Greece Sailing & Yachting [vacation packages, itineraries & yacht charter rental tips]
So, you’re planning on going on a sailing trip to Greece? But, you don’t know where to start from?
Are you confused with yacht charter options and terms like catamaran, motoryacht, bareboat etc?
No, worries, we got you covered!
In this article, we’re going to let you in on every secret about sailing in Greece, including the best places for sailing, insider tips, and many more. Keep reading!
Sailing (island hopping) trips in Greece
Why go sailing in Greece?
Just imagine sailing on a luxurious boat, feeling the aromas and the views of the sea engulfing your senses… The hustle and bustle of city life feel worlds away and the only thing that matters is your peace. Sounds dreamy, right?
Well, this is what sailing in Greece is all about. It’s arguably one of the best and most luxurious ways to explore the beauty of Greece and discover numerous hidden spots you wouldn’t find any other way.
Freedom and independence
Sailing offers independence, which is very important to have on your vacation. Having the freedom to design your itinerary, decide where/when you’re going to stop, and stay for as long as you want at each place is priceless! Not to mention the privacy yachting offers. Even if you decide to hire a skipper (more on that in a moment), you’re going to be alone with your partner/family/friends and enjoy your time together without the noisy crowds that often flock to the Greek islands.
Connection with nature
Another reason why sailing in Greece is something worth experiencing is the connection with nature. Living in a boat throughout your holiday will let you come closer to nature. You’re going to watch the stars at night, take refreshing dips in the sea whenever you want to, explore uninhabited islets, swim through water canals and hidden caves, go off the beaten tourist trail, and many more!
A bunch of theme holiday options
Last but not least: yachting in Greece is the perfect opportunity for a theme holiday. Are you dreaming of a culinary holiday? You can have a private chef on board to cook the best gourmet dishes for you, using the freshest local ingredients. Are you in the mood for a boat party? You can organize an epic one on your yacht, whenever and wherever you want. Are you a wellness enthusiast? You can go for a sailing wellness retreat, which can include activities like yoga, sun-gazing, healthy cooking lessons, meditation, and many more.
Above all, sailing not only gives you the freedom to customize your luxurious holidays according to your needs but also lets you be spontaneous, deciding where you want to go anytime!
What are the charter options?
Are you a certified skipper? If the answer is yes, you can opt for a bareboat charter, which means that you aren’t going to hire a skipper to guide your boat. This option is perfect for those who are experienced sailors and adventure seekers, know how to navigate through the Greek islands, and want utmost privacy and freedom.
However, bareboat charter comes with some drawbacks. First of all, to rent a bareboat, at least one of the boat’s passengers must own an RYA Day Skipper International Certificate of Competence or an equivalent certification. Second, the licensed skipper must be familiar with the route you’re going to follow and the wind conditions in the different parts of the sea in Greece. Navigating through different island complexes is definitely going to be challenging for someone who hasn’t done it before!
A skippered charter is a great option for those who aren’t certified skippers or just want to sit back and enjoy the trip. Hiring a skipper, you’ll have a professional to guide the boat and save you from the stress of navigating through unknown waters, making sure you’ll arrive at your destination safely. What’s more, a local skipper knows better than anyone the most beautiful sea caves, beaches, and coves. This means that not only are you going to discover all the hidden gems, but you’ll also save time!
How much you’re going to spend on a skipper depends on the season and the vessel type you’re going to choose for your trip. An indicative price for hiring a skipper in the summer season is about 1,000 euros per week. For three persons, this means less than 50 euros per person/day, which is less than the price you’re going to pay for a hotel.
If you want to have a luxurious sailing experience in Greece, a crewed charter is your best bet! With a crewed charter, you’re going to have -except for the skipper- chefs, hostesses, etc, who will go out of their way to meet your every need throughout the trip. The only thing you’re going to do is sit back and enjoy the trip, without worrying about cleaning, cooking, and other mundane tasks that you should avoid during your holiday. If you worry about being on a boat with a crew of strangers, well, don’t! The crew and the skipper are trained to be discreet and respect your privacy.
Where to sail in Greece
With about 6,000 islands and islets, most of them uninhabited, it may be hard to choose where to go! If you opt for a bareboat charter, we suggest that you stick with the tried-and-tested routes. But, if you choose a skippered charter, you can go off the beaten tourist trail and discover many hidden islets. Below you’ll find the most popular sailing destinations in Greece.
