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Cyclades

The Cyclades offer ink-blue skies, a sea shrouded in pink mist in the morning and clouds in the evening tinted red from the setting sun. Follow the cliffs over bays lined with snow-white houses and the little churches with their blue domes.

The Cyclades offer ink-blue skies, a sea shrouded in pink mist in the morning and clouds in the evening tinted red from the setting sun. Follow the cliffs over bays lined with snow-white houses and the little churches with their blue domes.

The Cyclades are the domain of experienced yachtsmen, mainly in the summer when the legendary Meltemi blows. Compared to Croatia, there are greater distances between islands, almost no marinas, big waves and strong winds. But there are also plenty of bays where you will be anchored by yourself, places as yet untouched by tourism, islands so full of ancient monuments that they remind you of an archaeological museum. Offering the famous Greek hospitality, you will find town ports where you pay nothing, or only for water and electricity. A sea that remains warm until late autumn, combined with stable weather, make this area an ideal place for autumn sports' cruises with swimming and exploring.

Who is renting a yacht suitable for?

For lovers of history

The history of the Cyclades is a journey into the glorious past of Greece and of course, you will discover an abundance of monuments on the individual islands.

For thrill-seekers

Yachting in the Cyclades is very exciting in summer. Large waves and strong winds are a combination that is unforgiving to any less experienced yachtsman. Spring and autumn are the ideal times to take longer trips between the distant islands. One-way trips between Athens and Kos or Rhodes are ideal.

For sports yachtsmen

The Aegean Sea is a renowned location for demanding, offshore regattas.

The Cyclades are picturesque Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea southeast of Athens. The Cyclades archipelago makes up a rough circle, “kyklos” in Greek, surrounding the island of Dilos. This is an exceptionally beautiful area suitable for improving your yachting skills. In the Cyclades, you will find quieter, picturesque islands as well as islands visited by a lot of tourists. The area is extensive and you can make several excursions here without losing interest at the well-known places. From a yachting point of view, this is a difficult area and especially suitable for well-knit crews.

Map of Cyclades Greece

The 10 most beautiful locations in this region

  1. Fikiada Bay with beach—the island of Kythnos
  2. Loutra Harbour with thermal spring, island of Kythnos
  3. Ermoupolis Harbour—island of Syros
  4. Island of Delos—an archaeological treasure
  5. Mykonos Harbour
  6. Naoussa Bay—the island of Paros
  7. Naxos Harbour
  8. Island of Santorini and the Nea Kameni islet in a volcanic crater
  9. Island of Anafi
  10. The Port of Adhamas—Porto Milos

The small town and village architecture will attract the arriving mariner’s first admiring glance. At the foot of the town in what is usually a calm bay are rocks, which is the harbour. The actual town, Chora, spreads out over the hill somewhat higher above the harbour, and high above this, the Venetian fortress known as Kastro rises up into the sky.

Although the words "Everyone is catered for" may sound like a cliche, this is literally the case with the Cyclades archipelago. Enthusiasts interested in ancient culture can see the remains of ancient temples, towers, fortifications and fortresses here. Places of natural beauty take shape in the rugged landscape of volcanic islands, with white cliffs dotted by red corn roses, stalactite caves, wild herbs, and snow-white as well as black sandy beaches on the island of Santorini. The original evergreen oaks were gradually felled and have been replaced by olive groves, citrus trees, vineyards, and frygana, a sparse bushland containing aromatic and essential oils such as lavender and thyme. Die-hard fans of shopping and social gatherings, can visit generously stocked boutiques, refined restaurants and popular clubs.

In April, May, and June, as well as September and October, a stable and reliable Mistral blows in the Aegean and Ionian seas. There are no strong Meltemi winds during this time. By the end of the high season, the sea has also warmed to a tropical 28–30°C. However, the Meltemi wind blows at full strength in the high season. It is a katabatic wind that brings rough conditions for sailors, but also brings cooling, good visibility and reduced humidity. This is one of the few Mediterranean winds that does not abate at the end of the day and can last for six days in a row. Swimming in Greece is possible from May, when sea temperatures reach 19–21°C. The average, daily, peak air temperature on Naxos rises from 19°C in April to 27°C in July and August through to October, when the temperature drops again to 22°C.

