James Bond villains build the best lairs, from volcanoes to space
When you're evil and have money to burn, these are memorable places to call home in Bond movies like No Time to Die.
Kent GermanFormer senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
The latest Bond movie No Time to Die is Daniel Craig's last, but this "epic, explosive and emotional swan song" has time for a staple of every good Bond film. Bad guy Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) grows bioweapons on a secret island -- just the latest example of how every James Bond film has a villain, and every villain has a lair built to hatch overly complicated schemes for global extortion, grand larceny or just world domination through the annihilation of the human race.
With few exceptions, villain lairs tend to be comfortable, well-appointed places and staffed by a loyal group of henchmen (and occasionally henchwomen). Some are remote and hard to reach, but others are smack in the middle of town. It all depends on the villain's taste.
A private tropical island off the coast of Jamaica may sound like an ideal home, but Crab Key certainly doesn't have curb appeal. Much of it is a dreary swamp, the soil is radioactive, and a fire-breathing dragon guards the place. The job opportunities are grim as well -- a barren and dusty bauxite mine (in the film) or (in the book) a mine for bird poop. Either way, yuck.
But take a peek underground and you'll find a state-of-the-art missile jamming station, luxury guest rooms with attentive and courteous staff, gourmet cuisine and a top-notch wine list (just skip the sleep-inducing coffee). But the real showpiece is Dr. No's richly decorated office and lounge with its priceless art (OK, most of it is stolen) and huge million-dollar window that gives you an undersea view.
Kentucky stud farm -- Goldfinger (1964)
If you enjoy horse racing, then a visit to Auric Goldfinger's Kentucky stud farm is a must. The main house has a shaded verandah for sipping a mint julep, and the tasteful ranch-style interiors are accentuated by gorgeous wood paneling and an enormous stainless steel fireplace for chilly days. There's also a small jail cell for keeping annoying guests out of trouble, and the pool table, which can flip over to show a map of Fort Knox, is a guaranteed conversation piece. The place can suffer from deadly gas leaks, so it's best to bring a gas mask.
Palmyra -- Thunderball (1965)
In his posh seaside estate in the Bahamas, Emilio Largo started a grand tradition of Bond villains -- keeping a not-so-cuddly pet for the purpose of dispatching unreliable henchmen. In Largo's case it was a pool of sharks that was connected to his regular swimming pool by an underwater tunnel. (Bond, of course, was able to escape unscathed using one of Q's helpful gadgets.) Other attractions at Palmyra include skeet shooting, storage for stolen nuclear weapons and plenty of space for Domino to lounge about while being bored with it all.
Hollow volcano -- You Only Live Twice (1967)
When you're a supervillain with a limitless expense account, why not hollow out an extinct volcano and use it as a base? Sure, the decor is a bit severe, but there's a monorail, a spacecraft launchpad, and the sliding crater cover lets you hide from nosy neighbors on this small Japanese island. The boss insists on keeping a pool of piranha in his office, so make sure you're in his good graces before you cross the small bridge. And when you're done with the whole thing, there's a handy self-destruct mechanism (check the homeowner's insurance policy before using).
Piz Gloria -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Now this is living. After he moved out of his volcano, Ernst Stavro Blofeld retreated to a mountaintop home high in the Swiss Alps. Amenities include a revolving restaurant, full laboratory facilities, space for curling and championship ski and bobsled runs. All accommodations are made for visitors with allergies, and you get to ride a cable car every day to get there. That's just cool. And the views are to die for. Literally.
OK, there are some drawbacks. Food choices are limited -- don't be surprised if you're served just a plate of potatoes or a couple of bananas for dinner. The staff is rather gruff, as well, and an efficient if terrifying secretary works the front desk. And since overnight guests may be brainwashed or spied on, maybe you want to make it only a day trip.
Whyte House -- Diamonds are Forever (1971)
If you ever dreamed of living like Howard Hughes, then try Blofeld's next lair, atop the Whyte House Hotel in Las Vegas. The expansive penthouse, which Blofeld "borrowed" from reclusive hotel owner Willard Whyte, feels rather sterile inside, but the place is pet-friendly if you have a temperamental white cat. Beware of the hotel's strict dress code, though. Fir whatever reason you'll need to be in drag if you want to go outside.
Scaramanga's island -- The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
Compared with Crab Key, Francisco Scaramanga's private island is paradise. The exact location in the film was kept vague (it's described only as being in China somewhere), but the real location is Thailand's stunning Phang Nga Bay. Surrounded by turquoise waters, the island is easily accessible by seaplane or boat. You'll enjoy golden beaches for sunbathing (or dueling), the rooms are done in a wonderfully vintage 1970s style and a powerful laser will deter unwanted guests. Upkeep is expensive, sure, but solar panels will keep your power bill low. The funhouse on the lower level may appear to be a pleasant distraction, but it's better if you avoid it -- people have been killed there.
