The two most classic images of the Greek Islands are the royal-blue church dome on the island of Santorini and the famous windmills of Mykonos, framed against a sapphire sea and sky. The Cyclades Islands, to which these both belong, are Greece's most popular charter-vacation destination. But among Greece's 3,000 islands are several other distinctive island groups, as well as countless quaint coastal villages. These hidden-destination treasures are less promoted, and hence less frequently visited, but they are equally enchanting and unique. Here's a glance at the top island groups for charter vacations, in order of their popularity.
The sailing season in Greece runs from April through October, but the best months for perfect weather are May through September. The main chartering hub is Athens, where many yachts are based and most charters originate, but there is a selection of charter bases in every island group as well.
The Cyclades – Situated in the center of the Aegean Sea, these rugged, arid islands are 45-plus miles from Athens, and are exposed to the sometimes-strong, seasonal northerly meltemi wind. The islands themselves are on average between 20 and 30 miles apart, so time spent underway is longer on sailing charters here – but the reward is the islands' classically Greek style. Popular for sailing charters of one week or more.
Read more about the Cyclades
The Saronic Islands and Peloponnese Coast – These pine-studded isles and mountainous seaside villages are closer to Athens than the Cyclades, and have the advantage of being closer together for shorter sailing days. They are protected from the meltemi wind by the mountainous Greek mainland, and are a great destination for charters of one week or less.
The Ionian Islands stretch along the west-northwest coast of the Peloponnese and Greek mainland. They lie about 200 miles from Athens, and are known as "the Caribbean of Greece" for their lush, green islands that rise out of an aquamarine sea. Sailing charters starting and ending in Athens need at least 14 days to fully enjoy this island group, or need to start and end at a base in or near the Ionian Sea.
Read more about the Ionian Islands
The Dodecanese Islands are so named because there are 12 of them – dodeka in Greek, and they are strung like a pearl necklace across the west coast of Turkey in the eastern Aegean, about 250 miles from Athens. More far-flung than the Cyclades, the islands are a mix of classical Greek and Turkish influence. Sailing charters originating in Athens need 10 to 14 days; otherwise, choose a charter base within this island group.
Read more about the Dodecanese
Crewed yachts and bareboats are widely available in every price range from budget to deluxe.
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