Sailing in the Ionian Sea. On anchor in one of the natural ports in Levkada.

The Sailing or Cruising Areas of Greece

Greece is a sailing paradise. Greece is one of the most visited European countries, but also one of the least known. At a geographical crossroads, the Modern Greek state dates only from 1830, and combines elements of the Balkans, Middle East and Mediterranean. Below you will find very condensed information about the sailing area’s we could cruise. If you want to explore something outside these three areas don’t hesitate to ask us, we might be able to supply!

Map of Greece

Click on the area’s for a brief description and although the possibilities are endless we made some suggestions for possible sailing routes or itineraries.

Sailing the Ionian Islands and the west coast of Greece

Map of the Ionian sea The Ionian Islands are the greenest and most fertile of all the island groups, characterized by olive groves and cypresses. Lying of the west coast of mainland Greece, these islands have been greatly influenced by Western Europe, in part because the Turks never managed to gain control here, except on the island of Lefkada.

Famous as the homeland of homer’s Odysseus, these islands were colonized by the Corinthians in the 8th century BC and flourished as a wealthy trading post. In the 5th century BC Corfu defeated Corinth and joined the Athenians, instigating the Peloponnesian War. The Ionian's first became a holiday destinations during the Roman era. The Islands where not politically linked together until the Byzantine times. They where later occupied by Venetians whose rule began in 1363 and lasted until 1797. After a brief period of French rule the British took over in 1814. The Islands where finally ceded to the Greek state in 1864.

Corfu is a green island offering the diverse attractions of secluded coves, stretches of wild coast, beaches and traditional hill-villages. In 229 BC it became a colony of the Roman Empire, remaining so until AD 337. Byzantine rule then began, intermittently broken by the Goths, the Normans and Angevin rule.

Situated between Italy and the Greek mainland, its strategic importance continued under Venetian rules (1386-1797). French rule (1807-1814) saw the Greek language restored. A period of British rule (1814-1864) was followed by unification with Greece.

Paxos is green and wooded, with a few farming and fishing villages. The thick groves of olive trees are still a mayor part of the islands economy. In mythology Poseidon created Paxos for his mistress, and its small size has saved it from a turbulent history of its larger neighbors. Paxos became part of the Greek state along with the other Ionian's in 1864. Around 100 people life on Antipaxos, south of Paxos. The island produces a potent and good quality wine and has beautiful "swimming pool" beaches with almost white sand.

Lefkada offers variety, from mountain villages to beach resorts. It has had a turbulent history, typical for the Ionian Islands, since the Corinthians took control of the island from the Akarnanians in 640 BC right up until the British left the Island in 1864. Close to Lefkada lies the Island Meganisi that has retained its rural lifestyle.

Small and rugged, Ithaca is famous, according to Homer’s epic the Odyssey, as the home of Odysseus. Archaeological finds on Ithaca date back as far as 4000-3000 BC. And by Mycenaean times it had developed into the capital of a kingdom that included its larger neighbor, Kefallonia.

The old fortress in Corfu. Quit anchorage around Ithaka. Quit anchorage around Ithaka.

In Mycenaean times Kefalonia flourished and it remained Greek until the 2nd century BC when it was captured by the Romans. It was squabbled over by many powers but from 1500 to 1700 it shared the Ionian's history of Venetian occupation. Keffalonias attractions range from busy beach resorts to Mount Ainos National park, which surrounds the Ionian's highest peak.

The most southern island of the Ionian is Zakinthos, if we don’t take in account Kithira ( Kithira is described under the Argo Saronic Islands but fell under Ionian ruling in the past). Zakinthos was inhabited by Achaians until Athens took control in the 5th century BC. They were followed by a succession of rulers, including the Spartans, Macedonians, Romans and Byzantines. The Venetians ruled from 1484 until 1797 and Zakinthos finally joined the rest of Greece in 1864. An attractive and green island, there are mountain villages, monasteries, fertile plains and beautiful views that reward exploration.

Parga is the main beach resort on the Westside of the Greek mainland; it is a busy holiday town whose charms are overwhelming. The Venetian fortress is dominating the town; yachts have to anchor in a nice bay with a sandy beach or dock in a small fishing harbor. There are small taxi-boats who pick you up from your yacht and bring you to the town center.

