A luxury yacht charter in Greece is the ultimate island-hopping adventure. The chic Cyclades isles of Mykonos and Santorini boast sugar cube villages and attract throngs of well-heeled partygoers, while in the north Aegean Sea, the Sporades have the well-founded monicker of the ‘emeralds of the Aegean’ -and offer exquisite anchorages framed by lush slopes.
The lesser-known but equally magical Saronic islands are conveniently located close to Athens while on the country’s west coast the verdant Ionian islands extend to the southern tip of the Peloponnese with maquis-dotted hills and bright turquoise bays. To the east the Dodecanese unfurl awash with culture and beguiling bays and make an ideal jumping off point for exploring the exotic Turkish coast.
Greece yacht season and weather
Greece has an enviably long season, with blue skies from May to mid-October and summer temperatures averaging 26°C to 30°C. During July and August, the hotspots of Mykonos and Santorini are at their most dazzling and lively. Charter guests in search of a more relaxed vibe should visit in May, September and October, when cruising grounds are quieter and temperatures still delightfully warm.
The two prevailing winds in Greece are the meltemi, which begins in May and reaches its peak around July and August, and the south-easterly sirocco, which is more prevalent during the winter months.
The Cyclades and Aegean islands can experience strong meltemi winds in July and August. Charters in the Aegean are less likely to be affected by the meltemi in May and June and September and October. Though the meltemi blows into the Sporades (usually strongest in August) the islands have good shelter and short hops between islands.
Charters in the Saronic islands and southern Peloponnese are more sheltered from the meltemi. On the west coast, the Ionian islands have predictable wind patterns, making for relaxed cruising. Sheltered from the meltemi, the Ionian can be hot during the peak summer months, as it does not do not benefit from the cooling breezes of the meltemi.
The eastern Mediterranean has a very small tidal range, at one to two feet.
Greece yacht charter itineraries
Athens has several marinas, with Zea Marina accommodating yachts up to 150m. In the Ionian, Lefkas Marina has berths for yachts up to 45 metres and Gouvia Marina in Corfu has berths up to 60 metres. Skiathos Marina accommodates yachts up to 60 metres and Rhodes Marina has moorings for craft up to 120 metres.
The undeniable allure of any Greek charter, however, is the plethora of serene and restful coves, ideal for simply dropping down the hook.
The sheltered islands of the Saronic Gulf, including Poros and unforgettable Hydra, unfurl like stepping stones from Athens, and are sprinkled with Byzantine castles, charming harbours, ancient towns and stunning anchorages.
The Cyclades, considered by many to be the archetypal Greek islands, are home to some of Greece’s top superyacht destinations. Thira (more commonly known as Santorini) is one of the most southerly of the Cyclades, lying approximately 150 nautical miles south-east of Athens, while off-the-beaten track Kea, elegant Syros, and the exclusive Ibiza of Greece, Mykonos, are not to be missed.
Immortalised in Greek legend, the southern peninsula of the Peloponnese lies closer to Athens than much-loved Mykonos, and is a popular haven with Greek royals. Its wild, natural beauty, countless bays and bountiful history combines with lots of outdoor adventure.
Strewn like a necklace of blue-green jewels across the north-western Aegean Sea, the Sporades’ four main inhabited islands of Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros are resplendent with glittering coves ripe for exploration by yacht.
On the west coast of Greece, the seven main islands of the Ionian – Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Meganisi, Ithaca, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos (Zante) – boast some of the best beaches in Greece. Depart from Corfu to Antipaxos (30 nautical miles) and on to Lefkadas (30 nautical miles), the tranquil coves of Meganisi (10 nautical miles), the ancient paradise of Ithaca (10 nautical miles), the pristine shores of Kefalonia (20 nautical miles) and spellbinding Zykynthos (20 nautical miles).
The much-mythologised Dodecanese islands lie a short cruise from the south-west coast of Turkey and are sprinkled with Byzantine churches, ancient ruins, and restful islets. In addition to the hubs of Rhodes and Kos, Leros and Pserimos offer an off-the-beaten-track feel.
Getting to Greece
Commercial and private jets operate at Athens airport, Santorini (Thira) International airport, Skiathos Island airport, Mykonos airport, Corfu International Airport, Rhodes International. For the Dodecanese, Kos Ippokratis Airport and Rhodes International airport are best located.
Typical routes for charters include crossing from the western Med and cruising to the Greek islands from Turkey’s east coast.
Previous regulations that prohibited yachts not in possession of a Greek commercial licence from commencing and ending charters in Greek waters are no longer applicable.
However, in order to operate as a charter vessel in Greece, all yachts must have booked a minimum of 75 days worth of charters over the span of three years. The number of days necessary to qualify as a charter yacht is reduced depending on the age of the vessel.
Credits: Boat International