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Sailing the Cyclades Islands

The Cyclades islands are wind-swept, sun-baked, rocky islands with white villages; the Greece of the imagination. Longer distances and stronger winds make for exhilarating sailing.

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Sailing the Cyclades islands east of Poros

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Sailing east from Poros you come to the Cyclades. The closest island is about 45 miles from Poros and once there, in the summer months, you should plan a route with beam wind to be more comfortable in the prevailing northerly ‘Meltemi’, a strong seasonal north wind similar to the Mistral of Mediterranean France.

The sailing area

Map of the Cyclades Greek islands sailing area to the east of Greek Sails’ yacht base in Poros.
Greek Sails do not regularly operate flotilla sailing holidays in the Cyclades islands, consequently no nominal flotilla route is shown.
Click the to close the bubble identifying Greek Sails’ yacht base in Poros.
View the Cyclades sailing area in a larger map

If you have seen pictures of perfect Greek islands with white houses on sun-drenched hillsides, it’s likely it a picture of one of the Cyclades islands. These are the islands that define Greek islands.

The Cyclades lie to the south east of Athens and the Greek mainland and to the east/south east of Poros. From Poros you can sail due east across the eastern Saronic Gulf to Kéa (Kea) or Kíthnos (Kythnos), or head north east to the mainland and then run down the Attic coast.

If you simply head due east, the initial hop from Poros is about 50 miles or 7-8 hours sailing, usually on a comfortable reach aided by the predominant north westerly winds. Once you reach Kéa or Kíthnos the next island is usually no more than a 7-10 mile hop, although if you continue due east across the ring of islands towards Síros (Syros) there are some longer 16-20 mile hops.

As the Cyclades islands are further out into the Aegean winds are fresher than in the more protected Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, although are not a strong as down the eastern edge of the Aegean and the Dodecanese islands.

The winds & sailing

Unlike the Saronic Gulf and Argolic Gulf sailing areas, the Cyclades islands are not protected by any mainland. Their position out into the Aegean Sea means they are more exposed to the northerly ‘Meltemi’ wind which very much dominates the Cyclades islands.

The ‘Meltemi’ arrives during July and lasts into September. It can provide you a Force 4 or less, or it can whip up to Force 7 or more; it can blow for a day or it can last a number of days. It can also funnel between the islands and the downdraft on the lee side of an island can also increase its strength.

These wind conditions mean sailing the Cyclades islands provides for more invigorating sailing, but might also prove ‘too exciting’ for any less enthusiastic members of your group. If your party has some members who prefer a ‘quieter sail’, then you may want to consider our Saronic & Argolic Gulf sailing areas, both of which provide good protection from the summer ‘Meltemi’.

A benefit of our yacht base in Póros is that you are not required to beat your way back to base against the prevailing wind which you must do if you are returning to an Athenian marina. The return to Póros can offer you an easier reach home and you can even head west and into the shelter of Hydra and the Argolic Gulf if necessary, making a large circuit cruise down the western Cyclades islands and back to our base in Póros.

Ports & places of interest

The Cyclades islands represent the typical Greek islands of a thousand postcard pictures; here we provide you some ideas and locations to consider in your passage planning.

Vourkari, Kéa (Kea)37° 39’.90N 24° 18’.60E (WGS84)

Kéa is the north western-most of the Cyclades islands and the first island you will reach if you travel from the mainland Attic coast. It is a typical Cycladic island with a fine ‘chora’ - the term used to describe the most important or principal town or village of a Greek island.

It is best to avoid Vourkari on Fridays and Saturdays due to the number of Athenian-based motor yachts which flock to this pretty harbour.

Mérikha (Merikhas), Kíthnos (Kythnos)37° 23’.60N 24° 23’.56E (WGS84)

The island of Kíthnos (Kythnos) lies just to the south of Kéa and is probably the island you will head to if you sail due east from Poros across to the Cyclades. The island is famous for its cheese which is used in a lot of local recipes.

Mérikha (Merikhas) lies on the western side of the island and so is the most directly accessible harbour when crossing from Poros. Mérikha is worth a visit and is the principal port of the island.

Loutrou (Loutra), Kíthnos (Kythnos)37° 26’.53N 24° 25’.85E (WGS84)

Loutrou lies to the north east of the island of Kíthnos and is known for its hydropathic institute based around the local hot springs that in past times gave the island the name of Thermia. Like Mérikha, Loutrou is worth a visit.

Livádhi (Livadhi), Seriphos37° 07’.62N 24° 31’.54E (WGS84)

Sérifos (Seriphos) is the next island to the south of Kíthnos (Kythnos) and is recognisable by its domed shape. Sérifos is the island of Perseus and the Gorgon’s Medusa’s head and it is said that the rock cliffs above Sérifos’ famous chora are the bodies of King Polydectes and his courtiers who were turned to stone by the Medusa’s gaze.

The main port of Sérifos is Livádhi (Livadhi) to the south east of the island and is at the head of a spectacular bay. The quay is often crowded, but anchoring near the beach is no problem although sometimes two ‘hooks’ are advisable. The famous chora of the island should definitely be visited.

Kamáres (Kamares), Sífnos (Sifnos)36° 59’.57N 24° 39’.66E (WGS84)

Sífnos lies just 9 miles to the south east of Sérifos across the Sífnos channel. The channel can often be ‘quite fresh’ as the north easterly wind funnels between the two islands.

Kamáres (Kamares) on the north western side of the island is the main ferry port of the island and lies at the head of a large bay providing good shelter. Kamáres is a good place from which to visit the villages of Apollonia and Kastro inland.

Vathí (Vathi), Sífnos (Sifnos)36° 55’.68N 24° 41’.10E (WGS84)

Vathí (Vathi) sits on the northern side of a small circular bay on the south western side of Sífnos and is an example of what a Cycladic village should be. Few sailors fail to fall in love with the place.

Adhamas (Adharas), Mílos (Milos)36° 44’.68N 24° 23’.76E (WGS84)

Mílos, like the more famous Santorini (Thíra), is an old volcano and the bay of órmos Mílou is a huge caldera. Like Santorini the bay is surrounded by cliffs of pumice and basalt and the island has numerous hot springs, all fed from the same underground source that once fed the volcano. It is certainly one of the Greek islands that should be visited having a fascinating past and spectacular landscape.

The main port of Adhamas (Adharas) is on the northern side of the caldera (órmos Mílou) and provides an excellent point from which to explore the island.

órmos Mílou is open to the north west and so does not provide good protection from the Meltemi which blows down through the entrance causing a swell, particularly through the entrance itself.

Port Íos, Íos (Ios)36° 42’.80N 25° 15’.70E (WGS84)

One for the under twenties. There are very beautiful beaches overshadowed by the noisy bars. Legend has it that Homer died here - probably from an overdose of Guinness at an Irish pub!

About these notes

These notes are a general guide and appetiser to this sailing area. For more in-depth information we strongly advise you consult the ‘Greek Waters Pilot’ and ‘West Aegean’ pilot guides by Rod Heikell. These unique publications are available from Amazon and are indispensable for those wishing to get the best from sailing these waters. Greek Sails do provide crews copies of these guides, but if you want to consider and pre-plan your route you may wish to purchase copies before you arrive.

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The picturesque island of Santorini (Thíra) in the Greek Cyclades islands
A typical Chora on a Cyclades island as the afternoon sun sets and the evening lights come on
Chora on the island of Serifos in the Cyclades island as the sun sets and the evening lights come on
Sailing the Cyclades islands in the Aegean with the Meltemi wind blowing
Katapola on the island of Amorgos in the Cyclades islands, Greece
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