Sailing to the Cyclades islands
The Cyclades is the most popular island group in Greece. Hordes of tourists flock to the Cyclades every year to visit its super-star islands, Mykonos and Santorini, do watersports in Paros, and party in Ios. Those who seek privacy and want a low-key holiday away from the hustle and bustle usually opt for the so-called Small Cyclades, an island complex that includes Naxos, Koufonisia, Schinoussa, and Donoussa.
Although most of the people that go to Greece for a sailing holiday want to go to the Cyclades, this island group is a tricky option for sailing for two main reasons. Firstly, it’s quite far from Athens, meaning you’ll need at least 8 hours of sailing per day to get there. Secondly, the Cyclades islands are often affected by the northern Meltemi winds that blow in the Aegean from late July to August, causing big waves. The wind conditions make sailing challenging, as the wind can reach the 8 Beaufort.
However, if you want to go to the Cyclades, we suggest starting your sailing trip from a Cycladic island and not from Athens. You can reach the island of your choice by air or by ferry from Athens and then charter a yacht there, instead of sailing to the Cyclades from Athens. This way, you’ll save yourself from endless hours of sailing and have a smoother trip. Our second advice is to opt for early summer or fall when the Meltemi winds aren’t strong. However, even if you visit the Cyclades in the Meltemi season, an experienced skipper should know when and where to go in order to avoid the winds. So, if you choose a skippered charter you don’t have to worry about it!
The best sailing itineraries in the Cyclades
This is an ideal sailing itinerary for seeing the best of the Cyclades in the comfort of your yacht. Not only are you going to visit the Greek superstar island, Mykonos, but you’ll also go off the beaten tourist trail on the tiny islands of the Small Cyclades complex. At the beginning of this itinerary, you’re going to visit Mykonos and Paros, two islands with a crazy party scene and cosmopolitan flair. After getting your dose of crowds, you’ll continue with the less crowded islands of the Small Cyclades and the elegant Syros and Tinos.
This itinerary combines relaxation, exploration, and entertainment. Starting from Paros, which you can easily reach by air from Athens or by ferry from Rafina or Piraeus port, you’re going to sail to the nearby Naxos and the Small Cyclades, which are famous for their dazzling turquoise waters and rocky landscape. Next, you’ll continue with the last two islands of the itinerary, Ios and Mykonos, which are go-to destinations for partying and socializing!
Sailing the Saronic islands
The Saronic island complex is the best, easiest, and most popular option for a sailing trip from Athens, thanks to its proximity to the capital, ideal wind conditions, and calm waters. For these reasons, the Saronic Gulf is also a very good option for bareboat trips and cruises. However, there is a chance that the Saronic gets affected by the Meltemi Winds that blow in the Aegean and can exceed 7 Beaufort. This doesn’t happen often, though, and most of the time the winds are between 4 and 5 Beaufort.
The most popular islands of the Saronic island group are Aegina, Poros, and Hydra. Many yachts moor at the ports of these islands every summer to renew their supplies. The passengers often spend some days exploring the island’s villages and beaches.
The best sailing itineraries in the Saronic
Following this itinerary, you’re going to see the best of the Saronic and the verdant bays of the Peloponnese peninsula. You’ll set sail from Athens to Agistri, where you’ll enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches and emerald waters. Then, you’ll continue your trip to Poros, a picturesque island in the heart of the Saronic, and Porto Heli, a cosmopolitan coastal town in the Peloponnese peninsula. Next, you’ll sail to Spetses and Hydra, the most elegant islands of the Argosaronic Gulf before you depart to the final destination of your trip, Aegina.
This is a great itinerary for first-timers and for those who opt for a bareboat charter. Departing from Athens, you’ll sail to Aegina, Poros, and finally Hydra, the most cosmopolitan island of the Saronic. The distance between the islands is not very long, so you can sail to the next destination whenever you want.
Sailing the Ionian islands
The Ionian island group is another popular destination for sailing in Greece! Located on the western side of the country, this island complex is known for its verdant landscape and exotic beaches. Every summer, it attracts every kind of traveler, particularly youth and families.
Thanks to their proximity to the Greek mainland and the mild winds (usually up to 4 Beaufort), the Ionian islands are perfect for both skippered and bareboat charter. Corfu, Paxi, Zante, and Lefkada are the most popular sailing destinations for every type of sailor, even for those who have little sailing experience. However, keep in mind that there are frequent rainfalls in the Ionian islands at the beginning of the summer and at the beginning of fall. Our suggestion is to avoid these periods, if you opt for a bareboat charter. If you have a skipper though, he should know when the best time to set sail is!
