Sailing in Greek Waters : Main Sailing Areas Explained

Are you looking for a luxurious and relaxing vacation in one of the most stunning locations on Earth? Yacht charter in Greece is the perfect option to ensure that all your desires about an unforgettable holiday are fulfilled. With plenty of breathtaking islands, gorgeous vistas, rich culture, and fresh seafood – chartered yachts can provide access to unexplored coves and tucked away gems, allowing adventurers to escape civilization without sacrificing all the amenities they need. Whether it’s an intimate rendezvous between two people or a large family gathering, sailing around iconic Greek isles while taking advantage of all they have to offer will create memories that last a lifetime – so choose the area you want to discover today!

What are the different areas of sailing in Greece?

Cruising zone Greece

Greece has 5 main sailing areas where most people charter a yacht:

  • Ionian Islands
  • Argo Saronic Gulf
  • Sporades Islands
  • Cyclades Islands
  • Dodecanese Islands

Here is more details about each sailing destination.

1: The Cyclades: The most famous sailing area in Greece

The Cyclade is the area bounded by the Gulf of Athens (Argo Saronic) to the west and the Dodecanese to the east. Among others, the main islands of the cyclades are Amorgos, Andros, Ios, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, paros, Poseidonia, Santorini, Serifos, Sifnos.

In the summertime, Greece’s Gulf of Athens coast is swept by a powerful northwind – the Meltemi. It blows especially in the cyclades area. A unique weather event due to pressure differences between western Mediterranean highs and eastern Asian lows, this wind brings an invigorating breeze that makes it perfect for sailors or those seeking relaxation among its many islands. However when winter approaches so too does another sight; a blanket of smog descending upon this serene oasis!

What is the best route to take while cruising in the cyclades

The Meltemi is an indispensable summertime companion for sailors, keeping hot days from becoming scorching. Those familiar with the wind understand that a good moderate breeze can’t last forever – but it’s important to know when nature will give us its respite again! Skippers have come to recognize patterns in western high pressure systems as crucial indicators of strong winds lasting only 3-4 days before turning calm once more.

When sailing in the Cyclades, knowledgeable skippers know how to make their way around effortlessly by leveraging familiar wind patterns. Strong winds usually last only a few days and can be easily swept away with light breeze following it shortly after. Unprepared sailors should avoid plotting too ambitious itineraries as they run great risk of being stranded due to shifting weather conditions. Luckily for those who are well versed in navigation, these islands form an ideal circle which let them go from one island back ’round again without ever having to tack!

What is the best time to sail in the Cyclades

For the ideal sailing experience, visit the Cyclades during spring or autumn when temperatures are mild, and seas are at their warmest. Enjoy breathtaking weather variations while admiring authentic life in quaint villages with fewer crowds in picturesque ports full of trees. For novice sailors, the Cyclades Islands in summertime can be a tricky terrain with its strong winds. However, if you are up for an extended trip and plan your route accordingly to avoid being exposed when gusts pick up – then there’s plenty of opportunity to explore this special area!

Experience a 7 days charter cruising itinerary from Athens in the cyclades

The best experiences not to be missed while in the Cyclades

Experience the magical beauty of paradise as you explore some of Greece’s most beloved isles! The stunning west coast of Amorgos (famous for ‘The Big Blue’ movie), SikinosFolegandros and Sifnos in the Cyclades will not disappoint. Sifnos offer a true feast for the eyes – from an archaeological site filled with ancient history to vibrant neoclassical towns; rolling hills dotted by serene hamlets inbetween and breath-taking caldera views atop Santorini’s picturesque shores.

Soak up traditional Greek charm while exploring Ermoupolis and Delos or gaze upon breathtaking views from Santorini’s caldera – all without a cloud in sight against an azure sky…just Meltemi-proof (to avoid in case of wind) Tinos, Mykonos & east coast Amorgos if needed.

