Live the Cretan dream. Wake up in the White Houses of Crete and open your shutters to views of the sea and fishermen’s boats bobbing in the water. Stroll to the beach for a refreshing pre-breakfast swim, pick up some fresh bread and fruits, and have breakfast in the morning sun. Spend the day exploring the (many) sandy beaches nearby, or put on your walking shoes and head for the mountains, a trekkers’ paradise year round. Come back for some fresh fish and salad in one of the many seaside tavernas, have a drink, listen to some music, and walk back to your own wonderful little vacation home. Norwegian Gunnar Strømsholm restored several old fishermen’s houses at the edge of Makrigialos and turned them into unique holiday accommodation. The three largest can accommodate families or groups of friends. They are furnished and decorated with a combination of old and modern: lots of fantastic antiques, impressive handmade terracotta chairs, contemporary art and huge kitchens. The smallest house is split into two apartments, perfect for couples. The beach has fine sand and shallow waters and is excellent for young children, and teenagers will appreciate that they can walk (safely) to nearby cafés and won’t get bored.
It is so wonderful that Gunnar managed to preserve this corner of Makrigialos; this alone makes staying at his holiday houses a joy. The waterfront location is ideal, so close to the beach, with places to eat and drink only a short stroll away. And the interiors of the houses are charming.
The houses open on to the waterfront promenade, so don’t expect total silence at night. But fortunately there are no noisy bars close by, and there’s no traffic to speak of either. Also bear in mind that inside, the two apartments are more modern in style than the houses.
3 houses For up to 5-7 persons with three bedrooms (2 or 3 bathrooms)
2 apartments for up to 2 or 3 persons with one bedroom
En-suite bathroom (shower)
Television with DVD player
Kitchen (with dishwasher)
Washing machine (except in one of the apartments)
When you arrive at the White Houses, you will find a generous welcome basket in your (well-equipped) kitchen with fresh bread, jams, fresh milk, butter, yoghurt and fruits, basically everything you need to prepare a good breakfast, as well as a bottle of wine. There are several small supermarkets in the village so you can prepare your own meals, and there are also plenty of typical Greek seaside tavernas nearby (the best for grilled fish), as well as souvlaki/gyros eateries and Italian restaurants. For the best traditional Greek food, you should probably head for the inland villages. Ask Nikos and Gunnar for recommendations.
I warmly recommend the White Houses of Crete to families with children of all ages. The three larger houses are perfect for families. With three bedrooms, they can accommodate up to five or seven persons. Cots/cribs and high chairs are available and you can borrow DVD’s, playing cards & beach toys from the reception. The sandy beach (practically at your doorstep) has umbrellas, and the water is shallow and calm, so really good for your little ones to have fun in. Older kids and teenagers will enjoy it that they can walk safely to the busier part of Makrigialos to buy their ice creams and also hang out at night.
For years, during the month of June, Gunnar has been organising one of the most remarkable classical music festivals in southeast Europe, the Casa Dei Mezzo Classical Music Festival. The Sunday Times referred to it as ‘The most unique and intimate classical music Summer festival in Europe’. Check Gunnar’s website for dates and programmes and book early!
The sandy beach of Makrigialos starts practically at your doorstep. It is a relaxed ‘village beach’ with sun beds and umbrellas, not the kind of place to spend the entire day, but great for easy dips, especially early in the morning. You will find more space and quiet (but no facilities) at Diaskari Beach (3 km from the White Houses). Two kilometres on, the smaller and relatively hidden Ammoudi (or Dragon’s Cave) beaches are the prettiest in the area. You can also cross over for the day to the uninhabited little island of Koufonissi and enjoy some absolutely glorious sandy beaches. A trip to the Chrissi Island (more amazing beaches!) is also highly recommended, but you have to drive to Ierapetra first to take the boat.
Walk the gorges
Walk further than those few steps to the beach! There are some amazing gorges you can hike through. Pefki Gorge is close, and it’s considered one of the most beautiful gorges in Crete. The walk from the entrance of the gorge south of the village of Pefki to Aspros Potamos is relatively easy. It takes about two hours, and from there it’s 2 more km to get back to the White Houses. A bit further east is the Perivolakia Gorge which also is a relatively easy two-hour hike. Towards the west, halfway between the coastal village of Ferma and the mountain village of Agios Ioannis, the Milonas Gorge, known for its waterfall, takes less time to cross. There’s also the beautiful gorge of Orino, but you need canyoning equipment to cross. For serious thrill seekers there’s the Ha Gorge, possibly the wildest in Crete. It has about 30 rappels of up to 35 m, so you need to have the necessary equipment, experience and company.
Drive to Ierapetra for scuba diving. There are several certified schools, offering courses and dives for beginners and experienced divers.
The White Houses of Crete are right by the water, in the oldest part of the coastal village of Makrigialos on the southern coast of the island. The nearest beach is only about 50 metres from the houses, and there are several more at easy walking distance. Nearby there are plenty of cafes, tavernas and small restaurants. Inland, you will find hills and mountains – the area is fantastic for hiking and exploring nature.
There are several ways to get to Crete. There’s an international airport at Heraklion another airport at Chania, and ferries from Piraeus arrive at Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. If you stay at the White Houses, the airport of Heraklion or the port of Agios Nicolas are the best choice. The drive from the airport (or port) of Heraklion is quite enjoyable and takes about two hours. First you follow the signs for Agios Nikolaos and Sitia, and about 20 km after Agios Nikolaos you turn towards Ierapetra. From Ierapetra you take the coastal road towards Sitia. As you enter Makrigialos, turn right at the sign for the beach at the beginning of the village. Drive towards the beach, turn left and follow the brick-paved lane up to the harbour. You will see the reception of the White Houses of Crete in the second building on your left.