Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Ahoy there! If you’re dreaming of sailing in Greece, there are a few things you should know before you hoist those sails and set off on a yacht trip.
With its thousands of islands and islets, Greece is one of the world’s most popular yacht charter destinations. And it’s easy to understand why. The stunning Greek islands are blessed with a rich cultural heritage, crystal-clear waters, the favorable Mediterranean climate, and a wide range of routes — making Greece an ideal playground for those seeking a yacht charter vacation.
We recently returned from a Greece sailing holiday and it was just the perfect summer trip packed with both adventure and relaxation. Our days were spent sailing the indigo sea, stopping for refreshing dips in quiet bays or little coves, while laying in the sun or reading a book, and enjoying the cool breeze on our faces. On the islands, we would go hiking up to spectacular viewpoints, exploring on scooter, and wandering around beautiful little villages eating the freshest seafood and sipping the most delicious wine.
To make the most of your sailing trip, here’s a detailed guide to sailing with Greece, packed with tips and practical insights to ensure smooth sailing and cherished memories.
Sailing in Greece Guide
Where to Sail in Greece?
Greece boasts numerous sailing routes, each offering a unique experience. The Ionian Islands, Cyclades, and the Dodecanese Islands are popular choices. Each area has its own unique characteristics and climate.
The Ionian Sea, located on the western side of Greece, is known for its relatively calm and gentle waters. This makes it an excellent choice for beginner sailors or those who prefer a more relaxed sailing experience. The Ionian Islands, such as Corfu, Zakynthos, Paxos and Kefalonia, are famous for their lush green landscapes, charming villages, and Venetian architecture.
The Cyclades, part of the Aegean Sea, are known for their strong and consistent winds, particularly the Meltemi winds in the summer. This can make sailing more challenging and exciting for experienced sailors. The Cyclades are famous for their iconic white-washed buildings with blue-domed roofs, as seen in Santorini and Mykonos.
The Dodecanese islands, located in the southeastern part of the Aegean Sea, offer excellent sailing condition with warm temperatures and reliable winds. The Meltemi winds are less prevalent compared to the Cyclades. The Dodecanese islands are renowned for their rich historical heritage. Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, is home to one of the most famous historical sites in Greece.
Sailing the Ionian Sea in Greece
We chose to sail the Ionian Sea with Yacht Getaways as we wanted to explore Greece, off the beaten trail. We have been to popular islands like Santorini and Mykonos, and we were curious to see how the Ionian Islands were like.
The Corfu Explorer route turned out to be exactly what we were looking for — it took us away from the crowd to less-visited islands like Paxos and Antipaxos. Every town we stopped at has its unique personality and culture. And for the most parts, it wasn’t even crowded and we got to wander around quaint little fishing villages and taste the most authentic Greek foods without having to jostle the crowd.
Our trip was definitely smooth sailing; we didn’t have any issues on our trip at all. I was never seasick, and nobody on our boat complained about it. But this can change with your route or weather conditions. If you do suffer from sea sickness, be sure to bring sea-sickness bracelets or medications.
Best Time to Sail in Greece
The sailing season in Greece typically spans from April to October. July and August are the busiest months, offering warm weather but crowded ports. I highly suggest sailing Greece in the shoulder season: May, June, September, or October for quieter seas and pleasant weather. It will be less crowded everywhere you go and prices are lower.
The meltemi is a strong, dry wind that can affect sailing conditions, especially in the Aegean Sea. Check weather forecasts daily and be prepared to alter your route or seek shelter if necessary.
We sailed in Greece in the first week of August, the height of summer. Even then, only certain towns were busy during this time of the year (mainly Gaios and Parga). I can’t say the same for other parts of Greece.
How Long to Sail the Greek Islands?
Most chartered Greece sailing holidays last for a week and do a round-trip loop starting/ending at the same island. One week is a good amount to spend on a yacht.
If it’s your first time in Greece, I would recommend setting aside at least 2 weeks in Greece so you can combine a week on land and a week island-hopping around Greece. On this trip we spent five days in Corfu before sailing for a week with Yacht Getaways.
