By Amanda Brilliante, Luxury Yacht Charter Broker
With the majority of private yachts home-ported in Athens, there are three main cruising areas of Greece which are most easily reached from this base and the most popular areas that my clients visit time and again: The Argo-Saronic Gulf, Cyclades, and Ionian Islands. All are easily reached from the mainland and perfect for a week (or longer!) charter in Greece. As all offer something a little bit different, my recommendation will vary based on the type of charter group (First-time charterers? A family with young children? A group of adults looking to party?) and when they plan to travel. Here’s a brief rundown on each so you can start planning YOUR Greek getaway:
The Saronic Gulf includes the islands just south of Athens; perfect for a round-trip charter and offering excellent protection from the Meltemi winds which can affect the nearby Cyclades (so is always a good “fallback” plan for luxury yacht charters in July and August). The largest of them are Aegina, Spetses, Poros and Hydra. Only about an hour from Athens, these charming and picturesque islands are a world away from the city and sheltered from the winds by the surrounding mainland. They are ideal for low key cruising and island hopping, offering short passages and a nice mix of cosmopolitan ports with shopping, dining and nightlife as well as more naturistic “get away from it all” anchorages with deserted beaches, great water for swimming and watersports, as well as excellent hiking and exploring ashore.
Some Hot tips:
• Don’t miss a donkey ride (the only transportation) up the narrow and steep passage ways on Hydra before hitting one of it’s seaside bars or restaurants in the evening!
• Enjoy some fresh-made loukoumades (local, honey-dipped dough balls) on Poros, where donuts were born!
• Aegina is the home of pistachios, known to have the best in the world – visit in September when their yearly Pistachio Festival occurs.
Home of the native greek-bred Aegean cat, these are probably the best-known islands in Greece, Cyclades meaning “circular” and the islands forming a circle around the sacred island of Delos. I actually think of the main islands as lying within a triangle made up of Athens-Mykonos-Santorini (roughly 100 nm miles on each side) and including Naxos, Paros, Milos, Serifos and Kythnos. The Cyclades can be strongly affected by the Meltemi, which may make passage difficult during July and August when these winds typically blow, and passages are generally a bit longer than in the Saronic Gulf. I usually recommend a one-way trip for a more leisurely pace, for instance between Athens and Mykonos, Mykonos and Santorini, or Santorini and Athens.
Some Hot tips:
• The white-washed / blue-roofed architecture which is our image of Greece abounds on Santorini. With villages situated high on cliffs with breathtaking views – it’s a can’t-miss!
• Originally known as “Thermia”, enjoy a spa day at the thermal baths of Therma and Loutra on Kythnos
• Enjoy the excellent wines and thyme honey that have made Serifos famous (and bring some home for later!)
• Jetset Mykonos is a glam hotspot with gorgeous beaches (and bodies), amazing restaurants and nightlife, and a who’s-who of visiting models, singers, and movie stars.
These are the islands on the West Coast of mainland Greece, on the Ionian Sea, and generally, unaffected the Meltemi winds so a great destination all summer long. Also known as the Heptanese (“The Seven Islands”), they include Corfu, Kefalonia, Paxos, Lefkada Zakynthos and Kefalonia, as well as some smaller islands in the group. Once ruled by the Romans and Venetians, they still retain an Italian feel, both geographically and architecturally. Known for its calm waters and stunning beaches, the Ionians are quieter, more relaxed and less touristed than the Cyclades or the Saronic Islands, but still, offer some jetset-style hotspots on Corfu and Kefalonia. It’s perfect for those that have already “done” the Cyclades and Saronic Gulf and are looking for a more laid-back experience. A one way charter between Athens and Corfu is more recommended and offers a chance to cruise through the spectacular sheer walls of the Corinth Canal.
Some Hot tips:
• On Corfu, dine at Restaurant Etrusco, one of Greece’s finest restaurants (serving Tuscan-inspired Italian food!) before heading out to one of the many discos for the evening.
• Lefkada offers Porto Katsiki, one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and a “must see”. Or visit Sappho’s Leap, where, ancient legend has it, unrequited love could be best served by throwing oneself over the 235ft drop into the Ionian below.
• Cliff-lined beaches abound on Kefalonia, including Myrtos, Palteia Ammos and Petanoi, and of course Koutsoupia which is only reached by yacht! Also on offer for history buffs is a wealth of Venetian buildings (Fiscardo), Byzantine churches and Mycenaen.
If you would like to find out more about Greece yacht charters, please contact us.