Exploring Greece with MedSailors Part 2: What to Expect from the Route among Idyllic Islands, Picturesque Ports and Breathtaking Bays
If you saw my previous post about sailing around the Saronic Islands in Greece with MedSailors, then you’ll know that I’m a big fan. It was a week of jumping from island to island, swimming off the back of the yacht, feeling the wind in my hair, and escaping the stresses of life on dry land.
On previous sailing trips around the Mediterranean and Caribbean, I hadn’t spent that much time actually on the islands we sailed around. Quite often it’s more relaxing (and cheaper) to drop anchor for the night in a secluded bay, cooking dinner onboard the yacht, and we might only venture on land to replenish fresh water and supplies (known as ‘victualling’ the boat in nautical terms). So when I used to return from a week sailing around Croatia or Turkey, I wouldn’t really be able to tell anyone what those countries were actually like. I could tell you how the coastline looks from the water… but not a huge amount about the actual culture or life on land.
So our itinerary with MedSailors was a great treat, as we docked in a different island’s marina every single afternoon and had time to actually explore the islands, before a delicious Greek meal in a restaurant that evening. So, here’s a whistle stop tour of the islands we visited with MedSailors and what you can do on each island.
Athens Alimos Marina
You board the yacht at Athens’ Alimos Marina from 12-3pm on the Saturday, so we flew into Athens the night before. I’ll come back to Athens at the end, as you should definitely dedicate some time to exploring the capital of Ancient Greece. But first, to the islands…
Perdika (on Aegina island)
Having set off from Athens at 3pm and stopped in a bay for a swim, we arrived at Perdika with just enough time for drinks, before dinner outside the Saronis Taverna right by our yacht. At most tavernas throughout the week we’d just opt for big mezze sharing plates, which cost us €15 per person including table wine (which is pretty lethal…) These mezzes are always delicious and generally consist of yummy Greek food like halloumi, hummus, souvlaki pork and chicken, meatballs, calamari, other bits of seafood, grilled and fried vegetables, Greek salads with cucumber and feta cheese and cheese pastries. Apart from a post-dinner stroll among the village’s quaint streets and a few drinks in a nearby bar, we didn’t see as much of Perdika as we did the other islands, but this was just the first day.
Ermioni (on the mainland)
We arrived in Ermione with a bit more time on our hands. The MedSailors crew had organised a drinks party and dinner at the stunning Kabos restaurant, which offers this incredible view at sunset. We got to meet the other 5 yachts in our flotilla, all full of similar-aged and like-minded people, mainly from the UK but also from New Zealand and Australia too, and I eagerly quizzed the other crew and skippers about what it’s like to run the flotilla and work for MedSailors all summer. To be honest, although they have a lot of responsibility as a skipper, working for MedSailors looks like an absolute dream and I’m exceptionally jealous, so I really did believe their glowing reports about the company. The crew are clearly all really good friends, and the atmosphere among the skippers and crew reminded me of ski seasons and the seasonnaire vibe. Yes, very jealous indeed.
Dinner was another alfresco affair with another endless set of mezze sharing plates, and after the sun had set and the obligatory post-dinner ouzo shots had been consumed, we moved onto another nearby bar. The drinks were flowing, some girls were dancing topless on the bar (not from our yacht I might add!) and some of us tucked into yet more food thanks to the souvlaki bar nearby… It’s all a bit of a blur, but it was an absolute joy to have only a 15-second bar-to-bed walk home! The dream.
Our day in Spetses was our favourite day of the entire week! We arrived in Spetses around midday and 10 of us from our yacht hired quad bikes for the day (costing €25, plus €3 for petrol), allowing us to zip around the island at our leisure. Once you escape the well-to-do, beautiful bougainvillea-adorned labyrinth of cobbled alleyways that is the main town on Spetses’ north-east coast, there’s a single 25km-long road that hugs the coast all the way around the island! It’s a hilly island so the road gives you an elevated view over crystal-clear bays home to superyachts, over deserted coves, over the natural countryside of the island, and you can peel off the main road to visit various beaches. We spent the afternoon first at Anargiri beach (walk along the beach to dive off the rocks and find the spooky Bekiri’s cave) and then at Vrelos Beach at their great cocktail bar.
