Caribbean Sailing Vacations by Ed Hamilton

Greece. The Sporades Islands

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Greece’s Sporades archipelago is one of a few Greek island chains in the Aegean Sea. It’s located closest to the eastern Greek mainland north of Athens, just offshore from Central Greece and the Thessaly region. These islands are one of the less-common charter destinations for larger crewed yachts, since they’re off the regularly beaten course of the Saronic Gulf islands, but the Sporades are nonetheless quite popular among bareboaters who enjoy water sports, hiking and meandering through old towns on shore.

The name Sporades means “scattered,” which is a bit of a false claim. The three main islands in the Sporades—Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos—are actually quite close together, surrounded by tiny islets and known as the “northern Sporades.” You can enjoy an entire charter here, or make your way to the island Skiros, also part of the Sporades but farther away to the southeast.

            When you’re on charter in the Sporades, the thing you’re most likely going to want to do all day, every day, is play in the ocean. The water here is stunningly turquoise, making it not just refreshing under the hot summer sun but also fantastically clear for snorkeling and scuba diving. Many of the islets have accessible beaches that are far away from the main islands’ crowds, so you can enjoy the sand and surf without the noise that comes along with beachfront restaurants and shops.

            If you do decide to mingle with the locals and other tourists on shore, all three of the northern Sporades islands have charming towns that you can tour and explore. There are the expected tourist shops and souvenir stands, of course, but if you let your feet carry you around town for a few hours, you can find much, much more in terms of memories to take home.

On Alonissos, the old village bans motorized vehicles, so you can wander the winding alleyways without fear of oncoming motorbikes. Also near Alonissos are four main islets that make up a Marine Park, where you can watch from your yacht as about a hundred monk seals play amid the dolphins.

On Skopelos, the best view of the town is actually from the Evangelistria Convent, where nuns give tours in Greek and English languages. On Skiathos, after you’ve visited the town, you can head north to the Evangelistria Monastery and its wall of wooden icons and religious paintings, known as iconostasis.

            Historically, all of these islands were known for their olive tree groves, fruit orchards, and vineyards, so be sure to indulge in the local fare and wine while you’re there, as well. Even the smallest taverna will have food to make your mouth water.

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