Lavish Greek villas to book for quarantine-free winter sun

Francesca Syz
·10 min read
Villa Lopez in Mykonos - Stelios Tzetzias
Villa Lopez in Mykonos - Stelios Tzetzias

While destinations around the world have been dropping off the UK’s travel corridor list left, right and centre, Greece and its islands are very much back on it – yes, even Mykonos, which gained a quarantine-free bridge with the UK last week.

So why not consider one of its exceptional villas for a winter break this year, with local chefs on tap, exhilarating walks and ultra-luxurious homes to call your own. And it’s almost guaranteed to be a bit sunnier than home.

Vogue, Porto Heli, Peloponnese

Located on the eastern side of the Peloponnese on mainland Greece, the cosmopolitan town of Porto Heli is often referred to as the Greek Riviera and many Athenians have second homes here and visit year-round. The drive from Athens is about three hours.

The living room with its sweep-back glass walls, at Vogue, Porto Heli
The living room with its sweep-back glass walls, at Vogue, Porto Heli

Built into a hillside sweeping down to the sea with multiple terraces, Vogue offers both privacy and the chance to reconnect with the nature that surrounds. The house sleeps 12 people in six bedrooms, divided between the main house and two guest houses, all linked by outdoor walkways.

The main house’s sea-facing terrace is dominated by an L-shaped pool and huge glass doors sweep all the way back, so you can enjoy the views whatever the weather. There’s also a gym, an outdoor sports area and a pebble beach a one-minute walk away. The house is in a great location for day drives to Ancient Epidaurus, Mycenae and other archaeological ruins. 

From 2,200 per night in winter;

Villa Vager, Arcadia, Peloponnese

For a real rural house party, you can do no better than Villa Vager, a nine-suite hotel in the pretty, cobbled mountain village of Levidi that is also popular as an exclusive-use holiday home. It’s about a two-hour drive from Athens International airport, with a brand new motorway whisking you most of the way there.

Before being a hotel, Villa Vager was the mansion of a rich trader and then a hemp factory. Today it’s the cosiest of boutique hotels, with all nine suites named after types of tree found in the surrounding forest. Most have working fireplaces and views over the surrounding mountains.

A cosy bedroom at Villa Vager
A cosy bedroom at Villa Vager

Take the place over and spend your time relaxing on big comfy sofas in front of an open wood fire in the living room, sipping wine from the local vineyards of Skouras or Palivos, eating delicacies home-baked by the owner Marina and playing backgammon into the night.

Those wanting to be active can strike out on foot along the Mainalo Trail, which goes up to the local ski resort, twelve kilometres from the villa. You can also hire quad bikes or snowmobiles and tour the local countryside. 

From £1,640 per night in winter for all nine suites, which includes daily home-cooked breakfast;

Mani HNG, The Mani

The wild, southern tip of mainland Greece tends to offer a mild winter climate and sunny days, spectacular medieval and byzantine villages to explore and numerous archaeological treasures within easy reach.

Mani HNG, which sleeps up to 16 people in seven bedrooms, sits in the foothills of Mount Taygetus, overlooking the sea, and is ideal for a large family or group of friends wanting to explore the area. In an utterly private, remote-feeling  location up a long track best accessed in a 4X4, it is also just a 15-minute drive to the pretty fishing village of Kitries.

Mani HNG has the feel of a country hideaway
Mani HNG has the feel of a country hideaway

The property was built by English owners James and Charlotte Heneage, who fell in love with the Mani fifteen years ago, then built their dream house there. Bedrooms are shared between the main house and three additional stone cottages. In that main house you will find the master bedroom and the communal areas, including a kitchen with in-and-outdoor dining tables and a big communal indoor-outdoor living area.

There's a lovely outdoor pool can be heated on request and the inimitably hospitable James Heneage, a historian and author, can arrange yoga retreats and offers guided walks and history tours, which he leads himself. 

Between €10,000 and €13,000 during the winter months.

Villa Oleandro, Crete

A very large island with a year-round population and a wealth of archaeological and historical sites from Bronze Age Minoan times through to the Byzantine and Venetian eras, you could spend an entire holiday just exploring Crete's ancient monasteries, churches and ruins.

Villa Oleandro on the island of Crete
Villa Oleandro on the island of Crete

In an idyllic hilltop location on Crete’s Akrotiri Peninsula, just a stone’s throw from the coastline, Villa Oleandro is spread over two separate buildings set within extensive lawns on a one-acre site that accommodate up to 16 people between them, making it an excellent option for a slightly bigger group.

Step outside and you will find a huge saltwater pool with magnificent views and an outdoor barbecue and dining area (Crete enjoys famously mild winters, so these might still come in handy). The nearest airport is the island's own Heraklion International but during the winter months, you’ll have to fly to Athens then catch a domestic flight from there (about 55 minutes). 

