Are you yearning for dazzling white sands, azure waters, rugged limestone cliffs and charismatic fishing villages? Island hopping in Greece offers everything you would expect from a sailing holiday, and more. The Greek Islands comprise 7,500 kilometers of coastline spread across the Ionian and Aegean Seas and include several archipelagos. Their crystalline waters, fascinating culture and beautiful landscapes o er more than your standard beach holiday. No Greek yacht charter is complete without visiting at least a couple of islands. The following destinations are some of the best islands for sailing enthusiasts and those enjoying a luxury yacht charter.
(This article was originally published in Chestnut Park’s Invest In Style Cottage Edition magazine)
Mykonos is the most popular destination in the Cyclades archipelago. It is famous for its vibrant atmosphere, which attracts an upmarket crowd who appreciates the refined nightlife and dining options of the cosmopolitan island. Mykonos is the archetypal Greek island with its eye- catching white sugar cube buildings stacked upon fishing villages and the iconic windmills of Hora looming over the shoreline.
With 25 beaches spanning the island, there is a fair amount of outdoor excursions to enjoy. The crystal clear water is perfect for swimming, diving, and taking part in adrenaline racing water sports. Take your travels inland to Little Venice, as this popular spot is just steps away from the iconic windmills. Named after its resemblance to the Italian city of Venice, this tourist destination overlooks the sea and is a photographer’s paradise. This quaint part of Mykonos is perfect for viewing a stunning Mediterranean sunset before the vibrant city comes to life.
The labyrinthine streets of Mykonos Town harbor house boutiques, restaurants and hip hangouts. Don’t be surprised if you spot a famous face, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Katy Perry who have enjoyed sumptuous summer breaks on the island. Its bohemian vibe means it is a great party destination and it’s popular among younger travelers.
Corfu is one of the greenest islands in the Mediterranean, boasting a rugged interior covered with olive trees. This Ionian island offers the best variety to suit all tastes, from its blend of ethnic cultures, which is represented in its diverse architecture, to its array of restaurants and attractions. The quieter areas of the island are home to some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, which remain remarkably unspoiled considering their popularity.
Stunning aquamarine waters, verdant forests and the heavy influence of British, Venetian and French cultures give the Ionian Islands their own unique feel compared to those of more eastern islands. Corfu experiences more rain than the rest of Greece, which accounts for its lush blanket of vegetation. However, summer is usually pleasantly warm and dry with gentle sea conditions for newly qualified sailors, in the south at least. The northern reaches of the island offer more exciting sailing for experienced sailors.
Corfu manages to feel both traditional and cosmopolitan with its mythology, Byzantine churches and vibrant nightlife of the capital, Kerkyra Town. Kassiopi is an ancient town with ruins worth exploring, and hikers will enjoy the Corfu Trail, a 222-kilometer long footpath covering the full length of the island which remains blissfully untouched by mass tourism.
Santorini (Thira) is beloved for its romantic sunsets, narrow vertical streets, blue-domed buildings and unique black sand beaches. Whitewashed houses are framed against multi-coloured cli s that rise from the sea. This volcanic island is actually the largest part of a partially submerged volcano that pokes out of the water in five places. The caldera gives it the unique black sand that covers the beaches of Perissa and Kamari.
It’s the southernmost island in the Cyclades group, but completely different geologically and aesthetically with its cliff – hugging terraces. Watching the sunset from the pristine village of Oia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but Fira provides more restaurants from which to enjoy the view with a glass of local Assyrtiko dry, white wine.
Just one mile off the coast of Oia, the unspoiled islet of Thirassia begs to be visited. Further on, the charred islets of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni combine to make an enticing boat trip. Whether you go there for the volcanic beaches or the stunning views, Santorini’s supreme beauty shouldn’t be missed on a yacht charter or island-hopping cruise.
As the largest of the Cyclades, Naxos is also the most fertile island. Its verdant valleys dotted with Venetian towers?and mansions might not have the prestige and high-class reputation of Mykonos, but they have an abundance of Greek charm. The inhabitants of the mountainous island villages embrace traditions, weaving on old looms and living off agriculture. The sandy beaches and sheltered waters of Naxos provide an ideal setting for families with young children who can seek out sea creatures in the shallows.
Naxos revels in its low-key appeal, but the spectacular north coast has a wild beauty that entices sailors to return. This stretch of coast is punctuated with coves and magnificent views, but don’t forget to head inland to Koronos, one of the prettiest villages in the Aegean. Its custom of improvised poetry (“kotsakia”) is composed for every occasion and distinguishes it from other Greek villages. The Municipality of Naxos also organizes “Dionysia” wine feasts that take place at the end of August every year, complemented by live music, theatrical performances, concerts, and art exhibitions. Although it isn’t as high on the international jet setter’s wish list, Naxos is happy with its reputation for isolated beaches and cultural heritage.
Though it is much closer to Turkey than the Greek mainland, Symi remains an inimitable yacht charter destination. The Dodecanese island is ideal for sailing since the majority of the island’s pristine beaches are only accessible by sea. Among the stunning beaches across the island, Agios Georgios Dysalonas is the most dramatic, with a 300-meter rock face separating it from the island’s wild moonscape interior.
Symi is easy on the eye from the outset. As soon as you enter the island’s port of Gialos, you are welcomed by pastel-hued mansions interspersed with wood-shuttered shops. Take the 500 steps of Kali Strata skywards to the Upper Town, where tavernas with panoramic views await your custom. The pious – or culturally curious – can visit some of the atmospheric monasteries, which exceed 100 in number. Symi is just a stone’s throw from the Turkish coast and the pine-covered Datca and Bozburun peninsulas, and they can be seen from the island or the deck of your boat.
With 6,000 islands, Greece was made for sailing with something to suit every taste. Whether you enjoy sailing or you’re happy to relax and let others take care of the hard work, island hopping in the Eastern Mediterranean will not disappoint.
Source: Chestnut Park Blog