Often seen as a transit point, the charming town of Preveza repays a longer visit, particularly for the lively atmosphere among its waterfront cafes and tavernas. It is picturesquely situated on the Northern shore of the narrow channel of Cleopatra, at the mouth of the Amvrakikos Gulf.

Check our proposed itineraries for suggested sailing routes on the Ionian Sea or go top the top of this page for the map of Greece.

Sailing the Argo-Saronic and the eastside of the Peloponnese

Map of the Argo-Saronic gulf.The Argo-Saronic islands location close to Athens has given them a rich history. Aegina was very prosperous in the 7th century BC as a maritime state that minted its own coins and built the magnificent temple of Aphaia. Salamina is famed for the battle of Salamina's (480 BC) when the Greek fleet defeated the Persians. Wealth gained from maritime trading also assured the Argo-Saronic's cultural and social development.

Only 15 Nm southwest from the port of Piraeus is Aegina the second largest Island of the Argo-Saronic (Salamina's is the biggest). This island has been inhabited for over 4000 years and remained an important settlement throughout that time. According to Greek mythology, the islands name was changed from Oinoni to Aegina, who was the daughter of the river god Asopos, after Zeus installed her on the island as his mistress. By the 7th century BC Aegina played an important role in foreign trade and in this period it introduced the first European silver coin. After Athenian rule the Turks and Venetians ruled the island. In 1828 it enjoyed little fame when it was declared the first capital of modern Greece. The most famous archaeological site is the well preserved Temple of Aphaia, build in 490 BC prior to Athenian control.

Close to Aegina are Moni and Agistri. Moni is popular for its emerald green waters, secluded coves and hidden caves. It now is a wildlife sanctuary and it is not inhabited. Agistri is a small traditional island with a mixed community of foreigners (who bought a lot of houses) farmers and fishermen.

Poros takes it’s name from the 400 meter passage (poros) separating it from the mainland at Galatas. Poros is in fact two islands, joined by a causeway: Kalavria to the North and the smaller volcanic islet of Sfairia in the South over which Poros town is build. In spite of much tourist development, the town is an appealing place.

A long narrow mass of barren rock, Hydra had little history before the 16th century when it was settled by Orthodox Albanians, who turned to the sea for living. Hydra town was build in the late 18th and early 19th century when there was a brief period of prosperity. Hydra was rediscovered by the tourists after World War II. By the 1960s, the island was run by outsiders who restored the old houses and transformed it into one of the most exclusive resorts in Greece. The island has retained its charm, thanks to strict architectural preservation orders along with a ban on motor vehicles.

Spetses is a corruption of Pityoussa, or "Piney", the ancient name for this round green island. Occupied by the Venetians in 1220, by the Turks in 1460, and then by the Albanians during the 16th century, the island developed as a naval power and developed a fleet for the Greek revolutionary effort. Possibly the most famous Spetsiot was Laskarina Bouboulina, the admiral who menaced the Turks from her flagship Agamemnon and reputedly seduced men at gunpoint. In the 1920 and 1930 it was a fashionable resort for expatriates and anglophile Greeks. And although there is a ban on vehicles mopeds and busses can be found on the island.

Poros town. A nice overview of Hydra. A nice overview of Hydra.

Called Tserigo by the Venetians, Kythira is one of the legendary birthplaces of Aphrodite. Historically, the island shared Venetian and British rule with the Ionian Islands; today it is governed from Piraeus with the other Argo-Saronic's. The island is popular with Athenians seeking unspoiled beaches and holiday homes, many of which are the typical mix of Aegean and Venetian architecture.

Though most renowned for its magnificent theatre, the sanctuary of Epidavros was an extensive therapeutic and religious center, dedicated to the healing god Asklepios. This sanctuary was active from the 6th century BC until the 2nd century AD, when traveler-historian Pausasnias recorded a visit. During the summer months the theatre is used for ancient and modern performances.

