A guitar-shaped Greek island pulled at The Beatles’ heartstrings in 1964. Surrounded by ancient olive groves, pistachio trees and the crystal clear Mediterranean, the band sang on the beach as the sun went down, and offered to buy the island the following morning. Unfortunately, the Greek owners were not interested in selling, and The Beatles returned island-less to the UK. But their experience at 14-acre Trinity Island had convinced them that a private island or Beatledrome was exactly what they needed. No wonder: ‘Trinity is the perfect Greek island,’ says island specialist Cheyenne Morrison from agents Coldwell Banker Morrison. ‘It is just 10 minutes from Athens by helicopter, yet offers total privacy.’
Although there are more than 1,500 islands surrounding Greece, Trinity is extremely rare, and not just because of the beautiful landscape. ‘There are lots of islands but very few are on the market at any one time,’ says Mr Morrison. ‘And those that are, aren’t always any good. Often they have no flat land for building, or they don’t have the right certificates of ownership there is a huge amount of government restrictions. There are only a handful of islands with all the correct paperwork.’
The Beatles themselves became victims of the ‘wild west’ Greek island property market when a crook tried to sell them an island belonging to the Government, with a population of 400 people. Eventually, they found Leslo in 1967 an 80-acre main island with four small islands surrounding it, one for each of the band members. It was on the market for just £90,000 and included a small fishing village, four beaches and a large olive grove. But, after complications with certificates, the sale fell through and The Beatles gave up hope of owning their very own Greek haven.
Forty-three years too late for the Liverpool band, Trinity Island has come to the market (00 617 4099 3939; www.luxuryrealestate.com/717368). At ?20m (about £13.5m), it is considerably more expensive than Leslo was but, according to Mr Morrison, it is still a bargain.
‘A privately owned island is an important status symbol and carries a huge brag-factor,’ he says. ‘Most islands are more expensive than Trinity and are much less advanced. Admittedly it is not big enough to develop into a resort but it is a perfect private paradise complete with all the paperwork. It would take a couple of months to buy, rather than a couple of years.’ A-list credentials
The Beatles are not the only A-list celebrities to fall in love with the lemon groves, fishing villages and clear waters of the Greek islands. Aristoteles Onassis started the trend of buying whole islands when he purchased Skorpios in 1963. ‘It all started with the richest man on the earth then suddenly owning an island became very chic,’ says Farhad Vladi of island sales specialist Vladi Private Islands. Island owners, he says, are shy about coming forward but it is common knowledge that Paloma Picasso has purchased the western island of Petalous, and Madonna and Richard Gere are rumoured to be among the celebrities currently competing to find a perfect Greek hideaway.
Privacy, glorious weather and sandy beaches are always going to entice the rich and famous. And an island will never cease to be exclusive the multi-million pound price tags do not suit many budgets. But Mr Vladi is convinced that it is always worth bartering. ‘Negotiate,’ he says. ‘Don’t be put off when you hear the asking price.’ Buyers who can’t afford a whole island can always opt for the next best thing a property on Corfu or Santorini or even smaller Aegean and Ionian islands. And for a taste of jet-set life, companies such as The Greek Islands. Club offer top-end ‘private island-style’ holidays on small Greek islands.
‘Greece is a country where people are happy and the weather is glorious,’ says Keith Wren, who owns a quality property business on Corfu aimed at the British market (07711 680090; www.corfupropertysales.com).
‘You can swim along unspoilt beaches, barbecue in the evenings, dine in your local taverna or just watch the sun go down with a glass of local wine on your terrace.’ After many years of keeping a house in Dorset but spending large amounts of time on Corfu, Mr Wren has decided to decamp there forever. ‘I’ve put the house on the market and am moving to the island of my dreams,’ he says. And who knows if enough buyers invest in the villas and Venetian mansions he is selling, one day he might achieve The Beatles’ dream of owning a private kingdom in the sun.
? Before parting with your money, check how far the island is from Athens and other islands with supermarkets, chemists and restaurants, and if there are regular ferries to and from the mainland.
