Skorpios, Aristotle Onassis‘ private island in the Ionian Sea, is to turn into a VIP resort, after the Greek government signed the permit allowing the change to take place recently.
The 55-page Joint Ministerial Decision, which was signed on the last day of 2020, describes in detail all the changes on Skorpios, the once near-mythical paradise which is poised to enter a new, and perhaps more prosaic, era.
Even though the island now belongs to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the daughter of Russian magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev, Greek people still call Skorpios “the island of Onassis.”
Rybolovleva, along with a group of companies, bought the island Athina Onassis Roussel through her trust in 2013, along with the adjacent islet of Sparti, for $153 million.
The development project
The ministerial decision is entitled “Approval of the location of the investment plan called ‘Construction and operation of a luxury tourist unit VIP Exclusive Club on the island of Skorpios.'”
The project to turn the island into a VIP resort is estimated to cost 165 million euros and all the necessary construction works is expected to be completed in 3.5 years. It has been called one of the first strategic investments in Greece.
According to the ministerial decision, the project is divided into nine construction units in an area of 430,947.10 square meters (463,675.98 square feet), with new buildings and the preservation of existing ones such as Christina Onassis’ “Pink Villa.” Christina was the late daughter of the tycoon and the mother of Athina Roussel.
The Pink Villa will be renovated completely and will be used as an accommodation unit. In addition, a main hotel building complex measuring 9,420 square meters (291,129,921 square feet) will be built.
The complex will include the main residence, or Master Suite; two large villas, called VIP1 and VIP2; and medium-sized villas, referred to as VIP3 and VIP4, and Guest Pavilions 1 and 2.
The main complex also includes areas that serve the main and auxiliary functions of the guest facilities, such as a conference center, restaurant, wellness center, screening room and entertainment area.
The second building complex will include four independent villas, called VIP5, VIP6, VIP7 and VIP8, with all the necessary auxiliary features.
The third multipurpose complex will house sports facilities; in the fourth there will be facilities for swimmers and sun bathers, such as locker rooms, storage areas, a swimming pool and an auxiliary pier.
Other facilities and buildings include a helipad, a lounge in the fifth building complex, and a sixth building complex to accommodate the staff.
There is a seventh unit that is designed to accommodate horses and a special area for hosting small pets. The existing equestrian arena can also serve visitors with horse-riding training facilities.
Building unit 8 includes the “Hill House”, a new building with an outdoor pool of 75 square meters (18,455 square feet) and in building section 9 there is the “Amphitheater”, a natural, outdoor theater-like space for visitors to enjoy.
On the first level of the amphitheater, below the stage, auxiliary service areas for the actors and the public will be constructed, such as dressing rooms and storage facilities.
Finally, Skorpios’ harbor will be expanded significantly and modernized to accommodate more vessels.
The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2024, giving a new and much different life to the once-private sanctuary of Aristotle Onassis.
The history of Skorpios
The irregularly-shaped island is next to Lefkada in the Ionian Sea. It spans 83.2 hectares (205 acres) and has two main axes of about 1500 meters and 1000 meters.
Skorpios, which was bought by the Greek shipping magnate in 1963, is believed to have cost him the equivalent of about $11,000 in today’s money.
It is heavily forested from south to north and features over 200 varieties of trees imported to the once nearly-barren island by Onassis. There are some sandy beaches, most notably East Beach, which was created by the magnate.
In order to achieve that, sand was brought from Salamis Island for that express purpose. Onassis also built harbor facilities in the bay on the north side for his massive yacht, named “Christina O.”
All the fresh water on Skorpios comes from the side of a mountain on a nearby island.
Numerous high-profile guests stayed on the island during the time of Onassis. State leaders, politicians, actors, and artists enjoyed the host’s hospitality and the natural beauties of Scorpios.
Skorpios was also the place of his wedding to former United States First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, on October 20, 1968. In 1971, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was photographed nude by an Italian paparazzo while lying on a Skorpios beach.
Upon Onassis’s death, the island passed on to his daughter Christina, and then in turn to her daughter Athina Onassis Roussel, the only surviving heir. Onassis, along with his son Alexander, and his daughter Christina, are all buried on Skorpios.