Published on 07 september 2008 at 0h00
The land of all cultures and mother of all legends, Greece is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world to discover by boat…
How can Greece be summed up in a one or two-week cruise? It would take years of cruising in these history-laden waters, before you could claim to have understood this multitude of cultures, islands and anchorages, which are as different as it is possible to be. From the Aegean Sea to the Ionian, sheltered in the Saronic Gulf, or in the windier part of the Dodecanese, there is inevitably a ‘magic’ place awaiting you. With 6000 islands of all sizes, only 270 of which are inhabited, the playground is…exceptional! The Aegean Sea harbours a natural beauty which on its own illustrates the whole of the Mediterranean. In the depths of the Saronic Gulf a string of islands unfolds, protected by the bay’s promontories. The steady winds and on-sight navigation make this a remarkable and unique place to sail. Exciting offshore sailing awaits you further south in the Cyclades, with their whitewashed, blue-windowed houses and their flower and scent-filled alleys. Wherever you go, you will find a unique perfume on each island, carefully matured like good ouzo. The Ionian Islands, which border the western coast of Greece, stand out from the majority of the Greek Islands by the fertility of their soil, due to the winter rains, and are covered with olive groves. This rain also makes the spring an unforgettable moment, when the air is filled with the aroma of wild flowers. But the sun is compulsory for the rest of the year, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean can be found where these lush, fertile shores disappear into the shimmering waters of the Ionian Sea. The Dodecanese is a sailing paradise, with more than 160 small islands within sight of each other, and strong winds. Each island is a world of beaches, creeks and bays. It is not difficult to be alone, as only 26 of them are inhabited. In the interior, each village breathes a friendly atmosphere, and houses a charming mixture of oriental and western style architecture. Each of these islands has a rich historic past and seems to welcome you with its antique ruins, its castle dating from the crusades and also its seafront, with delightful restaurants and an abundance of fish.
Given the incredible possibilities for cruising in Greece, it is impossible to talk of typical itineraries. All we can say quite simply is that depending on your cruising area, don’t miss :
In the shelter of the Saronic Gulf...
Aegina : The pistachio island, with its well-sheltered anchorages.
Poros : A bright green landscape, punctuated by yew and black cypress trees.
Epidaurus : Famous for its ancient theatre, with perfect acoustics.
Hydra : A refuge for artists, with not a single car on the whole island.
Spetsai : An island rich in memories, with calm pine forests.
The Cyclades :
Mykonos : The fashionable place, with exotic clubs and trendy style.
Paros : The island is perfumed with thyme, and is world famous for its white marble, as well as the cafes on the Paroikia beach.
Sikinos : Anchor in this charming harbour, with two picturesque villages overhanging the cliff. Santorini – Spectacular cliffs, breathtaking sunsets.
Serifos : A rocky coast, cut by creeks and beaches, with human-shaped rock formations.
Ionian Sea :
Corfu : The ‘pearl’ of the Ionian Sea, friendly and cosmopolitan, bordered by an incredibly beautiful coast.
Paxos : This island is calm and romantic, with tropical smells and shingle beaches, and is inhabited by fishermen.
Parga : Crowned by a Norman Castle, surrounded by a fringe of beautiful small green islands, this picturesque island has some charming villages with narrow lanes.
Lefkada : The remote harbours, the peaceful towns reflect the old-fashioned style of this island of traditions. The east coast overlooks the ‘interior sea’ – Abeliki Bay.
Ithaka : Numerous secret bays cut into the coast of this legendary island, the land of Homer’s Odyssey.
Kephalonia : Explore the very beautiful south coast, then the interior and its network of caves, dug out some 20,000 years ago.
Aegean Sea :
Kos : You must first visit the Esculapion, the fourth century BC temple dedicated to the god of health. It is said to have a tonic power on visitors who linger there. Sparkling beaches are scattered along the coast from Lambi to Agios Fokas. The town has relaxing hot springs and mineralised water baths. On the south-west coast, captivating Kefalos shelters sandy beaches and small restaurants.
Nisiros : A small island with a delightful village balanced on a steep hill.
Kalymnos : A place to reflect peacefully on beautiful beaches.
Ios : The land of contrasts : crowded discotheques mix with the Cyclades’ rich culture.
Santorini : Often considered to be the most beautiful island in the Cyclades. The volcanic earthquake which created the island was also the origin of the Atlantis legend. Here you can contemplate sunsets of dramatic intensity.
Antiparos : Golden beaches, a mediaeval castle and a cave on the hill at Agios Ioanis, where the stalactites stretch into the cool darkness, share the limelight.
Paros : Visit the spectacular village of Naoussa, with its whitewashed houses, its winding lanes and superb beaches. Don’t miss the massive rocks at Kolimbithres.
Naxos : The island has many windmills and churches, and harbours the remains of Apollo’s temple.
Getting there :
Numerous charter or regular flights will take you directly to Greece. To get to your chosen island, you then just have to embark aboard one of the many ferries sailing between the islands.
Spring, summer or autumn: every season has its fans.
The official currency is the euro. The language is Greek, but almost everyone speaks at least English. Not to be missed: Every island has its treasures. But don’t miss finding ‘your taverna’, the one where you feel so comfortable, you will always try to return…
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