Written by Missy Johnston
Join your yacht in Athens, unpack and relax as you begin your cruise to Kea, a 40-mile steam. The exceptionally picturesque island of Kea lies 15 miles from the southeast coast of Attica. The mountain masses that are encountered in most of the Cyclades are broken up by small valleys sparsely planted with vines and fruit-trees and run right down to the sea, opening out into pretty little bays. Visit one of the island’s peaceful beaches at Pisses, Korissia, and Koundouros. Cruise to the western side of the island into Agios Nikolaos Bay and deep within it to the port of Korissia, which is considered to be one of the safest natural harbors in the Mediterranean.
Cruise to Tinos, the “Holy Island of the Cyclades.” The island is the site of the Church of Evangelistria, which houses an icon of the Annunciation that draws thousands of Orthodox Christians on the feast day of August 15th. There are plenty of good beaches, too, notably at Agios Fokas near the town, Kionia, Porto, Panormos Bay, Kolimbithra, Agios Sostis and Pahia Amos. The lunar-type landscape at the spot known as ‘Volax’, with its peculiar boulders, is extremely unique and well worth a visit. No one should leave the island without having purchased, or at least tasted, high-grade cheeses like “Kopanisti” and “Mitzithra”, which are made locally.
One of the most cosmopolitan of all the Greek islands, Mykonos, has an international reputation and quite justifiably attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. The capital Chora, with its colorful harbor in which little fishing boats nest happily side by side with luxury yachts, presents quite a different picture from that of the majority of Aegean island towns. One of the most charming districts of Chora is Little Venice with the picturesque houses of the island’s sea captains, built right on the rocks lashed on by the sea. The mascot of the Island is a Pelican, called Petros, which can be seen trying to bite tourists at the port.
Delos was the religious capital of the Ionians in 1,000 BC. Greek mythology recounts how Leto, one of Zeus’s lovers, gave birth to Apollo on Delos, god of physical beauty and the fine arts. By 454 BC the Athenians had overtaken the Ionians, forcing Delos to pay taxes and provide ships to Athens. Delos’ greatest period was in the third to fourth century BC, when the tiny island had a population of 20,000 and was the chief financial center and slave market in the Mediterranean. Foreigners from Rome, Syria and Egypt built homes and coexisted tolerantly, despite the variety of religious beliefs.
Visit the excavated ruins, such as the Avenue of the Lions, the theater, and many one and two-story houses with mosaic floors, like the House of the Trident. A flight of steps ascends the island’s summit, Mt. Kynthos, the birthplace of Apollo. As a visitor you can admire most of these finds wandering around Delos sanctum and visiting the island’s archaeological museum.
Paros is the third largest of the Cyclades after Naxos and Andros and has developed into an important center of tourism in recent years. Gently rolling hills surround the center and southeast of the island, which is occupied by endless vineyards. The Monastery of Katapyliani is located in a wooded park just up the road from the harbor. Paros is the third largest of the Cyclades up the road from the harbor. Its name means “Church of a Hundred Gates” and is one of the most important Christian monument in Greece. Paroikia (or Paros), the island’s capital and port, stands on the site of an ancient city. There is a picturesque and ruinous Venetian castle and the courtyards of the houses of the town – all of them painted white – are full of hanging pots of basil, jasmine and honeysuckle. Among the beaches near Naoussa, take special note of Kolibithres where huge rocks are eroded into strange shapes that appear to be sculptures embedded in the sand. Anchor off Langeri, a secluded sandy beach, or Drios beach.
Ios, which is locally called Nios, is an island whose history goes back to prehistoric times. According to Herodotus, the “poet of poet’s”, the ‘godlike’ Homer was buried at Plakotos, on the northern end of the island. Pausanias tells us that there was an inscription at Delphi confirming the poet’s internment on Ios. The sites of Ios include a Hellenistic tower, the remains of an ancient aqueduct at Agia Theodoti, traces of an ancient temple at Psathi, the ruins of a Venetian castle at the spot known as Paleokastro, and the Hellenistic tower of Plakotos. Exploring Chora means, first of all, walking. Set off from your yacht in the cool of morning, wear your most comfortable shoes and get ready to set off. One hour is enough for the ones who just want to have a look at this whitewashed village, perched on the slope of the hill between the port and Mylopotas. The more demanding ones will need the whole morning to discover the hidden beauty of Chora.
