It’s no surprise that Greece is one of the most popular destinations in the world for sailing, with some 6,000 islands and islets scattered around its glistening blue waters. Base yourself out of the Greek capital Athens and hop aboard a boat to explore the slew of sandy beaches along the coastline and on paradisiacal islands. Here we reveal the best day trips to take from Athens on the water, calling at some of the country’s lesser-known spots.
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Bohemian hub Hydra, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, has long been the artists’ muse of the Greek islands. Daily ferry crossings from Athens – leaving from Piraeus Port, just north of Alimos – allow you to leave Athens at 8am and arrive ready to mingle with the art crowd 90 minutes later. The School of Fine Arts building overlooks the harbour. Explore the beaches and hiking trails then, if your skipper allows it, watch the sun dip with a cocktail at Hydronetta beach bar.
The Athenian Riviera
Matching the beauty of the Côte d’Azur in France and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, the Athens Riviera is a spot to mark on the map. This swathe of picturesque coast runs for 70km (43mi) and starts with the gorgeous Astir beach. Easily accessible by sailing south from Alimos, this beach-lined strip has been called the Hamptons of Athens since the ‘60s, and was popular with the likes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Brigitte Bardot. Live it up with a luxurious day relaxing at the ultra-hip Astir Beach Bar, decked out with chic daybeds which offer prime views of the setting sun.
This pebble-lined bend across the way from Piraeus Port attracts a loyal local crowd who flock here for cold beers and catch-ups after the working hours are done. Perfect for a spot of people watching, rent a sunbed from one of the cafes, where you can also stock up on a variety of snacks and cooling beverages. If the mood takes you, the rocky islet of Koumoundourou is within swimming distance from this beach and well worth exploring.
Duck off your sailboat to explore the hip-yet-tranquil neighbourhood of Koukaki, accessible by taxi from Alimos Marina – the largest marina in Greece with 1,064 berths – in 20 minutes. Squeeze in an hour at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in 2016 after 12 years of construction and houses 172 artworks by Greek and international artists. On the way back to the port, stop in at Kinono, a hip plant-filled space decked out with a long wooden bar. The pepperoni pizza is a must-try.
Agistri, Moni and Aegina
For a full-day adventure from Athens, set sail for the Saronic Islands aboard a traditional Greek sailing vessel. Tours to the idyllic islands of Agistri, Moni and Aegina start from Piraeus harbour or, if chartering a boat, you can venture there from a location of your choice. Each of the islands offers something different, from ancient temples to wild deer, while pristine beaches are a running theme. Sailing tours usually include a delicious Greek lunch and beverages.
The best way to see one of the most picturesque headlands in Greece is by boat. Sailing tours to Cape Sounion leave from Athens and sail south along the scenic shoreline of the Attica peninsula. Along the way, there’s the opportunity to swim and snorkel in electric blue waters. Another highlight is the ancient Temple of Poseidon, built atop a towering sea cliff with incredible views of the Aegean Sea. It’s a bit of a hike up to the temple but well worth it, especially come sunset.
If you don’t want to stray that far from Athens for a spot of sunbathing, head to Vouliagmeni Beach. This sublime smile of sand is located just 10km (6mi) south of the city centre and close to the bustling neighbourhood of Kastella. After having your fill of sun, there are plenty of cafes, bars and seafront restaurants to dip into and refuel. If you’re a bit of a restless beachgoer, there’s a tiny rocky islet to swim to and there are volleyball, tennis and basketball courts to the right of the beach. And for a different beach experience, there is an outdoor cinema showing screenings come sunset.
It can take a full day to sail from Athens’ Port of Piraeus to Syros, but the open sea journey to the capital of the Cyclades, Syros, is well-worth it. A visit to this island, 78 nautical miles southeast of Athens, will show you a different side to the region. The look of Syros is heavily influenced by Italian design with colourful houses, marble piazzas and a theatre regarded as a miniature of La Scala. For some sunny relaxation, head to a beach in the north – such as Delfini or Aetos – and soak up some rays while gorging on fresh fish and local wine from a traditional taverna.
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