CYCLADES SAILING HOLIDAYS
The Cyclades – Κυκλάδες lay in a circle (Greek: kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, and consists of 23 large islands and some 200 smaller ones. The archipelago is based on a submarine plateau which extends in an arc from the most easterly point of Attica and Evia towards the coast of Asia Minor. All the islands are hilly. The northern ones consist predominantly of Cretaceous limestone, micaceous schists, gneisses and marbles; those to the south consist in part of volcanic materials.
With the exception of Naxos the islands have no perennial rivers, and as a result of the prevailing sharp sea-winds (the Meltemi in summer) are lacking in trees. Characteristic features of the landscape are the cubed whitewashed Cycladic houses and the thatch-roofed windmills, very romantic and ideal for a sailing holiday.
To thoroughly enjoy the richness of the Cycladic islands you need at least 20 to 25 sailing days. But already a 2-week itinerary opens up much more possibilities, thus enabling you to see three times more than in a single week. When sailing 14 days:
- The most attractive islands of Amorgos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Santorini as well as the Little Cyclades below Naxos are well in reach;
- More opportunities to explore the often very worthwhile inlands of the islands by scooters or bikes;
- Less time spent near the concrete outskirts of Athens;
- A better chance to avoid the loads of fellow yachtsmen who are often herded (in flotillas) along the easy milk runs near Athens, Kea, Kythnos and Syros.
The following table gives the characteristics of the Cyclades islands and you might also want to compare all the Greek regions. More dark blue stars the better.
|Characteristics||Northern Cyclades||Southern Cyclades|
|Easy access by plane or ferry|
|Unspoiled by tourism|
|Amenities and tavernas|
|Ancient Greek sites|
|Easy sailing conditions|
|Fertile and lush vegetation|
The sailing itineraries
The following routes are the result of our own travels and the vast amount of suggestions from my visitors. Similar to my Ionian or Saronic routes, these Cyclades itineraries have an “off the beaten track” character and are certainly biased towards natural beauty, sequestered anchorages and ancient archaeological sites, so perhaps not suitable for all yacht charters…
|1 week Athens-Athens||1 week Athens-Athens|
|3||Kythnos Mericha||23||3||Syros Ermoupolis||50|
|4||Kythnos Loutra||20||4||Mykonos Delos||27|
|1 week Lavrion-Lavrion||1 week Lavrion-Lavrion|
|2||Kythnos Mericha||23||2||Kythnos Mericha||23|
|3||Syros Ermoupolis||50||3||Serifos Livadi||31|
|4||Mykonos Delos||27||4||Sifnos Kamares||9|
|5||Andros Gavrion||44||5||Syros Finikas||39|
|1 week Paros-Paros||1 week Syros-Syros|
|1||Paros Paroikia||1||Syros Finikas|
|2||Sifnos Kamaras||30||2||Mykonos Delos||30|
|6||Paros Naoussa||41||6||Kythnos Loutra||26|
|7||Paros Paroikia||10||7||Syros Finikas||19|
|2 weeks Athens-Athens||2 weeks Lavrion-Lavrion|
|4||Kythnos Mericha||19||4||Paros Naoussa||24|
|12||Syros Ermoupolis||24||12||Kythnos Mericha||31|
|2 weeks Paros-Paros||2 weeks Syros-Syros|
|1||Paros Paroikia||1||Syros Finikas|
|2||Sifnos Kamares||30||2||Kythnos Loutra||19|
|11||Little Cyclades||17||11||Paros Naoussa||9|
|14||Paros Paroikia||10||14||Syros Finikas||18|
|3 weeks Lavrion-Lavrion||3 weeks Athens-Athens|
|3||Andros Gavrion||27||3||Syros Ermoupolis||39|
|4||Andros Kastro||31||4||Paros Naoussa||24|
|7||Ikaria Evdilos||41||7||Little Cyclades||21|
|19||Kythnos Loutra||39||19||Kythnos Mericha||31|
|20||Kea Poleis Bay||10||20||Sounion||23|
- When particularly aiming for the Cyclades only – instead of a combination with the Saronic Gulf – the port of Lavrion is more suitable than the Alimos Marina. Starting at Lavrion, which is situated further south on Attica and much closer to Kea, means steering clear of the unsightly outskirts of Athens.
- In the 2 or 3-weeks itineraries it is possible to have one or more rest days/stopovers/onshore excursions. Various islands like Santorini, Amorgos, Kythnos and Sifnos simply must be explored, preferably by bike or scooter.
- How to avoid the crowds:
- Get as far away from Athens;
- Most yacht charters are from Saturday to Saturday, so mid week it is relatively quiet near the bases, while relatively crowded further away;
- Medio July till end of August is main holiday season;
- In the weekends the native Atheneans sail to Kea and Kythnos and join the tourists.
- Overrated islands are Ios, Serifos and Mykonos. Though Serifos has a nice Chora (Livadi) and Mykonos is a handy port to visit Delos from.