Be careful during night cruises. There are not many lights in the area indicating the various dangers. Under strong Meltemi winds, watch out for the leeward sides of the islands. The heights of the islands result in winds blowing an additional 1-2 BFT more than they do away from the islands, as the winds here descend in strong gusts. When approaching the islands, white and foaming surfaces will be a sure warning to you. When taking over a boat, be sure to check your sails thoroughly.

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Santorini

The gateway for yachtsmen is Thera Harbour at the inner part of the crater. You anchor here with your bow to the large buoy—stern to the breakwater, so you will need some really long ropes. Getting a berth here is usually not easy, particularly during high season when there may be "too many boats".

The town of Thera, which you certainly know from Greek postcards, rises high around the harbour. You can get there on foot, by cable car, or on donkeys or mules. The view from the small white buildings into the crater is certain to take your breath away. The crater was formed from a huge volcanic eruption sometime around 1450 BC, its intensity three times more powerful than the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The volcanic cone was destroyed, the island ruptured, and a marina lagoon formed in the middle over an area of 84 km square which is now, a little paradoxically, the greatest attraction on the island. The explosion created a powerful tsunami which reached all the way to the Spanish coastline, and is probably responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan culture on Crete. You can see the remains of this tragedy in the small town of Akrotiri, known as the "Greek Pompeii", where you will find some remarkably well-preserved ruins of the Minoan city, including part of a villa with a mosaic floor, a three-storey house with frescoes, a mill, and a ceramics workshop.

Oia, is a true oasis of tranquility, a majestic village rising up over the eastern part of the island on the edge of the cauldron-shaped crater of the volcano—the caldera. Yachtsmen will be fascinated by the Maritime Museum.

On the eastern coastline, you will also find the ruins of the town of Arkhea Thira, the ancient Thira, which offers an amazing view of the sea.

If you sail to Nea Kameni early in the morning or before the sun sets, you can land right at the breakwater. We recommend that you moor up, bow anchor—stern to the breakwater to protect from the side waves that sometimes flow into the bay. You will best enjoy the true atmosphere of this place at dusk or dawn. And there won’t be any tourists or ticket collectors! There is a small chapel with thermal springs on the northeastern side of Néa Palaia Kamméni. You can anchor here, at a relatively great depth, or moor up to one of the buoys, and sail below the chapel into a bay with ferrous-red water where you will find the thermal springs and warmer water. Bathing in the stinky mud here is great. Sail here in the morning or evening if you want to enjoy the intimacy of the place with no crowds of tourists. If you want to sail through the strait between the two small islands, then do so only during the day. Maps of this area are not precise and some extensive and rocky shallows here must be avoided.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

There are several interesting little islands in the caldera and its surrounding area, the largest being the Nea Kameni volcano which was active until quite recently. It stands on the eastern part of the island. You have to pay to get onto the island and walk to the top with a crowd of tourists who have come on boats from Santorini. Separated only by a narrow, shallow rift southeast of here, lies the small island of Néa Palaia Kamméni.

A view from the island of Santorini A view from the island of Santorini

Ios, Skinousa, Dhrima, Kato and Koufonisos

The island of Ios is the final resting place of the great Greek poet, Homer. According to legend, his mother came from this island and the poet retired here shortly before his death in search of peace and quiet. Other sources state that he died on a boat sailing to Athens. Either way, his grave is located in the small town of Plakotos in the mountainous north of the island. A Homer Festival is held here every year on 15 May, when a procession is made from the harbour where Homer died, carrying burning torches, all 10 km to his grave. Other than that, the island is a mecca for younger visitors, indulging in the exuberant way of life here, in particular during high season. If, like Homer himself, you long for peace and quiet, you will find this on Psati and Kalamos beaches, or you can set out inland and visit the Kalamos and Mount Pyrgos monasteries. If you sail further north, anchor for a while at the islands of Skinousa, Dhríma, Kato, or Koufonisos. They are not in any way exceptional and that is precisely what makes them exceptional—they are an oasis of tranquility in high season.