This island has superb beaches. Anchor off the long sandy beach of Kalamos, a natural reserve on the eastern coast of the island. It is usually very quiet and very often one has the chance to enjoy it alone. is Papa Beach, and only a short distance away is Manganari Beach. These are four of the most beautiful beaches in the Aegean.
As you approach Santorini, it’s easy to imagine the cataclysm that gave birth to this astonishing Greek Island that has become such a popular tourist destination as your yacht edges between bare islands of volcanic rock and the crescent shaped remains of the volcano. Santorini, with its sheer black cliffs rising 200 meters out of the sea, actually consists of three islands: Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi. Between Skala (the main port), at the base of the cliff, and Thera (the main town), a narrow path has been etched into the cliff-face in a series of zigzags. To the left of the path there are the prosaic lines of a cable car, the first hint of the island’s connection with the twentieth century and tourism. There are three ways to get from Skala to Thera – mule, foot or cable car. The most popular, is by mule. Besides the interesting architecture of the houses in Thera, it is worth visiting the two cathedrals (the Orthodox and the Catholic) and the Monastery of the Dominican nuns. The Catholic monastery of Panagia of Rodari, which was built in the area of Skaros where the medieval capital of the island used to lie surrounded by a strong fortress on the edge of a steep hill, and the Venetian building Gizi are worth a visit. From the gulf of Thera boats can take you to Nea Kammeni. There you can see the volcano’s crater where hot air and sulphuric steam still rise. Very little ashore is shaded, and you will want sturdy walking shoes, sun screen, and plenty of water. Hot springs exist at the nearby Palia Kammeni where the sea is bright blue.
Sifnos is a mountainous island with fertile valleys, beautiful beaches and several towns. It has a long history and has been inhabited since 3000 BC. Apollonia is the capital of Sifnos and is actually a collection of villages of which Apollonia is one. The inhabitants of this island were considered wealthy in ancient times, due to the gold and silver mines, and Sifnos stone quarries, with great prosperity enjoyed in Classical Times, as can be seen from the Treasury, dedicated to Apollo, built at Delphi. Kasto, (3 km from Apollonia), the capital of Sifnos from the 14th to the 19th centuries, retains a medieval character. Built on a rocky outcrop with an almost sheer drop to the sea on three sides, there are Venetian coats of arms and ancient wall fragments in some of the older dwellings. There is also a small archaeological museum, with exhibits of a collection of ceramics from the Archaic and Hellenistic time periods to the Byzantine era. The beaches around the island are clean and attractive including Platygialos, a large sheltered beach, Vathi, one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece with fine sand, and Apolkofto, a sandy beach with a rocky shelf near Chrysopigi. Heronissos, a traditional fishing village situation on the north side of the island, is well known for the production of handmade ceramics.
Cruise to Serifos, where the white, sugar-cube houses of the main town ringing the port reflect the typical architecture of the Cycladic Islands. Consider visiting the fortress-like monastery Moni Taxiarchon, which is near the village of Galani, housing wall paintings and important manuscripts. Legend states that Perseus, the mythological hero that killed the Medusa, with a woman’s face and live serpents for hair, was born on this island. Serifos is mainly known for having terrific beaches such as the beach of Psilli Ammos, which has the softest whitest sand. Other small villages around the island also have fine beaches to visit, such as the villages of Platis Gialos and Koutalas.
In the afternoon cruise to Kithnos, named after the king of the first known settlers of this island, the Dryopians. On the northeastern side of the island is Loutra, an area of thermal springs said to have curative properties. Messaria is the main village on the island and is noted for the beautiful churches with fine wood carved sanctuary screens and icons. In little island shops you can find textiles woven with vivid colors into beautiful designs, shells, leather goods, and hand carved wooden souvenirs.
In the morning, it is a 50 nm steam back to Athens to disembark.