I couldn’t help but think that this is literally the life: sailing by morning, exploring jaw-dropping islands and beach-hopping by afternoon, sipping refreshing cocktails with the sand between my toes as the sun begins to set, surrounded by hilarious bunch of friends both old and new, all the while knowing that the very next day we’d be moving to another equally stunning island, fresh to explore a new place…
Racing Mario kart-style back to the main town to shower and change for dinner, we gave back our quad bikes and ventured out into the town for dinner. Spetses is only a few hours from Athens so is apparently very popular with affluent Athenians who escape from the sauna-like heat of the capital to the sea breeze of their Spetsiote villas, and this wealth is visible from how beautifully maintained and pristine the main town is. All along the waterfront are bursts of pink bougainvillea, grand neoclassical buildings, pretty churches, elegant white-washed boutiques, restaurants and ice-cream parlours. We decided to take a break from the halloumi and feta, for a change, and go to the pizzeria Quarter instead. The excitement of the day’s adventures had left us all a tad exhausted so after an ice-cream and a stroll around the town, it was bedtime. We didn’t take one of the horse-drawn carts that are dotted around the village (as no motorised vehicles are permitted after 7pm) but that would have been a romantic addition to the evening…
Poros is an island that Olivia and I had visited back in 2012 when we last sailed around the Saronic Islands. You dock on the southern tip of the island, which is a mini peninsula. When the wind and water are calm on Poros island, you can do various watersports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding and parasailing for about €35. I already waterski and I really wanted to try wakeboarding for the first time, however we weren’t in luck with some slightly choppy waves, so instead we walked 15 minutes to the nearby Kanali Beach, to just relax. The combination of late nights feasting, drinking and partying; early-ish mornings when the sun started to heat up our cabins; daytimes sailing; and wanting to explore each new place we visited, we’d barely sat still and it was a relief to have an afternoon simply on a beach with a book. (That’s an unusual thing for me to write, as I’m not normally the beach and book type of person!). That afternoon Olivia and I started plotting how we’d get our own yachts one day, so we’ll be able live this life for more than just a week at a time…
That night our New Zealand contingent went missing on quad bikes, so we four London girls took our two skippers out to dinner at Poseidon Taverna. If you’ve read my first blog post about this trip, then you’ll know that each MedSailors yacht normally only has one skipper. We got lucky that week to have two very adorable and charming skippers Sergei and Charlie, and we secretly loved having them all to ourselves for an evening. That is, until the drinking games began and we descended into our usual drunken antics at another bar nearby the yacht.
Epidavros (on the mainland)
Epidavros is a historic port at the foothills of Arachnaio on the mainland, where you can go scuba diving for about €50. I was initially quite keen, as there are apparently some ancient underwater ruins to explore! Word of warning: unless everyone going scuba diving already has their PADI certificate, then it’ll be more like a beginner’s taster. Which is perfect is you’re a beginner – not so perfect if you’ve already learned. So make sure you check the level is what you’re after, and remember that Greece doesn’t have coral, so it won’t be a multi-colour Little Mermaid-esque experience that you might be expecting. If scuba-diving isn’t your cup of tea, then you can also take a 20-minute taxi to visit a 2,500-year-old ancient amphitheatre that is almost perfectly preserved and seats up to 14,000 people, still playing host to the occasional performance if you’re well-timed. Take a look here at their programme of events.
Otherwise, walk 20 minutes south from the port, past a smaller more ruined amphitheatre to a thin beach. We based ourselves on the green lawns of the very stylish Gikas restaurant and snorkelled in search of these ruins (we couldn’t find them, but we could have looked harder, if the strawberry daiquiris hadn’t looked so inviting… That evening we ate the scrumptious Poseidon taverna in the harbour and had a quiet night, except for Sophie and Hemi’s attempts to adopt an adorable stray puppy and whisk him away with us on our yacht!