The culinary experience of the Greek Cyclades

Embark on a culinary journey of the Greek isles as you explore Santorini’s juicy tomatoes and split peas, Naxos’ creamy graviera cheese or tomes, Tinos’, Syros’, and Mykonos’ wonderfully salty kopanisti lonza cheeses. For thrill seekers there are goat dishes from Amorgos along with manoura goat cheese in wine lees available. Sifnos offers almond cakes while loukoums nougats can be discovered on Syros – all accompanied by the fine wines grown only here such as Assyrtiko, Athiri, Mandilaria varieties of Paros (Malvasia Aidani Savvatiano) followed up with “Souma” for an interesting digesting grape marc experience!

2: The Dodecanese Islands: a very popular sailing area for yacht rentals

Chain of 12 islands along the Turkish coast, this archipelago has long radiated by its cultural wealth and its proximity to the sources of raw materials of Anatolia. The main islands of the dodecanese are: Rhodes, Kos, Pátmos, Kálymnos, Kárpathos, Sými, Leros, Tílos, Níssyros, Kastelórizo, Astypalée et Kassos.

Weather and sailing conditions in the Dodecanese area

The Meltemi, an impressive maritime wind originating mainly from the northwest and tilting westward in the afternoon near Turkey. Be aware its power intensifies particularly around Turkish coasts to its west such as those surrounding large islands like Rhodes and Karpathos or Samos-Ikaria channel (north). As low pressure systems approach during spring/autumn seasons in Balkans, SE winds pick up speed between mainland & adjoining islands – a breathtaking phenomenon that makes this area so special!

Cruising from Rhodes to Kos can be a tricky navigational feat, requiring sailors to take advantage of shifting winds due to the region’s unique topography. By beginning their voyage in the morning when prevailing north wind will help them sail west and then favoring thee northern side as the day progresses when an increasingly western gust takes over — this challenging yet achievable journey is one for any seasoned adventurer on sea or land!

The same approach should be used when sailing back to the Cyclades: sail north in the late afternoon until you reach Patmos; around dusk, turn west as the Meltem loses power and heads north. You can quickly get to Mykonos this way before dawn. The Meltem will be increasingly west-northwest as the sun rises, and from Patmos, you will hardly be able to spread out Amorgos as the heat of Asia Minor approaches the east coast of Naxos in the afternoon if you choose to just sail during the day. The Dodecanese is known for its numerous sheltered anchorages, marinas, and international airports that are near to the Turkish shore.

Nonetheless, it should be remembered that the Greek Islands constitute an EU border with a non-EU nation under the Schengen Agreement, and crossing this border without the appropriate documentation is not permitted legally. If you rent a boat from a base in Greece, you stay in Greece, and if you rent a boat from a base in Turkey, you stay in Turkey. Symi and Kastellorizon in Greece and Datca in Turkey are the only places where two nights “in transit” are acceptable.

Discover the Dodecanese by boat in 7 days from Kos

Experience the Best of the Dodecanese: Must-See Sights and Activities

The dodecanese is an archipelago of barren, rocky islands, dotted throughout a crystal-clear sea, where goats live and are covered with fragrant plants and olive trees. The Cycladic and Neoclassical styles of the communities’ architecture are harmoniously combined in this area. 

We recommend visiting the lesser-known islands of Gaidaros, Halki, Symi, Nisyros, Nisyros, and Kastelorizon (Megisti). Not to be missed sights are the white Hora of Patmos, capped by its monastic fortress, the historic old town of Rhodes with its majestic fortresses, Lindos with its acropolis and Cycladic settlement, and the rich coastal plains. Visit the cellars of the two grand mansions, Cair and Emery, to sample the wines of Rhodes, as well as the exquisite (and antiquated) muscatels of Samos.

Try the savory or sweet poungia pastries with fresh goat or sheep cheese in the spring. Fresh hylopitès pasta and pitaroudia bugnes with onions can be found in Rhodes.

