The Old-World Charm of Folegandros, Greece, Awaits
Second- (and third-) home buyers here come for the privacy, and for a “picture-perfect oasis”
Tucked among the southern part of the Cyclades Islands of Greece, Folegandros is a tiny, rocky Island—12 square miles to be exact—that makes a big impact on first sight.
The juxtaposition of its cerulean waters against a rocky cliff line punctuated by whitewashed houses is staggering. Together with Sikinos, Los, Anafi, and Santorini, Folegandros completes the Southern Cyclades. There is no airport or cruise ship to be found here, which also means no throngs of tourists. The easiest way to reach the island is by flying to Santorini or Mykonos and then taking a ferry. Just one road, roughly six miles long, connects the Karavostasis port to Chora and Ano Meria, the only three villages on the island.
“With its uninterrupted views and rugged nature,” said Matej Mitev of Vivere.travel, a web-based platform, Folegandros is a “picture-perfect oasis of calm in a sea of blue.”
The villages of Folegandros are distinguished for the way they have maintained their traditional architecture and character. Houses here have a typical Cycladic style with whitewashed walls and colorful windows and doors. Narrow streets are paved with stone, while many striking stark white churches with blue domes are scattered around. The island also boasts many beautiful, secluded beaches with crystal water and an impressive landscape lined with rugged cliffs and rock formations.
“An unspoiled island, private and intimate, and yet so close to Los and Santorini,
this off-the-beaten-path destination captivates visitors with the untouched beauty of its beaches, the luminous blue of its waters, and the unadulterated style of its architecture,” said Natalie Leontaraki, COO of Greece Sotheby's International Realty.
With only 700 inhabitants, Folegandros is a top choice for those seeking peace and quiet and a faraway refuge to call home. “People buying second (even third) homes in Folegandros appreciate the simple pleasures of life—natural, unspoiled beauty, calmness, privacy, the enjoyment of the sea, some daily fresh fish, a nice afternoon stroll through the village,” Ms. Leontaraki said.
Most buyers are Europeans, primarily French and Italians. “The island has great potential and investment opportunity for the years to come as we watch the demand for second-home villas growing, Ms. Leontaraki said.
Celebrities, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie, have been known to stop by with their yachts, but people here mostly wish to remain anonymous so they can revel in the quiet beauty of the landscape and the traditional charm of the Cycladic whitewashed style houses, locals say.
“As the island has kept its original architecture from the old days, these are the types of homes you’ll find here,” Ms. Leontaraki said. Due to all the cliffs on the island, most homes are located up high and offer endless blue vistas stretching for miles. Depending on the location, the average price per home ranges from €3,000 to €5,000 (US$3,577 to US$5,962) per square meter.
The history of Folegandros is an ancient one. The Cares from Asia Minor were the first inhabitants of the island. Then came the Cretans who ruled the island with emperor Folegandros (for whom it’s named) at the helm. Leleges, Kares, Phoenicians, Dorians,and Ionians also reached Folegandros and made their home here. In the 5th century BC, the island participated in the alliance founded by the Athenians after the end of the Persian wars.
In more recent history, from 1900 until 1970, the island served as an asylum for political prisoners.
A Slower Pace
“Life in Folegandros moves at a slower pace,” Mr. Mitev said. With its wild landscape and relaxing atmosphere, Folegandros is among the most impressive islands of the Cyclades. There isn’t much here other than beautiful beaches and hiking trails, but that is what’s inherent to its draw.
Located in the east of the island, the medieval town of Chora, with its 13th-century castle at its pinnacle, was once surrounded by strong castle walls. Today the walls are gone and the town has spread around Kastro, one of the oldest and most picturesque spots on the Island. Think: quiet alleyways, cobbled streets, and whitewashed homes with colorful pops from flowerpots and painted doors.
“The island has a bewitching beauty that is amplified by its alluring cliff top of Chora, perhaps the most appealing village in the Cyclades,” Ms. Leontaraki said. Chora is also the main village here and has a Cycladic feel with breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. Chora is a wonderful place to walk around and up to the beautiful church of Panagia on the top of a hill said to be the site of an ancient temple, Ms. Leontaraki said. From there, you’ll find some of the best, undisturbed views of the Aegean Sea and nearby islands of Santorini and Los.
“The people of Folegandros are very welcoming and dedicated to preserving the local traditions of the Cyclades,” Mr. Mitev said.
There are three main villages here: Karavostasi, Chora (Folegandros town) and Ano Meria. Located about two miles from Chora is Karavostasis, the island's only port town. Here, you’ll find small fishing boats, yachts, and the ferry from Athens, as well as shops and restaurants. About four miles from Chora is Ano Meria, a rural village with only 350 people scattered about verdant fields. There’s an ecological and folklore museum with exhibits built around local farming life as well as some cozy taverns. Worth a visit is the Aspropounta Lighthouse, an Instagram-worthy monument dating back over 100 years.
The beaches of Folegandros are quiet and rustic and can be accessed by bus or boat from the port, or for the more adventurous, on foot. There are small beaches near Karavostasi, such as Vardia with its secluded shores and camping area. Northeast of Ano Meria is Agios Georgios, one of the best beaches in summer thanks to its shady trees, which cool things down. Also nearby is Ligaria Beach, a remote pebbled scape that’s ideal for the crowd phobic.
The majority of the restaurants and nightlife here are located in Chora. Little tavernas offer local cuisine with fresh fish and authentic Greek dishes.
It’s easy to live the simple, local life here. Let the trade winds capture your whim, and surrender to the Zen all around.