How to plan a sailing holiday in the Greek Islands

Exploring the islands by sea is sometimes the best way to travel. Claire Shields, country operations manager for Greece at Sunsail, shares her top tips.

By James Stewart
Published 18 Mar 2023, 18:31 GMT
The hillside village of Spartochori, on Meganisi.

The hillside village of Spartochori, on Meganisi.

Photograph by Getty Images

What’s your favourite island for sailing?

Meganisi is a no-brainer. Like all of the Ionian, it has gentle morning winds that get stronger into the afternoon, there’s uncomplicated navigation and you can sail somewhere new in two hours. But it’s next to Lefkas and between Corfu and Zakynthos, so most people don’t take the time to discover it. It’s so unspoilt — still very local, with little fishing harbours and residents who are just phenomenal.

What does the island look like? 

Beautiful! It’s green year-round because of pine and olive trees, and most beaches are pebbly, so the sea is crystal clear. It looks a bit like a lamb chop from above, with sheltered harbours around the top and unexplored bays along the tail, where white cliffs drop sheer into deep sea. There are a few beaches with sunloungers but no big hotels. 

Where should I anchor?

Spartochori is a village with sugar-cube houses, ladies making bread and grandmothers wearing black. The bay where you moor is deep and clean, so you can swim off the boat. Vathy, next door, is bigger and busier. There are amazing anchorages in the north east, such as Kato Elia Bay, but I love the wild coves west and south, which are only reachable by yacht.

What are the restaurants like?

Everything you eat on Meganisi is local — even the olive oil is from family groves. Places are family-run, with a brother or grandmother cooking, then younger generations out front, and good value at £15-30 a head with wine. One we use a lot is Rose Garden, in Vathy. It’s on the harbour, covered in bougainvillea, and serves traditional food like kleftiko and stifado. Also in Vathy, Errikos, by the pier, does the best fish — whatever the owner’s boats caught that day.

Any advice for a first-time sailor?

Don’t expect to be served G&Ts all day like on the TV series Below Deck. Sailing is a bit like caravanning on water — you should book a catamaran for maximum living space. But life afloat is so relaxed; it’s all about shorts and flip-flops, leaving the hairdryer at home, swimming and embracing the elements.

How do I do it?

Yacht charter is from Lefkada. You can go alone — a ‘bareboat’ — or join a flotilla, which may be best if you have kids. If you’re not a sailor, you’ll need a professional skipper — it’s a good way to learn the ropes. Some companies let you take a qualification at the same time. Or you could buy a cabin on a shared yacht.

Sunsail runs yacht charters plus a sailing school from its base at Lefkas. 

Published in the April 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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