Sail the Cyclades Islands

The Cyclades Islands are popular sailing areas with their proximity to Athens. The western Cyclades islands include Kea, Kithnos, Serifos, Sifnos, Milos, Kimolos and Poliagos and are the islands that most resemble what people picture Greece to look like. The islands transport you to a beautiful world of white washed houses, cobalt blue and stunning turquoise waters and clear blue sky.

Further afield to the east and south of Athens the remaining Cyclades islands including Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Ios, Syros and Santorini complete a magical island chain with plenty to see and do, from bustling cosmopolitan towns with never ending night life to sleepy picturesque fishing villages. Fairly long distances between the islands and being further out into the Aegean Sea means they are more exposed to the ‘Meltemi’ wind.



Cyclades Islands

The Cyclades islands lie to the south east of Athens and the Greek mainland. They are the quintessential Greek islands of picture postcards with white houses on sun drenched hillsides. From the Greek word for Circle the Cyclades islands are so named because of their cyclical layout around the sacred island of Delos, the birth place of Apollo in ancient Greek mythology.

The Cyclades sailing area consists of 23 large islands and some 200 smaller ones and is more challenging than most as it is situated in the middle of the Aegean Sea and is exposed to the northerly ‘Meltemi’ wind. With so many islands the Cyclades offers something for everybody from peaceful and captivating islands with traditional unspoilt villages like on Kea and Kythnos, the stunning beaches and intricately sculpted white rocks on Milos, small white churches, monasteries, and ancient ruins on Sifnos to the nightlife capital of Mykonos and the cosmopolitan Santorini with its famous sunsets.

Strong Meltemi winds, especially in the height of summer, open seas and greater distances between islands means that Cyclades sailing area is not a place for inexperienced sailors and skippered yacht charters are the most ideal choice. Extreme caution is required when sailing these islands, especially in July and August and you will need a 2 or 3 week sailing holiday in order to visit the islands further away from Athens.

Most of the Cycladic islands are between 15 and 25 miles apart and many of the islands are a significant distance from the Athens yacht charter base. We recommend the Western Cyclades islands that are closer to Athens to ensure a safe, enjoyable sailing holiday. In the South West Cycladic islands including Sifnos, Milos and Folegandros the Meltemi wind is also significantly less strong. For those wishing to visit the more famous popular tourist destinations like Mykonos or Santorni you would realistically need a 2 week charter and should choose just one of these island destinations to visit as Mykonos is 90 nautical miles and Santorini 130 nautical miles away from Athens and the distance between the two islands is some 75 miles!

Alimos Marina, Athens Yacht Charter Base

The Yacht charter base at Alimos marina, Kalamaki near Athens is a great location to start and end your yacht charter in the Cyclades islands. Marina Alimos is the largest in Greece with all the facilities you would expect from a modern marina complex. Situated just under 10 miles from the centre of Athens the marina is easily accessed by taxi as well as a regular bus service and tram. The marina is a 40 minute taxi ride away from Athens International Airport and a 15 minute taxi ride from the main ferry port at Piraeus which links Athens to all of the major islands of the Aegean Sea.

Marina Alimos is ideal as a starting point for sailing to the array of beautiful islands in the Cyclades.

What's it like to sail in the Cyclades Islands?

As the Cyclades islands are further out into the Aegean the winds are stronger than in the more protected Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, although they are not as strong as in the eastern Aegean or Dodecanese islands. Unlike the Saronic sailing area the Cyclades islands are not protected by any mainland and are more exposed to the northerly ‘Meltemi’ wind.

The ‘Meltemi’ begins to blow in mid June and is strongest in July and August and fades during September. It can be as low as a Beaufort Force 4 or less but can easily and quickly whip up to Force 7-8 or more and can blow for 1-2 days or can last for 4-5 days in a row. During the rest of the year the wind force is usually around 3-4.

These wind conditions mean sailing the Cyclades islands are much more demanding in terms of sailing skills and experience than in other areas of Greece. The Cyclades may prove too much for less enthusiastic sailors and inexperienced crew members. If your party has some members who prefer to sail in more relaxing waters then the Saronic and Argolic Gulf sailing areas would be best, both of which provide good protection from the summer ‘Meltemi’. Alternatively the Ionian Islands do not have the Meltemi winds at all and is a popular destination for sailors of all levels.

It is advisable the Cyclades route is chosen for a two week sailing holiday. For one week yacht charters you should keep a constant check on the weather forecasts and conditions and keep close to the return yacht charter base at Kalamaki. Unless you are a highly experienced skipper (RYA Coastal Skipper or equivalent) with an experienced crew not afraid of more demanding conditions we would recommend a skippered yacht charter as the best option.

Finding your way around the Cyclades Islands

Navigation in the Cyclades is fairly simple and is predominantly by sight with almost no tide or currents and very few hazards. The mid summer heat haze can reduce visibility, especially the closer you are to Athens to between 1-3 miles.  

Onboard you will find a guide/pilotage of the sailing area. Your yacht has all the charts to the sailing area and navigation aids, including chartplotters and autopilot. We can suggest route plans and itineraries and let you know about of all our favourite spots.

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