Shortly before reaching Megalochori marina on our last island of the week, Agistri, we anchored for lunch and a swim in a ridiculously photogenic V-shaped bay on the south-west tip of the island. Ciara rowed me on a paddle-board over to the rocks, where I climbed up high enough to get these views on my GoPro and the last shot of this video… Not too many more words are needed I feel!
On Agistri island there wasn’t a huge amount to see, so we found a bar with a swimming pool and played games until the weekly toga party that the skippers and crew put on. We were initially very sceptical, feeling a bit too old for dressing up like freshers, but we soon succumbed to peer pressure and not wanting to be outshone but the other yachts. Yes, it did feel a bit cheesy walking around in a pack of 40-50 toga-wearing foreigners. Luckily, both the restaurant and club afterwards were booked out just for us Ancient-Greek-wannabes, so we didn’t impose ourselves too much on anyone else outside of MedSailors! Plus, everyone looks great dressed all in white!
Athens Alimos Marina
We arrived back in Athens on the Friday afternoon and reluctantly packed our bags and said our goodbyes to our wonderful skippers Sergei and Charlie… Although you disembark on the Friday, I recommend you stay in Athens until the Sunday night before flying home again. Why? Because Athens’ old town is actually really pretty and luckily small enough to be feasible in a couple in of days. I visited Athens last November with my family when I ran the annual Athens Marathon, which finishes in the atmospheric Panathenaic Stadium, and we explored the Parthenon, atop the Acropolis, as well as the old town of Plaka, where our Airbnb was located next to the Aghia Ekaterina Church. Athens is well worth an extra day or two to visit.
MedSailors also offer a transfer to Mykonos on the Friday soon after your arrival at Athens Alimos Marina. It takes 3-4 hours by ferry and it is supposed to be a beautiful island! After the week with MedSailors I actually flew to Santorini instead, somewhere that had long been on my wishlist, and that was also an excellent addition to the trip!
So there’s a whistlestop tour of everything there is to do in the marinas and islands we visited in the Saronic Gulf. As you can see, we didn’t do all the activities and watersports that were on offer, and fortunately there was no pressure to do these extras either. To be honest, I was completely happy with what we did end up doing, and I didn’t once feel bored.
I would definitely recommend you hire quad bikes in Spetses and drive around the island, and remember to embrace the toga party with a pinch of salt and not take it too seriously. I had thought we’d be just sailing around, as per my previous sailing trips, but MedSailors did a really good job of making sure there was something to entertain us (if we wanted) every day. The Saronic Islands are just beautiful because there isn’t much of a non-sailing crowd. You won’t find the hoards of tourists or the cruise-ship lot here, as you will find in more famous places like Santorini and Mykonos. The Saronic Gulf is the quiet, natural Greece of my imagination, and it is just heavenly. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m already dreaming of my next visit in fact….
The Saronic islands sound beautiful and perfect for student travel since they are relatively low cost. All of the greek islands are unique in their own way, with hidden treasures to discover; I’ve only been to Rhodes which has very high tourist numbers, but would love to go to less visited popular places in the future.The Saronic Islands or Argo-Saronic Islands is an archipelago in Greece, named after the Saronic Gulf in which they are located, just off the Greek mainland. Did you know, the main inhabited islands of this group are Salamis (where the ancient Greek navy defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis), Aegina, Agistri, and Poros.
I agree, the cost of food in the Greek islands for example is much cheaper than in the western Mediterranean, and much cheaper than the busier more popular islands, such as Santorini and Mykonos. Interesting to hear about the history, I’m not sure if I knew that!
Such beautiful pictures! Greek food is so tasty and refreshing after a day in the sun.
Wander with Laura