‘Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.’
– Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
A word of warning – the Greek Islands can become an addiction. Succumb to their siren call, and there’s a danger you might never want to go anywhere else. Scattered like jewels across the sparkling azure sea, the hundreds of islands offer yacht travellers an enticing blend of natural beauty, fine gastronomy and cultural allure – all woven into a rich tapestry of intriguing stories and myths. And in the Mediterranean summer, there are fewer more relaxing places to be than soaking up the sunshine on deck, drifting leisurely across the Aegean.
Like Western civilisation as a whole, the story begins in Athens, where you board your yacht in time for a chef-prepared lunch and the cruise to Kea, the closest island in the Cyclades, accessible only by boat. The island’s shores are lined with golden arcs of beach and fringed by clear waters so finding an idyllic basking spot is never a challenge. For divers, the island offers access to some of the most spellbinding sites in Greece, including the wreck of the steamship Patris, as well as wall and cave sites rich in marine life. Explore he underwater world or stay above the surface, and salute the Med sunshine with a private yoga session on deck.
Onward to Syros, where a history of human settlement stretches back to the Bronze Age. Today, the island enjoys a reputation of being one of the most culturally rich in the Aegean, with the Apollo Theatre at the heart of its artistic life. Considered to be Greece’s answer to Milan’s La Scala, the 19th-century building plays host to a world-class array of international performances in classical music and dance, as well as being the principal venue for the annual Festival of the Aegean.
Mykonos has been the darling of the jet set since the 1960s, and retains its reputation for high-society glamour with a hedonistic streak today. Come for dinner at one of Chora’s many fine-dining venues, stay for the best night life this side of Ibiza, and clear your head the morning after with a restorative yoga session on your yacht.
Next, travel back in time on Paros with a private visit to an archaeological dig site, unlocking an island history that harks back to the Classical era. Next, discover first-hand the magnificence of Parian marble – the translucent white stone that made the Venus de Milo – which was responsible for the island’s prosperity over the millennia.
A foray into the Dodecanese will bring you to the pebbled shores of Astypalaia, the ideal setting for a meditative yoga session on the beach with not a soul in sight. With the mind cleared and the pulse calmed, it’s time to set the heart racing once more with an exhilarating cycling tour of Naxos, following a bespoke route along the island’s picturesque coastal roads and scenic inland trails, tailored to your interest and fitness.
The cruise back to Athens will give you enough time to rest those weary thighs, and by the time you hit the harbour, you’ll find yourself restored, refocused and reset in body and mind. Unfortunately, you’ll also have a new Greek-Island addiction to contend with, and that will be tough to shake…