- Sailing level: intermediate to advanced
- Airports: El Venizelos International airport, Athens, Mykonos, Paros
- Departure ports: Lavrion, Syros, Mykonos, Paros, Milos
- Wind conditions: moderate to strong
- Key locations: Mykonos, Syros, Paros, Delos, Santorini, Milos, The small Cyclades
The Cyclades (from the Greek word for `rings` or `circles`) is the central group of islands in the Aegean, so named because of the way they seem to surround Delos, the ancient centre of trade and worship. These islands are well-known for their stark elemental landscape, white-washed cubic houses contrasted against the deep blue and azure colours of sky and sea, traditional windmills, narrow paths full of flowers, and most recently the never ending nightlife. It should be noted that, although many sailors wish to reach Santorini, it is difficult to find a berth there as the harbours are few and shallow. Many yachts have to stay at Ios and take a ferry from there. In any case, due to the high cliffs surrounding the caldera of this volcanic island, there`s not much to see from the sea and a land-based stay would afford spectacular views. It`s also very difficult to reach Santorini and return, especially during meltemi season, in a one week charter if starting from Athens or Lavrion. You would need at least two weeks to fully explore at least two of the following groups.
The Cyclades islands consist of the following main areas:
- Northern Cyclades - Kea, Kithnos, Syros, Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Delos and Rinia.
- Middle Cyclades - Serifos, Sifnos, Antiparos, Paros, Naxos.
- Small Cyclades: Donoussa, Iraklia, Schinousa, Koufonissia, Amorgos and Levitha.
- Southern Cyclades - Milos, Kimolos, Folegandros, Sikinos, Ios, Thira (Santorini) and Anafi.
Wind and Sailing Conditions: Moderate to Strong
Due to the strength of the wind in summer, this group of islands (they are not known as the Windy isles for nothing!) is recommended only for experienced sailors during high summer. The majority of charter yachts that go out here, unlike in other parts of Greece, are mainly skippered or professionally crewed. The prevailing wind in the summer is the "Meltemi", which blows from the North / North East. It begins in June, blows stronger in July and August at Force 5-6 and may occasionally reach Force 8-9. It may blow for 1-3 days or it may sometimes blow for 2 weeks at a time. It can demast yachts! Be prepared to not be able to sail at all some days. In worse case scenario, you may spend an entire week landbound! During spring and autumn, you may also have to deal with strong winds from the South. Anyone chartering a yacht is advised to take extreme care and check the weather reports regularly. The average temperature in the Cyclades during summer is 25 to 30°C and very often 30 to 35 °C.
Archaeology has revealed the broad outlines of a farming and seafaring culture that had immigrated from Asia Minor c. 5000 BCE. Early Cycladic culture evolved in three phases, between c.3300 - 2000 BCE, when it was increasingly swamped in the rising influence of Minoan Crete. The Late Neolithic Cycladic culture produced many flat idols carved out of pure white marble, centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete. Each of the small Cycladic islands could support no more than a few thousand people, though Late Cycladic boat models show that fifty oarsmen could be assembled from the scattered communities, and when the highly organized palace-culture of Crete arose, the islands faded into insignificance, with the exception of Delos, which retained its archaic reputation as a sanctuary throughout antiquity and until the emergence of Christianity.
Planning your trip
You can begin your holiday from a number of locations. From mainland Greece, the closest port is Lavrion, which is on the south eastern Attica peninsula and roughly the same distance from the airport as Athens` marina. From Lavrion you can sail south towards Kea, Andros and then on to Syros, Mykonos, Paros, etc. returning along a circular route so you don`t revisit the same islands. Sailing legs are quite long so a minimum of two weeks is recommended if starting from Athens or Lavrion to fully appreciate these islands.
It is also possible to start your holiday from the capital island of Syros, Mykonos or Paros. The advantages of starting from here are that you begin in the heart of the Cyclades and don`t waste a day or two reaching them. Most of the main islands have airports and they are all interconnected by ferry.
Flights direct to El Venizelos Airport, Athens or directly to the islands (Mykonos, Paros and Santorini have airports and domestic flights from Athens are also available). You can start your route from Athens Alimos Marina (Kalamaki), or Lavrion (Main Port) or travel by ferry from Piraeus or Rafina, or by domestic flight from Athens, to the islands. Please see below for suggested one and two week itineraries...
- Mykonos (famous windmills)
- Delos (ancient site, uninhabited, day trips only)
- Paros (for wine and food)
- Antiparos (fast becoming multi-culturally popular, great for kite-surfers)
- Santorini (volcanic island - for romance!)
- The small Cyclades (for true Greece, away from the hoardes!)
- Milos (famous for its beautiful white rocks)
- Syros (the capital of the Cyclades)
- and all the other islands...
|One week itinerary from Athens / Lavrion|
|1||Alimos Marina Check-in at 17:00||Lavrion check in at 17:00|
|2||Athens - Kea (40 nm)||Lavrion - Kea (12 nm)|
|3||Kea - Syros (35 nm)||Kea - Syros (35 nm)|
|4||Syros - Paros Island (22 nm)||Syros - Mykonos (23 nm)|
|5||Paros - Serifos (36 nm)||Mykonos - Naoussa, Paros (25)|
|6||Serifos - Kea (30 nm)||Paros - Kithnos (40 nm)|
|7||Kea - Alimos Marina (35 nm)||Kithnos - Lavrion (30 nm)|
|8||Check-out Athens at 9:00||Check out Lavrion at 09:00|
|2 week itinerary from Athens / Lavrion|
|1||Alimos Marina Check-in at 17:00||Check in Lavrion at 17:00|
|2||Voutkari (Kea Island)||Lavrion - Kea (12 nm)|
|3||Ermoupolis (Syros Island)||Kea - Syros (35 nm)|
|4||Tinos Island||Syros - Mykonos (23 nm)|
|5||Mykonos Island||Mykonos - Delos - Paros, Naoussa (20 nm)|
|6||Naousa (Paros Island)||Paros, Naoussa - Naxos (11 nm)|
|7||Ios Island||Naxos - Schinoussa (20 nm)|
|8||Santorini Island||Schinoussa - Irakleia (10 nm)|
|9||Folegandros Island||Irakleia - Ios (15 nm)|
|10||Adhamas (Milos Island)||Ios - Santorini (25 nm)|
|11||kamares (Sifnos Island)||Santorini - Folegandros (30 nm)|
|12||Livadhi (Serifos Island)||Folegandros - Milos (30 nm)|
|13||Merihas (Kithnos Island)||Milos - Serifos (30 nm)|
|14||Alimos Marina||Serifos - Lavrion (40 nm)|
|15||Check-out at 9:00||Check out Lavrion at 09:00|