With its myriad of islands, it is sometimes difficult to choose where to book your sailing holiday in Greece. This two part blog series picks out a few of the best destinations with some useful information to make it easier.
Lefkas (or Lefkada)
Location: West Coast - Ionian Sea
Closest airport: Preveza –Lefkas Aktion Airport
Boat Pick up: Lefkas Harbour
Special Features: Lefkada, home of poets, has steep white cliffs along the western coast of the island, after which it is named (The White One). The eastern coast is less wild and there are numerous islets to discover by boat. Considered as the most "yachting friendly" destination in Greece, there is a well- organised marina in the capital town, conveniently located near all the shops. It has three ports (some organised with facilities) such as Nydri, Sivota fishing village and Vassiliki. Short trips to the eastern part to the marvelous beaches of Skorpios and Meganisi islets (which are possible with most wind conditions) will offer unforgettable experiences. Using Lefkas as a base, you can also explore the other Ionian Islands of Zankynthos, Ithaca and Kefalonia.
Sailing Conditions: Ideal winds and perfect sailing conditions make this area very popular. From May to September the wind blows from North-West at Beaufort Force 2-5. This area is recommended for novice to competent sailors and family groups. It can be crowded in high season.
Location: North-West Coast – Ionian Sea
Closest airport: Corfu International Airport
Boat Pick up: Corfu Harbour
Special Features: The starting point for cruising the Northern Ionian Islands is Corfu. Known as Kerkira in Greek, it is the northernmost and largest Ionian island. Gentle and green, its olive and cypress groves descend smoothly to idyllic bays lined with sand beaches. A great base to start a trip by boat, heading south to Paxi, a luxuriant little island with huge rocks dropping to the sea, and Antipaxi, a tiny island with delightful anchorages and the clearest waters; a great stopover. The east coast of the mainland is also easily accessible from here and Moutos and Paga are worth stopping in at too.
Sailing Conditions: The wind and sailing conditions in the Ionian Sea are ideal and predictable. From May to September the wind blows from North-West at Beaufort Force 2-5. Recommended for novice to competent sailors and family groups, it is a great destination for a first-time sailing experience.
Closest airport: Syros Domestic Airport – Domestic flights only
Boat Pick up: Syros Harbour
Special Features: The Cyclades are known for their abundant sunshine, stark and almost barren landscape, white washed houses, traditional windmills, footpaths lined with wild flowers, a lively night scene and wind! Syros is the gateway to the Northern Cyclades with its large harbour, that was a centre of commercial activity for millennia, and hectic nightlife. From Syros you can sail to the uninhabited and desolate island of Gyaros, previously used as a place of exile and internment. Next up is Tinos, island of miracles and famous for its unique Cycladic architecture and dove-coats. Tinos is also the island of artists with many famous sculptors having come from there; Famed, vibrant Mykonos, the most cosmopolitan island in the world and the Capri of Greece, to be avoided in the summer if you don't like crowds and parties. In the centre is Delos, the small, barren island, birthplace of Apollo, ancient god of the sun. To the East of Syros are mountainous Kea and barren, quiet Kithnos.
Sailing Conditions: Known as the windy isles, this island complex is recommended for more experienced sailors, who don't mind some challenging sailing. There are plenty of islands to explore - quiet and relaxed to busy and lively. Alternatively, a skippered or crewed charter with an experienced local skipper is recommended. The prevailing wind in the summer is the "Meltemi", which blows from the North / North West. Starting in June, it blows stronger in July and August at Beaufort Force 5-6 and may occasionally reach Force 8-9. It could blow for 1-3 days or two weeks at a time. It can get extremely windy and has been known to de-mast yachts!
Location: Middle Cyclades – Aegean Sea
Closest airport: Paros National Airport – Domestic flights only
Boat Pick up: Paros Harbour
Special Features: Paros, a well-known tourist destination and source of the some of the best white marble in the world, is ideal for young people, romantic couples and families. The Parian traditional villages, particularly Naoussa, Parikia and Lefkes, are perfect samples of Cycladic architecture, with whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and blue-domed churches. Antiparos is to the south-west with a famous cave, shallow water and great beaches; Bare and mountainous, topped with gleaming white churches and monasteries, as well as olive groves dotted with white villages the middle Cyclades are bright and sunny. Paros makes a great base for exploring the Middle Cyclades islands of Naxos, Serifos and Amorgos.
Sailing Conditions: Due to the strength of the wind in summer, this group of islands along with the rest of the Cyclades, are known as the Windy isles. Recommended only for experienced sailors or a Skippered Charter.
In part two we will share more of our favourite Greek sailing destinations in Central Greece, around the Peloponnese and Dodecanese Island complexes.
By Merryn Wainwright