Sailing in Greece
Over the last years, sailing in Greece is constantly gaining popularity among travellers and sailing enthusiasts. And this is not a coincidence that Greece is chosen by many people as a sailing destination. There are more than 2,000 islands of various sizes available to visit, while the total coastline of Greece extends to more than 10,000 miles! Pretty amazing for such a small country -isn't it?
Yet, it is not only the geography that makes Greece a unique destination for sailing. One other major factor is the climate. Sure, everyone knows that is a warm country with the sun shining nearly every day. But the most important asset for sailors are the sailing areas where the weather can be completely different as we sail from one to another.
First there is the Saronic or Argo-Saronic Gulf.
It is very close to Athens -where the majority of Yacht Charters begin and end there. The weather there is usually calm or just with a light breeze during the daytime. It offers remarkable islands and mainland destinations for the yachtsmen. Here, one can visit Hydra -the cosmopolitan island, Poros for a beautiful landscape, or Aegina for a taste of it's famous pistachio. Don't miss out on Epidavros -the beautiful and quiet port which features the famous ancient theatre. If you don't mind a rather longer trip, you can also include Monemvasia to your itinerary, where a visit to it's medieval town is a must! Shortly north of Monemvasia, there are two idyllic bays you can spend some hours for a swim or overnight at anchor: Yerax and Kyparissi.
Moving on to Cyclades the scenery changes drastically in both landscape and weather conditions! Here the green colour from the trees and vegetation which is ample in the Argo-Saronic, gives it's place to a barren and rocky scenery with white-washed houses featuring red, blue or green windows -a picture that you are certainly familiar with! And the weather can be ...hmm quite surprising and interesting especially for keen sailors with strong stomachs! Indeed this area is recommended for more experienced seamen since the Meltemi wind can pick up anytime and may last for days, making sailing and mooring tasks more difficult than usual.
In Cyclades there are many destinations to choose from, each one with unique features and culture. Mykonos, perhaps the most famous island of Greece is lying here! Other destinations are: Paros -the beautiful "white" island, Syros -where Orthodox and Catholics are mingled harminically together, Serifos, Kythnos -a sample of Cycladic wilderness and -due south, the amazing Santorini -the very cosmopolitan island with the vast volcanic history!
Around 80 nautical miles south of Cyclades, is Crete. A huge island with many place worth seeing. Maybe is not exactly a sailing destination since it lacks moorings and marinas, but it is certainly worth mentioning for it's beauty, history, culture, hospitality and of course cuisine! After all, this is where "Mediterranean nutrition" emerged! The southern part of Crete is really worth visiting and while there, one should visit the adjacent island Gavdos for fresh fish and cold "raki" -Crete's famous aperitif. Also note that Gavdos is also the southern frontier of Europe!
Sailing north-east of Crete, we reach Dodecanesse. It's name means in Greek "12 islands"... In fact though, there are much more than 12 thus providing a wide selection of destinations. Rhodes island is one of the most interesting due to it's medieval history and monuments. Symi -a beautiful island, often the choice of the "rich and famous", Kos -also a popular destination with a lot of history in it's background, Kalymnos, Leros, Arki. Further north lies Samos -an island worth visiting and Ikaria -where time stops and everything rolls slow... This is probably why people in Ikaria usually live up to the age of 100 or more!!!
Sailing even more north will take you to the Northeast Aegean region. There you find among others Chios -the "Mastic island". It is the only place in the world where the mastic tree is possible to grow. Mytilene (or Lesvos) another notable destination with long history, Lemnos, the amazing Samothraki and finally Thasos -a more of a quiet family island.
To the east there is Chalkidiki -well known for it's beauty of landscape. Two huge bays formed by the three "legs" of Chalkidiki as well as other more -or less- famous spots, will give you plenty of exploring options.
Directly to the south we arrive to Sporades. It's a small complex of islands that can however provide plenty of destinations for a weekly or a two-week charter. Skiathos is not only the most popular destination of Sporades, but also of Greece. In Sporades the vegetation co-exists harmonically with the sea and the sand in a unique way. Other islands worth visiting are: Skyros, Skopelos, Alonissos, Kyra Panagia -with the breath taking "planitis" bay and Peristera -right beneath Skopelos.
To return to Athens where we started, we will take the option to go between Evoia and Sterea Ellada. Evoia is also an island but it is connected to the mainland with a bridge in the town of Chalkida. North and south of Chalkida two bays are formed the "North Evoicos" and the "South Evoicos" respectively. As we enter North Evoicos from the Sporades it is worth to stop and visit Lihadonissia which are considered by many as the "Seychelles of Greece".
Sailing through the Evoic Gulfs you may notice the stream in the water that is well known to the seamen for the frequent alternations of it's direction and speed.
After crossing the Chalkida canal and enter South Evoicos bay, we sail close to the coasts of Attica all the way to it's southernmost point: Cape Sounio. There is a bay here for a rest or a swim and at the top of the hill it's the ancient Poseidon's Temple -another spot worth visiting. And if you decide to stay in the Temple until the evening, you will be rewarded with one of the most idyllic sunsets you have ever seen, comparable to the one in Oia, Santorini!