United in Diversity
The second time we set out for the Greece Islands was in 2010 when we conquered the Cyclades; Creta, Santorini, Ios, Naxos and Paros.
The Cyclades lie to the south east of Athens and the Greek mainland and to the east / south east of Poros. From Poros you can sail due east across the eastern Saronic Gulf to Kéa or Kíthnos, or head north east to the mainland and then run down the Attic coast.
If you head due east, the initial hop from Poros is about 50 miles or 7-8 hours sailing, usually on a comfortable reach aided by the predominant north westerly winds. Once you reach Kéa or Kíthnos the next island is usually no more than a 7-10 mile hop, although if you continue due east across the ring of islands towards Síros there are some longer 16-20 mile hops.
As the Cyclades islands are further out into the Aegean winds are fresher than in the more protected Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, although are not a strong as down the eastern edge of the Aegean and the Dodecanese islands.
Iaculis sit tristique in ut cras placerat ipsum nonummy sed quisque egestas
If you have seen pictures of perfect Greek islands with white houses on sun-drenched hillsides, it’s likely a picture of one of the Cyclades islands. These are the islands that define Greek islands. The archipelago contains some 2,200 islands, islets and rocks and just 33 islands are inhabited.
The islands are located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia Minor and the Near East as well as between Europe and Africa. In antiquity, when navigation consisted only of cabotage and sailors sought never to lose sight of land, they played an essential role as a stopover.
Unlike the Saronic Gulf and Argolic Gulf sailing areas, the Cyclades islands are not protected by any mainland. Their position out into the Aegean Sea means they are more exposed to the northerly ‘Meltemi’ wind which very much dominates the Cyclades islands. The ‘Meltemi’ arrives during July and lasts into September. It can provide you a Force 4 or less, or it can whip up to Force 7 or more; it can blow for a day or it can last a number of days. It can also funnel between the islands and the downdraft on the lee side of an island can also increase its strength.
These wind conditions mean sailing the Cyclades islands provides for more invigorating sailing, but might also prove ‘too exciting’ for any less enthusiastic members of your group. If your party has some members who prefer a ‘quieter sail’, then you may want to consider our Saronic & Argolic Gulf sailing areas, both of which provide good protection from the summer ‘Meltemi’.
Kéa is the north western-most of the Cyclades islands and the first island you will reach if you travel from the mainland Attic coast. It is a typical Cycladic island with a fine ‘chora’ - the term used to describe the most important or principal town or village of a Greek island. It is best to avoid Vourkari on Fridays and Saturdays due to the number of Athenian-based motor yachts which flock to this pretty harbour.
The island of Kíthnos lies just to the south of Kéa and is probably the island you will head to if you sail due east from Poros across to the Cyclades. The island is famous for its cheese which is used in a lot of local recipes. Mérikha lies on the western side of the island and so is the most directly accessible harbour when crossing from Poros. Mérikha is worth a visit and is the principal port of the island.
Loutrou lies to the north east of the island of Kíthnos and is known for its hydropathic institute based around the local hot springs that in past times gave the island the name of Thermia. Like Mérikha, Loutrou is worth a visit.
Sérifos (Seriphos) is the next island to the south of Kíthnos (Kythnos) and is recognisable by its domed shape. Sérifos is the island of Perseus and the Gorgon’s Medusa’s head and it is said that the rock cliffs above Sérifos’ famous chora are the bodies of King Polydectes and his courtiers who were turned to stone by the Medusa’s gaze.
The main port of Sérifos is Livádhi to the south east of the island and is at the head of a spectacular bay. The quay is often crowded, but anchoring near the beach is no problem although sometimes two ‘hooks’ are advisable. The famous chora of the island should definitely be visited.
Sífnos lies just 9 miles to the south east of Sérifos across the Sífnos channel. The channel can often be ‘quite fresh’ as the north easterly wind funnels between the two islands. Kamáres on the north western side of the island is the main ferry port of the island and lies at the head of a large bay providing good shelter. Kamáres is a good place from which to visit the villages of Apollonia and Kastro inland.
Vathí sits on the northern side of a small circular bay on the south western side of Sífnos and is an example of what a Cycladic village should be. Few sailors fail to fall in love with the place.
Mílos, like the more famous Santorini (Thíra), is an old volcano and the bay of Órmos Mílou is a huge caldera. Like Santorini the bay is surrounded by cliffs of pumice and basalt and the island has numerous hot springs, all fed from the same underground source that once fed the volcano. It is certainly one of the Greek islands that should be visited having a fascinating past and spectacular landscape. The main port of Adhamas is on the northern side of the caldera and provides an excellent point from which to explore the island. Órmos Mílou is open to the north west and so does not provide good protection from the Meltemi which blows down through the entrance causing a swell, particularly through the entrance itself.
Port Íos, Íos
One for the under twenties. There are very beautiful beaches overshadowed by the noisy bars. Legend has it that Homer died here - probably from an overdose of Guinness at an Irish pub.