3: The Sporades: a less touristic Greek sailing area perfect for seclusion

With moderate breezes, comfortable temperatures, and pine trees that extend all the way to the shore, the Sporades archipelago is among the most well-liked tourist sites in Greece. Monk seals are protected in a nature park on the nearly uninhabited island of Kyra Panaghia and some of the nearby barren islands (Monachus Monachus). The main islands of the Sporades are : Skiathos, Skópelos, Alonissos and Skyros.

The North-NE Meltem follows heat changes in the summer, strengthening to the west of the islands and weakening close to the Turkish shores. On calm days, thundershowers are possible. In the spring, a southerly wind may cause fog banks to form. On the picturesque island of Skiathos, travelers can wander through picture-perfect piney meadows and explore its enchanting bays sheltered by nature. In August, visitors will be welcomed to a beautiful destination featuring stunning architecture typical of Epirus and Mount Pelion – creating an unforgettable experience for all!

To visit the Sporades by boat you may start from Volos. Click here to find your dream boat from Volos.

Must-See Attractions in the Enchanting Sporades Archipelago

One of the most breathtaking Greek islands is Skopelos; do not miss it! See the bays of Panormos, Elios (klima), Agios Petros, and Planitis a Kyra Panaghia, as well as the capital cities of Skopelos and Skyros.

Also, you can try, as excellent as a Sauternes, the naturally sweet white Muscat of Samos, aged in barrels! Must try items include ladhotyri, a sheep’s milk cheese in oil, ouzo, the renowned Lesbos anisette, olive oil, seafood meals, masticha, a gum formed from lentisks native to the southern part of Chios. You can have wonderful fruity, sweet or mild whites as well as goat’s milk meals in Lemnos thanks to the sandy soil, which is pounded by the wind and favorable for Muscat of Alexandria. Wines from nearby Macedonia (taste the Xynomavro and Limnio varieties), Amyndaio, Naoussa, Goumenissa, Ossa, or those of Chalkidiki Côtes de Meliton.

4: The Saronic Gulf: the perfect area to explore Athens and the Greek cultural heritage

The Argo-Saronic or Gulf of Athens was a cruising haven up until the 1980s, with mild winds, lovely anchorages, and adorable tiny fishing ports set against the sky-blue Peloponnese mountains. Subsequently, it expanded into a sizable suburb of the city of Athens. The introduction of contemporary ferries, the housing bubble, and the thousands of pleasure boats departing from Athens’ nine marinas have all tarnished my memories of my boyhood. Calamina, Aegina, Hydra, Poros, Spetses, Dokos, Agistri, Nafplio, and Monemvasia (the medieval Malvasia) are among the best places to go on a tranquil cruise thanks to their preservation.

What to expect when cruising in the Athens and Saronic gulf area

Many yachts find the saronic gulf to be appealing because to its proximity to Athens (airport, shipyards, sailmakers, workshops, etc.) and the ability to leave your boat at anchor in the roadsteads of Poros or Porto Heli without incurring any fees. Also, the region is much better protected than the Cyclades and the meltem blows there less forcefully.

The eastern entrances of the Gulf, along the Hydra-Monemvasa axis, are where the meltem is most easily seen in the summer. Farther west, the thermal east comes into play by the end of the day near the bottom of the gulfs, shifting the wind towards the east, even the SE. With WNW onshore breezes, the pattern is reversed at night. Be careful since the arrival of a high pressure bubble and the powerful NW winds it produces in the Ionian Sea can cause intense and katabatic W winds at night on the eastern coastlines of the Peloponnese.

Aegina and Hydra’s ports are the most vulnerable. Even the western Cyclades can sense this impact. 

You will like the scenery of the Peloponnese, particularly the shoreline with its lofty mountains and lush valleys. The small towns, like those in Hydra and Spetsai, with their elegant buildings and tiled roofs. When the mountain ranges emerge from the heat cloud and appear haloed in a purplish glow, sunsets are stunning.