For a basic island-hopping experience exploring a few islands in one region (e.g., Cyclades or Ionian Islands), a 1-2 week sailing trip could be sufficient. If you want to explore multiple island groups or engage in a variety of activities, consider a 2-4 week trip.
Why Do a Yacht Charter Greece Trip?
Without a doubt, chartering a yacht is the best way to explore the various Greek Islands. Greece has thousands of islands, many of which are small and less frequented by tourists. Sailing allows you to reach these remote and less crowded destinations. You get to escape the crowd and have a more authentic experience, visiting smaller fishing villages, dining at local taverns and experiencing Greek island life up close.
Besides, there are countless secret coves and beaches that are only accessible by boat. When you sail on a yacht, you can anchor in secluded coves, swim in private bays, and enjoy intimate moments away from crowded beaches. And when you go on a chartered yacht, you’ll have a skipper and host taking care of everything and all you need to do is kick back and enjoy beautiful Greece.
Different Types of Yacht Charter in Greece
If you decide to charter a boat in Greece you have various options. You can choose a ‘bareboat charter’, that means you won’t have a skipper and you will have to sail yourself, OR you can charter a boat with a skipper and host.
Before exploring all the charter possibilities, it’s wise to decide where in Greece you would like to sail and base your decision on what’s available there. Our trip with Yacht Getaways was on a skippered charter, with a host and skipper to take care of us. It definitely got us interested in sailing and we might just learn to sail our own boat someday!
What It’s Like to Sail in Greece
Our Greece sailing trip was the perfect mix of relaxation and activity. We spent our days sailing the indigo sea, stopping for refreshing dips in quiet bays or little coves, while laying in the sun or reading a book, and enjoying the cool breeze on our faces. On land, we would head out to explore, go hiking or simply lay out on the beach. If you’d like to see what we did on a day-to-day basis, check out our Greece island-hopping itinerary.
Here’s a look at how a typical day while sailing in Greece looks like:
8+am: There’s no set wake up time, we usually emerge from our cabins and have a coffee or take a morning dip in the sea.
9am: Breakfast is served and we’re spoiled with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt and a hot breakfast (eggs and bacon, french toast etc).
10am: It’s time to start sailing. Our group of travelers spread out, some lounge on the upper deck to get a tan, some nap on the trampoliine, and others read a book in the shade.
1pm: We anchor at a swim spot or dock at our destination for the day and our amazing host Lauren serves us a yummy lunch, which is usually Mediterranean-style dishes (oven-baked seabass, chicken souvlaki, shashouka etc).
3pm: Time to explore! We either wander around town, go on short hikes or discover secret beaches. My favorite day was when we hired a moped to drive around Paxos and had the best time exploring empty coves and hiking on coastal trails.
8pm: Dinner in town! We usually have dinner with our travel mates, but sometimes we would enjoy a romantic dinner on our own. Every restaurant we went to was amazing — Greece truly has the best seafood!
10+pm: Get drinks with our travel mates or head back onboard for quiet downtime.
Food in the Greek Islands
For our sailing trip, breakfast and lunch were included onboard the catamaran. We had healthy, delicious Mediterranean-style meals prepared for us everyday. Lunches included a beautiful charcuterie board, oven-baked sea bass, flavorful shakshuka, and peppers stuffed with orzo. Wine and beer were also served during lunch.
Every evening, we had dinner off the boat, in charming taverns and hilltop restaurants with a view. Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines in the world and we seriously had some of the best seafood I’ve ever had on this Greece sailing holiday.
The seafood linguini and shrimp saganaki I had at Taka Taka in Gaios were to die for, we would have eaten there again if we had another night there; the grilled octopus, steamed mussels and squid ink risotto at Restaurant Kohili in Loggos on Paxos Islands also blew my mind. Seriously, Good food is everywhere on the Greek Islands!
Cost of Sailing in Greece
The price for our 1-week Corfu Explorer trip starts from €1,464 (US$1572). It’s not the cheapest sailing tour out there but it’s also reasonably-priced and offers great value. For that, you get to sleep in a luxurious catamaran, sail to 6 different ports, have all your breakfasts, lunches and drinks included. The cheapest departures are at the end of September, which I think is a fantastic time to go sailing in Greece as the summer crowds have gone and prices are lower.
