows best!
The area itself, unless you go inland, is rocky and the beaches narrow and not exactly luxurious but we drove up into the mountains which we loved. There are some very interesting and beautiful things to be seen and we felt so relaxed returning to White River and swimming in the lovely pool. Lots of shops locally and we ate twice at the Dragons Cave restaurant because the food was exceptional and you simply couldn't get a better sunset view.

10/10,

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