With its marble pavements, looming castles and remarkably homogenous architecture, Nafplio is the most elegant town in mainland Greece. It emerged from obscurity in the 13th century and endured many sieges during the struggles between Venice and Turkey for the ports of the Peloponnese. The medieval quarter, to the west, is mostly a product of the second Venetian occupation (1686-1715). From 1829 until 1834, the town was the first capital of liberated Greece.

To the north of Nafplio lies the fortified palace complex of Mycenae, uncovered by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1874, is one of the earliest examples of sophisticated citadel architecture. The term "Mycenaean", more properly late Bronze Age, applied to an entire culture spanning the years 1700-1100 BC. The palace was abandoned in 1100 BC after a period of great disruption in the region.

A fortified town build on two levels on a rock rearing 350m above the sea, Monemvasia well deserves the nickname "the Gibraltar of Greece". A town of 50000 in its 5th century prime, Monemvasia enjoyed centuries of existence as a semi-autonomous city state, living of the commercial acumen (and occasionally piracy) of its fleets and its strategic position astride the sea lanes from Italy to the Black sea. Exceptionally well defended, it was never taken by force but fell only trough protracted siege. Though the upper town is in ruins, most of the lower town is restored.

Check our proposed itineraries for suggested sailing routes true the Argo-Saronic Islands or go top the top of this page for the map of Greece.

Sailing the Cyclades

Map of the Cyclades.Deriving their name from the word "kyklos", meaning circle, because they surround the sacred island of Delos, the Cyclades are the most visited islands of Greece. The islands where the cradle of the Cycladic civilization (3000-1000 BC). The early Cycladic culture developed in the Bronze Age and has inspired artists ever since with its white marble figures.

The Minoan's from Crete colonized the island during the middle Cycladic era, making Akrotiri on Santorini a major trading place. During the late Cycladic period the Mycenaeans dominated, and Delos became their religion capital. The Dorians invaded the islands in the 11th century BC, a calamity that marked the start of the Dark Ages. There are 56 islands in the group, 24 inhabited, some tiny and undisturbed, others famous holiday play grounds. Most of the Cyclades are rocky and arid, with the exception of wooded and lush-valleyed Andros, Kea and Naxos.

The northern most of the Cyclades, Andros is lush and green in the south and barren in the North. The fields are divided by distinctive dry-stone walls. The island was first colonized by the Ionian's in 1000 BC. In the 5th century BC, Andros sided with Sparta during the Peloponnesian war. After Venetian rule, the Turks took power in 1566 until the War of Independence.

A craggy yet green island, Tino s was first settled by Ionian's in Archaic times. In the 4th century BC it became known for its sanctuary of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Under Venetian rule from medieval times, Tinos became the Ottoman empires last conquest in 1715. Tinos has over 800 chapels, and in the 1960s the military Junta declared it a holy island. Many Greek Orthodox pilgrims come to the church of Panagia Evangelistria in Tinos town.

Although Mykonos is dry and barren, its sandy beaches and dynamic nightlife make this island one of the most popular of the Cyclades. Under Venetian rule from 1207, the islanders later set up the Community of Mykonians in 1615 and flourished as a self sufficient society. Visited by intellectuals in the early days of tourism, today Mykonos thrives on its reputation as the glitziest island in Greece.

Mykonos town. Windmills from the Venetian rule on Mykonos. Windmills from the Venetian rule on Mykonos.

Tiny, uninhabited Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. According to legend Leto gave birth to Artemis and Apollo here. The Ionian's arrived in about 1000 BC, bringing the worship of Apollo and founding the annual Delio Festival, during which games and music were played in his honor. By 700 BC, Delos was a major religious center. First a place of pilgrimage, it later became a thriving commercial port particularly in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BS. It is now an open air archaeological museum with mosaics and marble ruins covered in wild flowers in spring.

Rocky Syros, or Syra, is the commercial, administrative and cultural center of the Cyclades. Archaeological digs have revealed finds of the Cycladic civilization dating from 2800 to 1300 BC. The inhabitants converted to Catholicism under the French Capuchins in the Middle Ages. The 19th century saw Syros become a wealthy and powerful port of the eastern Mediterranean. Though Syros does not live of tourism, more visitors arrive each year attracted by its traditional charm.

