Amazingly, there are are more inhabited Greek islands (227) than there are UN member states (193)…fortunately the Greek islands have a much more peaceful and harmonious relationship with each other.  With so many beautiful and unique islands to chose from, deciding which ones to visit can be a daunting task.  We’re here to help by explaining some of the differences between the Cyclades and Saronic Gulf islands.

Because of it’s history, beauty, and location (almost all international flights arrive here) most travelers prefer to start their journey from Athens, which happens to be where most of our boats are moored. When departing from Athens there are two main groups of islands to explore:  Saronic Gulf and Cyclades (other clusters such as the Dodecanese and Ionian are only reachable from a different base).

The first thing to remember when sailing the Greek islands is that your accommodation is also your transportation. Depending on the winds and the size of your yacht, you will travel at speeds between 5-8 knots (nautical miles/hr). So, the longer the distance between islands, the longer you will be at sea each day. Some groups welcome the longer sailing times, while others would prefer to spend more time in the afternoon swimming in a cove and relaxing. This brings us to the first main difference. The Saronic Gulf islands are closer in proximity to Athens and require shorter sailing times (2-4 hours) between islands. The Cyclades route requires longer sailing times (3-6 hours), especially on the first and last days. When calculating travel time between islands also remember that you will have an hour or two each day to anchor in a beautiful secluded cove to enjoy lunch, relax and swim. 

The Saronic Gulf islands are closer in proximity to Athens and require shorter sailing times (2-4 hours) between islands.

The second difference between the Cyclades and the Saronic Gulf is the wind. The Cyclades region has been known throughout history for it’s high winds, which is a result of a phenomenon known to the Greeks as the Etesian Meltemi.  The winds in this region can be especially strong and unpredictable in August.  The result is that there are occasionally rougher seas in the Cyclades, which is why we consider it the slightly more adventurous route.   Your captain will check the wind forecast throughout your trip to figure out the best route possible, which could mean small changes to the itinerary.  One thing that is certain is that the beauty, nightlife, and food in the Cyclades is unparalleled.   These islands are world famous for their unique landscape as well as their infamous blue/white architecture and cobblestone streets.  The Cyclades is also home to the internationally renowned islands of Mykonos and Santorini as well as many stunning lesser known islands such as Serifos, Sifnos, and Paros.  It’s important to note that Santorini located too far from Athens to visit on a one week sail, but we have options for clients who would like to visit before or after their charter.

The beauty, nightlife, and food in the Cyclades are unparalleled.

The Saronic Gulf is sheltered from the strong winds by Attic coast, which generally results in calmer seas. The Saronic islands are usually greener and more lush than their Cyclades counterparts. The resulting contrast between the green hills and the blues and whites of the Greek island architecture is resplendent. They also feature some of the best historical sites from ancient Greece, including the world-famous theatre near Epidauros.  There is plenty of nightlife in the Saronic as well, especially on the islands of Poros and Hydra.  You can spend your late afternoons exploring the islands, sipping a glass of wine at one of the many tavernas that line idyllic harbors,  snorkeling in the crystal clear Aegean Sea, or even cliff diving in Hydra.

Regardless of the route you decide on you will have the opportunity to visit many beautiful, unique islands which are unknown or overlooked by international tourists.   Your captain has extensive knowledge of all of theses islands and will be happy to suggest the best restaurants, secluded beaches, bars, and stores that are usually known only to locals.  Feel free to contact us with any specific route or island questions that you have.

For your reference we have created the table below highlighting some of the main differences to consider when deciding between a sailing route in the Saronic or the Cyclades.

Saronic Gulf Cyclades
Avg Distance Between Islands 10-30nm 20-40nm
Avg Sailing Time 2-4 hours 3-6 hours
Winds Generally mild Seas can be slightly rough at times
Possible Ports of Call Aegina, Ermioni, Spetses, Hydra, Poros, Epidaurus Kea, Kythnos, Paros, Antiparos, Mykonos, Syros, Sifnos, Serifos