Ios Harbour

From Santorini, you must sail in a northerly direction. You will recognise the harbour in Ios from a distance thanks to the Venetian fort on the hill and the two windmills situated somewhat lower. You can sail into the basin, bow or stern ahead. The northern quay is reserved for fast ferries until 18:00 in the evening, and is available after that under the supervision of the police. It is important to use a lot of fenders and maintain a sufficient distance from the quay, as even small ferries are able to cause quite a swell. The bottom is muddy, but ideal for holding your anchor.

A view of Ios Harbour A view of Ios Harbour

Naxos and Paros

The next part of the route leads between the islands of Naxos and Paros. When Cycladic culture blossomed, Naxos became one of its centres. Later, the island was conquered by the Venetians and subsequently by the Turks, and these influences left a considerable impact on the local architecture. The capital is the bustling Naxos with a marina providing water and electricity.

Paros is the third largest island in the area, famous for marble mining, which was shipped from here to the best sculptors in all of Greece. Due to its natural abundance and fertility, Paros does not need to attract tourists as other Greek islands do. Even so, it is sometimes very busy, especially in the season when the island attracts surfers from all over the world. In the capital city of Paros, or Paroika, the magnificent Panagia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral dating back to the 10th century is definitely worth visiting. It is a wonderful architectural example, constructed from locally quarried marble . Nearby is the Archaeological Museum, concealing, among other things, a unique part of the Paros Marble Chronicle. The port of Naoussa at the north of the island has become a very trendy location where you can sit in a pleasant environment with a glass of good island wine or plate of delicious local food. 

Naxos Marina

You will know you have arrived when you see the marble arch on the Apollonas peninsula, as well as the abundant ferries in port. Be careful of Vrakhos Frouros, a reef 2 km WSW of the harbour. In 2000, a ferry was shipwrecked here. The top of its mast is still visible above the water and is marked by a buoy. Problems can also result from ferries sailing at high speed. During a strong Meltemi, expect big sea swells and heavy gusts. Water is located at the ferry jetty, and also at the café on Apollonas. You can refuel at the near-end of the jetty, from where a mini-tanker will come to you. You can buy provisions at the market behind the marina, where they will also fill up a bottle or two of good wine for you, directly from the cask.

On the way up to the walls of the Venetian fortress, you will go through a tangle of arches, tunnels and bridges passing a number of cosy pubs and restaurants along the way. One of the most impressive monuments on the island is the Portara Gate, which stands on the island of Palatia, where a road leads to the mainland. Originally, it was the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, whose construction began in 53 BC. The local valleys are particularly attractive. Visit the Livadi Valley where marble was quarried, or Melanes and its typical Venetian towers, or Tragaia dotted with charming, mountain villages.

Beautiful ancient churches can be found in the village of Chalkio, where you can find accommodation with some of the local people and get to know Greek hospitality more intimately. For some good fish, head to the Apollonas resort at the northeast of the island. Behind the village in the ancient marble quarries stands an old, unfinished sculpture of the god Apollo more than 10 m high and dating back to roughly 600 BC The beautiful beaches are Ormos and Avraam at the north of the island, or Moutsunu in the east. Local souvenirs worthy of attention are the woolen products, delicious honey, and tasty cheese.

Paros Harbour

You can pull in both either bows-to or stern-to, the bottom is muddy and grassy but the anchor usually holds well. If the inner part of the harbour is full and the sea is calm, you can land on the outer side of the jetty. When there is a strong Meltemi wind, it is better to drop anchor in one of the bays north of the harbour. The harbour offers all the necessary yachting facilities, including well-equipped stores and repair shops. Water is available on the waterfront—you just need to locate the person in charge of it. You can find fuel in the suburbs, or a tanker can come to you at the pier. There is also a sailmaker in the harbour.

Warning

The harbour’s bay is surrounded by many rocks, small islands, and shallows, so it is necessary to be extremely cautious and to thoroughly study the area in advance. In 2000, the Samina Express Ferry was shipwrecked here when it hit the Portes rocks and more than 80 people lost their lives.