Kythnos attracts more Greek visitors then foreign tourists, although is a popular anchorage for yachts. Its dramatic, rugged interior and the sparsity of visitors make it an ideal location for walkers. The local clay was traditionally used for pottery and ceramics but is also used to make the red roofing tiles that characterize all the islands villages. Known locally as Thermia because of the islands hot springs, Kythnos attracts visitors to the thermal spa at Loutra. Since the closure of the iron mines in the 1940’s the islanders have lived off fishing, farming and basket weaving.

In mythology, the infant Perseus and his mother Danae were washed up on the shores of Serifos, know as "the barren one". Once rich in iron and copper mines, the island has bare hills with small fertile valleys, and long sandy beaches.

The town Naousa on Paros, small streets and fine tavernas. Small streets in typical Cyclades towns where designed to confuse the pirates. Small streets in typical Cyclades towns where designed to confuse the pirates.

Famous for its pottery, poets and chefs, Sifnos has become the most popular destination in the Western Cyclades. Visitors in their thousands flock the island in the summer lured by its charming villages, terraced countryside dotted with ancient towers, Venetian dovecotes and long sandy beaches. In ancient times Sifnos was renowned for its gold mines. The islanders paid yearly homage to the Delphic sanctuary of Apollo with a solid golden egg. One year they cheated and send a gilded rock instead, insuring Apollo’s curse. The gold mines where flooded, the island ruined and from then on was known as sifnos, meaning empty!

Paros is the third largest Cycladic Island. Since antiquity it has been famous for its white marble, which ensured the island’s prosperity from the early Cycladic age through to Roman times. In the 13th century Paros was ruled by the Venetian Dukes of Naxos, the by the Turks from 1537 until the Greek Was of Independence. Paros is the hub of the Cycladic ferry system and is busy in high season. Buffeted by strong winds in July and August it is a wind surfer’s paradise. There are several resorts but it retains its charm with hill-villages, vineyards and olive groves. The island Antiparos used to be joined to paros by a causeway. These days a ferry does the job. Activity on Antiparos centers around the Venetian kastro area. The kastro is a good example of the 15th century fortress town, designed with inner courtyards and narrow streets to impede pirate attacks.

The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos was first settled in 3000 BC. A major center of the Cycladic civilization, it was one of the first islands to use marble. Naxos fell to the Venetians in 1207, and numerous fortified towers where build, still evident across the island today. Its landscape is rich with citrus orchards and olive groves, and it is famous in myth as the place where Theseus abandoned the Cretan princess Ariadne.

Dramatically rugged the small island of Amorgos is narrow and long with a few beaches. Inhabited from as early as 3300 BC, its peak was during the Cycladic civilization when there where three cities. Minoa, Arkensini and Egiali.; In 1885 a find of ceramics and marble was taken to the archaeological museum of Athens. Star attraction of the island is the spectacular Byzantine Moni Panagias Chozoviotissas, below the chora on the east coast. The stark white monastery clings to the 180m cliffs. It’s a huge fortress build into the rock, housing the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.

Houses on the seaside on Sifnos. Beautiful Anafi. Beautiful Anafi.

Volcanic Milos is the most dramatic of the Cycladic with its extraordinary rock formations, hot springs and white villages perched on multi-colored cliffs. Under the Mionians and Mycenaeans the island became rich from trading in obsidian. The Athenians brutally captured and colonized Milos in the 4th century BC. Festooned by pirates, the island was ruled by the Crispi dynasty during the Middle Ages and was claimed by the Turks in 1580. Minerals are now the main source of the islands wealth, although tourism is growing.

Blake and arid, Folegandros is one of the smallest inhabited islands of the Cyclades. It aptly takes its name from the Phoenician for rocky. Traditionally a place of exile, this remote island passed quietly under the Aegean ’s various rulers, suffering only from the pirate attack. Popular with photographers and artists for its sheer cliffs, terraced fields and striking Chora, it can be busy in peak season, but is still a good place with a wild beauty and unspoiled beaches.

In ancient times Ios was covered with oak woods, later used for shipbuilding. The Ionian's built cities at the port of Gialos and at Ios town, later to be used as Venetian strongholds. Ios is also known as the burial place of Homer, and 15 may is the Omiria, or Homer festival. A local specialty is its cheese, myzithra, similar to soft cream cheese. Ios is renowned for its nightlife and as a result is a magnet for the young. However, it remains a beautiful island. Its mountainous coastline has over 400 chapels and some of the finest sands in the Cyclades.

