Greece offers almost 6,000 islands and islets to explore on a luxury superyacht charter and, as only 227 of these are inhabited, many of these islands and their beautiful beaches are accessible only by boat. Greece presents visitors with endless possibilities and truly has something for everyone. Explore cosmopolitan towns, famous yachting hotspots, take in the ancient history, and relax in the secluded bays and islets of the five main island groups, all unique in their beauty and charm.
The Cyclades are scattered across the Aegean Sea to the southeast of Greece’s mainland. The 220 islands of the Cyclades form the most popular cruising area in Greece. Within easy reach of Athens, the archipelago is renowned for white-washed, cuboid houses that tumble-down hillsides to meet glittering azure waters. Itineraries can encompass busy yachting hotspots such as Mykonos, Santorini, Paros and Naxos, as well as more peaceful options. The best time to charter a yacht in the Cyclades is from June through to mid-July, as the waters are often subject to strong winds at other times of the year.
For stylish shopping, don’t miss the tailor-made espadrilles and handmade kaftans in Ergon in Mykonos Town. Just around the corner, new concept store Dew sells stylish beachwear by local designers. Book an entire tiki hut at SantAnna, the latest club on Paraga Beach in Mykonos. Guests recline on daybeds, rockers and hammocks that float over the largest saltwater swimming pool in Europe.
In this island group in the south-eastern Aegean you can see the result of a culture shaped by Byzantines, Italians, Greeks, Romans, even medieval crusading knights, and it was here at the World Heritage Site of Patmos, where St John wrote the bible’s Book of Revelation over 2000 years ago. The Dodecanese is the embodiment of the Greek Islands of our imagination – secluded coves, charming villages, history-steeped ruins, welcoming tavernas and, of course, the impossibly blue Aegean Sea, make Greece’s most southerly isles a perfect cruising destination.
“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, celebrated Greek writer and philosopher, and we daresay on your Greek charter holiday you’ll find he had a point. These stunning islands in the South Aegean are the most popular and well known of all of Greece’s island groups. Each island has its own magnetism and charm, but wherever you drop anchor you’re guaranteed to find peaceful pearl-white villages with flashes of colour, endless views of blue seas, all-day sunshine, stunning landscapes and friendly locals – not to mention delicious cuisine. The name ‘Cyclades’ means ‘encircling islands’, and these islands are so named because they form a rough circle around the sacred island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Artemis and her twin brother Apollo, which is crammed with ancient treasures.
These islands strung out along the west coast of mainland Greece still bear the marks of centuries of Venetian occupation in the Italianate style of housing and the local cuisine, giving them a slightly different feel to their eastern counterparts. It is also the ultimate destination in Homer’s Odyssey, and once here it’s easy to see why the Greek hero spent 10 years trying to reach his island home of Ithaca, which still retains much of its natural beauty. The island of Kythira, meanwhile, birthplace of Aphrodite, is set apart from the other Ionians and is less touristy and more traditional as a result. If dazzling white sand beaches backed by soaring cliffs is your vision of Greek charter holiday perfection, then this is it.
These scattered isles in the Aegean are known for their wooded hills, sandy beaches, transparent waters and secluded coves. Just four of the 24 isles are inhabited and boasting no fewer than 65 beaches – most of them sandy – Skiathos is the most developed of them all. A long-time favourite with Hollywood A listers, this beautiful island has bars, beaches and evening beats in abundance. Just west of Skiathos, the larger island of Skopelos ticks all the Greek island boxes: sparkling coves, verdant hills, domed white churches, olive groves and a pretty harbour town.
Well placed for those who want to explore the many ancient sites of Athens, and relatively crowd-free, this small clutch of islands offers some of the most authentic sailing destinations in Greece. Use it as a base to flit between city and sea, and don’t miss sites such as the classical temple of Aphaea, one of the architectural wonders of Ancient Greece. The yacht crowd and wealthy Athenians often beeline for the car-free isle of Spetses further south in the Saronic Gulf, to chill out at one of the open-air cinemas or follow in the A-list footsteps of Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel. Away from the fashion pack, the island’s interior offers excellent hiking.
Barbarossa, in Paros’ pretty Naoussa harbour, is s stylish taverna serving fresh seafood. Enjoy local cuisine, from lobster and steamed mussels to sea urchin salad with ouzo-soaked rusks.
In summer on Hydra, Greece’s artiest island, the culturally inclined head to the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art’s project space, in a former cliff-top slaughterhouse, for a host of exhibitions.