Thinking of chartering a yacht for a sailing holiday in Greece? You couldn’t pick a better destination to escape from the ordinary. As you soak in the sunshine, you’ll be sailing across deep blue waters and dropping anchor at idyllic beaches and charming Mediterranean towns.
But with so much to see and do on your voyage, where should you plan on sailing your Greek charter yacht? Here are a few exciting island chains you can’t afford to miss.
1. Ionian Islands
Setting sail on your Greek charter boat from the northern or central part of the west coast? Set your sights on the Ionian Sea and all of its treasures. Here you will discover Lefkas, Corfu, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos along with the other Ionian Islands.
The Ionian Islands are sometimes referred to as the “Heptanese,” which translates to “the Seven Islands.” This is something of a misnomer as there are seven principal islands, but there are also quite a few smaller ones.
Each of the Ionian Islands is a precious jewel, offering incredible opportunities to explore tranquil hidden beaches and coves. You can then relax afterward in one of the cozy villages, indulging in authentic Mediterranean cuisine while chatting with the locals. You may notice some Italian influences in the culture as well as the food; this is because the islands were a part of the Ottoman Empire. Different influences led to the development of a unique culture, different from anything else found throughout Greece.
What are some highlights to check out? There are many beautiful beaches to explore, but no trip to the Ionian Islands would be complete without dropping by the dramatic Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Beach) in Zakynthos. As the name indicates, the beach features a rusted shipwreck, completely beached. Towering cliffs encircle the bay, which is a gorgeous deep azure.
Other points of interest in the Ionian Islands include the Monastery of Panagia Skopiotissa in Argassi, the Corfu Museum of Asian Art (in Corfu), and Old Perithia, which is the oldest village in Corfu.
2. Sporades Islands
Another island chain well worth checking out on your Greece sailing holiday is the Sporades Islands. You will find this archipelago in the Aegean Sea along Greece’s east coast. There are twenty-four islands in all, four with permanent habitations: Skopelos, Alonnisos, Skiathos, and Skyros.
If you are into the great outdoors, the Sporades Islands are a natural haven which will steal your breath away. Featuring rocky outcrops, lush forests, and of course, the deep blue seas which Greece is renowned for, the Sporades are perfect for sailing, hiking, horseback riding, and cycling.
Walk through olive groves on Skiathos, and wander dense pine forests on Skopelos. While on Skopelos, also be sure to check out the famous Saint Ioannis Chapel, where the wedding in Mamma Mia was filmed. Visiting Alonnisos? Drop by the National Marine Park of Alonnisos, which supports the rescue of Mediterranean Monk Seal pups. While in Skyros, take part in a carnival, or go explore the forests and beaches.
3. Cyclades Islands
Going with a skippered yacht charter in Greece—or skilled enough with sailing that you are ready to take on higher winds and rougher seas bareboat? Then chart a course to the beautiful Cyclades Islands southeast of the mainland to see what awaits you.
The Cyclades are an Aegean wonderland. There are an astonishing 220 islands in all, some of the principal ones being Mykonos, Milos, Naxos, and Thera (Santorini).
Each of these islands has something unique to offer. If you are into partying, you definitely will want to head to Mykonos to check out the exciting nightlife. But if you are looking for incredible views of the sea and gorgeous sunsets, drop your anchor at Paros or the famous Santorini. Here you will find the famous white cities with deep blue domes mimicking the azure color of the waves and the bold cerulean of the sky. Santorini is a photographer’s paradise and an amazing place to drop all your worries and let your cares float away. Looking out over the rugged cliffs and idyllic dwellings, you will feel like you have truly escaped to another world.
4. Saronic Gulf & Islands
Finally, one more island chain that you should consider visiting on your sailing holiday in Greece is the Saronic and Argolic Gulf and islands. These islands are named for the gulf in which they are found, and are located close to the mainland.
While there are a number of islands in the archipelago, the main inhabited ones are known collectively as the Salamis. If you are a history buff, this name may be familiar to you, as it was in the Battle of Salamis that the ancient Greeks drove away from the invading Persians.
Where should you begin your exploration of the Saronic Islands? A great start is Poros, which features excellent facilities for tourists, including a great many sailing centers. So you will find that there are many docking options here even during the busiest months of the year. It makes a great staging post on your way to Hydra, Aegina, Agistri, and Spetses.
Every one of these islands has a distinctive cultural identity. Perhaps the most extraordinary settlement is Hydra Town, a lovely port town featuring beautiful masonry. Poros Town and Spetses Town also feature some gorgeous architecture, however. The most modern destination is Agistri with its newer villages. As with the other island chains in Greece, the Saronic Islands are abounding with dense forests and serene beaches, so there is plenty to do here if you are an outdoor enthusiast.
Conclusion: The Greek Archipelagoes Have Something to Offer Everyone!
Not everyone has the chance to explore Greece in a chartered sailing yacht, so take advantage of this incredible opportunity to go island hopping. Whether you visit the Cyclades, Saronic Islands, Sporades or the Ionian Islands, you will have an amazing time on your Greek sailing holiday. Your trip is sure to ignite a fascination with Greece that will bring you back time and again in the future!