Secret Alternatives to Busy Marinas for Sailing Around the Cyclades Islands of Greece

Katapola port is a popular spot to moor off Amorgos
Katapola port is a popular spot to moor off Amorgos | © Tuul / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Damien Gabet

When most people think of sailing the Greek Islands, it’s really the Cyclades they have in mind. The pure blue-and-white beauty that stamps itself on the imagination? That’s Paros. The hedonism of the perfect Aegean fun trap? Mykonos. Traditional Greek culture and hospitality? Amorgos. Sun-bleached remnants of ancient civilisations? Delos. With over 200 islands in the group, sailed by flotillas in peak season, you’ll be glad of this guide to alternative moorings.

Sail around the Cyclades Islands with Culture Trip’s Greece Cyclades Sailing Trip.

Marina Parikia, Paros

A natural harbour that predates history? Everyone from the ancient Greeks to the Venetians used this placid anchorage. Now it fronts the pure-white churches and cobbled alleys of historic Parikia. You’ll share berths with fishing craft at the central, working marina, which has 70 moorings for boats of up to 60m (197ft) in length and 3.5m (11ft) in draft. Water, fuel and power are available at decent rates. Head straight to Restaurant Aromas, where a cold beer or ouzo and meze awaits.

Katapola Marina, Amorgos

Dolphins might escort you into the deep harbour at Katapola – a port town since the days of the Minoans. The sheltered, central marina can take boats of up to 60m (197ft) in length and 7m (22ft) in draft. Fill up on power, water and essentials, then head to portside restaurant Minos for fresh grilled seafood and chilled raki. If you’re staying a while, take the 15-minute taxi ride to Hozoviotissa, a blinding-white cliffside monastery that’s been an architectural miracle for over 1,000 years.

Port Anafi, Anafi

Apollo himself recommends this harbour. According to legend, the Argonauts, threatened by a severe storm, were led here by the Greek god of light. He clearly knew his business: while exposed, the marina can take boats of up to 196m (643ft) in length and 5m (16ft) in draft. Once you’ve taken water, power and groceries on board, take sole possession of undeveloped beaches such as Paralia Mega Potamou and Paralia Katalimatsa. Inland, discover whitewashed Cycladic architecture, tiny churches and ruined Apollonian temples.

Livadi Marina, Serifos

Another underappreciated beauty, Serifos offers some of the Cyclades most eye-catching beaches and towns. The Livadi Marina is pretty basic and, unless your draft is only one metre, you’ll need to anchor a little way off the quay, in more generous waters, 4m (13ft) deep. Once ashore, wander the photogenic waterfront of Chora to breezy, open-sided restaurant Sfina, where you’ll eat whatever the town’s fishermen have just caught – grilled, with a Greek salad and some chilled raki.

Paralia Milopotas, los

Want to avoid the bustle and bother of the marina at Chora, Ios’s main town? Simply drop anchor in the sandy bay offshore from Paralia Mylopotas, a pretty beach immediately south. Depths of 6m (20ft) to 8m (26ft) mean little danger of scraping your hull. There’s also a quay to tie up your tender, next to seaside Drakos Taverna to the southeast of the bay.

Paralia Megali Ammos, Mykonos

Dodging the hassle and expense of Mykonos’s ugly New Port couldn’t be more satisfying. Drop anchor in the bay offshore from Paralia Megali Ammos, a pleasant beach just south. Protected by low scrubby hills, the bay is deep enough for most yachts and has good holding sand. Take your tender to the jetty on the east shore and you’re immediately among shops and tavernas. But don’t miss out on Mykonos’s nightlife – get a taxi to clifftop mega-club Cavo Paradiso.

Vlichada Port, Santorini

The Little Venice area of Mykonos Town is a popular spot for dinner with a view

Santorini’s dramatic volcanic topography makes for a shortage of good moorings. Our pick is Vlychada Port in the island’s south, where dredging and breakwaters make up for what nature didn’t provide. It can be tricky to navigate into, but it’s the soundest harbour this historic island offers. Depths are around 3m (10ft) and water, power and fuel are all available. Once tied up, you’re free to explore Santorini’s ancient wonders. Don’t miss Ancient Tira, which dates back to the 9th century BCE.

Panormos Bay, Naxos

Sometimes you need to get away from everything, even in the Greek Islands. How about the blissful anchorage like Panormos? The stuff of Cycladean dreams, this secluded, undeveloped bay is what you’ve always been dreaming of. It’s shallow, so yachts drawing more than 3m (10ft) need to be careful, but it’s so worth it. Get to the palm-shaded beach by tender (or swim) and treat yourself to an ice slushie and a souvlaki at cobbled-together Panormos Beach Bar.

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