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Greek Islands are much more than astonishing sun-kissed sceneries of whitewashed houses crowning the hills, white-sail windmills, and golden beaches with crystal clear waters, that offer holidays in all guises. Those who are familiar with the Greek Islands agree that they are one of the very few in the world perfect destinations for sailing holidays and cruising. And that’s because each of the Greek Islands is a small universe on its own that you are hooked as you explore it.
In the variform coastline of Greek Islands are alternating secluded coves surrounded by barren rocky or verdant cliffs, famous pristine or bustling party beaches, ravines of land that continue into the sea, wetlands, coastal and underwater caves, awesome rock clusters, tiny villages perched on stark mountainsides, quaint fishing villages, and colorful harbors filled with caiques, fishing boats and yachts of any size. The alluring beaches with the crystal blue waters some are stretched with white or golden sand, some are pebbly, and others are a result of volcanic formation taking the dark color of coagulated lava or even the whitewashed color of pumice formed by the solidification of volcanic ash. The sea in the Greek Islands is as clean as nowhere else in the Mediterranean, so pure that the seabed is visible along with its marine creatures and with vast schools of fish in quite some depth. Indeed many of the Greek beaches have won Blue Flags of Europe Program, and are suitable for all marine recreational activities like windsurfing, sailing, sea kayaking, surfing, water skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and of course for swimming and sunning. Although in most areas scuba diving is prohibited in order to protect underwater antiquities from snatching, in many Greek Islands there are schools that offer diving excursions.
In most Greek Islands even in those that do not have permanent residents, there are places of great archaeological interest related to the paleolithic, archaic (Cycladic-Minoan-Mycenaean), the classical, Byzantine and the medieval period of Greece. Most of the ports in the Greek Islands are located in positions of known ancient ports and there aren’t few those where sea still splashes ancient jetties or city walls. And of course at the numerous inhabited traditional settlements the enduring Greek cultural identity down the centuries is evidenced through the historical continuity of Greek tradition as a way of life that connects present to the remotest past.
The ancients believed that each place has its own deity. Sure enough each Greek Island is special in terms of character offering a unique set of stunning scenery, alluring beaches, attractions of nature, ancient and medieval sites, flora, architecture, and of course its own wondrous contribution in what is called Greekness internationally. Regardless of the particular characteristics of each Greek Island there is a very common element. In almost all the homes either in the yard if they have one or on the balcony there is basil planted in a pot. Basil gives special meaning into the Greek life be it either the preparation of asperges or be it the relish of the traditional recipe. In the Greek Islands you will savor the authentic Mediterranean diet as it comes into today from the ancient wisdom and you will enjoy as tisane the herbs that the insular nature generously provides. There you can mingle with the locals and get to know the rural, fishing, and other bread-winning activities of islanders, have fun with them in their numerous local festivals, and discover why their relaxed pace and non-exacting life, rewards them with creative thinking, self-awareness, and longevity.
In most Greek Islands the locals call their capital Chora regardless of the official name on the map. The best way to experience Chora is to start from the port and ascend to its narrow and tangled alleyways within their romantic ambience letting them take you towards where they end. They may end up in a scenic square with tavernas and local cafes where at a corner a younger plays the local musical instrument and an elder one brings into singing all the melodic grievance of the Greek race. They may end up to an old church that may be open but empty inside. They may end up in an unexpected archaeological site or simply at a place with sweeping views. Some of them might result in deadlocks or perhaps lead you to a junction you passed before. Smile and take heart, you are not in the labyrinth. The purpose of this layout as early as the Middle Ages was the tight defense as it was intended to cause confusion and loss of movements control to pirates and other invaders. Piracy in the Aegean had lasted until the early 19th century. If it happens that you lose your orientation just head towards the lower or ask a local the word “limáni” (port) or the word “platía” (square). In some Greek Islands, Chora is built high on a hill cone and the port of is nothing but a beautiful fishing village or its newest evolution. At any rate, the most pleasant stroll is early morning, when Chora belongs to its inhabitants, or a little before – shortly after sunset while it’s still dusk. May be the most famous sunset is that of Santorini, yet sunset in all the Greek Islands is at least spectacular. Pick a high point with unobstructed views to the open sea and if atmospheric conditions are right – which usually are – you will be delighted at the sight of a gorgeous fiery sunset over a “wine dark sea”. And if spectacular sunsets excite you, an equally spectacular sunrise right through the horizon of the Aegean which slowly brightens the islands, will reveal to you why Homer called rosy-fingered the Eos, the goddess of dawn and mother of the winds. But if you anchor in a secluded cove, after the dinner you prepared with the fresh products of the Greek Island, enjoy the local variety of wine observing the moonlight flood the sea. And if there is no moon, you’re still lucky because on the crystal clear night sky of Greek Islands you will gaze at the shapes of constellations and the spiral arm of Milky Way – our galaxy, but also especially in August, you will see at least one shooting star dive in the Aegean before you make a wish.
A sailing vacation either bareboat or aboard a skippered yacht charter allows for one of the most interesting island-hopping worldwide as with no exaggeration Greek seas are a sailing heaven.
Many wonder how many Greek islands are there. Well, they are incredibly numerous, but more interestingly, the indented coastline is full of coves and bays offering plentiful natural havens and good anchorages which the most yachts prefer for mooring rather than to berth in the picturesque ports. Distances between the islands are so small that usually require only a few hours of sailing. Besides the well-known as the best Greek islands that just about everyone wants to see, visiting the non-bustling, even the off the beaten track Greek islands is one of the best experiences and chances are that you’ll fall in love with as you discover them. Don’t be taken aback if you feel something calling you to set course to a less known Greek island, or even a tiny outlier. If weather permits and you can reach there while it’s still day, go with it! That may be the best part of your holiday – the most picturesque cove with the insuperable beach – the beautiful tavern on the sand having no electricity and the owner who offers you the most fresh and delicious seafood he caught, having relatives living in the same town as you – the impromptu traditional festival of locals where you became the ‘honoured guest’ of the night…!
Whichever itinerary you choose along the ancient routes through the Greek Islands, will offer you memorable moments into magical shades of cobalt blue to azure and will sharpen your senses to the fullest. Photos are never enough to describe these sceneries. Thin sounds, fragrances, and the little details the human eye captures cannot be reproduced by a camera or a camcorder. How lens to describe that as you approach an island, first off herb fragrances are welcoming you brought by the land breeze? What lens to capture when the glowing Aegean sunlight makes the calm sea that wrinkles at the first gust to look like encrusted with sparkling small diamonds, and the human substance be joining with the universe? Which lens can compete with the human eye when sailing in in rough sea the emerald peaks of the breaking waves fringed by spume that you almost touch from the stern as they pass, reveal why Greeks in very old times were seeing there the horses of Poseidon?
So rent a yacht and visit the Greek islands for the fabulous pictures you’ve seen and the enticing travel articles you’ve read. Visit them for the stories you’ve heard and the movies you’ve seen with Greek Islands as a backdrop. Sure enough though, long after you’ve gone you will feel something calling you to visit them again and again. Because no matter how many times you have visited the Greek Islands, even the same island again, you’ll want to discover what you missed last time, even though that was a sunbeam or maybe the figure of a Siren, which stole a glance at you from into the wave.