The best sailing itineraries in the Ionian
Kefalonia, Lefkada, and Ithaca are three of the most beautiful islands in the Ionian Sea and a route that includes them is nothing less than idyllic! The first stop of this itinerary is Kefalonia, a verdant island with exotic beaches and many interesting places to visit, like the Melissani Lake and Drogarati Cave. The next stop of this trip is going to be Lefkada, which is perfect for snorkeling, before you move on to Ithaca, the mythical island of Odysseus.
Sailing the Dodecanese islands
The Dodecanese island complex is one of the most picturesque ones in Greece. Rhodes, Simi, and Kos are the most popular islands in the Dodecanese and also where most yacht charter companies lie. Thanks to their location in the southeastern Aegean Sea, close to the Turkish coasts, they are very good bases for sailing to Turkish coastal towns, like Bodrum, Fethiye, and Marmaris. The wind conditions in the Dodecanese island complex are mild (between 2 and 6 Beaufort), as the islands are naturally protected from the north and south winds. That makes sailing easy throughout summer.
What’s more, this island complex has many uninhabited islets, so it’s perfect for going off the beaten tourist trail! It’s also a popular destination for fishing, so if you are a fishing enthusiast, the Dodecanese is your best bet.
The best sailing itineraries in the Dodecanese
This is a great itinerary for those who want to explore the most beautiful islands of the Dodecanese. The starting point of this sailing trip will be Rhodes, the Island of the Knights. In Rhodes, you can visit stunning beaches, stroll through the cobblestone alleys of the Medieval town, go sightseeing, and do many fun activities. The next stop will be Symi, the most picturesque and colorful island of the Dodecane. Finally, you’ll visit the volcano of Nisyros, the secluded bays of Tylos, and the little port of Chalki.
Sailing the Sporades islands
The Sporades island complex might not be as popular as the Cyclades or the Ionian, but it is a great destination for sailing. Out of the 11 islands that constitute the complex, only 4 are inhabited, which leaves plenty of hidden spots to be explored and bays to stop at.
One of the main reasons why the Sporades is a top sailing destination is its proximity to the Greek mainland and Volos town. Another reason is that the Sporades is not affected by the strong Meltemi winds that blow in the Cyclades. In summer, the winds are usually between 4 and 5 Beaufort, creating the perfect conditions for sailing. Even when the winds get stronger, though, the waves aren’t big. Sailing in the Sporades is an ideal option even for less experienced sailors, as the islands are close to the mainland and close to each other.
The best sailing itineraries in the Sporades
- Skopelos-Alonissos-Kyra Panagia-Skiros
- Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Kyra Panagia
Most popular yacht types for sailing in Greece
Motor yachts are the most popular and common type of vessel for a luxurious sailing holiday or boat parties. It is a large multi-deck vessel that offers enough space and comfort for families and groups of friends, but it’s also an excellent option for couples that want to have plenty of space. Thanks to their size, motor yachts often feature a variety of luxurious amenities, like pools, dance floors, bars, and outdoor jacuzzis. They can usually sleep up to 12 passengers and host even more guests, that’s why they are considered party boats.
A monohull is the most classic and good-looking type of sailboat that has evolved into a luxurious vessel over the years. Don’t let its traditional style fool you, monohull often comes with modern facilities, combining history with comfort. As its name indicates, the monohull has one hull, in contrast with the multihull yachts. It moves fast, can be easily controlled no matter the wind conditions, and is usually cheaper than a catamaran of the same capacity.
A catamaran is one of the most popular options for yacht charter. Thanks to its multihull design, it offers stability, which is a great advantage for families or people who are not familiar with sailing and get seasick easily. Catamaran’s large size offers plenty of space for full-size cabins, spacious living areas, and other modern facilities. They also offer more privacy, as the living spaces are separated. This is a big plus if you’re traveling with kids or just want your space.
To sum up…
Sailing the Greek islands is an experience of a lifetime! If you seek tranquillity, freedom, connection with nature, and spending quality time with your friends/family/spouse, a yacht holiday is your best bet. There are several options when it comes to yacht types (motor yachts, monohulls, and catamarans) as well as charters (bareboat, skippered, and crewed). Not to mention the endless island options!
Have you even been on a sailing holiday in Greece? If so, where did you go and what did you see! Tell us in the comments!