|Access Country :||Greece|
Sailing the Greek Islands
There are some 1,400 islands of Greece, of which 227 are inhabited. Only 78 islands have more than 100 inhabitants. The best way to see more of Greece than just some mainland sites and one or two islands, AT BEST, is to do it by boat. If you're reading this aboard your own vessel and finally decided to head to the med, then skip the next part about getting a boat and read about the islands themselves. For the rest of us, there's some choices to make before deciding to take on this adventure: bare boat sailing, skippered, or something in-between? And what about a flotilla?
The boat situation
If you are going in a group, do you have someone skilled enough to be a skipper? A qualified and competent person who knows how to sail, from boat skills to navigation with experience beyond attending some classes on the local lake would be good if you are all going to feel confident. If you have this person (or preferably a couple of them), then bare boat sailing is an option for you. You will need to present the Port Authorities with a sailing certificate/license.
However, the advantage of a skippered yacht is the additional guidance you receive of the local areas as well as a reprieve on some of the responsibility. Something in-between would be to choose a boat that is skippered with owner yachts - the owner will be on board and will captain the vessel.
A flotilla is another consideration for those with sailing experience but not feeling great about trying it in another country. It is a formation of boats that form a larger fleet - there would be a lead boat.
Pricing will probably be another major consideration in your decision. There are so many considerations that it is hard to provide a rough guideline - from how many in your party to the skippering options above to how long you are traveling, and what time of year. In peak season for a 6 passenger bareboat 31' yacht, expect to pay over $2,000 per week (2007 information). On top of this you would have your fuel, dock fees (just a few Euros per night), water for boat, travel, food and drink, insurance and fun money (and tip if you go with a skipper).
The best thing to do is to come up with a list of islands that you would like to see so you have a general idea of what you would like to do. Once in Greece, you will need to look at the weather conditions and then plan the sail around where you would LIKE to go and how long you have, baring in mind what the weather is doing. There is "decent" sailing all year round but to enjoy the combination of fine sailing, warm weather, try May-June and September-October.
Use the island brief guide below to help you plan:
Consider doing a one-way charter so you don't have to backtrack. Just plan your final destination as somewhere where you can get a ferry or flight back to your initial start point so you can get home!
» Ios is a hilly island with cliffs down to the sea on most sides, situated halfway between Naxos and Santorini. Sun, sex and sin await the youngsters who have been sailing in for decades for the annual beach bar binge.
» Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island, and leading to the creation of the current geological caldera. Its spectacular physical beauty, along with a dynamic nightlife, have made the island one of Europe's top tourist hotspots. The white cube houses and blue domed churches tumble attractively down the cliff side in the capital Thira.
» Kos - swept by magnificent sandy beaches and has some of the most interesting archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.
» Lipsi - with a number of good tavernas in town, a few hotels and a dozen beaches within walking distance and a few ouzeries on the waterfront, this may be the quiet island you are looking for.
» Kastellorizo - Offers no beaches but has rocky coves that make it one of the best islands for snorkeling. The island has a dramatic history and has been occupied by just about everyone and was even bombed severely during WWII.
» Ithaca - The capital, Ithaki, has one of the world's largest natural harbors. Beaches are all stone or pebble and, couched in deeply carved bays often shaded by hills and greenery. But the countryside is truly astonishing, the scenery heartbreakingly beautiful and, if you are looking for tranquility, look no further.
» Paxos - Only accessible by boat. The west coast is dominated by steep white, chalky cliffs that are greatly eroded at sea level, and harbor many 'blue caves' which can be explored on launches departing from Gaios (the main port).
» lesbos - the third largest Greek island and the eighth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is mountainous with two large peaks, "Lepetymnos" (3176 ft) and "Olympus", of similar height, dominating its northern and central sections. The island's volcanic origin is manifested in several hot springs. Famous for ouzo and sardines. But Lesvos is quietly impressive especially to those looking to experience the delights of more provincial Greek life where villages and resorts can have remarkably different and individual characters. Specific attractions are sightseeing, quaint villages and some splendid beaches.
» Hydra - The architecture is exceptional. During the 18th and 19th century the island was the base for a huge commercial fleet and wealthy merchants and ship owners built beautiful Venetian-style mansions, many of which have been faithfully restored. Most of the houses are built from gray Hydra stone, tall and narrow with brightly colored doors and window shutters.
» Alonissos - less visited islands of the Sporades chain off mainland Greece's east coast and, unlike its noisy neighbor Skiathos, has a tranquil, soporific atmosphere with lots of old-world Greek charm. Walkers have plenty to do as the island is green, fertile and heavily wooded with some jaw-dropping scenery for the footloose. Alonissos is home to the Mediterranean Monk Seal and has some stunning beaches and inlets.
» Skopelos - It is virtually all forest, with 80% cloaked in pine trees and a few resorts scattered around the steep cliff shores. It has a population of about 6,000 with most living in the capital of Skopelos town. The islanders take great pride in their cooking.
Crete - has two things which distinguish it from other Greek islands - magnificent mountains and a remarkably rich history. Much of eastern Crete is now lost to package tourism - a nightmare of neon and happy hours bars. The west, however, has the higher mountains, the more rugged coastline and the smaller beaches.
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