Beyond the sailing trip, Greece is incredibly affordable and offers really great value. You can get a great meal and wine for less than €15 per person. A beachfront hotel might go for less than €100/night during off-season and shoulder season. Day trips on sunset cruises usually cost no more than €80.
Again, it depends on where you’re sailing in Greece; the prices will be higher in more touristy islands like Santorini and Mykonos; but they are so much more reasonable in the less-visited islands. I found it actually cheaper than where we live in Mexico!
Who Do You Sail with?
You can charter an entire yacht for your family and friends, or book a sailing tour like we did and see who you end up sailing with! We were so lucky to sail with a great group of people — there was a fun-loving senior couple from Australia (who always made me laugh!), a solo female traveler from the UK and a Kiwi/Czech couple in their thirties. Everyone was friendly and we all got along.
Meal times involved lots of laughter and conversation, but throughout the day, everyone respected each other’s space. On land, Alberto and I mostly explored on our own and went off to do our thing. But in the evening, we would either have dinner with the group or head off for a romantic meal together. Overall, it was very casual and there was never any stress to stick with the group or do our own thing.
Things to Know Before Sailing in Greece
You Don’t Need Sailing Experience
You don’t need any sailing experience to go on a trip with Yacht Getaways. Our skipper and host take care of everything, we just help out sometimes with getting the fenders overboard, holding the ropes or lowering the anchor. It’s nothing terribly hard or tiring. You can take part in the sailing of the yacht as much or as little as you like.
Sailling is Super Relaxing!
Sailing was actually the most relaxing part of our trip. When we set sail, our group of travelers would spread out, some lounge on the upper deck to get a tan, some nap on the trampoline, and others read a book in the shade. I’m not usually someone who can sit and do nothing, but I easily spent hours just looking out to sea and drifting off to sleep on the open deck.
You’ll Be Sleeping in Tight Quarters
We sailed on a Lagoon 42 catamaran, with the capacity for eight passengers and two crew members. Our catamaran had four double cabins, all with en suite showers and toilets, plus there were two single cabins for the crew. I think it’s the perfect size; anything bigger would be less personal and intimate.
Our cabin was pretty comfortable and decent-sized. We have a double bed with lots of compartments on both sides of the bed and storage underneath. Do try to pack light (carry-on only if you can) because a gigantic suitcase won’t fit in your room! Plug sockets were two-pin European style and there were USB ports for charging devices (with constant power).
How to Get Travel Insurance
Most yacht charter companies require you to have travel insurance before you sail with them. I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance whether you’re sailing in Greece for 1 week or traveling South America for a year. Having travel insurance has helped me through the times when we lost our luggage, our flights got canceled/delayed, and when we had our valuables stolen. You never know what’s going to happen, so it’s always wise to have insurance. Read my guide to getting travel insurance.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
What to Pack for a Greece Sailing Trip
Packing light is key if you’re planning on sailing in Greece. You’ll be spending most of your time in the water, so definitely get lots of sun-proof gear. I recommend bringing sun-proof rashguards that can protect your skin while snorkeling. KEEN footwear or normal sandals are really useful for water activities. If you don’t like getting your sandals wet, you definitely need water shoes as many of the beaches in Greece are pebble beaches studded with sea urchins.
Packing List for a Greece Sailing Trip
Practical Tips for Sailing in Greece
The Ionian Sea is very calm and rarely windy, but the Aegean Sea can get rough sometimes. If you do suffer from sea sickness, be sure to bring sea-sickness bracelets or medications. Stay above deck and keep your eye on the horizon line.
Even though the skipper and host take care of everything, you can help with getting the fenders overboard, holding the ropes or lowering the anchor. In general, you can take part in the sailing of the yacht as much or as little as you like.
There might not be WiFi on oyur boat (it depends on which vessel you’re sailing with),so it’s wise to buy eSIMs from Airalo beforehand so you can have 5G internet on your phone.
Try to pack light (carry-on only if you can) because a gigantic suitcase won’t fit in a yacht cabin.
Use only biodegradable sunscreen (or reef-friendly sunscreen) when sailing in Greece.
Disclaimer: Our trip was hosted by Yacht Getaways, but as always, all opinions expressed above are our own.
Inspired? Pin it!