Sailing in Greece
Greece is the world’s most popular and most attractive yacht charter destination. The country has around 3,000 islands, which is the most in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a lot of different climatic areas and vegetation, and big differences in culture and architecture. Because Greek sailing areas have so much to offer, from numerous islands to cultural heritage to competitive prices, it would take you more than just one sailing trip to explore this marvelous country, regardless you being a beginner or a professional.
The most popular areas for having a sailing holiday in Greece are the Ionian Sea, the Cyclades, the Saronic Gulf, the Dodecanese and the Sporades. The Ionian Sea and the Saronic Gulf are perfect for beginners, whereas the Cyclades are better for professional sailors in spring or autumn, because there can occur strong winds up to 8 Beaufort in summer months. This sailing guide has all the necessary information to make your sailing holiday in Greece as convenient as possible.
Best time to sail in Greece
The sailing season in Greece lasts from April to November, and is similar to other Mediterranean countries. The peak/high season lasts from the last week in June until the middle of September. During this time, you can expect crowded marinas and ports, and many day-tripper motorboats that occupy the majority of port moorings on islands, so be prepared for occasional anchoring. There are many sailing yachts, catamarans, motor boats and gulets with excellent price offers to charter, and you can be sure that the restaurants and shops are always open.
Summer months can be very hot and dry, with a lot of sun and temperatures up to 35 °C around the coast and islands, but not in the Cyclades where the Meltemi winds are constantly blowing for weeks and up to 8 Beaufort in July and August. Ferries are then not allowed to sail, and some charter-companies do not allow boats to leave the harbor.
The best time to sail is in shoulder seasons, in June and from the second week in September. You can enjoy the aftermath of summer and reasonable prices. There are also regional differences in the season due to the size of Greece; for example, summer and shoulder seasons are longer in the south of the Aegean islands where swimming is also possible in December.
Types of sailing/charter possibilities
Decide what Greek islands you would like to visit and rent a desirable boat. Choose a bareboat yacht charter if you are an experienced sailor, or opt for a skippered yacht charter if you want to have more free time on board and feel secure with a professional skipper handling the boat.
Greece has very hot and sunny summers with raised breeze probability, and is less protected from the Azores High. There are more thunderstorms in the inland area and more often in June than in summer. Should you expect a storm, it could be very difficult to find some shelter for protection due to the long distances between the islands, hence we recommend having a skipper on board. It is very important to prepare yourself and regularly check weather forecasts. The exception is the Ionian Sea where the distances are shorter, and the bays and harbors are close to each other. This beautiful area is ideal for sailors-beginners, so one can opt for a bareboat yacht charter.
If you lack sailing experience, or you want a complete vacation with no worries about your boat, charter a skippered boat. Skipper will take full responsibility over the yacht, sailing maneuvers, and itinerary. Hire a domestic skipper because of their specific set of skills and for their knowledge of local islands, customs, ports, restaurants, bays, beaches and all other crucial information for successful sailing holiday.
Step further would be renting a crewed yacht. The crew consists of a professional skipper, host/cook, or/and professional cook. On larger yachts there will also be a deckhand on board to help with all the ropes and mooring operations. The crew can take you on tours on the islands and give you short overview of the history and cultural heritage. If you choose to hire a domestic cook, you will enjoy flawless Greek cuisine merged with the best Greek wines, some of which belong to the best wines in the world.
Gulets are a frequent type of a crewed yacht charter on the Greek coast. A gulet is a charming wooden sailing yacht, and there is a large variety of gulets in the Mediterranean Sea. Most of them have minimum of three or four crew members consisting of a captain, deckhand, host and cook. Gulets are very wide, so you will feel very comfortable while spending time on the sea. Among offered gulets you can find the most luxurious ones with all needed luxury goods on board.
There are also possibilities for day tours, but we recommend to check those on-spot.
Book an organized sail week in Greece
There are various possibilities to book a cabin on a yacht or the whole yacht in Greece. If you do not want to be bothered with all of the organizational procedures, this is the best solution for you. You only need to pay for the trip and show up on the yacht. Once you arrive to marina your yacht will be waiting for you with a professional skipper on board and with all needed equipment. Organized sailing will mean that places in ports and marinas are waiting for you. The same can be applied to restaurants and some other offered activities, resulting in providing extra value for the customers.
Since organized party sailing events have become quite popular in Greece, you can opt for a charter specialized for partying.
Costs of sailing in Greece
Once you decide on the integral thing – a boat – be it newer or seasoned, you can start planning your expenses that vary depending on your desired way of sailing.
Greece generally has relatively low prices in yacht charter industry. In all marinas and ports fees are determined by the length of the yacht. For example, for a ten-meter yacht, you will pay €5.50 to €10/night for a mooring in harbors. You can be sure that the friendly and hard-working marina staff will take care of your boat. If you compare the prices with other countries, it is multiple times cheaper to sail in Greece. It is to say that the infrastructure of harbors and sanitary installations are in generally worse condition than in other countries, and there are less moorings and buoys to anchor/moor your boat. Due to crowded marinas, it is advised to have a good anchor gear with a lot of chain and a good second anchor. You can find a restaurant where you can eat and get a mooring space for your boat beside the restaurant for free.
