The White Houses

Beautiful harbour-front holiday villas and apartments for two to eight guests

The White Houses by the old harbour at Makrigialos

There's something very special about Makrigialos Touristiki's imaginatively restored harbour-front holiday villas and apartments. Staying in the 'White Houses of Crete' is not simply a matter of stunning holiday accommodation, but of discovering an existence which has always been at the very heart of Cretan life.

Step out of the front door and you find yourself just a few feet to the water's edge. Fishing boats come and go as locals sit at taverna tables shaded by the trees. The whitewashed exteriors and blue paintwork of the White Houses have changed little since the days when they were fishermen's cottages, but inside they have become cool oases of tranquillity.

All of the properties are unique. One has a tiny chapel with icons and an incense burner, another has a bamboo-shaded courtyard, while another has a roof terrace high above the harbour. Yet each possesses a charm and understated style born from a mingling of Greek heritage with the Scandinavian roots of the owner. Natural stone and pale wood, linen blinds, concealed lighting, contemporary art, large beds and chic kitchens are combined with old brass lamps, antique rugs and furniture to create an atmosphere where peace, beauty and ease are perfectly blended.

You may start the morning at home, with a cup of Greek coffee and fresh bread from the local bakery, but there is much to tempt you outdoors. At the far end of the village lie the broad, sandy beaches from which Makrigialos takes its name (in Greek, Makry-Gialos means 'long beach') The hills behind the village are a walker's dream, laced with old riverbeds and wooded gullies. Small hamlets and the ruins of an ancient villa lie hidden in the mountainous hinterland, which is resplendent with wildflowers during the spring.

The beach at Makrigialos

Makrigialos also makes an excellent base of a wider exploration of eastern Crete. The fabulous Minoan ruins at Gournia and Zakros and the lovely patchwork landscape of the Lassithi plateau are among many unique sights within easy reach of Makrigialos. The cross-island drive to Sitia on the northeast coast is worth undertaking simply for the breath-taking beauty of the journey: nothing could convey greater sense of the island's natural splendour than winding through the dramatic peaks and gorges of the central mountains.

As the day draws to a close, you may return to sample the restaurants of Makrigialos which are considered among the best on the island. Here is real Cretan food cooked with local produce and seasonal ingredients, perhaps using the very fish you saw being landed that very morning.

Evening from The White Houses of Crete, Makrigialos

Footnote: The alternative, and perfectly correct, spelling 'Makryialos' has been used instead of 'Makrigialos' throughout this article. The spellings 'Makry Gialos', 'Makry-Gialos' and 'Makri Yialos' are also frequently seen as there is no 'correct' translation from the Greek to the English alphabet. But however it's spelt, the name always means 'Long Beach', and it refers to the beautiful sandy beach that's just a few minutes walk away from The White Houses of Crete.