Greece is rightly known for its fantastic sailing with over 2000 islands ranging from internationally known party spots to secluded coves and deserted beaches. Throw in a heap of culture (at the very least some great food and drink) and ancient archeological sites for good measure and the Greek islands really do have something for any taste.
Sailing charters in Greece are usually either bareboat charters where the charter party must have at least one certified captain and preferably one certified crew member, or skippered charters where the captain comes with the boat. Flotilla charters are also available which allow inexperienced sailors to sail their own boat accompanied by a flotilla of similarly experienced crews along with a lead boat with an experienced captain to help out in any tricky spots.
Where you choose to sail in Greece depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, the islands you wish to visit will play a deciding role in where you sail. Secondly, some areas are better for sailors with less experience since they traditionally have lighter winds and shorter distances between islands. Lastly, how easy it is to get to a charter base in your chosen area might also influence where you choose to sail, with Athens being a popular departure point due to easy accessibility by air.
Below is a roundup of the most popular charter areas in Greece along with their pros and cons in regards sailing conditions and ease of accessibility, so get inspired and start planning your Greek sailing vacation!
The Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf is in between Athens and the Peloponnese Peninsula and as such is very popular with trips starting and ending from marinas in Athens. Popular Saronic gulf islands include Aigina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses, all of which have rich histories regarding their roles in the formation of modern Greece. A sailing trip in the Saronic gulf can also fit in a day trip to the ancient theatre of Epidavros, a beautiful place and not to be missed if at all possible!
Sailing in the Saronic Gulf is traditionally considered relatively easy going, the gulf being somewhat sheltered from the strong northerly ‘Meltemi’ winds that blow during the summer months. The area is also popular with flotilla groups leaving from Athens, and as such can get pretty busy at times.
Besides Athens, the island of Poros is another popular spot for charters with a number of firms operating there, but getting to Poro will usually involve going through Athens so often times it makes more sense to start in Athens anyway.
The Cycladic Islands
The Cyclades are the quintessential Greek Islands with amazing beaches, clear blue waters and pretty white villages. The island group includes over 200 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Popular spots include the famous islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Milos, the more laid back islands of Folegandros, Serifos, Sifnos, Kythnos and Amorgos and of course the larger islands of Naxos and Paros.
Sailing the Cyclades is commonly done from charter bases in Athens with a one week charter allowing you time to see a range of the Northern islands. Two (or even three) week charters allow you to really get off the beaten track and visit many more islands in a leisurely circle from and back to Athens. The Meltemi winds can be strong in the Cyclades, especially in July/August, so it helps to have an experienced crew for the times when the winds are blowing and the waves are up.
The Ionian Islands
The Ionian islands are another popular choice for sailing holidays. Much greener than the above mentioned islands groups due to more rainfall in the winter, the Ionian islands are absolutely stunning, especially in the spring time!
Popular charter bases in the Ionian islands are Corfu and Lefkas (Leukada), both of which have direct international charter flights from many European destinations during the summer months. Other islands in the group include Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaka and Paxos, all of which are in easy reach during a one week charter.
Sailing conditions in the Ionian islands are also usually more easy going than in the Cyclades, meaning lighter winds and easier sailing. This makes them a popular choice for less experienced sailors and flotilla charters.
The Dodecanese are located off the Western coast of Turkey and include the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Leros, Kalymnos and Patmos among others.
Main charter bases are on Rhodes and Kos, with both islands having direct charters from Europe in the summer season. The sailing conditions in the Dodecanese can be challenging when the Meltemi winds are blowing, so an experienced crew is recommended. One way charters from Kos in the north to Rhodes in the south are also popular, avoiding the need to sail north into the winds.
So there you have it, a quick roundup of the most popular sailing areas in Greece.
For more information on suggested routes, feel free to visit Sail Greece Yachts and particularly our page on suggested sailing routes. Happy Sailing!