Almost each marina and harbor have their own grocery shop, but they are more expensive than shops on land. Stock up on groceries at the beginning of your sailing journey. If you have a skipper on board, you will be responsible for their wellbeing – a skipper should be provided with three meals a day. The same applies for a hostess.
After you finish your sailing holiday Greece, it is common to fill up the boat’s fuel tank with a fuel tank truck, which will be organized by the charter company. This is a common process in Greece because there are not many fuel stations near harbors. The fuel prices are higher than in most other South European countries, and the difference between the main coast and the islands can also vary a lot. The fuel prices on the islands are really high, and it is also possible to get fuel diluted with water. If you suspect that the fuel is not brownish red or pale yellow, or that fuel is not yellowish green, please do not tank. A charter base should warn you about fuel quality if you are to sail long distances.
Climate in Greece
The climate in Greece is affected by the Mediterranean, and as mentioned less protected by the Azores High, but this guarantees long summers. The weather is characterized by damp, mild winters, while summers can be very hot and dry. After a long summer period, at the end of October, the weather begins to be more unstable because of the decreasing Azores High, and the mixture of the cold and hot air masses can cause thunderstorms.
The more southern you sail, the more sun you will have. For example, the region of Crete counts 300 sunny days (3,000 sunny hours) a year, and the other islands like Rhodes or Thira (Santorini) have the same values. This value counts among the highest in Europe. The temperatures can reach high levels really fast, but humidity stays around comfortable 50%, and the air is sometimes dry.
The tide differences are practically negligible, which causes relaxed embarkation from ports. The highest values are measured around the coast of Attica (0.7 m).
Winds in Greece
Winds in Greece are known to be very changeable, especially in winter months, where high and low-pressure differences (fields) are dominating. In the months from mid-October to mid-June, the wind is changing the direction and the strength quite often. During summer, a barometer is not a good indicator to predict the weather since it never goes over 10 hPa.
There is also a rule of 3-4 days that means the wind will change its direction from north to south and back every 3-4 days. The most relevant wind is the Meltemi which is dominating from the end of June till the beginning of September. The Meltemi blows up to 8 Beaufort and brings cold and dry air with humidity of 50-70 %, thus making summer temperatures very pleasant. The Meltemi declines in the morning and evening, and reaches its strength during sunny hours. After its decline, it could be possible that the coast gets weak south winds between 1-3 Beaufort. It is useful to set a second anchor then.
Greece can be divided into five wind zones. The winds of each zone are blowing sometimes independently, but not so if the Meltemi gets strong, then you will have similar wind directions more or less everywhere. The Ionian Sea is dominated by northwest winds which start blowing in the late midmornings and decline in the evening. The coast around Peloponnese is dominated by west winds which can reach up to 6 Beaufort, and sometimes south winds (Scirocco) as well. All the other regions near the coast can expect north-dominated winds because of the land masses. Keep in mind there are gusts of winds blowing between and behind isles with high mountains. The differences between the gusts and distant sea winds can be noticeable.
- N = animi vorii
- NE = vorio anatolikos
- E = anatolikos
- SE = notio anatolikos
- S = notios
- SW = notio ditikos
- W = ditikos
- NW = vorio ditikos
How to choose where to go and what to do in Greece?
Without a doubt, the best way to explore and experience Greek coast would be to sail to all of its islands. Each and every of 3,000 Greek islands is more beautiful than the other, and they all have their special charm. The Greek coast can be divided into the Ionian Sea, Epirus, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, the Cyclades, Crete, the Dodecanese, the Aegean Islands, the Sporades, Macedonia, and Thrace. Here you will find an overview of the whole Greek coast and the best ways to sail along it and its islands.
The Ionian Sea is a very popular tourist and sailing area with ancient European cultural influence. Many holiday sailors sail here. Be aware of tough winds at the end of the summer season, with heavy gusts if you pass high mountain islands. The region does not have plenty of marinas, but has numerous picturesque bays and harbors where you can get good traditional food and a wide variety of Greek vines.
If you sail more southward, you will reach the Peloponnese, a peninsula connected with the mainland by the Corinth Canal. It has high mountains, rich history and culture. The Peloponnese is also known for its vineyards and ruins from the oldest cultures of the Greek history. It is also possible to see beautiful bays with clear blue water where you can drop the anchor.
After surrounding the Peloponnesian coast, you can sail southeast to the biggest and sunniest island of Greece – Crete. It is known for beach holidays, but one can also find changing landscapes. Northwards of Crete is the Aegean Sea segmented to the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, and the North Aegean.
The Cyclades are central sailing location and are the most interesting sailing area if you are looking to just sail around and do many miles a day. You will also find many cultural sites, tourist hotspots, scarcely populated islands, or party islands like Mykonos.
The Dodecanese are eastwards of the Cyclades and at the border of Turkey. They are well-known for their tiny bays and ancient cities with fortifications from the Venetian occupation.
