The nights are drawing in…it might be time to book your 2020 summer sailing holiday!
With less than 100 days to go until Christmas (yes, we did just mention the C word), we couldn’t think of a better time book your 2020 summer getaway. After all, we need something to dream of during those dark winter nights!
Some of the most enjoyable aspects of a sailing holiday are exploring secluded bays, dropping anchor for a lunchtime swim and most importantly (for some) enjoying some sunshine sailing!
So, if you and your crew are looking for some livelier afternoon breezes these are definitely your best options. But, when it comes to deciding which one of these will be the setting for your next sailing adventure, how do you choose?
We thought we would shine some light on the joys of sailing in both the Saronic and the Sporades, in the hope that it helps you choose your next sailing holiday destination!
These islands lie to the south west of Athens and consist of 7 main islands and many other smaller islets. The area effortlessly combines culture, history and stunning coastlines to create an enchanting sailing experience that will not be forgotten!
You really get a sense of the history of this area just from sailing its coast line. If you enjoy delving into the mysteries of the past, you will find plenty to explore here.
The Saronic Islands are home to one of the world’s largest, oldest and most preserved ancient amphitheatres (Ancient Theatre of Epidavros) which is a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth a visit.
Another less well-known spot is Ancient Zarax which is located on the headland outside Iereka Harbour. This was once a large city named after the great Lacedaemonian war hero. The main city walls still look pretty indestructible on the north side. Its history is incredible and far too long to document right here. When we visited, we felt the overwhelming urge to up some of the building blocks back in place again, but we didn’t have a crane with us.
The Saronic’s have a quintessentially Greek atmosphere, meaning that you will have to fight pretty hard to not fall into the laidback nature of these islands.
Each island and even each harbour has its own unique feel, so you will find yourself hopping between bustling waterfront promenades, whitewashed towns huddled on sheer cliffs and remote bays with exquisite sunsets!
Some of the cultural highlights are Hydra, Navplion and Monemvasia (to name just a few).
Hydra is famous for being one of the only Greek Islands which is almost completely free from motorised vehicles. The harbour is an excellent spot for people watching and the winding backstreets are perfect for getting lost in. We find a new hidden gem here every time we visit!
Navplion was the first capital of the newly born Greek state back in the early 1800’s. It has been ruled over by almost everyone you can think of – the Byzantines, Turks, Venetians and Ottoman’s are just a few of the people who have added to the impressive fortifications here.
The Palamidi fortress sits atop a 216 metre hill and was constructed by the Venetians during their (second) occupation. It hosts an impressive view and if you want to enjoy it you are going to have to work for it…there are 913 steps to climb from the town to the fortress. However, a little secret between you and us, you can also take a taxi!
Monemvasia is a place that quite literally takes your breath away! When approaching from the sea it may appear to some, as though it is just a peninsular sticking out to sea. However, when you round the corner in preparation for mooring on the town quay, you will be greeted by the most incredible sight. A Byzantine fortress sits on a plateau of rock around 100 metres above sea level.
Monemvasia is translated to “one entrance” and, there quite literally is, one entrance. The rock used to sit away from the mainland but there has since been a narrow stone causeway built to allow for easier access. Once you have crossed this you will pass through a small archway and find yourself within the fortress walls.
The walled castle remains the only castle in Europe that has never ceased to be inhabited. Although there are only 15 permanent residence here, we wouldn’t be complaining if this was our home!
Last but not least…the sailing (you thought we had forgotten!). As we have already mentioned, the Saronic islands are known for their steady afternoon breezes. What makes this area particularly good for sailing is that during the summer months the Meltemi winds blow. This prevailing wind comes from the North West and tends to sit at a steady force 5.
Due to the land mass of the Peloponnese the sea remains fairly flat, making for some nice relaxed sailing conditions.
The coast down to Monemvasia is beautiful and there are many inlets to enjoy. You may also find yourself doing some slightly longer passages (20 miles-ish) than on our Ionian Flotillas.
This archipelago of islands sits off the East coast of Greece and consists of 24 islands (only four of which are permanently inhabited). The word Sporades can be translated to “those scattered”, and the islands do literally look like they have been scattered by the Greek Gods themselves!
The flotilla sets sail from Evia island, the second largest island in Greece, and although it is not technically part of the Sporades it holds just as much charm as the rest!
You may recognise some of the scenery in this area from the 2008 Mamma Mia movie which was filmed here. Aside from its Hollywood fame this flotilla will explore further off the beaten track than many of the other tourists that visit these islands.
Exploring off the tourist trail
Many of you will know the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, these will be on your flotilla route. There is plenty to see and do and lots of excellent tavernas and bars where you can spend your evenings.
Once you have visited the more well-known places in the Sporades you will get to sail a little further afield. The draw of this flotilla is the nights spent at anchor with an undisturbed view of the night sky!
Once past Skopelos you will sail to Alonissos, Peristeri and Kyra Panayia. These all sit within the National Marine Park of Alonissos meaning that in some areas there are restrictions on mooring and anchoring. However, if you follow the simple guidelines (which you will find in our helpful Harbour Guide), you will be sure to find some stunning bays to anchor in, whilst also managing to preserve the local marine life.
If you have never spent a night at anchor, you are in for a treat. Drop the hook and spend your afternoon making the most of the crystal clear waters.
As the evening draws in, enjoy a sundowner in the cockpit safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to rush to get out for a taverna meal. Then your designated chef can get down to the important business of preparing dinner. We favour pasta when anchored in bays – simple and quick to prepare. Just make sure the cook is refilled with their preference of “chef juice” as often as needed.
Once you have enjoyed your onboard candlelit meal, lie back and enjoy the twinkle of the stars above you and savour the silence around you!
Mamma Mia movie spotting…
It may seem tacky to some and we know that it is an acquired taste but, we can’t help but feel the need to prance through the streets of Skopelos singing ABBA songs (albeit very badly) when we are in the Sporades.
Avid Mamma Mia fans will recognise many of the spots you visit on this flotilla. Skiathos Old Harbour was used in many scenes, including the one where the “three dads” meet for the first time. The cast were also fans of the island, many stayed in various hotels and enjoyed meals in the town (including one of our favourites – The Windmill).
Skopelos is one of the more iconic islands and probably the most memorable from the film. On the east coast, and north of Skopelos Town, is the Chapel of St. John, which fans will recognise from the wedding scene towards the end of the film.
Kastani Beach, on the west coast, is not quite as secluded as the movie suggests. Although the teal waters are just as inviting. You can drop an anchor in the bay and enjoy a swim away from the hustle and bustle of the beach and the bar on shore.
Like the Saronic Islands, the Sporades are blessed with steady afternoon breezes. The prevailing wind in the area is north – north east (the Meltemi), meaning that if you want to find some protected bays then the south of the islands tends to be best. These winds blow in the summer months (July and August) and will usually sit at a Force 5-6.
Between the islands you may find that the wind direction shifts a little but the sailing is just as good! The combination of calm seas and fresh winds makes for exhilarating sailing!