Must see when you are visiting the Greek Peloponnese area 

  • Epidaurus with its classical theatre
  • the private port cities of Poros, Hydra and Spetsai
  • the beautiful neoclassical city of Nafplio and the nearby archaeological site of Mycenae
  • the fortified city of Monemvasia 

Try the bland and sweet Kranidi olive oil, the Galatas and Nafplio citrus fruits, the red VQPRDs from the Nemea Valley’s Agiorgitiko grape variety, and the Mantineia Highlands (dry and long-lasting white, Moschonlero grape variety). Also, you’ll discover the Savvatiano grape variety’s authentic retsina, a primitive wine that can only be enjoyed straight from the barrel rather than a bottle. The spetsiota, a baked fish dish with tomato, white wine, and herbs, is a must-try among the local delicacies. In Nafplio, dishes with artichokes and aubergines as well as kokoraskrasatos—rooster in wine—are served with fresh pasta.

Check out our sample cruising itinerary to discover the Saronic gulf from Athens.

5: The Ionian Sea: one of the easiest sailing destination in Greece

West of mainland Greece, in the Ionian Sea, are a collection of islands known as the Ionian Islands. Although the group comprises numerous smaller islands in addition to the seven main ones, they are typically referred to as the Heptanese.

North to south, the seven islands are as follows: 

  • Corfu
  • Kerkyra; Paxi, commonly spelled Paxos 
  • Lefkada, also spelled Lefkas 
  • Ithaki, typically spelled Ithaca 
  • Kefalonia, frequently spelled Cefalonia
  • Zakynthos occasionally spelled Zante
  • Kythira frequently referred to as Cythera

What is the weather like in the ionian sea?

The Ionian sea zone is certainly is easiest sailing location in all of Greece. The relatively calm waters of the Ionian islands are also attractive to motorboats.

A NW to WNW breeze dominates the Ionian Sea’s summer climate. In comparison to the equivalent meltemi in the Aegean, this wind tends to be steadier and weaker (force 2 to 5). Nonetheless, a sailor must keep an eye out for gusts when sailing along the lee side of mountainous islands and be mindful that katabatic winds from the towering mountains, of force 5 to 6, may blow in the nights from the NE.

The ionian islands scenery

You will be amazed by pine forests that reach the water’s edge, olive groves, citrus orchards, and communities with pastel-colored homes and Roman tile roofs. With its forts and its old town’s Italian accents, Corfu resembles Venice. Sadly, earthquakes have completely destroyed all of Kefalonia’s picturesque villages; only Fiskardo is still standing. But be sure to see the coves of Lefkas and Fiskardo while sailing through Corfu’s historic ancient town.

While visiting the ioniand islands you can taste wines, particularly the white Robola, the sweet red wine of Patras Mavrodafni, the red AOC Agiorgitiko of Nemea, the lanoumboulo dry sausage from Lefkas and Corfu, and the avgotaraho boutargue from Messolonghi. Greek cheeses Specialties include beef sofrito in Corfu, bourdetto with scorpion fish or cod in Kefalonia, and stifadho, rabbit cooked in onions, in Zakintos. The Corfioan tsipouro grape marc and aukumquat liqueurs are not to be missed.

Read also: 5 Yachts For Charter You Can Book Under 70k€

No matter which area you choose, you’re sure to have an amazing time cruising in Greece!

Greece must be experienced to be believed – from the boat-lovers paradise of the 13,650 km of coastline, it offers something for everyone, however large or small their vessel. For those looking to explore in luxury and see the amazing sights, including azure waters and picturesque islands WI Yachts can provide organized yachting trips. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit more intrepid than entering one of the many annual regattas throughout Greece is sure to provide a thrilling adventure. With so much beauty and adventure on offer, enjoying all that Greece has to offer should be top of everybody’s bucket list!

Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure on the stunning waters of Greece? Contact us today to start planning your dream sailing trip in Greece! Let’s make your travel dreams a reality.