The below list of Greek Islands shows these islands in the way they are geographically distributed in clusters within the archipelagoes of Greece. This list contains the 115 largest of them as it is impossible to include in such list every tiny one since it is incredible how many Greek islands are there.
The sailing heaven of the Greek Islands is divided geographically into the following clusters of islands:
- Ionian Islands: Erikoussa, Othoni, Mathraki, Corfu, Paxos, Antipaxos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Meganissi, Kalamos, Kastos, Arkoudi, Atokos, Ithaca, Petalas, Oxia, Zakynthos, Strofades, Kythera, Antikythera.
- Saronic Gulf Islands: Salamina, Aegina, Agistri, Poros, Hydra, Dokos, Spetses.
- Cyclades: Syros, Naxos, Santorini, Paros, Andros, Mykonos, Tinos, Milos, Sifnos, Kea, Ios, Amorgos, Kythnos, Serifos, Antiparos, Kimolos, Folegandros, Koufonissia, Anafi, Sikinos, Schinoussa, Donoussa, Iraklia, Thirassia, Delos, Makronissos, Gyaros, Polyaigos, Keros, Rhenia.
- Sporades: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos, Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Jura, Pipperi, Skantzoura, Skyros, Skyropoula.
- Northern Aegean Islands: Thasos, Samothrace, Lemnos, Agios Efstratios, Lesvos, Chios, Psara, Antipsara, Oinousses, Samos, Ikaria, Fournoi, Thymaina.
- Dodecanese: Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Karpathos, Patmos, Symi, Astypalea, Kassos, Nisyros, Lipsi, Tilos, Kastelorizo, Chalki, Agathonisi, Pserimos, Pharmakonisi, Telendos, Arki, Levitha, Gyali, Kalolimnos, Saria Kinaros, Sirna, Alimia, Nimos.
- Crete: Crete, Dia, Spinalonga, Koufonisi, Chrisi, Gavdos.
- Evia: Evia, Petalia.
Apart from the above list of Greek islands there are also many which are located near the coast of mainland Greece and do not belong to any of the above clusters. Out of these, of particular interest is Elafonisos which is located just 5 miles off the northernmost tip of Kythera.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that these clusters also provide a suitable separation of areas for sailing vacation that each one requires a different degree of sailing ability. Some of the above areas are suitable for novice sailors who are not very familiar with the open sea or they are preferred by experienced yachtsmen wanting relaxing sailing holidays. Some other of the above areas under particular weather conditions can be a challenge and a trophy for the very experienced sailors. And as Greek seamen say, you can’t buy a piece of sea you can only conquer it.
Each cluster from the above list of Greek Islands has its particular characteristics and each island has its very own identity that makes it so different from the rest. The Ionian Islands have extensive cultivation of olive trees and in places where soil is not cultivated, there are cypresses, pines or holm-oaks. A similar look but more forested appears in Sporades as well as in the islands of the Northern Aegean, with Samos being entitled to the first place in the ranking by greenery and by the extent of forest coverage. In the very opposite are the bare and wind-scoured ridges in most of Dodecanese and particularly in Cyclades which however are famous for their barren rocky charm.
Nevertheless, the clear difference in flavor and color that has been formed over the centuries between the above areas is due inter alia to the difficulty of access from one cluster to another for ordinary – non mariner residents. It is obvious that mainland Greece separates Ionian Sea from the Aegean Sea and therefore navigation from one sea to the other through the Isthmus of Corinth requires three days at least for a sailing vessel. It is also easily perceived that Sporades are quite distant from Cyclades, while Crete is a world unto itself with such striking elements of ancient behaviors. The eastern islands of Aegean are separated from the western ones, namely Sporades and Cyclades, by the strong winds that may reach gale force even, which prevail several times a year in the broad strip of sea between them, where in certain areas of there are some of the most challenging sea passages. And it is also quite obvious that the Dodecanese are very distant from the islands of Northern Aegean.
In the above list of Greek Islands a few rearrangements would be appropriate so to suit better certain islands into their natural itineraries for island hoping. In particular, Samos fits better to itineraries to and from Dodecanese while Elafonissos, Kythera and Antikythera suit best to itineraries starting from Chania of Crete or from Kalamata of Peloponnese, and besides they have a degree of sailing difficulty quite different from that of the Ionian Islands since they are affected by the meltemi wind.