Sailing Routes and Cruising Areas
Sailing Greece On Crewed Yacht Charter In The Cyclades
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A yacht charter sailing holiday or honeymoon aboard the Crewed Charter Sailing Yacht T.G. Ellyson sailing Greece from Samos in the Eastern Sporades west through the northern Cyclades as far as Serifos and Sifnos before returning through the central and southern Cyclades to terminate in Rhodes, one of Greece's Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey. The word Cyclades, or Kiklades, derives from kiklos or ring, once a ring around the sacred island of Delos, today a ring (view map here) of sun-bleached sugar-cube encrusted islands encircling Paros and Antiparos. The Cyclades have a rich history beginning no later than the fifth millennium with arrival of Carians from the southwest corner of Anatolia, joined in the third millennium by Phoenicians from the Middle East. Thus began the Early Cycladic period. Then came the Minoans of Crete who ruled here a thousand years later. The Minoans were followed by Myceneans, Dorians, Ionians, Persians, Athenians, Macedonians, Rhodians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks before the Cyclades were incorporated into the modern state of Greece circa 1832. All of the islands listed below, Cycladic and otherwise, bear witness to the passing of this history.
Pythagorion, Samos. One hour by air from Athens. One of the larger and historically more significant of Greek islands. Honeymoon locale of Zeus and Hera. Realm of Polycrates. Shipyards at Pythagorion launching swift samainae, warships which dominated the Aegean beginning in the seventh century BC. And wine, wine best consumed from the carafe at a vineyard taverna. See the Temple of Hera. Explore the Eupalinus Tunnel. Imagine a mole or sea wall to a depth of 120' encircling Pythagorion's harbor. These three engineering marvels were described by Herodotus in the fifth century as the three greatest of all Greek works of construction. Beaches left and right of Pythagorion. Pythagoras, by the way, while born here could not abide Polycrates and did his theorizing in Crotone, Italy. Greek cuisine on the beach at Trata Taverna 50 yards beyond the last caique.
Agios Yiorgos, Agathonisi. A16-mile run south of Pythagorion and a 411 BC base for Alcibiades' Athenian fleet besieging Spartan Miletus during the Peloponnesian War. Dine at George's Taverna and the Seagull Taverna, both excellent and both on the beach. Hike hundreds of feet up to the Greek blue and whitewash of Megalo Horio. Idyllic. One of our favorite islands.
Skala, Patmos. Twenty-three miles off and on the wind from Agathonisi, Patmos is the sacred (320 churches for 2700 residents) island to which St. John the Divine was banished from Ephesus by Emperor Domitian in AD 95, and on which he dictated the Apocalypse. From the monastery 500' up surrounded by the old town there are striking views of the island and the northern Dodecanese.
Fourni Bay, Fournoi. Twenty-eight miles into the wind from Pythagorion and way off the tourist track, Fournoi is a calm weather alternative to Agathonisi rarely disturbed by tourists. Other than peace, quiet, and beaches, its principal attribute is fresh seafood.
Thermia, Ikaria. Ten miles west of Fourni Bay and further along the calm weather track. As its name suggests, Thermia is a place of natural hot (90 deg. - 130 deg. F) springs. It is also not far from the NE tip of the island where there is a long white-sand beach fronting ruins of ancient Drakanon. Ikaria is another island famous for its fresh seafood, and another island mostly forgotten by tourism.
Chora, Mykonos. A spirited sixty-six mile close reach from Patmos or an easier forty-eight mile reach from Icaria. Once the destination of many of Europe's jet set and currently a hoi polloi favorite. Shirley Valentine's one-off. A Greek blue and white town with white-washed paving joints under French windows amid clusters of climbing bougainvillea. Innumerable sand beaches. Ancient Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and otherwise populated from the third millennium, five miles distant.
Tinos Town, Tinos. A frequently exciting ten-mile sail across the Mykonos Channel, Tinos is the Island of Our Lady and on 15 August the destination of thousands of Greek Orthodox pilgrims. Because of 500 years of Venetian rule, however, many of the island's inhabitants are Roman Catholic. As for the island itself, it features blinding white sand beaches (adjacent photo) as well as a thirteenth century Venetian fortress of Santa Elena six kilometers from Tinos Town. The fortress is itself partly constructed of ancient blocks from the acropolis at nearby Xombourgo.
Ermoupolis, Syros. An easy sail twelve miles off the wind from Tinos, Ermoupolis is the capital city of the Cyclades and was once the most important seaport in Greece. Not particularly favored by the ferry crowd it is nevertheless summer-home to some of the rich and famous. Wrested by Franks from the Byzantines in 1207, and remaining under Frankish control for the next three hundred years until the coming of the Ottomans, the town, its marble byways, and its neo-classical architecture to considerable degree reflect a Roman Catholic and west European heritage. Souvlaki dining at Michaeli's one block beyond the waterfront.
Livadhi, Serifos. Thirty miles off the wind southwest of Siros, Livadhi is the sparsely populated port for Chora, five kilometers distant. And uphill. Further uphill there are ruins of a 15th Century Venetian fortress. The port itself is situated at the head of a long beach-lined, calm-water, bay frequently populated with daring sea life of barbeque dimensions. Short of your own catch, Stammatis Restaurant on the beach is the best dining alternative.
Vathi, Sifnos. Fifteen miles off the wind southeast of Serifos. And once-more off the beaten track. No ferry access. Difficult road access. Idyllic seclusion. Several tavernas with superior cuisine. Try the octopus salad at O Keanida. Sifnian pottery produced from the island's renowned clay.
