Greek Yacht Vacations: Understanding The Itineraries
by Florencia Falotico on Nov 03, 2022
With 8500 miles of coastline and thousands of islands to explore, Greece is one of the world's most popular yachting destinations. It is visually stunning, with white-washed houses contrasted against the deep blue of the sea, picturesque tavernas that line village waterfronts, rocky cliffs and mysterious sea caves, and shorelines dotted with ancient ruins that serve as reminders of past civilizations and a rich history with strong ties to the sea.
The country comprises six major regions, three of which are the most popular for yacht charters due to their proximity to Athens and short cruising distances. The Cyclades, Ionian, and Saronic Island groups each have their own unique charms, drawing charter guests to return for new experiences. To help you choose the best destination for your Greek yacht charter, let’s explore each of these areas.
The Cyclades include the very popular islands of Mykonos in the north and Santorini much further south. A week-long itinerary on a fast motor yacht can include the entire region, while on a sailing catamaran a 10-night charter will allow the necessary time to travel this distance. A few of the many highlights of the Cyclades include Milos, a volcanic island with spectacular rock formations, Naxos, the biggest island and a lively harbor town, Paros which has beautiful beaches and trendy bars, and quiet traditional Kea.
Most charters embark from Athens where there is an excellent choice of sail and motor yachts. Plan to fly into Athens International Airport (ATH) and from there it is a short (30-45 minute) cab ride to the nearby marinas where your yacht will await you.
When visiting the Cycladic islands, be mindful that the Meltemi winds can be particularly strong in July and August, so the ideal time to visit this region is in May-June and September-October. If you charter here during the height of the Meltemi, it is important to keep in mind that the conditions may require some flexibility with your itinerary, since the wind could make some passages too rough.
Located off the western coast of Greece, not far from Italy, the Ionian Islands are some of the most beautiful of the Greek Isles. In contrast to the Cyclades, the Ionian feature lush green vegetation, and amazing clear, turquoise waters.
The most well-known of the islands is Corfu in the northern Ionian. Corfu coastlines have sandy and pebbled shores that, along with the surrounding lush greenery, create breathtaking scenery. Corfu is famous for its charming architecture with colorful buildings that date back to the Venetian period. The island’s historic town is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most beautiful and elegant ones worldwide. Nearby islands Paxos and Antipaxos boast glorious beaches and endless olive groves, and a more laid-back vibe compared to Corfu.
In the southern Ionian, Lefkas (Lefkada) is connected to the mainland by a floating bridge and is easy to reach from the international airport in Preveza. Kefalonia, the largest island in the Ionian Sea features historic monasteries, wineries and quiet fishing villages. The beautiful island of Ithaca is the home of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey.
With natural protection from the mainland, you will enjoy pleasant cruising conditions throughout the season. While the Ionian is a delightful destination throughout the season, it is particularly desirable if you're planning to charter in July and August when the Meltemi winds are blowing in the Cyclades.
To visit the Ionian islands by sailing yacht, it is best to choose either the north or south islands. A one-way itinerary is another great way to see the entire region or make it a 10-night charter. Availability of charter yachts is more limited in the Ionian since the distance is too far to embark in Athens, although a fast motor yacht (20+ knots cruising speed) can embark from Athens and transit through the Corinth canal.
To travel to the Ionian, plan your international flight into Corfu (CFU) in the north or Preveza (PVK) in the south. There are also domestic flights from Athens to Corfu but to reach the southern Ionian it is approximately a 5-hour drive, whether you rent a car or hire a driver.
Some of the yachts based in Athens will relocate to the Ionian for a charter but most will require a repositioning fee to do so. Your broker can help you find the right yacht for an Ionian charter.
Explore the interesting Ionian islands with this round-trip itinerary, embarking and disembarking in Corfu.
Kefalonia, Greece. Photo by Dayle Reimer. Used with permission.
Saronic Islands - Peloponnese
The Saronic Islands are named after the Saronic Gulf in which they are located, just south of the Greek mainland and the northeastern coast of the Peloponnese peninsula. This is the closest region to Athens, so the availability of yachts is excellent. Here you will find calm waters, a relaxing atmosphere, and numerous historical treasures.
The beautiful ancient port town of Nafplion is a highlight of this region. A walk around the narrow, paved streets of the Old Town is like a trip to the past. On top of a hill above the town is the fortress of Palamidi with an amazing view of the sea. Other popular ports include Aegina, known for the pistachios that grow here, Hydra where you can experience travel by donkey since no cars are allowed, the romantic Love Bay of Poros, and the green island of Spetses with its picturesque beaches.
Because the islands are close together and naturally sheltered by the Athens peninsula, they offer protection from the Meltemi winds and short cruising distances. Keep in mind that if the conditions in the Cyclades become too windy for safe and pleasurable cruising, the captain may recommend a switch to the Saronic Islands during your charter.
Explore our sample round-trip itinerary for the Saronic islands to immerse yourself in these Greek jewels.
Hydra, Greece. Photo by Dayle Reimer. Used with permission.
Are you daydreaming about Greece yet? There are countless yacht charter opportunities available. Inquire with our brokers for help in selecting the best option for you!