The Greek islands are an ever-popular summer destination and perfect for exploring by yacht. While islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Corfu see large numbers of visitors in peak months, don’t let over-crowding deter you – beyond the abundant and much-loved Greek islands, numerous hideaway retreats await, relatively unknown and untouched by tourism. Brimming with wild scenery and authentic hospitality, discover a wholly unique appeal offered by island gems where you can take a break from mainstream shores to unearth the colourful treasures of secret Greece.
Where the Dodecanese meets the Cyclades, far-flung Astypalaia is named the ‘Butterfly of the Aegean’ after the beauty and shape of its landscape. Boasting centuries of historical legacy, it is easy to fall in love with the heady mix of white-washed villages, welcoming locals and gorgeous beaches bathed in sunlight. Built for protection from invading pirates, the imposing 13th century castle fortifications tower over the tumbling hillside chora, where sinuous alleyways bedecked with bougainvillea wind down to the Pera Gialos port. At Vastes, the impressive Negrou Cave is reached by boat and immersed in pirate myths of buried treasure, whilst adrenaline-seekers flock to Ftera for challenging limestone climbing routes of varying intensity. Oozing a tranquil vibe, relaxation at beautiful Kaminakia beach is easy – soak up island seclusion and relish the exquisite translucent waters.
Delight in the remote yachting retreat of Arki, packed with amazing anchorages, equally fabulous beaches and only 40 permanent inhabitants. Sail amongst the network of surrounding atolls; these clustered rugged islets create an untouched ecosystem and nature-lovers paradise. Unwind at the incredible Tiganákia blue lagoon, see the Aspronisi caves, swim in the blue-white waters of Makronissi and visit the beach at Marathi. Explore the many trekking paths, visit Arki’s environmental research centre and enjoy delicious local specialities at one of only four tavernas. This northernmost spot in the Dodecanese invites total relaxation amongst natural treasures whilst embracing rural Greek life.
Within the eastern Cyclades group, tiny Schinoussa is a sheltered sailing haven nestled amidst unspoiled natural scenery. Part of the Natura 2000 nature preservation network, a choice of 18 sun-kissed beaches dominate this paradise; ideal to get away from it all and with a suitably chilled out atmosphere. Agriculture, farming and fishing support the small population of around 250 inhabiting two main villages – notably the local produce is of an exceptional standard. Hill trails weave their way between vines and orchards, affording breath-taking views across to Santorini. The deserted cove of Sifneiko is an old pirate hideout and a perfect spot to drop ancho. An underwater paradise awaits snorkellers on the rich seabed of Avlaki tou Papa, whilst windsurfers will appreciate the feisty north eastern winds found at Almyros.
In the southwestern Cyclades, sleepy Kimolos exudes peaceful seclusion. The long, deserted stretch of beach at Mavrospilia and golden sands of Aliki and Bonatsa are a draw, trekking paths snake across the gentle terrain, while the anti-pirate castle on the foothills of Xaplovouni is a fascinating discovery. Head to the carved Pelekiti Cave at Kakopotamos, rejuvenate in the hot spring at Ayioklima beach or discover the cave at the Promontory of Gerakia. Close by, the largest uninhabited isle in the Aegean, Polyaigos, is a perfect sailing destination. Blessed with sheltered anchorages, emerald waters and immaculate beaches, enjoy an incredible sunset from the lighthouse or discover Mediterranean Monk Seals in the Cave of Galakteri.
Close to Kefalonia in the Ionian, Ithaca is a stunning island that has remained relatively undiscovered. Amazing sea views and hidden ruins are found in the hiking trails peppering the lush green valleys and rugged hills. Homeland to Odysseus, the archaeological sites are steeped in mythology. Head to the harbour towns of Frikes and Kioni, brimming with tavernas serving extraordinarily fresh seafood or explore the crumbling villages of Exogi and Anogi with views stretching across the archipelago. Secluded coves at Filiatro and Sarakiniko offer great swimming spots in the crystal waters and scuba divers will be enthralled by the seabed dubbed ‘Poseidon’s Meadow’.
Relaxed island-hopping, whether you seek adventure or familiarity, is a Greek specialty. The myriad of differing islands strewn across the sapphire Aegean provide the perfect opportunity for a sunkissed escape to secluded shores.
Nicholas Dean is Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Ocean Independence is a global leader in luxury yachting, providing a bespoke experience across yacht charter, sales and management.