The Peloponnese is located south of the mainland, separated from it by the Corinth Canal. The Rio-Antirio Bridge, the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge, stretches out over the north-west coast connecting the mainland. It is easily accessible from both Athens and the Ionian Islands. There are four stretches of water surrounding it: the Myrtos Sea to the east, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Gulf of Patras to the north and the Mediterranean to the south. Sailing around the shore of the Peloponnese is impressive. Valleys of citrus groves and proud cypress trees cover the landscape. Many civilisations have left their mark; Frankish and Venetian fortresses, Byzantine cities and ancient Greek sites are dotted around between the villages. Dramatic mountains descend to the seemingly endless coastline, which offers many bays - ideal for sailing boats.
Starting from KORINTHOS and heading down the eastern coast are the beaches of LOUTRA ORAIAS ELENIS (the Baths of Beautiful Helen), KORFOS and EPIDAVROS, with their charming little villages. Here the islands of the Saronic Gulf are a short sail by boat and worth exploring.
PORTO HELI and NAFPLIO, both worth visiting, are in the sheltered Argolis Gulf – a perfect place to anchor your yacht. The islands of SPETSES and HYDRA are nearby. DREPANOS is an area with clear water and incredible beaches.
Further south, ASTROS, TYRO and LEONIDIA, are quaint fishing villages with views of the Myrtos Sea. Just before reaching the southernmost edge of the eastern Peloponnese is MONEMVASIA, known as ‘The Gibraltar of the East’ topped by a powerful medieval fortress, and relics of Byzantine walls. Approaching this massive rock island by boat is a majestic sight.
Rounding Cape Maleas with caution, as sea conditions change dramatically, one comes upon NEAPOLIS, a restful port and the island ELAFONISSOS with its spectacular beaches. Further south is the island of KITHARA, technically part of the Ionian Islands, but more accessible from this area.
The GULF OF LACONIA is the largest gulf in the Peloponnese. The land here is where the Spartans had their principle region. From here it is possible to explore the gulf and sail down the MANI PENINSULA, stopping as you please. On the other side of Mani is the GULF OF MESSINIA where some superb beaches are to be found and the seaside city of KALAMATA, famed for its olives. At Kalamata is a large harbour and full-service marina.
The last leg of the Peloponnese before finding its Western shores passes KORONI, FINIKOUNDA and METHONI, a great place to anchor and visit the magnificent Venetian fortresses. The Messinian islands of SAPENZIA and SCHIZA, reachable only by boat, are strange and beautiful islands with a rare arbutus forest.
Sailing further north is PYLOS and the GULF OF NAVARINOS, a bay enclosed by Sfaktiria Island and one of the safest natural harbours in the Peloponnese, a great place to recoup for a few days.
Along the western coast are endless sandy beaches lining the GULF OF KIPARISSIA. The large port of KATAKOLO is the stopover to explore ANCIENT OLYMPIA, temple complex and site of the Olympic Games in antiquity. From this stop the Ionian Islands are also accessible by boat.
Continuing along the western coast eventually leads to PATRA, the largest city in the Peloponnese, and the third largest in Greece. It offers a large harbor, a yacht marina and all the conveniences of a city. From the Patras Gulf to the Corinthian Gulf towards the CORINTH CANAL, many lovely beaches and little towns can be found on both the south and north coasts. GALIXIDI is not to be missed, with its great maritime tradition which can be discovered in the Naval Museum. Usually tranquil, it gets busy in the summer months with local tourists.
The Peloponnese is a large landmass with varying weather patterns. Circumnavigation by boat can be a challenge because of this and the length of the trip; it is recommended for experienced sailors with time. On the other hand, it can be rewarding sailing and an opportunity to see this part of Greece which is steeped in history. The weather is best described in sections:
The East side is dominated by the weather of the Aegean Sea. The Argosaronic Gulf offers protected seas, easy sailing and the chance to explore both the Peloponnese coastline and the various islands.
The South side weather is influenced by the capes. The winds here during the May - October tend to be from the NE, rarely blowing harder than a force 4. The high mountains can cause powerful gusts, especially around the Capes of Tenaro and Maleas.
During the November -April period they are from the SE often at gale force.
It can be summed up by a popular Greek proverb among sailors - "Stay ten miles off Cape Maleas, and from Cape Grosso (Tenaro) ten and then another ten".
Also to be noted is that the weather can deteriorate quickly, because of moving depressions between Maleas and Crete, especially during the spring and fall months. In the summer, there can be thunderstorms and squalls close to the shore.
The West side weather patterns are that of the Ionian Sea. Generally NW to WNW wind called the ‘maestro’. This wind is not as strong, force 2 to 5, and is steadier than the Aegean’s ‘meltemi’. Gusts along the lee side of tall islands are to be watched out for and evenings can bring katabatic winds from the tall mountains, of force 5 to 6 and from the NE.
The North side comprises the Gulf of Patras and the Gulf of Corinth The prevailing wind the summer is from the west and it rarely exceeds force 6. Like the ‘meltemi’ it reaches its peak in the middle of the day and subsides in the evening. In the autumn and spring the wind can be either from the east or from the west.
Warning: The northwestern shores of the gulf, near MESSOLONGI, are a shallow marshland difficult to navigate as charts can be unreliable due to shifting conditions. Also, from the late autumn to the early spring the weather can be very volatile with violent thunderstorms.