With over 9,000 islands and islets scattered across its crystal clear waters, Greece offers a totally unique sailing experience, combining history, culture, breathtaking scenery and ideal sailing conditions. Its renowned gastronomy and friendly locals make it impossible not to be swept away by the country’s charm. In this article, Vincent and Lisanne, our expert booking advisors, invite you to embark on a voyage to this must-see destination for sailors!
Greece has 5 main sailing areas: the Saronic Gulf, the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands, the Dodecanese Islands and the Sporades. In this article, we will be looking at the Saronic Gulf and the Cyclades, (both of which are easily accessible from Athens) and the Ionian Islands. We invite you to contact one of our booking advisors if you’re looking for more information on the other two sailing areas.
Whether you’re an experienced sailor or a beginner looking to gain some sea legs, get ready for an unforgettable sailing adventure in Greece!
The navigation area
Sailing conditions in Greece are generally very good, with light winds and often calm waters. The sailing season runs from April to October with July and August offering the warmest and windiest conditions. As for the weather in Greece, visitors can expect warm temperatures all season long (which can sometimes be very hot in the summer!) along with water temperatures that may reach up to 25° C during the summer months.
The islands in the Saronic Gulf: Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Dokos, Spetses and the Peloponnese coastline offer quiet sailing, sheltered from strong winds and with short sailing distances between them, ideal for coastal sailing.
For a week’s sailing, Athens is a strategic starting point for a yacht charter in Greece. You can avoid the Meltem, the north-westerly wind that blows mainly in the Cyclades during the summer.
The Cyclades are a group of islands in the Aegean Sea and offer exciting but sometimes demanding sailing conditions. As mentioned above, the prevailing wind during the summer season is the Meltem. This north-westerly wind can blow strongly and create a large swell, making sailing more difficult for less experienced sailors. Generally speaking, the weather conditions here are more demanding than in other parts of Greece, so do not hesitate to use the services of a professional skipper if you want to be on the safe side.
In the Ionian Islands, this sizeable green archipelago off the west coast of Greece, expect easy sailing, with many anchorages often at the foot of mountains and small fishing ports. These islands are easily accessible from the bases in Corfu or Lefkas. The wind and sailing conditions in the Ionian Sea are stable and predictable. Beware of stormy conditions in the middle of summer. The wind blows from the northwest at a speed force of 3 to 5 between May and September.
The essentials of your cruise
You can easily alternate between visiting lively places, ancient temples, and typical fishing ports. Among the most beautiful stops in the gulf, discover Aegina, the island of pistachios with its many sheltered anchorages, perfect for spending the night. You will also learn about the town of Epidaurus, which is world famous for its ancient theatre, and the island of Hydra, the artists’ refuge thanks to its calm and bucolic walks (no cars are allowed on this island).
The island of Spetses is one of the most beautiful islands in the Saronic Gulf. It is known for its elegant atmosphere, chic restaurants and various beautiful beaches. Georges, one of our local partners, recommends the restaurant “Mourayo”, an all-time classic according to him. For the record, the owner, Manolis Syrmas, is a great-great-grandson of an authentic fighter of the Greek Revolution, so he knows exactly how to party and liven up the nightlife of Spetses!
The Cyclades :
The Cyclades consist of a group of islands in the centre of the Aegean Sea, named as such because they surround the island of Delos (cyclos in Greek means circle). This region is one of the most touristy parts of Greece, offering beautiful anchorages and breathtaking scenery with whitewashed villages, crystal clear waters and many picturesque beaches. The most popular islands are Mykonos, Paros, Naxos and Santorini.
Enjoy the beaches and wild nights of Mykonos, the tourist heart of Greece, and feel the cosmopolitan air of Paros, Naxos and Ios. Of course, you can’t visit the Cyclades without a stopover in Santorini, famous for its architecture and gleaming white houses. Stop at the best restaurant in town, the Metaxi Mas, and enjoy local specialities while admiring the magnificent panoramic views.
Finish your Cyclades holiday with the town of Milos and the white cliffs of Kleftiko, your expert Vincent’s favourite. A stop at the Sirocco restaurant in Paleochori is a must: it’s located on the seafront and offers modern, flavourful Greek cuisine.
The Ionian Islands :
Lisanne, our expert on this region, advises you to take a 2-week cruise to be able to discover the two sailing areas, Corfu and Lefkas.
From Corfu, you will discover the southern part of the island, the islands of Paxos and Anti Paxos, and the beautiful anchorages around the town of Parga, located on the mainland. In Corfu town, visit Palaio Frourio, a 15th-century Byzantine castle built by the Venetians. Then, climb to the top of the rocky outcrop to admire the lighthouse and enjoy the 360° panoramic view. Before leaving the island, you can stop for a few hours in the small harbour of Petriti, where you can taste delicious freshly caught fish in the Limnopoula restaurant (preferably in the evening to admire the sunset and the boats returning to port).
You can anchor in Vriki Bay or Voutoumi Bay for a quiet night’s sleep.
The island of Lefkas (Lefkada), surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Ionian Sea, is the ideal starting point for discovering the famous southern islands of Kefalonia, Ithaca and Zakynthos and the many islets around. Just outside Lefkas, discover the town of Paleros and its Byzantine ruins: take the mountain path behind the marina to the Byzantine monastery of St. Dimitrios, who is widely regarded as the town’s patron saint. You can see the splendid view of the Ionian Sea and the Greek mainland from here.
The next stop is the island of Ithaca and its capital Vathy. This town has the largest natural harbour in the world and is home to many of the island’s must-sees, including the Naval and Folklore Museum.
Finally, don’t miss the famous beach of Navagio (meaning Shipwreck Bay) in the town of Zakynthos: a beautiful stretch of white sand and incredibly blue water that is protected by a natural bay and famous for its ship’s frame in the middle of the beach.
What to do :
- If you are in Athens, take the time to visit the famous Acropolis. – Get lost in the narrow streets of the towns and villages or along the coastal paths – Taste Greek cuisine.
- Get lost in the narrow streets of the towns and villages or along the coastal paths
- Taste Greek cuisine in the many taverns that can be found during your stopovers
- Immerse yourself in Greek mythology and the country’s rich history before or during your cruise (which will bring back memories of your secondary school Latin or Classics classes…)
What not to do :
- Arrive late at a small Greek port in high season. While the vast majority of Greek ports are charming and typical places to visit, they are not large enough to accommodate a huge number of boats. In July and August, it is essential to arrive at the port as early as possible in the day if you wish to secure a berth.
- Alternatively, you can use the Navily application, which is offered to you for free when you make your reservation, to find the best mooring nearby.
For more information on sailing in Greece, your experts Vincent and Lisanne will be happy to discuss with you and design a sailing trip to suit your needs. Contact them today!