My favourite anchorages
- Fjord bay on Amorgos island;
- St John or Ay. Ioannis bay on Naxos island;
- Kastro, Platis Gialos and Faros bays on Sifnos island;
- Poleis bay on Kea island;
- Manolonisi bay on Polyaigos island;
- Sand bar bay on Kythnos island;
- Naoussa bay on Paros island;
- The anchorages in the Little Cyclades: Karos, Schinoussa, Koufonisia;
- For the geology: south bays and coast of Milos island;
- The flooded caldera of Santorini island: Thira, Thirasia and Kammeni.
By popular demand an itinerary for one to three months in the whole Aegean of luxurious yacht charters, hence including the Dodecanese and Sporades.
First of all, yacht charters of more than 3 weeks render a one-way unnecessary. Furthermore, starting (and hence also ending) in Athens is easiest with flights, etc.
Therefore, starting in Athens and after spending about 10-14 days in the Saronic and Argolic gulfs cross via Hydra to Kea or Kythnos en start exploring the Aegean.
Highlights in the Cyclades are Sifnos, Paros, Naxos & the little Cyclades, Amorgos, Santorini, Milos and Folegandros. This will be a further 2 weeks: for instance Sifnos, Santorini and Amorgos are worth more than one day!!!
Cross towards the Dodecanese from Astypalea via Kasos, Karpathos to Rhodes, Symi, and continue north to the islands of Tilos, Nisyros & Kos plus Leros & Kalymnos, Patmos, Fourni, arki & Lipso and Samos.
Sailing north means beating the prevailing winds – yet the trick of this anticlockwise route is that particularly here the winds are weakest, especially on the east (the more interesting) coasts of the dodecanese and southern sporades which are sheltered by the the myriad of Aegean islands as well as the Turkish promontories.
From the Southern Sporades of Ikaria or Chios cross back into the Cyclades to Tinos & Andros, via Mykonos & Delos, Syros, Kea and Sounion and finally the Alimos/Kalamaki marina in Athens.
You can extend this basic circle easily with extra loops:
- South coast of the Peloponnese around the notorious Cape Maleas, worth an extra week at least;
- Include Crete from Thira;
- From Chios to Lesbos into the Northern Sporades, Limnos and Thassos;
- Through the Corinth Canal via the Corinth Gulf and Patras Gulf into the Ionian Sea;
- Cross the border and explore the Carian, Ionian and West Lycian coasts of Turkey.
There are several one-way routes possible in the Cyclades since Lavrion and Athens are upwind from the Cycladic main charter bases of Syros and Paros. Furthermore, the ports of Mykonos, Milosand Santorini increasingly serve as useful secundary bases for yacht charters as well.
Frequent domestic flights, ferries and hydrofoils connect these islands with Athens Airport and Pireaus Port.
Athens/Lavrion to Syros – 7 days
|Day 0 Sat||Athens or Lavrion|
|Day 1 Sun||Kea, Main port as well as Polis bay, delightful anchorage|
|Day 2 Mon||Andros/Tinos, Andros Port is lee-shore and involves distance, Tinos port is recommended. These islands are really off the beaten track and Gavrion and Kastro are very beautiful|
|Day 3 Tue||Denoussa – delightful islet east of Naxos|
|Day 4 Wed||Amorgos, Fjord bay lunch, night in Aegiali, visit northeast cliffs-800 metres sheer drop, Katapola for night (after santorini the best island in the Cyclades)|
|Day 5 Thu||Iraklia + bays around the islets there – mini cruise area|
|Day 6 Fri||Sifnos, Kamares port; anchorages: Platis Gialos, Faros and Kastro|
|Day 7 Sat||Syros, Ermoupolis approach even more breathtaking than the Poros approach|
Athens/Lavrion to Paros – 7 days
|Day 0 Sat||Kea, port and anchorages (Poleis bay)|
|Day 1 Sun||Kythnos, both Mericha and Loutra are worthwhile|
|Day 2 Mon||Sifnos, Kamares and anchorages; Platis Gialos, Faros or Kastro|
|Day 3 Tue||Folegandros, Karavostasi and the chora|
|Day 4 Wed||Sikinos, Alopronia port, delightfully off the beaten track and lots of ancient ruins|
|Day 5 Thu||Santorini, Vlichadi marina (rent scooters) and thirasia or oia, best to visit the Kameni islands by tripper boat from Skala|
|Day 6 Fri||Naoussa on Paros, very pretty both the bay (anchorages!) as the harbour|
|Day 7 Sat||Parikia port on Paros, charter base and ferry port|
Athens/Lavrion to Syros – 10 days
|Day 0||Athens or Lavrion|
|Day 1||Kea, main port and Poleis bay in the south east of the island|
|Day 2||Andros/Tinos, though usually not Andros Port (lee-shore and more distance) but likely Tinos port|
|Day 3||Denoussa, – delightful|
|Day 4||Amorgos, Fjord bay lunch, visit northeast cliffs-800 metres sheer drop, katapola for night or Aegiali|
|Day 5||Iraklia, Mirsini, Karos, Parianos|
|Day 6||Naxos, Ay Ioannis bay, Panormou or Apollonia|
|Day 7||Paros Naoussa,|
|Day 8||Sifnos, Kamares port and lunch at either Platis Gialos, Faros or Kastro (blue turquoise)|
|Day 9||Syros, Ermoupolis, Finikas and Delfino Bay|