If holidaying with the locals is your thing, this lovely 'simple' beach-side hotel provides a charming touch of 'real' Greece, a secluded location and excellent water sports. Although we met some really nice English people over the course of our 12 night stay, it was predominantly full with Greek families and felt like we'd discovered a secret spot that everyone wanted to keep to themselves.
Having spent hours scouring the internet for family beach holiday ideas in Greece, we settled on The Peloponnese for the simple reason that it seemed to be unspoilt by mass market tourism and we vaguely thought it might be fun to visit Olympia after seeing it briefly on TV (BBC News - Olympic Ceremony). We'd done Corfu, Crete, Mykanos and Rhodes as a couple in the 90's and didn't want to just do 'more of the same'. We tried every search we could think of and contacted several likely hotels without success (admittedly it was a bit late to book and we were getting close to giving up!) when we finally came across the Ionian Beach Bungalows web site, matched some July dates with EasyJet/Athens flights and booked online... more on impulse and in desperation than anything else.
Family of 3, 2 adults + a 6 year old, 12nts half-board with return Gatwick flights for just less than £1300 in peak July... Not bad. Even though we'd have to add taxi fares to get to Patras and back, it was within budget and the cancellation terms only required one night's stay to be paid if we really didn't like it and/or decided to leave early for any reason!
OK, first impressions weren't great. The taxi drive from Athens was nearer 3.5 hours than the 2.5 hours we were led to believe, the road signs were few and far between, there was no immediately obvious sign on the hotel to say we were in the right place, we arrived very tired and very late, the place looked dark and deserted and we couldn't get into our bungalow without help from the night watchman who fortunately understood our frantic pleas/sign language.
But once we'd had a good night's sleep we soon relaxed and settled in.
Basically, this is a simple, yet comfortable, 3 star hotel with around 80 bungalows opening directly onto a nice sandy beach with magnificent views across the Gulf of Corinth. Our bungalow was roughly in the middle of the grounds and faced onto well kept lawned gardens with orange and lemon trees, some 25 metres back from the beach. The room was clean and bright, pleasantly furnished and had a modern shower room, tv and fridge. Although the (Greek) tv was less useful to us, the big bonus was that the room was air-conditioned and the large balcony/porch provided valuable extra daytime living/lounging space.
Breakfast and evening meals were served 'buffet-style' in the beach-side restaurant and the food was of a good basic 'Greek Taverna' standard. Not too fancy, traditional ingredients and generous quantities! You could literally eat as much as you liked (and a lot of people seemed to be doing just that!) but we preferred to breakfast early and dine late to avoid the busy periods and make sure we got the better balcony tables with the view.
Highlights of our holiday included: lazing round the pool with a beer and watching my girls playing endless games of pool volleyball with the other guests; fabulous pre-dinner sunsets viewed from the beach bar over cocktails; action men 'Dan, Giles and Scott' taking us for joy rides on the 'Bahia' yachts and 'Hoby' catamaran and teaching me (finally) how to wind surf; my daily game of tennis to keep the waistline in check; the time and attention we received from the Seafarer team (especially Emily & Julie) and the genuine concern they had for my daughter when she got a little too much sun; the fascinating trip to Olympia; sitting under the pool bar tree with a Metaxa playing backgammon 'til the early hours.
Our tips for anyone visiting Ionian Beach: Book the sailing in advance each day for the following day - to avoid disappointment; take advantage of the daily 'art class' for the under 8's - they speak enough English to get by and my daughter hardly noticed any language differences with the Greek kids!; save money on your transfers by asking the hotel to pick you up in their minibus - it's cheaper than taxis; take a trip into Patras for an evening meal to break up the routine a bit; buy the 'house wine' by the carafe instead of bottles - they are much better value and very drinkable; buy local Alpha beer rather than imported Heineken etc - again it's cheaper; pack lightly because you'll spend most of your time in beach wear during the day and the evenings are very informal.
All in all we had a relaxed, comfortable, friendly and most enjoyable stay which, credit-crunch allowing, will be repeated again next year.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Ionian Beach Hotel is a charming holiday village with 82 bungalows situated in ten acres of garden on the edge of a long sandy beach in the NW Peloponnese. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Ionian Beach Hotel Lakkopetra
- Ionian Beach Hotel Lakopetra