Tour Of Eastern Med Destinations #5. Cyclades
We are heading back to the Cyclades Islands of Greece. Compared to Turkey and the Saronic Gulf, this area involves much more open sailing and winds can be particularly strong later in the summer. As the photographs show however, the weather we are having for this trip is just beautiful, with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. May and September are excellent months to visit these islands. The two most famous are Mykonos, which is everyone’s idea of what a Greek island should look like (small white box shaped houses with blue doors and curved edges) and Santorini, which is nothing like anything you have ever seen.
We have always said that if you like wild (expensive) nightlife and don’t mind all the trimmings and prices that come with the jet set, then you will love Mykonos. Be warned that we found some stores selling jewelry at twice and even three times the prices back in the US. By local law, all residential buildings have to be the same design and while this keeps the traditional character, the sheer number of mostly holiday houses that have now been built on the island can make one wish for more variety. Having said that, the island is a photographer or artist’s dream and the narrow streets in the main town of Mykonos are very pretty. We just feel it is all a bit commercial.
Santorini is very different, but while it is on everyone’s list, it is actually quite hard to visit on charter. The islands are all that still shows of the rim of a sunken volcano, so the water in the center is extremely deep and there are few places to anchor. When the wind gets up, there are strong downdrafts and little protection, so some bareboat charter companies ask that you keep a crew member on the boat at all times, which can take away from the enjoyment. This is not as much of a problem for a private crewed charter, and we have sometimes used Santorini or Mykonos as a finishing port, allowing guests to spend a few days on the island after their charter.
Fira, the main town of Santorini, sits on the ridge. To say the view is spectacular is of course an understatement. The town is lively, with many narrow streets filled with stores, restaurants and nightclubs, but the atmosphere is more relaxed. Unlike many other islands, the town and even tourism, are relatively recent. Remember this is an active volcano (the last eruption was in 1950), but visitors should not be concerned as today these things are accurately forecast. There is an excellent ferry service from Athens and several nearby islands (and even a small airport), so you can visit Santorini before or after your holiday.
Santorini is the name given to the whole group of islands formed by this sunken volcano, but if you have trouble finding it in the atlas, look for Thira, which is the name of the main island and is sometimes more prominently marked.
Much of the Mediterranean can get crowded in July and August but the weather can also become unpredictable in the Cyclades during these months, with strong Meltemi winds, which is an additional reason to try to sail here in May and June, or September and early October, rather than at the height of the season. When chartering in the summer, your itinerary might well depend on the weather and in extreme conditions, boats can be ordered by the port authority to stay in the harbor. Keeping things flexible is therefore important. Ed Hamilton & Co can give you first hand advice when chartering in the Cyclades or any of the Greek Islands.