The Greek islands have a holiday reputation that’s as dazzling as the Aegean sunshine but the island of Kea, 12 miles by six, is off-radar for most Europeans.
It is the greenest of the Cyclades, the arid island group that includes Mykonos and Santorini, but it lacks the glitz of its superstar neighbours. Yachties touring the Greek islands might have dropped anchor in the port of Vourkari as the first stop from Athens, but low-level Kea has only four hotels on its 50 square miles.
Mountainous and windy Kea, population 2,500, is within two hours of Athens airport — 20 minutes by taxi to the small port of Lavrio and then an hour on a car ferry.
Kea’s first little supermarket opened in the Nineties, the first bank in 2003 and even today there is no nightlife of note. Quiet, untouristy and overwhelmingly safe, Greek families have kept Kea and its undeveloped Aegean coastline as their own secret where even in August it is possible to find a deserted beach.
Now Kea’s time seems to have come. Grace Hotels is rumoured to be considering opening there and the mighty Aman brand with its wealthy, super-loyal clientele is developing a 65-hectare west coast site at Vroskopos.
Athenian businessman Christos Liodakis discovered Kea 38 years ago and bought a house in the inland capital, Ioulida. Over the past 15 years he has built a cluster of homes with parking at the top of this small, car-free village.
His project, Kea Villas, now has 25 completed one- and two-bedroom homes built up the steep slope, a quick walk from the tavernas and shops below. The properties have smooth concrete floors, white walls and pale grey shutters. Each is different, some on one floor some on three, and the simplicity and lightness of the uncluttered interiors is hugely appealing.
Prices are from £149,000 to £227,300 for fully furnished homes of 645sq ft to 1,185sq ft. An annual service charge of £470 covers care of the communal lavender-stocked gardens and small pool. Eighteen villas are sold, with the remaining seven run as rental properties. A further 15 homes are planned.
“The first buyers were from Athens, young families whose children I have watched grow up,” says Christos. “Now we have buyers from across Europe, lawyers and artists included. They buy here because they feel safe and because they love the idea of traditional village living.”
Moments from a beach
Kea Villas is in the heart of the capital with good sea views but a drive from the beach. Closer to the sea, Iannis Michalopoulos of Blue Mountain builds bespoke traditional stone villas. Over the past 25 years he has completed 100 homes, all on west or southwest-facing plots with generous terraces and five minutes from a beach.
Blue Mountain’s properties range from one-bedroom terrace homes up to seven-bedroom villas on a private beach within one mile of Vourkari.
The attractive homes start from £94,000 for 400 square feet while a four-bedroom 2,700sq ft house taking up to 10 months to build costs from £235,000. A two-bedroom property that would have been £196,000 three years ago now costs £156,750 as land prices and building costs have fallen, says Michalopoulos.
Family’s island paradise
Kea also offers striking modern homes thanks to Athenian-based architect Christos Vlachos, who has holidayed on Kea since he was a young child. His father built the island’s first hotel and today the family still owns a beautiful stone villa on the south-west coast as well as some of the 200 hectares Vlachos’s father bought in the Sixties.
On that land, Vlachos offers detached villas through his company Kea Estate. He creates bespoke, highly specified homes with an emphasis on stone, glass and natural light and has completed 30 villas for clients from Greece, France and Italy. Prices typically start from £156,750 for waterfront plots with building costs from £627,000 for a four- or five-bedroom home. “Kea has clean seas, rocky and sandy beaches, hiking trails and historic ruins dating back to 3,500BC,” says Io Theofilou, Kea Estate’s interior designer and Vlachos’s niece. “But most of all for my family it’s a place we have loved for decades, a relaxed, chilled out, totally safe island.”
Kea Villas: www.keavillas.gr
Blue Mountain: www.bluemountain.gr
Kea Estate: www.kea-estate.gr
For accommodation on Kea, try elegant, low-level Porto-Kea Suites close to the beach and the port of Korissia: www.portokea-suites.com