? Islands closer to the mainland tend to have more stable climates. Those out to sea are more susceptible to storms.
? Similarly, some islands are more suitable for development than others. Make sure there is flat land for building and, if possible, purchase an island with water and electricity supplies.
? Enlist the help of a reputable lawyer before you start negotiating. The purchaser is required to appoint a local solicitor who will be responsible for checking title deeds, any outstanding mortgage or encumbrances on the property, and whether there are any tax liabilities.
? Construction permits are required if an island is to be developed.
? Ownership status must be absolutely clear for a sale to proceed. Check the titles of ownership of the island have been fully authenticated by the Greek Government. These can take more than 12 months to be issued if they are not up to date.
? Be sure to find about an island’s existing mortgages.
? For an island to be sold it must have a certificate by the Archeological Agency, confirming it does not have any antiquities lurking under its soil, and another from the Forest Authority stating it does not have land characterised as forest. It also requires a certificate from the National Defense and Merchant Marine ministries confirming it is free of national security commitments.
? Once a purchaser has obtained the necessary certifications from public agencies, a notice must be posted in the local newspapers.
Which island will suit you
Paxos: perfect for escaping the crowds. An undulating landscape of silver olive trees, many sheltered coves and pretty fishing villages and no airport.
AntiPaxos: this tiny satellite island, just one mile off Paxos, has beaches, valleys of vineyards and just four tavernas.
Ithaca: has remained untouched by tourism because it has no airport and can only be reached by ferry.
Cephalonia: the largest of the Ionian Islands, popular for superb beaches and stunning scenery.
Lefkas: a green mountainous interior makes Lefkas perfect for those wanting seclusion close to beautiful beaches.
Corfu: a large, undulating island of olive- and pine-tree-clad hillsides, hidden hamlets and villages. It has small coves and large beaches and the capital boasts stunning Venetian architecture.
Alonissos: slow and quiet, Alonissos has unspoilt countryside, deserted beaches and good tavernas.
Skopelos: combines rich, green hillsides with enticing beaches and esteemed waterfront tavernas.
Skiathos: offers spectacular beaches, water sports and good Aegean food. By day there is a wonderful scenery and a cosmopolitan ambience, and by night the towns come alive.
Santorini: a volcanic island of stunning contrasts with some of the most inspir¬ing views in the world.
Andros: the greenest island of the Cyclades, with attractive villages, historic architecture and stunning beaches.
Crete: has an extensive coastline of fishing villages, towns and beaches and a dramatic interior of unique beauty. Good for activities and watersports.
Aegina: just 12 miles from the port of Piraeus, in Athens, Aegina is an island of sandy beaches and pistachio trees within easy reach of the capital.
Poras: is a peaceful and romantic island with neoclassical style buildings, pine trees, rugged shores and sandy beaches.
Hydra: a cosmopolitan island with a picturesque town at its centre, built amphitheatrically around the port.
Spetses: rich vegetation, pine trees and secluded bays. This island’s beautiful capital boasts neoclassical houses with wooden balconies and coloured
walls.Rhodes: resorts such as Faliraki, which are devoted to package tourism, give Rhodes a bad name. The hilly interior and the wilder west coast offer a more authentic Greek lifestyle.
Samos: combines pure white sand beaches, picturesque villages, fishing harbours, a rich cultural history and an indigenous variety of sweet wine.
Ikaria: south west of Samos, near the Turkish coast, Ikaria is a relatively large island known for dark red wine, ther¬mal springs and the legend of Icarus.
Thassos: dubbed the ’emerald isle’, Thassos features fine, uncrowded beach¬es and pretty mountain villages, and is a haven for walking.
Evia: is the second largest island in Greece after Crete, and is linked by a suspension bridge to the mainland. It boasts luxurious villas, good tavernas and museums, glorious beaches, forests, mountains and hot springs.
Cyprus: ‘the island of Aphrodite’ has something for everyone a huge variety of beaches, coastal paths, pretty villages and high-octane nightlife.
For more information, contact the Greek Tourist Board (020-7495 9300; www.visitgreece.gr; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)