The beauty of chartering a yacht in Greece is the liberty to island-hop wherever the mood takes you. In the Cyclades, warm, calm waters and ribbons of sandy beaches are a big draw, alongside the cool coastal vibe found in the relaxed towns. This group of islands scattered across the central Aegean Sea is within easy reach of Athens and benefits from the Meltemi winds, ideal for watersports enthusiasts. Expect fresh-from-the-sea cuisine, genuine hospitality and striking scenery: a yacht charter here, is a truly magical experience.
Kea and Kythnos
Gateway to the Greek mainland, unspoiled Kea stands out from the crowd, characterised by steep mountains, olive groves and off-the-beaten-track beaches. Walk through the main gates in pedestrianised Ioulida town, where the famous smiling lion statue and local museum are worth a visit. The relaxed paradise of Kythnos fully embraces beach life, offering countless sandy stretches only accessible by yacht and clear waters to intrigue divers. Added value is found at the Castle of Oria, Katafigi Cave and stone-enclosed thermal springs at Loutra.
Andros and Tinos
Northernmost Andros boasts lush hillsides, meandering rivers and golden sands. Nestled on a peninsula between two long swathes of beach, the pedestrianised main Chora bustles with delightful cafés and shops, while a diverse collection of art museums, monasteries and ancient sites are found island-wide. A top spot for activity-lovers is Ormos Beach for great windsurfing. Nearby, and comparatively unknown, charming Tinos is brimming with old-style white-washed houses and secluded beaches. Enjoy delightful architecture, traditional culture and provincial gastronomic feasts.
Syros and Serifos
For a slice of away-from-it-all tranquillity, make your way to culturally significant Syros. Capital town Ermoupolis exudes the romance of a bygone era amongst the pasted-hued neoclassical houses, narrow streets and café-dotted squares, but don’t miss the famous casino if you are feeling lucky. Boasting several gorgeous beaches, the sheltered cove at Galissas is a must. Beautifully relaxed Serifos is a yachting haven packed with infinite charm, thanks to sheltered bays and swathes of beaches. Head hillside to wander the main Chora and take in breath-taking panoramic views at the top whilst enjoying a Tsipouro from an alfresco café.
Popular for stylish boutiques, chic beach clubs and lively nightlife, the whitewashed paradise of Mykonos packs a scenic punch. Visitors can enjoy sheltered anchorages, picturesque bays and some fantastic beaches. Whimsical Little Venice enchants with pendulous medieval buildings, while the warren of narrow streets in chic Mykonos Town radiates allure. Whether you seek relaxed seclusion or a cosmopolitan vibe, countless beaches deliver the required mood; whilst heading inland the leafy hillsides are dotted with quaint villages. Nocturnal proceedings cater for all tastes, on the beach super-clubs, Champagne bars and cabaret shows keep the action going until dawn.
Paros and Antiparos
Sugar-cube towns, ancient ruins and lively tavernas nestling in the natural landscape make Paros a quintessentially Greek island. Countless opportunities present to anchor and snorkel at secluded crescent-shaped bays enveloped by swathes of velvet sand, whereas active water sports enthusiasts flock to Golden Beach. Ashore in Parikia, the labyrinth of narrow whitewashed alleyways is a huge daytime draw – visit characterful Lefkes for handmade pottery, soak up exquisite countryside views and enjoy the intoxicating fragrance of jasmine in the air.
Explore the nearby isle of Antiparos, with its traditional whitewashed villages, deserted beaches and a magical cave system on the southern side. The attractive 15th century castle is also well worth a visit.
The largest in the island group, Naxos lays claim to the highest Cycladic peak of Mount Zas, set amidst meandering hiking trails and fertile valleys strewn with vineyards. The coast is fringed with exotic beaches, exciting wreck dives and friendly seaside tavernas, not forgetting the windsurfing haven on the western shore. Compared to its bustling counterparts, relaxed Naxos remains relatively undiscovered: step back in time to mountain villages where self-sufficient locals still wear traditional clothing, woven with ancient looms. Summer entertainment abounds at Bazeos Castle with performances and exhibitions and the Panigiri festival celebrations are particularly significant in Filoti.
Sifnos and Milos
Cycladic chic is prevalent in Sifnos: whitewashed terraces, terracotta chimneys and vibrant bougainvillea mirror the refined yet relaxed ambience. At Panagia Chryssopigi thrill-seekers dive from rocky ledges, whereas isolated Fykiada Bay is perfectly accessed by yacht. Foodies take note: in September the annual gastronomy festival in Sifnos further promotes the island’s rich culinary tradition. Unique Milos, birthplace of Aphrodite and original home of the Venus de Milo, radiates natural beauty. From volcanic Plaka’s sunsets, Kleftiko’s pirate caves to the charming fishermen’s boathouses at Klima, this island is a treasure chest of hidden gems.
Sikinos and Folegandros, Amorgos and Ios
Tiny and picturesque, peace abounds on delightful Sikinos. The popular hiking path to the ancient Episkopi Monastery delivers awe-inspiring views, whilst four secluded coves offer isolated beaches, perfectly accessed by yacht. Rocky Folegandros, famed for exquisite sunsets, is the antithesis of Santorini and Mykonos. With no airport and just three villages, ancient ruins take you back in time while the isolated crystalline coves and prehistoric caves are truly captivating. On the south-eastern edge of the Cyclades, remarkably unspoiled Amorgos is rich in both beauty and culture. Enjoy glorious Aigialis beach, visit the famous Monastery of Hozoviotissa with achingly beautiful views and taste delicious local Ladotýri cheese. In contrast, the ultimate fun island of Ios is filled with high tempo action. If nightlife is low priority, relish gorgeous Magganari beach and explore the town’s windmills.
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Best approached by sea across the immense volcanic caldera, Santorini is undeniably spectacular and needs no introduction. Whitewashed cubiform houses perch hillside, intricately linked by cobblestone alleys – while below the coastal beaches individually hued with red, white and black sand add colourful appeal. Cruise past uninhabited Aspronisi and Strogili, take a therapeutic swim in the Nea Kameni thermal springs and admire the Akrotiri clifftop lighthouse and ‘Indian rock’ formation. Be sure to head to scenic Oia village – the top spot to watch Santorini’s famed sunset.
One beauty of sailing in the Cyclades is the complete freedom to take your time exploring, as your captain and crew can adapt an itinerary to fit all personal preferences. The beaches are one of the biggest attractions in the Aegean, with velvet sands and warm waters making a yacht charter a wonderfully relaxing experience for couples, friends or families to enjoy.
Nicholas Dean is Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Ocean Independence is a global leader in luxury yachting, providing a bespoke experience across yacht charter, sales and management.