The town of Naxos The town of Naxos

Dilos

There are impressive ruins scattered across the expanse of the island, the most famous being the Terrace of the Lions. They guard the Sacred Lake, which according to legend, was witness to the birth of the god Apollo. In 1926, the lake was filled-in due to the threat of malaria, and its presence is only marked today by the wall that once surrounded it. Originally there were nine, 7th century lions carved from Naxos marble, but only five survive today and those are kept at the local museum. The former lake is now guarded by amazing replicas. You will want to visit to the theatre dating from 300 BC and the mosaic houses—The House of the Dolphins, The House of Dionysus, and Apollo's Shrine with the remnants of three temples standing side by side.

Delos Harbour

The next stop is the arid, uninhabited archaeological gem, the island of Delos. A large sign in the small harbour prohibits yachts from docking, and it was forbidden to anchor overnight in Órmos Fournoi. However, it was recently reported that anchoring is now possible until 15:00, and some yachts have even managed to stay overnight.

Visitors are forbidden to stay here overnight in order to protect one of the rarest archaeological sites in Greece, and there is only a small café, so it’s a good idea to stock up in advance.

The city of Delos was very rich and impressive, and its remains are very well preserved. I recommend visiting in the early morning. It opens at 08:30 and there are fewer people here at that time; the monument is closed on Mondays. You can anchor in the northern or southern part of the channel between Rinia and Delos. If a Meltemi is blowing, someone must stay on the boat to watch the anchor. When exploring the remains of the city, you will be amazed by the homes. In the bathroom you will see marble washbasins cut straight out of modern Italian design catalogues. If you sit on a marble bench in one of the homes and close your eyes, you will be able to feel the joy and happiness experienced by the local people during the millennium when the city dedicated to Apollo was inhabited. People were not allowed to die on Delos, so the old, the sick, or pregnant women were exiled to the nearby island of Rinia. Here you will not experience such a joy.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

The marble lions on the island of Dilos The marble lions on the island of Dilos

Mykonos

The calling card of this sun-baked island is its traditional Cycladic architecture, represented by a tangled maze of alleyways made up of densely arranged, white houses with coloured exterior staircases, as well as scenic windmills from the 16th century. You can visit the island of Dilos from here by boat, the ticket price being the same as on Dilos, the return journey being included in the price. A very attractive part of the town of Mykonos is a busy art district, called Little Venice for its seafront houses and elegant metal balconies. A fortress from the 15th–17th centuries rises above it.

Mykonos has always been a culturally independent island, evidence for that being the Museum of Folk Traditions, which is one of the most important Greek museums of its kind. In the archaeological museum on the waterfront, expect an interesting exposition of finds, partly from the nearby island of Dilos. Obligatory for yachtsmen is the Marine Museum (Enoplon Dynameon, closed from October to April), whose exhibits map the colourful maritime history of the area.

Mykonos Marina

Anchoring is no longer in the old harbour, but at the marina about 1.5 km north of it. The orientating landmark is the hotel that is reminiscent of a classic American car's radiator. Anchoring is bows-to, stern-to, or even alongside the southern pier at the pool. If you do not land sideways, you will need to use your own anchor, as moorings are mostly reserved for larger boats and ships. The water and electricity supply is flawless, and the local mini-market is well-stocked and open from 07:00–23:00. Transport to the centre is easy and inexpensive, a taxi costing EUR 2–8, and the bus, costing EUR 2, leaves every 30 minutes up to 21:30.

The marina is north of the city and you have to travel there by bus or taxi. I recommend renting motorbikes instead, and taking a trip around the island, the rental place is about 500 m from the marina. Mykonos is famous for its nude beaches and well-known night-time bars. The island is a place where artists, musicians, bohemians, and the cream of Athenian society meet. I recommend visiting a night spot with live music, perhaps Jazz. There are excellent musicians here and the nightclub atmosphere is fantastic.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Windmills on Mykonos Windmills on Mykonos

Syros

From Mykonos harbour, you can head for the island of Syros, to the extremely lovely harbour in Ermoupolis, the administrative centre of the Cyclades that was once the main port for the whole of Greece.