Colonized by the Minoan's in 3000 BC, this volcanic island erupted in 1450 BC, forming Santorini’s crescent shape. The island is widely believed to be a candidate for the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Named Thira by the Dorians when they settled there in the 8th century BC, it was renamed Santorini, after St. Irene, by the Venetians who conquered the island in the 13th century. Despite tourism, Santorini remains a stunning island with white villages clinging to volcanic cliffs above black sand beaches.

Check our proposed itineraries for suggested sailing routes true the Cyclades or go top the top of this page for the map of Greece.

Sailing the Gulf of Patras and the Gulf of Corinth

Map of the Gulf of Patras and CorinthosThe Northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth contains several well known resorts as well as many tiny coastal villages far removed from the usual tourist route.

Ancient Corinth derived its prosperity from its position on a narrow isthmus between the Saronic and Corinthian gulfs. Transporting goods across this isthmus, even before the canal was build, provided the shortest route from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Adriatic and Italy. Founded in the Neolithic times, the town was razed in 146 BC by the Romans, who rebuilt it a century later. Attaining a population of 750000 under the patronage of the emperors, the town gained a reputation for licentious living witch St Paul attacked when he came here in AD 52. Excavations have revealed the vast extend of the city, destroyed by earthquakes in Byzantine times. The ruins constitute the largest Roman township in Greece.

Stormy cape Matapan, or Tainaro the southernmost point of the Peloponnese, was one of the most dreaded capes of antiquity; rather then risk sailing around it boats would be unloaded on one shore of this isthmus dragged the 6km across on the diolkos (paves shipway), and re-floated. The traffic enriched Corinth and inspired plans for a canal. Emperor Nero began construction of the Corinth Canal, but the project was only completed between 1882 and 1893. The 23 meter wide canal is obsolete in an age of giant container ships which easily weather the cape, but small freighters squeezing trough are regularly seen.

The church of Agios Nakolaos stands prominently on the hill surrounded by the old stone buildings of Galaxidhi. The history of the town is told in the nautical museum while the 19th century mansions at the waterfront are reminders of the great wealth brought by the town’s shipbuilding industry. Though the industry cleared the region of trees, a reforestation scheme begun earlier this century has successfully restored the area to its former beauty.

According to legend, when Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world their paths crossed in the sky above Delphi, establishing the site as the center of the earth. Renowned as a dwelling place of Apollo, from the end of the 8th century BC individuals from all over the ancient world visited Delphi to consult the god of the course of action to take, both in public and private life. With the political rise of Delphi in the 6th century BC and the reorganization of the Pythian Games, the sanctuary entered a golden age with lasted until the Romans game in 191 BC. The oracle was abolished in 393 with the Christianization of the Byzantine Empire under Theodosius.

Ancient momuments in Delphi. The port of Galaxidi, a good place from where you can visit Delphi. Ancient momuments in Delphi.

The land around the island of Trizonia is green and lush, mostly vineyards and olives. The small fishing hamlet has mot changed much over the years. Sitting around in the square overlooking the small harbor you’l easily lose and evening.

The next major town is Nafpaktos. Though perhaps less attractive than Galaxidhi, it still possesses plenty of charm and character. A Venetian fortress stands above the town, its ramparts running down as far as the beach, almost enclosing the harbor.

Greece third largest city and second port Patra is no beauty. Tower blocks dominate the few elegantly arcaded streets of this planned Neo Classical town. Where Patra excels is in its celebration of carnival. On the ancient acropolis the originally Byzantine Kastro bears marks of every subsequent era. The vast bailey, filled with gardens and orchards, often host public events, as does the nearby brick Roman odeion. At the southwest edge of town, mock-Byzantine basilica of Agios Andreas stands where St. Andrew was supposedly martyred, and houses his skull and a fragment of his cross.

Check our proposed itinerary for suggested sailing routes true The Gulf of Patras and the Gulf of Corinth or go top the top of this page for the map of Greece.

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