Greece flotilla holidays – an introduction
If you like a mixture of small town and village harbours with a range of facilities ashore, then a Greece flotilla holiday is for you. Greece is the home of flotilla sailing and where many people experience their first flotilla holiday.
The Ionian is renown as a beginners area. The Saronic offers equally easy flotillas though there are options for the more experienced too. Both of these areas offer a number of different flotilla routes.
The Dodecanese offers the most challenging runs, with the Northern Sporades being less difficult, though still harder than most novices would want, especially in high season. The choice of routes in these two areas is more limited, and there are fewer yachts available to augment fleets so don’t delay booking.
The Dodecanese is probably the least visited of the main sailing areas and if you can cope with the sailing conditions, (up to F4-6 with choppy seas) it’s the pinnacle of Greece flotilla holidays.
The Dodecanese flotillas run from Kos but once away from this bustling tourist centre you enter a different world. The intervening islands may be less known than those in the Cyclades, but they’re no less beautiful.
Better still the islands are largely inaccessible except by sea so tourist numbers are low. You will still find plenty of restaurants but is wonderfully uncommercialised and the locals are more friendly than elsewhere.
Even in high season, it’s not too busy so there’s no rush to get in of an evening. This is fortunate as flotillas in the Dodecanese involve some longer sails than you would usually find on a flotilla.
As many passages are between islands, opportunities for lunch stops are fewer than usual too – these are flotillas for those who enjoy the sailing, not just arriving in port.
The proximity of the Turkish coast opens another opportunity – you can do not just an international flotilla but an intercontinental flotilla! It’s all part of the itinerary and the Lead Crew will assist with formalities as you sail from Greece in to Turkey and back again.
Gulf of Corinth Flotillas
The Gulf of Corinth is best known for the famous Corinth Canal. This shear sided passageway was carved out largely by hand in the 19th century.
The Gulf of Corinth flotillas run from Corinth. It’s a historic town, on the narrow isthmus linking the Peloponnese to mainland Greece. The region lacks the number of islands that other areas can boast though there are a few. Only one of these, Trizonia, is inhabited.
The mainland spots are friendly places. They are fairly inaccessible by road so less visited by tourists. And as a sailing area it’s a bit off the beaten track. It’s a long hauld from the Ionian bases. Although it’s more easily reached from Athens, many charterers are put off by the usually high cost of going through the Canal.
Fear not. As you will be on a yacht based in Corinth you will get highly preferential rates. It’s guaranteed to be the most unique 6km sailing experience you’ve ever had!
Even in high season, the area is not too busy so there’s no rush to get in of an evening. This is fortunate as flotillas in the Gulf of Corinth flotillas involve some longer sails than you often find on flotillas.
Many passages are across open waters so there are limited opportunities for lunch stops. These are flotillas for those that like sailing. Winds are generally good, with gusts off the hillsides adding to the interest.
Many of the destinations only have small harbours but the Lead Crew will help you in. The Canal aside, the other main attraction in the area is the ruins of Ancient Delphi. It’s just a short taxi ride away from Galaxidi.
For those that prefer shorter distances and easier sailing but who want to go through the Canal, the flotilla also visits the Saronic Gulf every other week. Check out the Epidavros flotilla.
Ionian flotillas can be divided in to those sailing the northern part, usually starting from Corfu and those covering the southern part, usually starting from Lefkas, though there are a couple of Flotilla’s that sail between these two. Corfu has its own airport whilst Preveza airport is a short hop from Lefkas.
Conditions are generally mild – plenty of sunshine and light winds. Once in a while strong winds come through but these are usually predictable and flotillas usually sit them out in harbour; they don’t last long.
A more frequent problem can be a lack of wind – I once spent a fortnight in the area without a single days sailing. The winds are generally better in the southern part.
The Ionian contains dozens of beautiful stops, from traditional fishing villages to small tourist towns. Many were severely affected by the 1953 earthquake but have been rebuilt in traditional style.
The enduring popularity of the area means harbours can be busy, especially in high season, and in some places even early arrivals may not get a space on the quay. The Flotilla Lead Crew will find you somewhere to moor but may ask you to get in mid afternoon (just when the wind gets going).
If you don’t like having to clamber over other yachts to get ashore, or prefer to stay out sailing later, I would suggest you consider a Saronic flotilla instead, where sailing conditions are similar but it’s a lot less busy. But if you can bear the crowds, or are able to go outside the peak period, the Ionian is a charming area and probably best done with a flotilla, so you can leave the worrying about mooring space to the Lead Crew.
The Peloponnese is less well known than the Ionian and as a result there are fewer Flotillas there. However, the number of options seem to increase every year. I suggest you visit soon before the word gets out, as it’s a superb area. To me, a Peloponnese flotilla is a better choice for novices than the Ionian, though there are options for the more experienced.
Peloponnese flotillas offer a mix of coastal sailing and island hopping, though since the “mainland” is in fact the large island that is the Peloponnese, technically, it’s all islands! The wind bends around the heavily indented coast making for some interesting sailing.
The best flotilla in the Peloponnese is a little harder to get to than the Ionian though the area has the advantage of scheduled rather than charter flights in to Athens airport – there’s even a choice of airlines!
From Athens airport, there you’ve three options. You can take a flotilla from Athens with a short transfer but a long first and last days sail. You can take a longer transfer to Corinth and sail the easy Saronic Gulf. Or you can transfer to the island of Poros to join a Peloponnese flotilla there, with the advantage that you’ll be starting your sailing in the middle of the cruising area.
The Peloponnese includes the easy sailing Saronic and Argolic Gulfs. There’s a the option to sail further south down the eastern Peloponnese though this is an intermediate run. The area is much less busy than the Ionian, and much more Greek, being primarily a Greek holiday destination.
As you go further south, even the “local” tourists get thin on the ground though there’s plenty to see, from Roman remains and medieval castles to one of the country’s most popular nightclubs, hidden in a small village!
With less competition for mooring spaces your Lead Crew will rarely ask you to come in early. The only place you’re likely to have to raft up and climb over other yachts to the shore is at the must see port of Hydra.
For those with previous experience, the Peloponnese flotilla, which runs down the east side to Monemvasia then up to the top of the Argolic Gulf offers the chance to get even further off the beaten track and is highly recommended.
Sporades Flotillas are ideal for those with previous experience who want a bit more wind than novices.
The prevailing northerly winds make for some exciting sailing especially as you pass between the islands. With relatively few yachts based in the area, it’s not hard to find space to moor at the whitewashed villages that are your destination.
The northern Sporades are fairly small so flotillas do a week around the islands then a week exploring the Pelion and Volos Gulfs to the west.
There is in fact enough to keep you occupied for a fortnight around the islands if you’re happy to anchor some of the time, making a Flotilla in the Sporades a good choice for those wanting a week on Flotilla then a week bareboating.
You can start your flotilla from Skiathos, (hence some call these Skiathos flotillas rather than Sporades flotillas) with the airport just 5 minute drive from the quayside. It’s mostly charter flights though scheduled internal flights are available from Athens.
The Sporades is a beautiful area as anyone who has seem the film Mamma Mia will vouch. However, it’s no newcomer to tourism and although it’s all very tastefully done it doesn’t feel like Greece in the way that the Saronic and Dodecanese do.
However, the great thing about sailing is you can escape the crowds. So as you head towards the eastern end of the islands and air of peacefulness descends.
Note that unlike most flotillas which start at the weekend, Sporades flotillas start on Friday, for the simple reason that it’s the day most UK flights run.