Ask anyone what Greece is most well known for, and this Eastern Mediterranean country conjures up images of the Olympian Gods, heroic feats and myriad islands from myths and legends, all of which you can see at your leisure on a luxury yacht charter over the bustling summer season.
Times have certainly changed since the early eras of voyaging, and the latest technology and engineering have created efficient hulls for comfort and stability while cruising and at anchor. Both motor yachts and sailing yachts are available throughout the region, varying from fuel-burning island-hoppers for short distances to sailing yachts capable of cruising far in an environmentally friendly manner.
On-board amenities vary from sunbeds and a selection of water toys to wellness centres, outdoor cinemas and swimming pools. End each day with cocktails at sunset and a soak in the Jacuzzi while the professional crew takes care of the meals, then retire to a private cabin fit for the deities of old, recharging for the next part of your odyssey.
Corfu is the most well-known of the Ionian Islands; its abiding appeal comes from having myriad attractions and entertainments in town, all surrounded by the beautiful natural scenery of the Eastern Mediterranean. Fill the hours with magnificent fortresses, traditional windmills and majestic estates followed up by a delectable lunch in town or aboard your luxury yacht. Cruise around to the lovely beaches for an afternoon of water sports and naps in the sunshine.
South of Corfu, Paxi & Antipaxos are yachting havens, boasting beautiful scenery, sparkling clear blue-green seawater and plenty of caves along a winding coastline for explorers to reach by kayak, paddleboard or even snorkelling and Scuba diving gear. An active outdoor lifestyle is complemented by fresh, locally grown produce and a variety of wines unique to these shores.
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands and boasts gorgeous beaches beside picturesque villages, upbeat nightlife and gastronomic delights. Snorkel and Scuba dive around stunning reefs, wrecks and caverns with the chance to encounter turtles and monk seals in this underwater paradise.
Kythira was named as the birthplace of Aphrodite by the Ancient Greek poet Hesiod, and such beauty is certainly worthy of a goddess. Artists and other creative types have come to the southernmost Ionian Island to be inspired by its verdant and varying landscape, carving valleys deep into mountains by burbling springs. Settle onto one of the beaches for lazy summer days followed by dinner at sunset along the shore, then a night of revelry to compete with the island’s own summer festivities. At the heart of the island, Mitata village holds a wine festival in the summer, when Kythira shows off many of its traditional and contemporary celebrations to visitors.
Santorini, Naxos and Paros are the most well-known of the Cyclades Islands and their location at the heart of the archipelago makes it easy to island-hop to other nearby attractions. The volcanic activity at Santorini has created a red sand and black sand beach, plus a sunken caldera which is great for water sports – Scuba diving in particular. Watch the sunset from a local cafe or taste ouzo at one of the vibrant tavernas.
When it comes to culture, few places can match Delos: The whole island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as the birthplace of the gods, no mortal is allowed to be born or die on this sacred site. Nearby Mykonos has an entirely different ambience, with colourful harbourside buildings drawing you in for the best of life’s indulgences in this cosmopolitan holiday setting.
Crete – made famous by the myth of the labyrinth and its minotaur – is away from the main charter routes through the Cyclades, and this suits its visitors just fine. The beaches and bays are all but deserted and there are fantastic Scuba diving locations to be found around the northside settlements of Chania, Rethymnon and Heraklion, which also offer the best shopping and nightlife on the island. Snorkel and Scuba dive over reefs, a sunken city and wrecks from WWII before a well-earned rest on the sun loungers while your crew serves up lunch.
The Dodecanese Islands are so close to the Turkish Riviera that many of the islands are just a few kilometres from the mainland. Because of this, the archipelago has a heady blend of Roman, Greek and Ottoman influences from the past, and more modern influences in the culture and cuisine. Patmos, Leros, Symi and Tilos are favoured cruising destinations for their unique charms and easy cruising distance from one to the other.
Patmos is particularly significant for its religious sites, including Saint Ioannis Monastery and the cave where John the Theologian, one of Christ’s Twelve Disciples, wrote ‘The Book of Revelations’. If you visit during the spring shoulder season, the Easter celebrations show the living culture of this orthodox community. Tilos is home to almost 400 species of flora, eight rare orchids in their number, and the island and isles are a protected stopover for migratory birds. While lounging on board your yacht in a sunny anchorage keep the binoculars handy to spot some of these impressive specimens.
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Of all the sights in the Dodecanese, the Medieval Town of Rhodes is one at the top of the list for culture seekers, where its scenic stone walls hold UNESCO World Heritage status for the Palace of the Grand Master, the Hospital of the Knights (now housing the Archaeological Museum) and the Panagia tis Nikis Church, home of the Byzantine Museum. It’s not all dusty walls and artefacts, however – the countryside produces flavoursome food and wines which can be sampled in town or out at the vineyards.
Kastellorizo is so close to the Turkish Riviera that it wouldn’t take much to head ashore and explore Kaş. The island itself has a blend of Greek and Turkish culture, including Lycian Tombs and the Knights Hospitaller Castle of Kastellorizo. More than one blue grotto can be found along the southern coast, and the striking illumination is a sight to behold as you kayak within these blue-white walls.
Far to the south, Karpathos is a place to reconnect with nature and your loved ones. There are myriad beaches bordered by crystal clear waters and pine forests, all overlooked by the looming mountains. Discover local culture and festivities at Karpathos Town or the small settlements around the island without breaking the spell nature has woven over your stay.
Close to Athens, the Saronic Gulf is a hotspot for sailing yachts who take advantage of the lesser-known islands to enjoy this cruising ground at leisure. Strong, reliable winds let catamarans, sloops and ketches sail from one topaz blue bay to the next, enjoying seaside villages and remote beaches on a tranquil itinerary. Cruise or hike along the southern coast of Methana to see Peristeri Cave and Castle Favierou, then make your way to Poros for galleries, museums and souvenirs before a night of entertainment in the tavernas.
Aegean & Sporades Islands
Another quiet cruising ground to soak up the sunshine, the Aegean & Sporades have gorgeous golden sand beaches and coastal landmarks worthy of a place in stories – real or fantastical. Skiathos is a desirable destination for these very reasons, while nearby Skopelos has roads and hiking and biking trails across the whole of the island. Skopelos Town provides fortresses, mansions, galleries and museums to explore, all interspersed with a healthy variety of boutiques, souvenir shops and eateries.
The National Marine Park of Alonissos is one of the biggest marine parks in Europe, and one of the best-kept secrets for snorkelling and Scuba diving. Monk seals and dolphins can be found in the shallows, several reefs boast a wide variety of marine species, the PERISTERA wreck is a popular site, and Blue Cave is a rewarding experience for beginner and experienced divers even at a depth of just 15m/49ft. Water sports enthusiasts who want rewarding discoveries without the crowds of more well-known destinations should consider the serene beauty of the Aegean & Sporades Islands.
A luxury yacht is the best way to get away from the crowds and explore the Greece charter grounds as they were meant to be experienced – with you chartering your own course to paradise and adventure.