Naoussa, Paros. Thirty-three miles on the wind northeast of Sifnos, Naoussa is the prototypical Cycladic town with blue-shuttered white sugar-cubes, whitewashed grouting between paving stones, potted geraniums, clouds of bougainvillea, and fine restaurants. Its waterfront still harbors working caiques with nets piled in front of working ouzeria.
Naxos Town, Naxos. Nine miles west of Naoussa, Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades and the island to which Theseus, slayer of the Minotaur***, sailed from Crete. There he abandoned his wife Ariadne who immediately took up a debauched existence with Dionysus. Somewhat later, in 1210 AD, the island became a duchy of the new Latin empire in Constantinople, thereby helping to sow the seeds of Latin-Orthodox antipathy motivating the Barbarossa brothers among many others, and it was the Latin Duke Marco Sanudo who built the large castle now dominating the town. A great place to rent a motor-bike and travel by-ways, with a must-stop to see the ten meter and 7th Century BC marble statue of Dionysus at Apollonas. In Naxos Town the best dining by far is on the terrace at Taverna Kastro above and looking over the harbor; try the lamb and artichoke hearts in lemon sauce.
Piso Livadhi, Paros. A quick seven miles from Naxos Town, Piso Livadhi is a delightfully laid-back beach village with space for a handful of visiting yachts. In 376 BC Piso Livadhi was a vantage point from which to observe Athenians under Chabrias defeat a Spartan fleet under Pollis in which the 26-year-old Phocion was conspicuous, reversing the outcome of the Peloponnesian War. Phocion was in subsequent years elected general 45 times, a record exceeding that of Pericles. In Piso Livadhi a near-perfect octopus salad may be found among other exquisite dining selections at Kanavos Restaurant by the beach.
Mersini, Skhinoussa. A pleasant Lesser Cyclades island almost tourist-free, Skhinoussa lies fifteen nautical miles SE of Piso Livadhi. A string of sandy beaches on which, and two tavernas in which, to get away from it all. Try the lobster pasta at Taverna Mersini.
Katapola, Amorgos. Seventeen miles off the wind from Mersini and principal port of a large, rugged, island which but for August is not so visited as its more famous neighbors. Good beaches and a remarkable white monastery (Chozoviotissa, depicted above) founded ca AD800 which is embedded into a sheer 600' orange cliff face. Extraordinary. Ruins of neolithic and Hellenistic Minoa immediately above the port.
Ano Pronia, Sikinos. Thirty-six miles across the wind from Amorgos and port for another rugged island attracting fewer visitors than any other of the Cyclades. Clear seawater all around, a striking village on high, local wine, and a curious edifice thought to be either a temple of Apollo or mausoleum for an ancient. Decide for yourself.
Thira/Santorini. Twenty-six miles off the wind from Sikinos. What is there to say that has not already been said. This is where essentially all Greek tourist advertisements originate. Essentially every poster inviting a holiday in Greece depicts Santorini, every televised advertisement. Santorini may be what is left of Atlantis. The Krakatoa of the Mediterranean, with an eruption ten times as devastating. Santorini's tsunami destroyed Crete's Minoan navy, a navy until then and never again exercising power throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Santorini's ash eventually brought an end to Minoan civilization itself. Much of the evidence may be found at Akrotiri on the south side of the island. The volcanic rim remaining from the eruption rises starkly from the sea, the perfect backdrop for photographs Greek blue and white in color. For dining though, it's best to get away from the poster areas; try O Geromanolis in Megalochori.
Anafi. Twenty miles east of Santorini. Anafi is a bleached sand castle with 200 residents. In season. The perfect beach. Eleven on a scale of one to ten. And do not miss the ancient statues in situ at Roman Castelli.
Skala, Astypalaia. A thirty-three mile close reach from Anafi and not yet discovered by tourists. Venetian castle crowning a bleached-white upper town, with many of the sugar cubes sporting Ottoman balconies (for seeing out, not in). Within the castle walls archaeologists have uncovered foundations dating to the 6th Century BC. Fine dining at To Akrogiali on the beach.
Livadhia, Tilos. Fifty-three miles off the wind from Astypalaia. And also off the tourist track. A motorbike island. See the ancient and medieval acropolis above Megalo Khorio. See also the 15th Century Monastery of Ayios Pandeleimon with its splendid views of the sea. Lunch under tamarisk trees at Ayios Andonios' caique harbor.
Rhodes Town. Some believe the Colossus once towered above the smaller of Rhodes Town's three harbors forty miles east of Tilos and one hour by air from Athens. But it's certain this is the port from which Hospitaller knights sallied forth in fast galleys to ravage infidel shipping and coastal towns, until 1523 when the infidels threw them out. The Hospitaller castle remains, however, and is a major attraction as is the old town surrounding it. A variety of cuisine which changes from year to year as restaurateurs retire to Long Island and Philadelphia, but for good food and superior ambience try Taverna Mistagoia in the old town.
***Icarus' fabled escape from Minos' Labyrinth was coincident with the historic flight of Minos' brother Sarpedon. The brother settled in Caria (Anatolia) opposite the Icarian Sea before re-settling in Lycia. See our Lycian Sailing Holiday. Meanwhile the Labyrinth continued home to the Minotaur until arrival of Theseus. See Greek Gods To Know.
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This page last updated on 12/31/2012
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