The Phoenicians were the first people to settle on the island. But after the Romans left, the island was left abandoned for a long time, until the Venetians took an interest in it. They founded the capital city Ano Siro at the summit of Mount Ermoupolis, right next to Mount Vrondalo. Between the two hills lies the lower town, whose centre is beautiful and home to the marble-paved square of Plateia Miouli with its huge marble stage at its centre. The square is lined with shaded cafés and grand residences, and dominated by an ostentatious town hall dating back to 1876 which was designed by the German architect Ernst Ziller, who also designed the Greek Presidential Palace. Nearby is the Apollo Theatre, built as the first Greek opera house in 1864. 126 years later, the building was rebuilt in an emulation of the famous La Scala opera house. A few steps from there, you will find the Church of Agios Nikolaos, home to a surprisingly ostentatious iconostasis, which is a wall with orifices in which icons are mounted. In front of the church is the first monument to the unknown soldier dating back to the end of the 19th century. You will receive a truly warm welcome in the out-of-the-way villages such as Chalandriani and Syringa at the north of the island, where only dirt roads lead.

Navigate using the lighthouse on the island of Gaidaros, which is visible from a great distance. The two, similar little villages on the hills above the town are also striking. When sailing in, keep in mind the reef and the Karfomeni shallows located at the northeastern side of the harbour. This spot can be avoided by sailing along the end of the northern breakwater where the water is nice and deep. Anchor bows-to or stern-to at the northeastern side of the harbour, as usual using your own anchor, or land sideways. Make sure that you leave a big enough gap between the boat and the quay due to the frequent waves. There is a new marina at the southern part of the bay which is very calm and well sheltered. However, it offers few services. Although water and electricity connections, showers and toilets are available here, everything has been locked up and has recently been out of order. If you are looking for a shop, set out from the marina to the right and after about 500 m you will come across a good mini-Carefour, where a bus service operates every 20 minutes in the summer to the main harbour.

The church of St Nicholas in Ermoupolis The church of St Nicholas in Ermoupolis

Kythnos and Kea

An especially attractive location for yachtsmen is the little known island of Kythnos. It is arid and virtually unsheltered from winds. Its coastline, however, is extremely rugged and offers countless tranquil bays that beckon to you to take a dip in the sea. Very interesting is Loutra Harbour with a hydropathic institute and also the smaller, picturesque Merikha Harbour with water and electricity.

Loutra is very nice, a small harbour with a well-protected marina, water and electricity. At the southern end of the beach, directly opposite the marina, hot thermal water from a nearby hydropathic institute runs into the sea. Bathing in a small pool of stones where hot thermal water is mixed with sea water is truly amazing. I recommend not bringing too much alcohol here because in the hot water, it can affect your body very quickly. Be sure to dock in the beautiful bay of Ormos Kolona near Merikha Harbour, where the bay is overlooked by a picturesque sandy beach on a narrow isthmus.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Anchoring

You can anchor to the pier in the bays of Livadhi or Vourkari. In Livadhi, landing is from the bow with stern ropes to the pier. The bottom is muddy and grassy, and anchors may not always hold well. Leave space clear for the ferries right behind the pier. This is a good shelter from the ever present Meltemi. You can refill water in Korissi, but in summer the quantity may be limited and rationed. Here, you’ll find a shop and tavern. Vourkari is located in the NE branch of the bay. The bottom slopes downward steeply, so it is preferable to pull in bow first and make sure you have ready enough chain or rope. Also, make sure your anchor is holding well and you are far enough from the shore, as the Meltemi blows right toward the waterfront. Moorings are located on the eastern side of the point, but it is also possible to drop anchor in the bay in front of the pier. At the pier you will find water and electricity, as well as a shop and tavern.

An alternate option is to anchor in the north arm, in front of the coal bunker. There are no underwater cables here, but the anchors may not always hold due to the muddy and seaweed covered bottom.

Kythnos Kythnos

Mys Sounion

Just 22.5 km from Kea Island is a bay beneath Cape Sounion, boasting one of the most romantically situated ancient temples in the whole of Greece. The temple of Poseidon, ruler of the seas, was built in 444 BC, and its 16 slim Doric columns are still standing today. The scenery of the temple is so fascinating that one of its admirers was the renowned romantic poet Lord Byron, who carved his name on one of the pillars.

