September 17, 2014

Chartering a Boat in Greece: The Saronic Gulf

By Robert Cross

There are so many places to go on a sailing vacation in Greek waters, that we must split our highlights package into five instalments. Let’s start with the Saronic Gulf, on the doorstep of Athens.
Athens, GreeceAthens, Greece
On a Saronic Gulf sailing vacationOn a Saronic Gulf sailing vacation
View from Cap SounionView from Cap Sounion
Port on Hydra IslandPort on Hydra Island
Picturesque, popular PorosPicturesque, popular Poros
Sunset on KithnosSunset on Kithnos

A sailing holiday in the Saronic Gulf provides a mixture of mainland coastal and Greek island cruising. All the major Mediterranean yacht charter operators have bases in or near Athens, the "historical capital of Europe". So getting to your boat is relatively easy. It's also convenient for spending time ashore enjoying what the ancient city itself has to offer.

Spend some extra time before or after your sailing holiday to take in World Heritage sites such as the Acropolis, some of the fascinating museums, and the exciting entertainment district of Athens. Or include them in your charter by using your boat as your Athens hotel.

Heading east from Athens along the coast you will reach Cap Sounion, where the Temple of Poseidon, God of the Sea, stands sentinel over the eastern Saronic. Stop awhile here, take the dingy ashore and climb the cliff trail to the temple ruins. The view over the Aegean is spectacular.

Just beyond is Lavrion, from where the ancient Greeks dug silver to finance their conquests during the Golden Age of Athens. Lavrion provides overnighting facilities, and is also a popular stopping-off point for the Cyclades. Here you have a choice depending on time and your sense of adventure – sail east into the Aegean and visit Kithnos, or head southwest back into the Saronic and explore closer to home base.

Kithnos gives you taste of what the mind conjures up about the Greek islands. It's not overrun with tourists, having retained its traditional flavor as well as any large Aegean island has. Sample the fare offered by a tavern on the island, enjoy one of the many secluded coves, before moving on.

The Saronic Gulf separates Athens from the Peloponnese peninsular. Just off the northeastern shore of the Peloponnese lies the island of Poros. Subjected to considerable development and therefore packed with tavernas, restaurants, shops and nightclubs, Poros is nevertheless worth visiting. Hire a scooter and explore the forested interior, which by contrast to the island's edges is almost devoid of people.

Returning to your Athens base from Poros provides excellent sailing conditions in sheltered waters. Just what course you set will largely be determined by how much time you have remaining. The island of Aegina in the middle of the Saronic Gulf offers a place to stop over if your schedule allows, and there are plenty of attractions ashore.  Or you may be able to take a short detour south to Hydra, a popular sailing and vacationing destination with a vibrant arts community.  

As you make your way home, light to moderate breezes that generally blow from the south will fill the sails and nicely cool the air. At the end of your charter, you will surely look back on a wonderful introduction to bareboat (or skippered) charter sailing in Greece. Time to start planning your next visit ...

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