Atlantis -- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Do you have webbed hands? Or maybe a weird fish fetish? Then Karl Stromberg's Atlantis is the place for you. Located off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia, Atlantis is a giant marine research laboratory that can sink below the Mediterranean when you need a change of scenery. There's a fantastic aquarium -- Shark Week fans will be especially pleased -- and the dining room is a rather...unique place to take your meals. Just mind the gun under the table and the faulty lifts. Need to get away quickly? There's also an escape pod with a comfortable bed and a full bar with a bottle of 1952 Dom Perignon champagne.
Hugo Drax's space station -- Moonraker (1969)
When he's on Earth, Hugo Drax's home is a spectacular Baroque French chateau (in real life, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte)transplanted to the California desert. But when he's about to end all human life on the planet with a toxic nerve gas, he can retreat to a giant orbiting space station he managed to build without anyone noticing. As vacation homes go, it's certainly extravagant, and the artificial gravity is a must for space, but the commute is a killer and it suffers from shoddy construction. After just a few astronauts with lasers break in, the whole thing falls apart.
St. Cyril's -- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
If you're into incredible views and stark minimalism, then the abandoned St. Cyril's monastery will be your dream getaway. Perched atop a monolithic pillar in northern Greece, it's a rock-climbing paradise and the perfect place to hide if you're someone like Aris Kristatos, a disreputable smuggler hoping to sell sensitive British military equipment to the KGB.
When you're not up to no good, its remote location makes it best suited for meditating. Outside of convenient helicopter parking, the amenities are nonexistent, but Renaissance frescoes liven the the drab interiors. (At the real location, the Monastery of The Holy Trinity near Kalambaka, Greece, you don't have to be winched up in a basket to visit -- instead, you climb a staircase cut into the cliff.)
Monsoon Palace -- Octopussy (1983)
Personally, I'd choose Octopussy's sumptious Lake Palace for a lair in India, but Kamal Khan's Monsoon Palace is far from a fixer-upper. Perched high on a mountain above the scenic city of Udaipur, the Monsoon Palace has commanding views, a lovely formal dining room and easy access to an airstrip for your private plane. But while it's supposed to be well-guarded -- the winding road up is killer -- the fortifications can't stop an all-female circus troupe from breaking in.
Brad Whitaker's Tangier hideaway -- The Living Daylights (1987)
Military buffs will love this hilltop home in Tangier, Morocco. An extensive museum of weaponry and dioramas of famous battles will keep you entertained for days. When you've had enough history, retreat to the rooftop pool with an expansive view of the Strait of Gibraltar. Your host, a pathologically narcissistic arms dealer with delusions of grandeur, is rather odd, but if you respect the uniform, all should be good.
Franz Sanchez's villa -- Licence to Kill (1989)
What it lacks in restrained taste, Sanchez's seaside villa in the fictional Isthmus City makes up for in ocean views and opulence. You'll find a cliffside swimming pool, a huge deck for evening cocktail hour and a private dock for your speedboat. And the little funicular up to the guest quarters is a highlight. You might just want to throw a sheet over some of the artwork, which is of questionable taste. The real location used in the film is the fanciful Villa Arabesque in Acapulco, Mexico. At various points it has been offered both for sale and as a vacation rental.
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When you're poking around the South China Sea to cause trouble, you have to assume a low profile. That's why media baron Elliot Carver chose to sail the politically volatile waters in a stealth ship. Don't come on board looking for comfort -- there's no sun deck, buffet or spa, and the cold, metallic interior is depressing. And the first mate? He's one mean dude. But with a frigate-destroying sea drill and surface-to-air missiles, the technology is first rate. Best of all? You can hide from the British and Chinese navies when you're trying to start a war between them.
Maiden's Tower -- The World is Not Enough (1999)
Location, location, location. That's all you need to know about this small, Ottoman-era lair of Elektra King, the fabulously wealthy oil heiress with a penchant for patricide and petroleum pipelines. Located on an islet in the Bosporus, the tower is situated within an easy commute of Istanbul via boat or submarine (parking for both is included). It's the perfect place to either watch ships transiting one of the planet's maritime chokepoints or detonate a stolen nuclear bomb and contaminate the ancient Turkish city forever. On the downside, the furniture is grossly uncomfortable -- one sitting room even has a "torture chair" -- so watch where you sit.
La Perla de las Dunas -- Quantum of Solace (2008)
Stargazers will love the location of this hotel set in the bleak Atacama Desert in Chile (Bolivia in the film). The dry air and remote location made for intensely clear and dark night skies. Rooms are surprisingly homey, given the environment, and the hotel's minimal footprint on the landscape will appeal to eco-travelers. Just be careful around the hydrogen fuel cells that power the place, or you'll wind up with your own Hindenburg situation.
Raoul Silva's island -- Skyfall (2012)
Sure, this place may give you the creeps, but honestly, Silva is kind of a creepy guy. So it makes sense. Located off the southern coast of Japan, not far from that now-destroyed hollow volcano, the island is perfect for visitors who demand complete solitude. In fact, you'll likely be the only guest. One downside is that with no staff, there's no room service (bring your own food) or anyone to even check you in once you arrive. The place is pretty filthy, as well -- definitely one-star accommodations -- but there's something almost romantic about the despair and decay that surround you. You can stay in a Hilton anytime, but this is an experience you won't forget.