The Peloponnese is the size of Wales, wonderfully quiet with a rocky coastline and fertile hills and valleys. It begins a little under one hour's drive from Athens at the Corinth Canal, a man-made four-mile channel completed in 1893 that effectively makes the peninsula a separate island.
Fifty minutes on is Nafplion, a beautiful waterfront city with labyrinthine streets and Venetian and Turkish architecture that was modern Greece's first capital. An hour further on again is Porto Heli, a small, southern Peloponnese harbour town backed by forests. This is an area where wealthy Greeks have had holiday homes for over 30 years. Constantine, former king of Greece, and the king and queen of the Netherlands are two regal families that holiday by the Aegean.
Party by the sea
Many sailors with more modest budgets love Porto Heli but otherwise it's a quiet place that's often just a stop en route to the island of Spetses 10 minutes offshore. That should change this summer when Miami beach club brand Nikki Beach opens its first European hotel.
From £325,700: studios, apartments and penthouses at Nikki Beach in Porto Heli
"Porto Heli is reinventing itself," says Nikki Beach project manager Constantinos Tsatsaros. "Before, there was very little to do here. When it opens in July the new Nikki Beach will be a five-star hotel and the only property directly on the beach."
Nikki Beach is refurbishing an existing Sixties hotel to create 66 studios, one-bedroom apartments and penthouses with whirlpool baths, of which 49 are for sale on 120-year leases. Rooms range from 538sq ft to 1,044sq ft and all directly face the sea and overlook the beach club, pools and bar. Prices start from £325,700 including all furniture. Owners can use their homes for 60 days a year but otherwise must put them into the rental pool managed by Nikki Beach. The dazzling white façade will be matched by supercool furnishings inside, with linendraped cabanas beside a curvy azure pool outside. There will be a rooftop sushi and cocktail bar while the public beach club will have a jetty on the shallow waters offering watersports.
The perfect antidote to the youthful party crowd making merry at Nikki Beach is Amanzoe, a grown-up development a little inland where top international hotel brand Aman Resorts has created its first integrated European villa resort. The company has 26 resorts worldwide and its smooth service and style are legendary.
The low-level hotel sits on a hill with 360-degree rural and sea views. It opened in 2012 with a fabulous classical-meets-Asian design featuring acres of Greek marble, wood and stone. Green roofs on the 38 guest pavilions are stuffed with thyme and rosemary and the dreamy grounds have olive and lemon trees, lavender and jasmine.
Near the hotel and sharing its impressive spa, gym, beach club and tennis courts are 30 plots for large, singlestorey villas. So far 11 are sold and four are built. Prices start from £2.44 million for a 3,230sq ft fully furnished home.
"Aman chose Porto Heli for its mild climate year round - much better than the islands which are far colder in winter - and because it is accessible and safe, family-orientated with lush green hillsides and protected bays," says Katerina Katopis of developers Dolphin Capital Investors. "Porto Heli is the most upscale place for Greeks to have a holiday home. It is exclusive yet lowkey and understated, and that is what Aman is all about."
Aman Villas at Amanzoe: www.amanvillasph.com; Abercrombie & Kent (www.akinternationalestates.com); Savills (www.savills.com); www.amanzoe.com
Nikki Beach: www.portohelicollection.com