For the ultimate getaway Greece has it all; with its vast array of sun-kissed island clusters, dreamy beaches lapped by vivid ultramarine waters, strikingly rich cultural heritage and phenomenal nightlife, the possibilities for unforgettable yacht charters around this enchanting Mediterrean slice of paradise are simply endless.
Highly dependent on the tourism sector, Greece has been making massive in-roads into its vaccination program – codenamed “Freedom” – with some remarkable successes. This is especially true of the Aegean islands, where it is pushing for “Covid-free” status throughout some of its major tourist hot spots in a concerted bid to entice visitors to its glittering shores this summer.
The Aegean islands are made up of hundreds of small islands and archipelagos, including the celebrated Cyclades, Sporades and Dodecanese, so these latest developments herald great news for anyone wishing to book a luxury yacht charter in Greece this year.
In April, Greece’s Minister for Tourism, Harry Theoharis, confirmed quarantine will no longer be required for citizens arriving from the EU, US, UK, Israel, Serbia and the UAE, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Visitors from these countries simply need to provide either a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of arrival, or proof of vaccination.
So, what's open? Currently bars, cafes and restaurants have been open since the beginning of May with a number of protocols in place, such as outdoor seating only, mandatory masks for staff and strict sanitation measures.
Also, major tourist attractions, such as the Parthenon are now open to tourists, with the usual social distancing measures in place.
With so many beautiful islands to explore, you might find it hard to know where to begin. To make things easier we have compiled a list of some of the best covid-safe yacht charter destinations around this spectacular region, along with sample itineraries hand-picked by experts, showcasing picture-perfect idyllic escapes this summer.
For yacht charters on Greece’s eastern flank, an absolute must-see is the inimitable Ionian archipelago; a chain of strikingly beautiful verdurous islands, characterised by lush mountainous interiors, dramatic coastlines, charming fishing villages, intriguing cultural heritage and some of the finest beaches in Greece.
Head to Corfu, renowned for its rugged charm, extraordinary wildlife and rich history. The island has recently gained a cult following after the success of the Netflix series, The Durrells, which showcases Corfu’s striking natural beauty to perfection.
In the southern end of the Ionian archipelago lies the ever-popular Zakythos (Zante), renowned for its buzzy night scene and jaw-dropping beaches – including the highly instagrammed Shipwreck Beach. It also offers a rich marine ecology, idyllic landscapes and breathtaking sunsets.
To the north of Zakythos you’ll find the enchanting Kefalonia, the largest and most diverse in this island cluster. Boasting out-of-this-world beaches, exquisite, tiny multi-coloured villages, magical iridescent sea caves and beautiful Ventian architecture, it’s hardly surprising that this coveted island was selected as the backdrop for the romantic Hollywood film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
The Cyclades is a large island cluster of mainly submerged mountainous terrain in the south-eastern region of the Aegean sea. This is a hugely popular destination for luxury yacht charters, well-known for its glittering azure coastline, vibrant beach club scene and boutique shopping, as well as for its incredible scenery and vast array of ancient archeological sites.
The volcanic island of Santorini is by far the most famous, with its iconic blue and white stucco villages overlooking the sea, uniquely-coloured sand beaches, sweeping breathtaking vistas and amazing hot spring thermals courtesy of its simmering underfloor volcano! It also boasts an ancient Minoan archeological site in Akrotiri, located south of the capital Fira, which dates back to the Bronze Age.
For those that love to party, look no further than the ultimate party island of Mykonos, where world-famous DJs play their sets to crowds of adoring fans on the island’s most celebrated shores, including the aptly named Paradise and Super Paradise beaches.
For something a little more sedate, but no less spectacular, take a boat trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Delos, considered to be the birthplace of Apollo. This uninhabited sacred island is home to some of Greece's most treasured ancient temples, including the Temple of Delians and the Sanctuary of Apollo.
Characterised by their rugged terrain, beautiful secluded beaches and pine-clad forests, the Sporades are a group of tranquil islands and islets off the eastern coast of Greece’s mainland, of which only 4 are inhabited: Alonissos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros.
The most popular is the scintillating Skiathos, which also boasts an international airport, offering a variety of traditional tavernas, buzzy cocktail bars, hilltop monasteries and swathes of golden beaches fringed by translucent waters, whilst Alonissos, which lies in the centre of a beautiful marine park, is the perfect location for lovers of nature and wildlife. Yachts can anchor on its shores where guests can marvel at the island’s inquisitive dolphins and monk seals as they frolic in the crystalline waters.
The island of Skopelos is larger than Skiathos, yet boasts a quiet savage beauty, which was perfectly showcased in the much-adored Hollywood musical Mamma Mia! where wild olive and juniper trees and charming white hilltop villages perfectly encapsulate the rugged charm and quintessential warm hospitality of Greece.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Dodecanese is a group of islands located in the sun-drenched southeastern Aegean Sea, close to Turkey. These comprise 15 major islands, and numerous smaller islets, which are steeped in a rich architectural and cultural history heavily influenced by their various rulers over the centuries, from crusading knights and Ottoman armies to 20th century Italian chieftains. The islands offer sensational scenic views, tranquil golden-hued beaches, Byzantine churches, medieval castles and a huge raft of impressive ancient archeological sites.
The Dodecanese offer absolute prime island-hopping opportunities around the myriad islands and islets dotted throughout this archipelago. The most popular of these are the larger cosmopolitan islands of Rhodes and Kos, which both offer a variety of vibrant clubs and bars, stunning beaches and busy waterfronts contrasting with their array of ancient monuments, charming fishing villages and spectacular sweeping vistas.
For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle, head to Karpathos; mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, this beautiful island offers a range of glorious ancient monuments that date back to 6BC, picture-perfect mountain villages and secluded sandy coves lapped by calm turquoise waters – accessible only by yacht, as well as some fantastic windsurfing beaches.
No visit to Greece would be complete without a visit to its glorious capital Athens, the ancient birthplace of western civilization which lies at the heart of this phenomenal country.
Dominated by a plethora of 5th-century BC landmarks, including the majestic hilltop citadel of the Acropolis, guests can absorb the historical splendour of this fascinating city. Meander the Doric-columned marble ruins of the Parthenon and tour the museums, home to a vast array of priceless Ancient Greek artefacts, before stopping off at a traditional taverna for a well-deserved Mythos Beer, where guests can enjoy the clamour and bustle of this magical Greek city.
Greece enjoys a deliciously warm climate that can be enjoyed as early as April through till late Autumn. The peak hottest months are July and August, however yacht charters around Greece’s beautiful islands can take advantage of shore breezes, especially around the Aegean Sea where the annual Meltemi winds pick up between June-August, perfect for sailing and gulet yacht charters, and ideal for tempering Greece’s intense summer heat.
As a general rule of thumb, the further south you travel, the hotter the temperatures. Athens also gets stiflingly hot during these months, so it might be worth factoring this in if you plan on stopping off at the capital during your yacht charter vacation.
To find out more about yacht charters in Greece, take a look at our comprehensive guide.
For all the very latest coronavirus yacht news, please see our Coronavirus and Yacht Charter Guide.