Describing the beauty and mystery of the Greek islands is a job for the poets. From ancient times, the islands have attracted travelers, adventurers, seekers, writers, poets and dreamers. And sailors. The best way to experience the Greek islands is by sea, which lets you travel to popular destinations while avoiding the crowds.
A Sailing Holiday in Greece
The Greek islands are the perfect destination for a sailing holiday. There’s a reason why the Greeks were such famous sailors, with the season from April to September bringing warm temperatures and steady winds. This is the best season to sail to the islands and along the coasts, and you can do this is with a catamaran charter in Greece.
With its shallow draft, a catamaran can sail into small bays and close to the beach. The lightweight craft are easy to handle, and have easy access to the water for sports like swimming, diving, and waterskiing. The roomy design has plenty of space to relax and take in the spectacular views of the seas and island.
The Greek Islands: Where to Go, What to See
Homer’s “wine dark sea” is actually three seas – the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Ionian seas, with thousands of islands scattered across them. The names of the Greek Islands themselves are richly evocative: Mykonos, Crete, Santorini, Rhodes. With six thousand islands to choose from, you may find it difficult to decide where to go. Here are five of the top destinations among the Greek Islands, where you’ll find everything from ancient archeological remains to unspoiled natural beauty. The stunning views of contrasting blue seas and whitewashed villages turn into friendly holiday destinations close up, with food, drink and friendship.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and has a history going back thousands of years. Archeological and historical sites, natural beauty, and amazing seafood are the major attractions. Crete was the home of the Minoan civilization, which flourished there four to five thousand years ago. A visit to the palace of Knossos at Heraklion, which is the capital city, is a must. This is where you’ll see frescos of bull dancers on the walls, which may have given birth to the legends of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. The palaces at Phaistos and Mallia are also associated with the Minoans.
The National Park of Samaria in the White Mountains is another popular destination for visitors, with a hike through the Samaria Gorge leading down to a seaside village. Crete is also a good base from which to explore the surrounding islands.
The island of Rhodes is probably the favorite destination among the Greek islands. A catamaran holiday lets you enjoy the sights and sounds, while avoiding the crowds you would find at the hotels and resorts. Rhodes Old Town and Lindos are the two major historical sites. You’ll find the famous Acropolis at Lindos, beaches with crystal clear blue waters, and a vibrant nightlife in the towns.
Mykonos is historic and cosmopolitan. The capital city is Hora, with glitzy stores, cafes and seventy restaurants. It’s a good place for shopping and people watching, or just soaking up the sun. Historic sites include the church of Panayia Paraportiani, the castle and the town hall. There are museums of Archaeology, Folklore and Maritime history.
To say that Santorini is a popular destination is putting it mildly. Some 1.5 million people visit the island each year, drawn by its history, spectacular scenery and famous beaches. The island’s official name is Thera, and it is part of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea. Thera’s characteristic crescent shape was created when a volcano erupted in the center of the island, thousands of years ago. The caldera or sink created by the eruption, with steep-walled cliffs, is one of the sights of the island.
The volcanic eruption in 1613 B.C. destroyed a Minoan city and the ruins can be seen at Akrotiri, preserved by the volcanic lava and unearthed by archeologists. Fira is the capital and a good base form which to take walking tours. The island is also famous for its vineyards and beaches with multicolored sand at Perivolos, Kamari, Perissa, and Agios Georgio.
Set in the Ionian Sea within sight of the coast of Albania, the island of Corfu has become famous as the onetime home of writers Laurence and Gerald Durrell. Even though it is a popular destination, the unspoiled charm of Corfu shines through. You’ll find sleepy coastal villages with quiet beaches, rugged hills inland, and heavenly seafood in the local tavernas. The island center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and full of traces of its history, with Venetian, English, French and Russian influences mingling with Greek culture.
Take in the unique mansions, the Liston Arcade and Spianada Square, walk the labyrinthine alleyways of Campiello, and drink some of the local kumquat liquor. You might even find love at the Canal d’Amour.
A sailing holiday is the best way to see the Greek Islands. It may be the beginning of a lifelong love affair.