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Greek cruises / sailing / yachting

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Did You Know…?

  • Greece has around 6,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 are inhabited.
  • The Peloponnese Peninsula became an island only when the Corinth Canal was opened (1893).
  • Much of the “Mamma Mia” movie (2008) was filmed on two Greek islands, Skiathos and Skopelos.
  • Three Greek islands are active volcanoes: Milos, Nisiros and Santorini.
  • Long ago, the Ionian islands were attached to mainland Greece.

Waterborne travel

For lovers of the water, whether for beaches, water sports or transportation, the Greek islands are a natural because of the comfortable climate, sunny days and the sheer number of islands available for vacation pleasures.

In addition, millennia of human habitation — including great civilizations of antiquity and major empires of more recent times — have created destinations with archaeological sites, museums and architectural variety. Cultural practices and modern facilities deliver colorful festivals, traditional foods and wine, plus a well-developed housing and transportation infrastructure.

The only challenge, then, for those who want to cruise or sail in the region is choosing which islands to visit and how to organize those visits.

For choosing the islands, postings include Crete, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and the Ionian islands. This narrative is about the water that connects them.

Several cruise companies offer, among them, a wide choice of cruise tours that include one or several Greek islands with options for guided tours at the ports of call. Also, there are scheduled sailings aboard yachts that visit the lesser-known islands. These alternatives provide the easiest way to get to a few islands, but other choices offer more flexibility.

Sailing among the islands is popular for those who love the process of sailing itself and want the flexibility that it affords.

Yacht owners can bring their own vessels, after satisfying regulations governing entry into and exit from Greek ports. Most sailors, however, charter a yacht, often as a group to make costs more reasonable — and for the fun of a group sail. The typical charter lasts one week, or multiples of that. Charterers can opt for a vessel with or without a crew. The Hellenic Professional Yacht Owner Association and the Hellenic Shipbrokers Association can provide more information.

Then, there is the do-it-yourself plan built around scheduled ferry, hovercraft and hydrofoil services. All islands are linked to the mainland, with the Ionian islands receiving service from Astakos, Igoumenitsas, Killinis and Patras. Crete and islands in the Aegean are generally served from Piraeus and Rafinas. There are regular services among the islands, as well.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Island hop by combining various ferry services and other means of public transport.
  • Sail your own yacht through the islands.
  • If you are good enough, enter one of Greece’s many sailing competitions.
  • For the adventurous and experienced, sail a chartered yacht into the Cyclades, which are prone to strong winds, especially through July and August, but they offer a glamorous, hedonistic nightlife, especially on Mykonos and Santorini.
  • On a private sailing, drop anchor and swim at deserted beaches that cannot be reached by land. There are lots of them.
  • Create your own wine trail: Hop the ferries from island to island in the Ionian Sea to sample the local wines and stay at guesthouses on or near the vineyards.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Charter a yacht; do so with a group of friends to keep costs in line. Charter with or without a crew depending on participants’ experience.
  • If sailing in calm waters is your requirement, choose the Saronic islands (such as Aegina, Hydra, Poros and Spetses) and the east coast of Peloponnese.
  • Alternatively, the waters of the Ionian Sea are a good choice for beginner sailors.
  • There are numerous sailing competitions in the Greek islands each year. Plan an itinerary that lets you see one or more.
  • For the lover of myth, plan an itinerary that copies, to the extent reasonable, some part of the legendary journey undertaken by Ulysses. Look for sites associated with Homer’s poem, which described Ulysses’ 10-year struggle to get home to Ithaca after the Trojan War.
  • Take a ferry through the Corinth Canal, one sea route the ancients couldn’t have taken.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take a Greek island cruise for comfortable access to several islands.
  • Visit some of Greece’s less-frequented islands by joining a scheduled yacht program. Such sailings usually carry 20 to 30 people.
  • Get to some islands the faster way, but still on water. Twin-hulled hovercrafts and hydrofoils operate between Piraeus and Hydra, Mykonos, Santorini and other islands.
  • Plan an itinerary based on a theme of interest to you, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include the Old Town in Corfu’s main city, the medieval city of Rhodes, the island of Delos, religious sites on Patmos and more.
  • Linger in the ports with access to consequential ancient monuments, medieval town centers, weighty museums, well-equipped beaches — and shopping. Corfu, Rhodes and Santorini spring to mind, as does Knossos on Crete.
  • You may island hop by air, then take local cruises around the islands on your itinerary or to smaller associated islands that offer unique, private beach facilities or other special features.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Greek National Tourism Organization at