Why charter in the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs
Charting in the Saronic Gulf is extremely appealing, as the islands here are the most accessible to Athens. Not only that, but the Saronic Gulf makes for easy, relaxing sailing with mild winds compared to other sailing areas in Greece. Importantly, it’s an extremely beautiful area with fantastic islands that combine natural beauty with remarkable historical significance.
If you’re sailing the Saronic islands, you may as well extend your pampered adventure by including the Peloponnese mainland, which also has plenty to offer.
You don’t have to travel far from the mainland for an authentic Greek island experience. Even tying up in the port is a charming experience, where horses pulling carriages clip-clop by and traditional fishing boats bob in the water. A few things to tick off here include visiting a pistachio grove, the 5th century Temple of Aphaia, and the awe-inspiring Byzantine Paleohora ruins. Adrenaline junkies are in for a treat as opportunities for water sports are abundant in Aegina – whether its wind surfing, diving or snorkelling that you’re after.
Sensational Moni is an uninhabited island, home only to a few friendly goats, peacocks and deer. You’ll feel miles away from anything as you float in Moni’s turquoise waters. The island also offers fantastic hiking, fishing and picnicking, and it makes for a tranquil overnight anchorage.
The main drawcard of this village on mainland Greece is its 4th century BC theatre, an incredibly well-preserved structure that is still used today during the annual Athens & Epidavros Festival. If that doesn’t pique your interest, Epidavros is also home to the Sanctuary of Asclepius (the Sanctuary of Asklepios), the earliest organised sanatorium and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Those who fancy a bit of snorkelling can explore the ancient Sunken City.
Poros, in the southwest of the Saronic Gulf, is one of Greece’s best kept secrets. This island pair is made up of larger and mainly forested Kalavria (Kalaureia), and the smaller, rocky island of Sphairia (Sphaeria), where you’ll find the bustling town of Poros. Its pastel-hued houses are stacked on the hill that rises dramatically from the harbour, and the island also boasts beautiful beaches and interesting sites.
Built on a slope that overlooks the Argo-Saronic Gulf, Hydra entices celebrities and wealthy Greeks with her charm and exclusivity. Wander the narrow, marble-paved streets of the medieval Old Town, and marvel at the island’s well-preserved stone architecture. Plus, there are no cars to ruin the ambience – Hydra is entirely free of motor vehicles. For an authentic Greek experience, go around in a traditional donkey-drawn carriage.
Perhaps the most relaxing and tranquil of the Saronic islands, Spetses offers an unparalleled sense of escape. That being said, Spetses Town has a vibrant cultural scene and great nightlife. The rest of the island is rolling hills and verdant pine forests, with plenty of hidden coves and secluded swimming spots for you to discover.
Located in the Peloponnese, Nafplio is a coastal town near the north end of the Argolic Gulf. Popular beaches include Arvanitia and Neraki, but you’ll be able to steal away to more secluded coves. The Old Town is a joy to discover, packed with neoclassical houses and charming cafes. The nearby Byzantine monastery, Agia Moni, offers a bit of tranquillity just a few kilometres from Nafplio. Nafplio lies in the Argolis region, which was the main realm of the Mycenaeans that ruled Greece from 1500 to 1200 BC, so it’s the perfect base for learning more about this civilisation.
The natural rock fortress of Monemvasia is the ultimate in romantic getaways. A thin bridge separates it from the southeast tip of the Peloponnese. Exploring the medieval village enclosed in the walls of the fort is simply magical. And then, there’s the perennial view of the cerulean Myrtoan Sea. Climb the stairs to the citadel and up to the Ayia Sofia Church for breathtaking views. Palaia Monemvasia is a beautiful, sheltered anchorage.
Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns
Visit the ruins of the two greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, a strong force in the eastern Mediterannean region from the 15th to the 12th centuries BC. They are located in the Argolis region, in the northeast Peloponnese. In Mycenae the remains include the iconic Lion Gate and excavated tombs. Tiryns is smaller and more modest, but still worth a visit, especially for fans of Greek history and literature.
Top Photo Ops
Bourtzi Castle, Nafplio
This Venetian water castle is located in the middle of Nafplio’s harbour. It’s served every possible purpose, from prison to hotel, and now it hosts music and cultural events in the summer. Snap it during the day or lit up at night, either way it’s really something to behold.
The marvellous Palamidi castle was built by the Venetians in the 1700s. Climb the steps to the top for sensational views of the town and ocean.
A gorgeous, sheltered cove – perfect for snorkelling and some ‘fun in the sun’ snaps.
Zoodochos Pigi, Poros
Visit the monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, founded in the 1700s. Its whitewashed domes stand out against the rich blue sea, the perfect setting for some memorable shots of your Greek experience.
Zogeria Bay, Spetses
This hidden gem is popular with the locals, and makes for some spectacular pictures.
Mount Parnon, Leonidio
Take a hike up this incredible mountain range, located in the southeast Peloponnese for some breathtaking vistas.
Kamini and Vlychos, Hydra
For a glimpse of authentic Greek island life, visit the charming fishing villages of Kamini and/or Vlychos. You can walk there from Hydra on a trail that runs alongside the sea.
Rafalias Pharmacy, Hydra
While it may be odd to suggest snapping photos of a pharmacy, this is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful pharmacies. It dates back over 400 years and has an irrefutable charm.
What to eat
Typical Greek cuisine includes lots of fresh seafood (including octopus), olives and olive oil, dips like tzatziki, grilled meat, and plenty of grains and vegetables. These foods can all be found on the Saronic and Argolic islands, however there are also some traditional foods that are specific to certain islands.
In Aegina, the pistachio reigns supreme, and you’ll definitely want to get your hands on some. Salted, plain, or even caramelized, the pistachios are available any which way, and are grown all over the island. Aegina is also famous for Katsoula, a pink fish caught locally, then fried.
Poros, meanwhile, chooses to celebrate the humble lemon, sourced from the famous Lemon Forest. And in Hydra, be sure to indulge in their famous almond sweets, specifically amygdalota i.e. almond cookies.
As for the Argolic region, lallagia is a must-try – it’s a fried dough snack that is totally addictive!
What to buy
Taking home something unique to the area is a great way to commemorate your pampered adventure in this special part of the world.
Foods and other consumables can be purchased and given as gifts, or kept for special occasions. At the Lemon Forest in Poros, you can purchase local lemony delicacies like spoon sweets, jams and almonds. Pistachio nuts, pastes and oils from Aegina are a must for the foodies on board. Aegina is also known for figs, grapes and olive oils.
At the Karonis Distillery Exhibition and Shop in Napflio, one of the oldest spirit producers in Greece, take home a bottle of Ouzo Koroni Special, a strong spirit with anise, and notes of coriander and fennel.
Of course, Greece is synonymous with high-quality, beautiful ceramics. The village of Mesagros in Aegina is one such place where you can pick up gorgeous locally-made pottery.
When to go
You can visit this area year-round, as, while the Meltemi winds do blow here in the summer, they are gentler and less regular than in the Cycladic islands.