A Private Island in Europe – It’s all yours
By Kristina Kulyabina
Have you ever thought about renting your own private island? It’s not as crazy as you might think. Renting an island is possible, and in Croatia, there are islands that can be rented for as few as two or three days.
From the island of Susac in Croatia to the Dalaro private island of Sweden, several European islands are available for rent through the website Visiwa.
In 2012, Arno Nurski, a 27-year- old native of Belgium came up with the idea of marketing island rentals through an organized and transparent online platform. When he first became interested in personally renting an island in Europe, he realized the lack of property information and hassle in contacting the owner.
Nurski says he and his co-founder, Bart Vangeneugden, started talking to island owners and other industry players like tour operators and travel agents as well as adventurous travelers.
“And the main thing that came out of these talks was that people seem to be very interested in renting these islands, but they are just not aware that they could rent them,” says Nurski.
Island rental seekers can navigate Visiwa to discover information on a desirable island in Croatia, Norway, or Sweden. Island owners list the price of rent usually per night, accommodations, things to do, photos and a map of the area. Just as if renting a hotel online, a traveler can check availability with the click of a button.
Individual island owners set any requirements meaning they decide how many people can rent the island, what type of people, and when they can rent it. For instance, Nurski says that one island owner does not like all the hassle involved with renting out accommodation so he prefers renting it to a family who might come back to the island year after year.
Visiwa ultimately serves as a communication vehicle for island owners to reach out to potential customers in their preferred manner. Every island is different which means owners can set various requirements for rent.
Some islands only have one house on the entire property while others, like Littleisland Lighthouse in Norway, operate more like a bed and breakfast. Travelers rent the accommodation and then someone on the island takes care of the visitors and cooks for them while serving as a bit of a tour guide by taking travelers fishing and on explorations throughout the island and neighboring islands.
Prisnjak Lighthouse Island in Croatia
Koenraad Landuyt, a project control engineer from Belgium, heard about Visiwa through a friend from his university and instantly seized the unique opportunity. Landuyt chose Croatia because the other islands available at the time were rather expensive countries and scattered over dozens of miles of coastline. He has visited Croatia a couple times before and rented the island for one week with three other friends at the end of April 2013.
Including flights, accommodations, transportation, and food, the group spent roughly 100€ per day per person without even attempting to save money, but then again, a typical daily expenditure in Europe.
According to Landuyt, the island is oval shaped and roughly 200-300m long and 100m wide and is located roughly 200m from the Murter peninsula shoreline.
“The only building on the island is the lighthouse, which stands on the very edge of the island, facing the ocean. One side of the island is covered with small bushes and shrubs, while the other side of the island is covered by pine trees, a very cool switch on such a small island!” says Landuyt.
He also describes the landscape with rocky shorelines as opposed to sandy beaches in Spain and France.
“It creates some cool natural bays and allows for some fun ‘trekking’ and jumping rocks along the shore of the island. The view from the island is simply amazing, in the distance you see several hundreds of other islands, some with their own lighthouses which are very cool to watch at night.”
“But feeling isolated on an island like that is a great experience in itself because you know you have to buy enough food, you know you can’t get off the island anytime in a second, but that’s the whole idea and charm of renting a private island!” says Landuyt.
Landuyt experienced the island in complete isolation with his friends, as they were the only ones there other than occasional motor or sailboats passing by the island. Although, according to the website, the boaters can stop ashore, none of them did, leaving the only human interaction between the group of friends.
“And believe me, this was awesome! No cell phones ringing, no children crying, no cars honking, no nothing, absolutely nothing but pure peace and calm –amazing!” says Landuyt.
The accommodation was the Prisnjak lighthouse itself which was divided into two 2-person bedrooms –one with a double bed and one with two separate beds, a large kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, and a storage room. Landuyt says the accommodation overall was more than OK and definitely better than his expectations for a private island.
“It was nothing fancy or state-of-the-art but more than enough and everything worked perfectly. The best thing about the accommodation was probably the beautiful view on the ocean you had from the bathroom window or from any other window for that matter,” he says.
Landuyt and his friends spent most of their days walking around the island, lying on the shore, swimming, playing some beach games, and reading here and there.
“In the evenings we always had elaborate barbecue dinners and afterwards passed our time talking,” says Landuyt. “I went with a group of friends from university and we hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. So this was an ideal opportunity to catch up on each other’s personal lives, careers and anything else we wanted to talk about.”
However, the only challenging part of living on the island was buying enough food and drinks including alcoholic beverages for four men to survive for almost a full week. The group tried getting enough food and drinks from the first time so they wouldn’t have to go back to the mainland, but they unfortunately failed. Within the first two days of the stay, they already had gone through their meat and beer. Contacting the ferry captain to pick them up and bring them back to the mainland for a short time easily solved the problem in the long run.
“Although a return trip cost us 60€, only 15€ per person, this was well worth it. During our couple of hours back on the mainland, we went to a small restaurant, stocked up on meat and beers and just strolled around the town a bit,” says Landuyt.
Overall Landuyt says Visiwa was very helpful and explained practically everything that he needed to know about how to get there, how and where to book the island, what to bring and what not to bring. “We didn’t even bother to look anything up except for the flight times, as going on a private island adventure still is supposed to be an adventure with a small dose of ‘figure it out yourself’,” he says. “The information provided on the Visiwa website was more than sufficient.”
The owner in Norway
Elena Hansteensen is the 49-year-old Norwegian owner of the lighthouse and its property on Littleisland Lighthouse in Norway, but not the whole island. She is the only one living there all year round as no other houses surround her on the island.
She says some of the most common activities on the island are hiking, kayaking, fishing, bird watching and whale watching, seeing white nights with the midnight sun during the summer or searching for the northern lights during the winter.
Hansteensen began renting out her island because she wanted others to experience its intimacy as well. She was raised in the tourism business and has had all kinds of jobs within this branch when she was younger.
Kristina Kulyabina is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD.com. She also blogs for Let’s Go, a student travel guide. She is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Western Mass. Kristina attended UMass Amherst for a B.A. in journalism and an international relations certificate.
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