On the north, you will find the Sporades that are similar to the Ionian Sea. The nature here is beautiful with conservation areas and a lot of cultural sites and ruins. They are ideal for short sailing trips. Not to mention picturesque beaches with clear blue water.
Marinas where you can moor
KG Med Marinas - a first class Marina association in Greece with four marinas | http://www.medmarinas.com/
- Gouvia Marina (Corfu) – the biggest marina in the association with 1235 berths, has markets, mooring places, electricity, water, stores, cafés, restaurants, petrol station, dry docks, etc.
- Lefkas Marina – 620 Berths, very contemporary for the area, it has everything that a modern marina should have plus a hotel and conference rooms
- Zea Marina, Piraeus – 670 berths, provides high standard services, has a water sports centre
- Kalamata Marina, the Peloponnese – a newly renovated marina with 250 berths
Cleopatra Marina – a newly built private marina with space for one hundred vessels up to 30 meters in length, located in the west of Greece in the Ionian Sea and near the cities of Preveza and Lefkada, good infrastructure, all berths are provided with electricity, water and moorings, a small market and restrooms, easily accessible for people with disabilities | http://www.cleopatra-marina.gr
Flisvos Marina – located near the Port of Piraeus, perfect if you want to charter a megayacht, connected to the city center of Athens, offers yachting services, you can find a shop in the marina | http://www.flisvosmarina.com
Alimos Marina – ideal if you want to start sailing from Athens, the largest marina surrounded by the city where you can find restaurants, café bars, clubs, shops, groceries, rent a car, etc., the marina staff and the staff of charter companies is friendly and engaged to help | http://www.alimos-marina.gr
Marina Agios Kosmas – prominent marinabuilt for the Olympic Games 2004, located on the Attica coast, has a high quality standard with good generators for electricity, private security and 320 berths, well-protected against every wind and waves | https://marinaagioskosmas.com
Marina Lavrion (Olympic Marine) – located on the southernmost point of the Attica coast, the most ideal marina if you want to explore the Cyclades, has a few charter bases, reachable from Athens by car or bus, 690 berths, a very good standard with a dry repair dock, won several prizes and is called the most modern marina in the Med | http://olympicmarine.gr
Marina Agios Nikolaos (Crete) - a small marina with 250 berths on the island of Crete, has moderate prices and offers a good weather protection, suitable for layovers if you are sailing long distances, surrounded by the city of Agios Nikolaos | http://www.marinaofagiosnikolaos.gr
Rhodes Marina (Rhodes Island) - a high standard marina with professional services, charter agencies, shops, restaurants, etc., located on the northeast side of Rhodes Island, won many certifications and has a very good reputation, has good environmental standards (pollution control, electric transport vehicles inside the marina, carbon dioxide collector and storage) and a green flag certification, good starting point to explore the SE Aegean Sea | http://www.rhodesmarinas.com
Kos Marina (Kos Island) - a Blue Flag-certified marina located on the SE end of the harbor of Kos, 250 berths with moorings, water and electricity supply, protected by guards, offers services such as yacht charter companies, brokerage, luxury apartments, shops, boat yard, rent a car, etc., a good starting point to explore the SE Aegean | http://www.kosmarina.gr
Licenses in Greece
According to Greek maritime laws, there have to be at least two persons on board with sailing licenses. That means that the co-skipper has to show the license at the charter company, too. In the case that the co-skipper does not hold a sailing license, but has sailing experience, there is a possibility to sign a so-called “declaration of honour”, which has proven to be a frequent practice in Greece.
Greece accepts nearly every licence of the European countries, but it has to be at least equivalent to a RYA Yacht Master Coastal with a range of 20 nautical miles. After you book your yacht, you have to send your license(s) to a charter company along with details and passports of the whole crew on board, and a confirmation of your nautical history. It is also necessary to have the SRC (short range certification). The LRC (long range certification) will also be accepted.
Radio channels and telephone numbers you might need in Greece
The VHF radio channels are as follows.
The main coastal radio station is Olympia Radio with Hellenic coast guard. If you do not have a VHF radio set, you can call the guards with your mobile phone (dial 108 or 112). You can reach the coastal station Olympia Radio by dialling +30 210 600 1799 with your phone. Olympia radio is constantly listening to channels 2.16 and 70, and transfers emergency calls to the coast guard.
If you want to listen to the forecasts, you can do it with the channels: 1, 2, 4, 23, 25, 27, 60, 69, 82, 83, 85. The broadcasting hours are 9, 13, 19 and 23 o'clock. If you miss the forecasts, you can call the coast stations and get free weather information: (01) 9 69 93 06 or (01) 8 94 06 16.
The number of the police is 100, tourist police 171, ambulance 166, SOS life line 175, the Red Cross 150!
Domestic directory inquiries can be made by calling 11888, while international directory inquiries can be made by calling 139.
You can also find the necessary channels and numbers in boat folders. Check them orderly, and if you do not see them, ask for them at the charter base.
Please never use your phone as a substitute for VHF!