What are Greek Cycladic Cave Houses?
The cluster of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea located between Athens and Crete is known as the Cyclades. There are 200 islands in the Cyclades, and this group of islands forms a circle around the sacred island of Delos, thus giving it the name “Cyclades.”
Cycladic architecture is distinguished by white-washed walls, flat roofs, and cube shapes. The walls are made of natural materials and are thick enough to provide the same cooling and heating effects as caves, and the white paint reflects the sun’s rays. Theoretically, heating or cooling is not needed with cave houses. Perhaps I’m a wuss, but in Santorini in August, cave house or not, girlfriend wants an air conditioner.
In some areas, the houses are dug out and built directly into the hill or cliff side to further protect them from the hot sun. Building a cave house was the cheapest way to construct a home and required the fewest materials. These cave houses, or houses styled similarly, have become a popular, unique lodging option in Santorini.
Lodging Recommendation for Finikia: Bonora Country Houses
When we stayed in Finikia, we were looking for that Cycladic Cave House feel, and chose the Bonora Country Houses. Bonora is right on the edge of the village, nearest to the Finikia parking lot and the town of Oia. Even though the town is located on the caldera side of the island, we could easily see all the way across the island to the other shore from the property.
I had messaged the hosts a few times and found them to be very responsive. They even offered to arrange a transport from the ferry port to the property for us. The transportation van left us in Finikia’s one parking lot, told us the general direction of our Airbnb, but told us not to try to find it ourselves. He said to wait in the shade of the olive tree for our host to come get us. Within 5 minutes, one of the delightful hosts, Lamprini, led us to our place and helped with our luggage. Along the way, she pointed out the best route to walk to Oia, and she pointed out their supermarket.
Our room was large and divided into three “caves.” The main entrance led into a living room with a television, and in the back was a bedroom separated off with a divider wall. The next cave to the left had a kitchen, complete with a refrigerator, stove, toaster oven, coffee maker, and enough snacks provided for breakfast. And the third and smallest cave was the bathroom and shower. This suite was beautifully decorated in Mediterranean colors. And, because we traveled during the COVID pandemic, it was thoughtful that the hosts had a basket of masks, antibacterial wipes, and a business card in English for a 24-hour on-call doctor located nearby.
Outside of the room was a large, shared courtyard and gardens. There were tables and outside eating areas, lounge chairs, and beautifully tended plants and gardens. My husband, Jason, is a gardening geek, so he enthusiastically went around taking pictures of the plants to churn through his plant identification app since we don’t see plants like those in Colorado. Our favorite spot at the property was under the shade of an olive tree with a second perfectly bent olive tree for a footrest. We could see all the way to the ocean on the far side of the island from there, and it was cool and breezy and, well, wonderful.
On one of our days staying at this property, we opted to hang around the property most of the day. We were nearing the end of a long, action-filled trip, and had experienced the chaos and stimulation of Oia from the day before, and really just wanted to stick around Finikia. We mostly hung around the peaceful paradise of Bonora, having determined this was our favorite lodging of the entire trip. Sometimes we would wander the village or make trips to the supermarket. (Read: We were out of Greek beer and cookies.) And then, when it became too hot, we would retreat back to the air-conditioned room. All day, we kept making plans for an excursion later in the day, but later in the day would come, and we were like… nah. Finikia and Bonora had everything we needed.