Greece is inexhaustible. The sailing enthusiast finds multiple sea regions with roughly 6,000 islands, islets, spits of land, although only 250 or so islands are actually inhabited. The country has one of the most extensive square kilometers of coastline in the world: 16,000 kilometers, half of which encircles islands. To help you get a “personality profile” on each region, below find our handy thumbnail sketches.
Attica is the region where Athens, Greece’s capital, is located. It is a peninsula with miles of coastline to the north, south, east and west of Athens. Attica is often overlooked as a sailing destination but it has a beautiful coastline capped at the tip by the magnificent Temple of Apollo sitting on a promontory overlooking the entire Aegean Sea. Greece’s second largest island, Evia, can also be included here.
Indicative Attica Shore Excursions: The region is known for its indigenous wines with lots of wineries and wine tasting. Visit ancient ruins like the Temple of Artemis at Vravrona and the Marathon Tomb from 490 BC. There is the Open Air Air Mine Museum in Lavrio showing you how ancients mined silver. Wander the Vorres Museum housing the largest collection of contemporary Greek artists in the world. Tour Makronissos island once inhabited by Greek exiles.
ARGO SARONIC GULF
The Argo-Saronic is a very popular sailing region because of its proximity to Athens, its sandy beaches and a wealth of antiquities. The region’s islands consist of Aegina, Agistri and Salamina, while closer to the southeastern end of the Peloponnese mainland are the islands Poros, Hydra, Spetses, and the small peninsula of Methana. The calm waters make it ideal for novice sailors.
Indicative Argo Saronic Shore Excursions: Visits by bike or vehicle to the 3rd century BC Epidavros Theatre and Ancient Mycenae, home of King Agamemnon who launched the Trojan War. Healing sulphur baths of Methana. Wine tasting famous Nemean wines. Shopping for art in elegant boutiques in car-free Hydra. River walking at Devil’s Gate. Weaving classes in Poros. Organic olive oil soap making workshop in Aegina.
In the center of the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades are Greece’s most popular region, and with reason, as the islands are gorgeous blue and white retreats. The climate is dry, arid, but with cool breezes. In August, the meltemi winds arrive and the seas can be choppy. Best for seasoned sailors.
Islands include Santorini, Mykonos, Andros, Kea, Tinos, Syros, Kythnos, Serifos, Naxos, Amorgos, Koufonisis, Donousa, Paros, Antiparos, Sifnos, Milos, Kimolos, Folegandros, Sikinios, Ios, Anafi.
Indicative Cyclades Shore Excursions: Try cooking classes focusing on Cyclades cuisine. Wineries in Santorini where grapes are grown in volcanic soil. Catacombs in Milos. Windsurfing at Naxos and Paros. Descend the steps of Antiparos Cave. Shop in glamorous Mykonos. Explore Delos island, a World Heritage Site. Hike donkey paths. Walk up to the medieval neighborhood of Ano Syros.
The Dodecanese islands lie in Greece’s far eastern sea border. They face Turkey’s western coast. Although “dodeca” means 12, there are 14 islands in this region: Rhodes, Patmos, Karpathos, Kasos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Astypalea, Nisyros, Tilos, Symi, Halki, Kastellorizo.
Indicative Dodecanese Shore Excursions: The two largest islands, Rhodes and Kos, awe visitors with their Crusader castles, moats and drawbridges. The entire medieval, car-free town of old Rhodes is a World Heritage Site. Walk into the volcano in Nisyros. Swim in thermal waters in Kos, home of Hippocrates. Swim into a dazzling blue sea cave in Kastellorizo. Visit the sites where St. John wrote the Book of Revelations.
Located to the west of the Greek mainland, the Ionian region is green with pine trees, olive groves and forested mountains. The waters are fairly calm, making the region a good choice for beginner sailors. The Ionian archipelago consists of Corfu a.k.a. Kerkyra, Paxi, Antipaxi, Lefkada, Ithaka, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos a.k.a. Zante.
Indicative Ionian Shore Excursions: Explore the great Homer’s School in Ithaka. Scuba dive and windsurf off Lefkada’s iridescent waters. Watch the caretta caretta sea turtles in Zakynthos, but be respectful! Stroll the Italianate streets of Corfu harbor. Enter the sea caves in a small boat in Kefalonia.
Located northeast of the Greek mainland, the North Aegean islands are “off the beaten track.” This is the region where experienced sailors go because the seas can be challenging. The islands in this region are Lesvos a/k/a Mytilini, Xios, Psara, Samos, Ikaria, Fourni, Limnos, Samothraki, Thasos
Indicative North Aegean Shore Excursions: In Ikaria meet “the people who forget to die,” so named because of the islanders’ astonishing longevity. Eat mastica in Xios, the anti-inflammatory wonder plant. Bathe in the potholes of Samothraki and see where the Winged Victory Nike statue came from. Visit Pythagoras ruins in Samos. Eat fresh sardines in Lesvos and hike the in the Petrified Forest Park.
The seas in the Sporades islands are a delight for sailors looking for some of the clearest and cleanest waters not just in Greece, but in all the Mediterranean. Although the island chain consists of 24 islands, only four are inhabited: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonnisos, Skyros.
Indicative Sporades Shore Excursions: From the yacht, enjoy the National Marine Park of Alonnisos, home to the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Ask the locals about the time “Mamma Mia” was filmed in Skopelos. Skiathos island has 60 beaches to choose for snorkeling and swimming. Skyros is where mythic heroes came from and today it is one of Greece’s most authentic islands.