If there was a holiday I could choose over and over again, it would be this one – sailing into the blue blue waters of the Mediterranean sea with the wind on my back and an empty horizon to look out onto.
I was lucky enough to have experienced this not once, but twice, in my life and I am steadily working up to a third. There are no shortages of choices and you need to know a little about the Greek Islands to decide where would suit you best.
The Ionian islands are famous for the forests that come down to the shoreline and the clear blue waters of the sea but also the sheer cliff faces of bays and shingle beaches. Cypress trees and olive groves give these islands an intense green colour often reflected in the waters of the bays below. Beautifully picturesque with architecture reflecting Venetian, French and British influences and their cuisines mixing Italian with Greek tastes to perfection. This is where you find Kefalonia made famous by Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Corfu, where they still play cricket. Lefkada and Paxos and Anti Paxos.
In the Saronic Gulf, as it is called, which is quite close to the mainland, you will find Hydra, one of the first islands to become quite fashionable. Aegina which produces the best pistachios in the Greek world and Spetses attracting some of the jet setters.
The Cyclades are a very popular destination with partygoers who head to the island of Ios, the honeymooners who head to Santorini and the families who go to Naxos. I loved Folegandros, Serifos and Syros, which are lesser known but very beautiful. The Cyclades are cyclical and sit in the middle of the Aegean Sea. They can be popular and crowded and the seas can be challenging, so early in the season or late avoiding the August holidays, is probably best for this area. Island hopping here is perfectly possible as the islands are quite close to one another and there are many ferries and some airports, which can transport you easily and fairly cheaply if you are not sailing the seas. Here, landscapes are often barren and what stands out are the beautiful whitewashed houses on the slopes, the many churches and the picturesque harbours.
Going further east, you have the islands closest to Turkey which display mixed cultures and are generally known as the Dodecanese. The islands of Kos, Rhodes and Kastellorizo are some of the better-known ones from this group of islands.
Crete is the biggest Greek island and is worth a trip on its own.
We decided that we wanted to sail but felt we needed to be expertly guided in this as only one of us had a sailing certificate. Sailing the Greek Islands proved to be perfect for us. Yiannis Stassis was our captain and with him, we planned out our route as well as chartering the right boat.
He took care of all the formalities and steered us safely in and out of the harbours where we spent our evenings exploring the islands and enjoying the good food. The children participated in the sailing, always under his watchful eye and we learnt so much about the history, culture and character of each of the islands. We loved the beaches, the remote coves, the dolphins and Mediterranean seals we came across and the beautiful stones, shells and sea life we came across.
Amazing trip of a lifetime. No better way to see Greece. An experience which will never be forgotten. Fun, Safe and Simply Awesome. Great friendly service and experienced skipper. We're looking forward to going on another holiday with my favorite skipper Yiannis from sailthegreekislands.com