Well, with more than 6000 islands, of which only around 200 are inhabited, sailors are spoiled with choices. Sailing through the Greek Islands we discover the country’s culture and traditions, while living an adventure. The two main seas in Greece are the Ionian and the Aegean, which are West and East of the Peloponese Peninsula, respectively. Both are known for their blue waters and sandy beaches, attracting a great number of visitors during the long, warm summers. Most of the sailing areas are well protected, with lots of charming harbours to visit.
Ancient Greece is present everywhere you go, from the mighty Acropolis of Athens, through the Temple of Posidon in Cape Sunion, to the little ruins near almost every village you might visit. Sailing in Greece is, if you want, a voyage to discover one of the world’s oldest cultures, but its also a trip to participate in their traditions today.
Greek people are welcoming to visitors, partially because their economy relies a lot on tourism, but also because Greek culture is heavily family-oriented and social. Greek people tend to extend their hospitatliy to all as we travel through their home country. Despite the country’s economic struggles, Greek people tend to keep their jovial nature. The tavernas and coffee shops are always bursting with life, with a mix of locals and tourists sitting in their terraces watching others go by.
Best time to sail
The best time to sail in Greece is between April and October, when temperatures are mostly warm and the weather is more reliable. Winter time is also a great time to sail in Greece, but its colder and there are more chances of rain.
Sailing in Spring, starting in May until June, is great in Greece. The crowds are not there yet, and although the water might still be a bit chill after the winter, the weather is warm and days are only getting longer. The local wind or “Maltemi” hasn’t yet set on the Cyclades Islands, so it’s a great time to sail there and discover places like Mykonos, Santorini or Milos, just to mention the most known Islands, but there are lots to visit.
July and August are the sunniest, warmest months of the year. The sailing is great, whether you prefer the sheltered waters of the Ionian or the Saronic Gulf, or to adventure into the more challenging waters of the Cyclades and its Maltemi winds. In summer days are long, so there is plenty of time for long swimming stops and longer sailing trips, still arriving to port with a bit of day light. Ports and Marinas tend to be more crowded this time of the year, bringing a great atmosphere to those bursting the night life in the sea fronts.
September and October is our favourite time to sail the Greek Islands. The sea is at its warmer temperature, after all summer under the sun. The winds are great, and besides the odd raining day, it is almost always sunny and warm. There are less boats around than in the peak of the summer, but all bars and restaurants are still open and it’s easier to find a good mooring spot even if you get late to port.
What’s like to live aboard?
Discovering Greece by sailboat is certainly the best way, but what is it like to live on a sailing yacht for five days? We like to think of living on a boat as a little bit luxury and a little bit camping. Waking up to the sound of the sea and travelling with power of the wind in our sails is a rewarding experience.
That said, it’s important to remember that a sailboat has limited storage, so big rigid bags are difficult to store on board. It is always best to carry soft bags that can be folded and stored away in small spaces. Our normal day-to-day needs, like hot water and power to connect our devices are covered on board. Our boat NISI has 230 W European plugs that we can use when connected to shore power at the marinas, and a USB port to charge when not connected. It is a good idea to bring an adaptor if your devices are not European. Most sailboats have showers on board, and on NISI we have one in the bathroom and another on deck, ideal for washing off after being in the sea.
Sailing in Greece is a great experience. Living on a boat in a warm country, surrounded by crystal warm waters is amazing, but if you have never been on a boat, you will soon discover that things are named differently as we expect in our daily routine. Everything on a boat has a specific name, and it’s important to learn them, at least some.
What to bring
When visiting Greece, there are only a few things you’ll need to bring with you.
Documents: You will need a valid passport and appropriate travel visa (if you are not a European citizen).
Euros: Euros are the currency of Greece and most of the European countries. It Is better to change your currency before travelling to get a better exchange rate. There are lots of cash points or ATM’s everywhere in Greece, although some will charge you a small fee to withdraw. Paying with a credit card is not reliable in Greece, so its better to carry cash with you if possible.
Appropriate clothing: Sailing and local dining attire is casual in the Islands. Pack light and bring a soft-sided duffel bag if possible, for easy stowing in small spaces. Bring light-weight clothes and layers, since the temperature changes quickly with wind or between day and night in the islands.
Also, pack non-marking shoes – no flip flops for sailing.
Sun protection: Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. When sailing in Greece, we need to be aware that we will exposed to the sun quite a lot. It is very easy to not realize how much sun we get while spending the day out on a boat. Drinking a lot of water its important too!
Essential Greek: And finally, it’s good to learn some basic words in the greek language. Lots of Greeks, especially in the islands, speak fluent English, but learning a few words is not only fun, but it might come handy when sailing to remote islands. Here are some basic words and phrases to practice on the airplane on your way to Greece:
Getting to Greece is easy, there are many international airports connecting with almost every major city in the world, Athens being the biggest of them. Low cost flight companies have many flights connecting Greece with the rest of Europe. Public transport is good as well, with lots of buses connecting towns and ports, and a good train system between the major cities. Some islands have small airports that connect to Athens International Airport, while almost all of them are connected by ferry.
Ferries in Greece connect all the islands and the mainland. In summer season there are lots of ferries everyday departing from major ports like Pireus to the islands. Ferries are modern and comfortable, with perhaps the exception of the ‘ Flaying Dolphin,’ a small hydrofoil ferry, convenient for its speed but a bit cramped with an overpowering diesel smell.
To get to the island of Aegina, where our yacht NISI is based, you have several options. First you need to go from Athens Int. Airport to the port of Pireus, either by taxi, bus or train, and then decide whether to take the fast or normal ferry to the island, 45 or 1.15 minutes away, depending on the type of ferry. The whole trip can take between 1.30 hrs to 2.30 hrs.
Come sailing with NISI
Who you sail with in close quarters for 5 days and 6 nights also makes a big difference. Get to know Natalie, Alex, and Kenickie, the sailing dog before you go. We are owner-operators, which means that you will sail with the very people who you will communicate with during each step of the planning process. We will know your interests and sailing level and we will work hard to tailor your trip for your best experience.
About Us: Natalie is an American, and Royal Yacting Association (RYA)-certified Day Skipper with 2600 nautical miles in her log book. Alex is Spanish, and an RYA-certified yachtmaster instructor, one of the highest levels of instruction qualifications. Kenickie has logged as many miles as Natalie and enjoys snuggling up to crew members while sailing.
To get to know us better, have a look at our Instagram feed, Facebook page, and YouTube channel where we post sailing safety and instruction and document our sailing adventures in Greece. We hope to see you on our social media pics and videos soon, too! Come aboard NISI and have an experience of a lifetime.
Want to know more? Come sailing with NISI!
Why don’t you come and sail with us and discover Greece by sail? At NISI sailing we do week-long sailing tours in the Greek Islands. Our skippers, Natalie and Alex know lots of beautiful spots to share with you so you can discover the Greek Islands aboard our beautiful sailING yacht.