I recommend visiting the temple at sunrise, while it is still closed to the public. Disembark the boat in the small bay east of the cape and climb the steep slope up to the temple. The first morning rays of sun, descending along the marble columns, down and gradually illuminating the entire temple, create an unforgettable atmosphere. Of course, the temple can also be visited during the day by entering the main gate with many other tourists. From Cape Sounion, it is 20 NM to the Alimnos Marina and 8 NM to the port of Lavrion, where your voyage ends.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Poseidon's Temple on the island of Sounion Poseidon's Temple on the island of Sounion

The island of Nea Kameni, Santorini, is where you will find a shipwreck and some interesting lava formations

Dive near a newly created volcanic island, created after the last eruption in 1956, located in the middle of the sea in an open caldera. Although there is not much underwater life here, the waters are crystal clear, so you can see some very interesting lava formations. The wreck of a 34 m long steel ship lies in harbour at a depth of 13 m and isn’t hard to find. You can even see its outline under the surface on photos in Google Maps.

The island of Glaronisia

The northeast of the island of Glaronisia is a very interesting place to dive. A hole in the island, which divers usually swim through at the end of their dive, creates a fascinating safety break. The island walls here are especially captivating, forming a kind of underwater temple made up of pentagonal rocks. Unfortunately, this location does not have much marine fauna to offer due to overfishing. The maximum depth of the dive is 26 m, the location being more suitable for experienced divers.

Diving in the Ionian Sea Diving in the Ionian Sea

Ios, the wreck of an unknown ship and Petalotis cave

This location, including the remains of a shipwreck with an unknown history, is near the southern entrance to Ios Harbour and identified by the two to three stones protruding from the sea. The bow of the ship rises up 12–13 m from the bottom, while the rest of the remains, including anchor and chain, are scattered around. If you sail 5–10 minutes in a northerly direction, you can see part of the central hull lying on its side and other wreck debris. Petalotis cave is submerged at the tip of the northern entrance to Koumpara Harbour. There is a variety of sea life to be seen at both locations, but be careful of the currents (1-2 KN).

The island of Kea, Ksyla bay

This is a really beautiful dive. A huge number of fish can be usually be seen, and visibility is usually excellent, and you can find a hidden wall and underwater reef. The maximum depth is 30 m. 1.5 km northeast of the island lies the wreck of the HMHS Britannica, the sister ship of the Titanic.

The northeast of the island offers particularly interesting places to fish. The small islands of Gaidaros  and Stroggilo are especially suitable for this purpose, offering an abundance of shallows and caves where many fish gather. The western part of the island is also interesting for fishing—try Galissas, Grammata or Kini bays. When fishing in the Cyclades, watch out for the pufferfish, a poisonous fish introduced into the Mediterranean from the Red Sea. 

Mykonos

There are a lot of octopuses in the Little Venice area. A great place for this is Panormos Bay at the north of the island and the area around the entrance to the bay known as Marmaronisi. It offers crystal clear waters and a fascinating seabed.

Paros

Paros is an amazing area for fishing with a lot of suitable spots. The area from cape Agias Fokas to Gaidouronisi all the way to the north of the island is an interesting area, one example being Naoussa bay. There are many cliffs with caves in this bay offering many types of fish: blackfish, thinlip mullet, common two-banded bream, perch and sea bream.

Naxos

The Apollon and Panormos bays on the east or southeast of the island are perfect for fishing and provide a reliable place to anchor.

Ios

Great fishing grounds are to be found practically all around the island. One of them is located in Plakoto Bay at the north of the island. One of the best places in the area for this purpose is the small island of Psathonisi, about 4.5 km from cape Agios Georgios. Magganari bay at the south of the island offers large shoals of fish and a good, sheltered place to anchor.

Santorini

Because of the great depth and stony bottom, there are not so many fish at Santorini. The best places to fish in the surrounding area are the small islands of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. You will commonly find blackfish and two-banded bream here.

The following map shows a 7-day and 14-day trip around the Cyclades. See spots where to anchor with no problem and interesting places to visit on the islands. For more details about individual routes, click on the icon at the top left corner of the map.

The article is being prepared.

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