From £5,777 per week in winter;

Crete Beach House, Crete

Right on Crete’s wide, wind-sheltered and remote-feeling south coast Meakis Beach, Crete Beach House is also just two kilometres from the village of Arvi, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The loungy living room at Crete Beach House  - Bouras Panagiotis
The loungy living room at Crete Beach House - Bouras Panagiotis

The villa is divided into two main buildings, which share 12 bedrooms between them (sleeping up to 30) and a glorious freshwater pool. There’s also a spacious living room which flows into the dining room and professional kitchen and four pergola-covered terraces, one right on the beach, with built-in sofas and dining tables.

With the complete absence of light pollution, this is the house from which to go star gazing, to walk on the beach or to just sit on the terrace, wrapped up in a blanket.

From 11,500 per week in the winter.

Lemon Tree House, Corfu

Winter in Corfu tends to be mild and damp so you can still enjoy eating in cosy tavernas, walking, horse-riding and you can even indulge in a perfectly decent round of golf, on a course which is pretty much always open, weather permitting. 

One of the many communal areas at Lemon Tree House on the island of Corfu
One of the many communal areas at Lemon Tree House on the island of Corfu

Located in a peaceful setting up on the hill just above the affluent village of Kassiopi on the north-east coast of the island, Lemon Tree House sleeps eight people in four bedrooms and is arranged around a sheltered central courtyard and all rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows.  

The kitchen leads straight out onto a dining terrace or you can cosy up in front of the fire in the sitting room. In winter, you will need to fly to Athens, then catch a one-hour domestic flight to Corfu or hop on a two-hour ferry.

From £5,000 per week in winter, villa rental only, including housekeeper service, pool heating extra.

Mia One, Paros, Cyclades

The Cyclades can feel too windy and dazzling in the summer months but the calm, bright days of winter are strangely idyllic. The island has an airport so you can fly from Athens in about 45 minutes or you can fly to Mykonos and catch a 45-minute ferry.

Mia One is part of a two-villa complex on a generous expanse of land and offers a contemporary ‘take’ on authentic Cycladic architecture. It sleeps 11 people in five bedrooms (sharing five bathrooms).

A pristine white bedroom at Mia One on Paros
A pristine white bedroom at Mia One on Paros

On the top floor there’s a master suite with its own private terrace, a middle floor with two spacious suites sharing a terrace and on the ground floor a cosy kitchen, dining and living area opening onto a terrace and two more bedrooms, one of which opens out onto a terrace with a pool.

Once ensconced you can go walking – the nearest cove is a 15-minute stroll away - explore nearby ancient ruins or just curl up in your gorgeous villa and enjoy the peace.

From €1,010 per night in winter.

Syros IK, Syros, Cyclades

The capital of the Cyclades, Syros is an island with a year-round population. Pristine Syros IK feels like a work of art, while also offering everything you need for a cossetting winter break with the family. Sleeping up to twelve in five bedrooms, accommodation is shared between the main house and a guest house tucked away behind.

A bedroom at Syros IK on the island of Syros
A bedroom at Syros IK on the island of Syros

There’s a saltwater heated infinity-edged pool, two heated Jacuzzis and fun extras like a hammock patio and an outdoor gym rack for TRX band training which doubles and a kid’s climbing frame, an open-air cinema with a surround sound system and a cliff-side cave overlooking the sea with an outdoor shower, handmade cushions and sunshades.

The villa is accessed up a steep drive but it’s just three minutes in the car to the port and tavernas of Finikas.

Between €5,000 and €8,000 per week in winter months;

Oia Villa, Santorini, Cyclades

Should you be looking for a simple, romantic escape this winter, this one-bedroom little gem, a cave house dug into the Caldera cliffs several centuries ago and more recently transformed into a hideaway by its architect owners, could be just the thing.

The view from Villa Oia on the island of Santorini
The view from Villa Oia on the island of Santorini

The villa’s interior design was inspired by the sleek Scandinavian architectural tradition, while at the same time rigorously respecting the building's original Santorinian architecture. As well as a supremely comfortable bedroom,  spacious living room, kitchenette and terrace, the house offers a cocoon-like atmosphere and the most extraordinary views of the Caldera.

From 150 per night.

Villa Lopez, Mykonos, Cyclades

While Mykonos has traditionally been thought of as an up-market party island, it also has a vibrant local community year-round and is a peaceful, beautiful place to be out of season. It has also been said that its residents are keen to re-think its tourism strategy in light of the pandemic.

A lot of restaurants will be closed in winter but there will always be a handful open, plus, when you book Villa Lopez, the rental agents can arrange you a private chef and a wellness trainer should you require them.  

One of the seating areas at Villa Lopez on Mykonos - Stelios Tzetzias
One of the seating areas at Villa Lopez on Mykonos - Stelios Tzetzias

The house sits in one of the largest estates on the island, on a rocky cape between the beaches of Elia, Agrari and Super Paradise. It looks out towards the islands of Donoussa, Naxos, Paros, Antiparos and Ios. A sweeping drive leads up to the central house, called the Playhouse, which has a heated outdoor pool, the main communal spaces, a private cinema and the master suite. 

In another house, typical Mykonian in style, there are four more suites with balconies and terraces and there's an additional room in the gatehouse, which also houses a professional kitchen should you be planning a larger gathering. Villa Lopez also comes with a private helipad, a gym and a firepit.

From 3,300 per night;

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