7 days discovering Athens and the Cyclades Islands on a superyacht

Classical temples and party islands

The Greek capital and surrounding islands make for a very interesting itinerary with ancient monuments, white-washed towns, blue waters and mesmerising sunsets.

Athens is an ideal starting point for a private cruise or superyacht charter in Greece and with its many marinas you’ll be spoiled for choice. Then, there is the history of the city. The Acropolis, crowned by the Parthenon or the many ancient temples that serve as a reminder of its rich past are all extremely accessible sight-seeing points. Maybe the most iconic change though in recent years is the banishment of vehicles. Yes, the centre of Athens is predominantly pedestrianised now leaving Europe’s longest, vehicle-free promenade.

After a day of exploring head out in to the Aegean Sea and onwards to the islands. The Cyclades are a group of islands just off the coast of Greece — in total there is 2,200 islands, islets and rocks but just 33 islands are inhabited. Explore the white-washed houses of Santorini; watch the sunset in Mykonos and marvel at the incredible rock formations on the relatively unexplored Milos island.

Day 1: Classical temples and party islands

Join your yacht at one of Athens’ many excellent superyacht marinas, and get underway as soon as possible, because you have a long day at sea ahead of you. The Cyclades are not the nearest group of islands to Athens, but they represent most people’s idea of what the Greek islands are like.

As you round Cape Sounion ask the skipper to go as close to shore as possible so that you can admire the astonishing Temple of Poseidon, perched on a cliff-top at the very end of mainland Greece. Continue south-east and drop the anchor in a sheltered bay on Kea, and enjoy a dip, a leisurely lunch, and your first taste of the Cyclades.

After lunch, continue south-east for another couple hours until you reach Mykonos. Mykonos one of the best party destinations in the Mediterranean, as well as being one of the most beautiful and picturesque in Greece. Drop the anchor in a sheltered bay and take the tender into Mykonos town for a look around. If you fancy a night out on the town, then Mykonos is the best place to do it. If not, head back to the peace and quiet of your yacht.

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Sampling the delights of Mykonos

Mykonos is a delightful island, so it is worth spending the day here having a look around either in a hire-car or in the tender. With the prevailing winds from the North in the summer, the beaches and coves on the south side are better protected, but also more crowded. And be warned, several of the beaches on the south coast are nudist.

To get away from it all, head for the north coast. This is also the place to be for windsurfers, with its brisk on-shore breeze. In the evening, either head into town for drinks, dinner and dancing, or head back to the yacht and see what the chef has rustled up.

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Ancient Delos and quintessential Cyclades

Departing from Mykonos, head a couple of miles south-west to Delos. This barren and uninhabited island does not look much from a distance, but in Hellenic times this was one of the most important places in the known world.

The Greek god Apollo and his sister Artemis were, according to legend, born here, and a huge religious complex was built here around 800 BC. It is definitely worth spending a couple of hours looking around Delos. You can take in sites such as the Lion Terrace, House of Dolphins, the theatre, the House of The Masks, and the Archaeological Museum.

After lunch at anchor maybe some time spent playing with the yacht’s watersports equipment before turning south and heading for Naxos. The island is one of the biggest in the Cyclades, but much more traditional than somewhere like Mykonos.

The town of Naxos is typical of these islands, with its white-washed houses and narrow alleyways tumbling down the hillside to the harbour. The harbour itself is lined with cafes and tavernas, and there is even a tiny white-washed church on a little island in the harbour. Go ashore and immerse yourself in the sights and smells of the Cyclades.

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Mule rides and Minoans

After a leisurely breakfast, head south once more to the island of Ios where Homer is said to be buried. Anchor in one of the small secluded bays on the south side of the island, swim in crystal clear waters, and have a leisurely lunch on the aft deck. After lunch you could do some more watersports or simply take a snooze in the shade.

After a hard day doing not very much at all, head for the extraordinary island of Santorini. When you sail into the flooded crater of this now-extinct volcano. This volcano erupted in 1450 BC it brought to an end one of the most powerful civilisations to have ruled the Mediterranean — the Minoans.

From the port of Thira, ascend 580 steps up to the town on the back of a mule, or in the table-car if you don’t fancy doing it the old-fashioned way, and then marvel at the astonishing views from the town. Give the crew the evening off and dine in one of the many tavernas, which serve some of the best rustic food in the Mediterranean, with breath-taking views over the caldera.

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Sightseeing and sunsets on Santorini

Santorini is an extraordinary island, so take the chance to spend a day sightseeing. Rent a car or taxi for the day and go exploring. The ruins at Akrotiri and Ancient Thira are absolutely stunning and the road from Kamari up to the site of Ancient Thira includes 21 hairpin bends and is one of the best coastal drives in the world.

For an extraordinary sunset experience, drive to Oia in the very north of the island and have dinner as you watch the sunset over the caldera.

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Hot Springs and picture-postcard villages

Departing from Santorini, you’re now heading back towards Athens. It’s probably too far to doing one hit, so head north-west and stop at the wild and beautiful island of Milos. Like Santorini, Milos is volcanic, and if anything is even more strange and Santorini.

Thanks to its volcanic past, Milos has incredible rock formations, hot springs, and picture postcard villages perched on multi-coloured cliffs. Take the tender out and explore this surprisingly unspoiled island.

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Back to the cradle of Western civilisation

Leaving Milos behind, you have a five or six hour trip back to Athens, which should give you enough time to anchor off one of the islands en route for a last swim, and some lunch before returning to Athens.

This may be the end of your time on board, but you really should spend a day or two in Athens exploring this wonderful ancient city. The Acropolis, the Agora, and the Archaeological Museum are all absolutely fantastic and you should definitely make time to see them before you return home.

Picture courtesy of Milan Gonda/Shutterstock

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