Cyclades (Κυκλάδες) is the quintessential group of Aegean islands. Their name comes from the Greek word κύκλος (circle) because they form a rough circle centred around the small island Delos.
The islands are arid and rocky which gives them incredible, natural beauty. Their traditional architecture with its white-washed houses and arches blend harmoniously with the terrain. Yet, each island has an individual character and diversity ranging from the volcanic Santorini to the remote Donousa.
For the cruiser, there are many interesting sight-seeing sites as well as many anchorages. From the trendy Mykonos and the cosmopolitan Syros to the uninhabited Rhinia.
The best times to tour the Cyclades are in the Spring, May and June, and in the autumn, September and October. You are less likely to encounter strong Meltemi winds and also all the anchorages are less crowded. Other than the weather-wise unpredictable winter months, the worse time to be cruising the Cyclades is during the month of August. In August not only will you encounter a number of Meltemi gales but all harbours and anchorages, even the most remote, will be crowded as this is the prime vacation time in Greece and the rest of the EU.
Known locally as the ‘New Port’, Mykonos Marina is actually a part-finished marina located about 2km to the north of Mykonos and the ‘old harbour’. It provides adequate shelter from the prevailing winds and is quiet, some distance from the central city. Not long ago, this marina was what you could call every man for himself. However, during 2015 a new harbour master was installed, and modern electric and water pylons were put in place. The organisation in the marina is now much better!
There aren’t any major dangers during the approach to the marina. Look out for the big cruise ships docked on the outskirts of the marina breakwater to help locate the entrance. You enter the marina from a south-easterly direction and the depths inside are between 5.0 – 6.0 metres.
Address: Via Notarbartolo, 35 – 90141 Palermo
Phone: +30 6946942091 (Nikos)
VHF Channels: 12
Open: All year
Max Length Berths: 30m
Number of Berths: 40
Marina Services: Water, Bar, Restaurant, Electricity, Dressing rooms, Crane, Ramp, Rent a car, Seamanship, Service Station for ships, ATM, Master harbour
The charming Lavrion Marina, designed around Lavrio City’s gulf, full of Greek culture, warm weather and prime and ideal access to the Cyclades Islands. Whilst you’re passing through, don’t miss the Ancient Theater of Lavrion, a fascinating historical landmark positioned close to the marina that will surely impress you with its unique architecture! The If you want to go scuba diving before your sailing adventure, check out the Planet Blue Diving Centre – they’ll bring you to the surrounding coral reefs, shipwrecks and underwater secrets close to the marina. There is also a selection of fine restaurant close-by with a delicious selection of fresh seafood brought to you by passionate, local Greeks. Must-see venues include the famous ‘To Steki to Mina’ and the Arte Italiana.
Marina Services: Water, Bar, Electricity, Market, Dressing rooms, Diving, Rent a car, Crane, Restaurant, ATM, Master harbour
From mid-June to mid-September, the peak summer months, the weather in the Cyclades is heavily impacted by the Meltemi. This is a prevailing wind, famously known as the Meltemi. Through the western Cyclades, the wind blows from a north-easterly direction. In the east, it blows from the north,
The best times to tour the Cyclades are in the early season of May and June, and the late season of September and October, when you are not as likely to confront the strong Meltemi winds. On top of this, the docks, towns and anchorages will always be much less busy! The hotter, busier months that are more susceptible to the strong Meltemi winds are the peak summer months of July and August. During this time, not only will you encounter several Meltemi gales (and we are talking bright blue, clear skies and strong winds) but every harbour, dock and anchorage will be crowded. Even the most remote and least popular will be busy, as this is the prime vacation time throughout Greece.
If you are an experienced sailor with confident crew, don’t let this weather deter you! However, extra care must be taken in route planning, weather forecasting and an extraordinarily early arrival may be necessary if a gale is expected – to guarantee your spot tied to the dock in a protected harbour. Try and stay in the north and you won’t have to battle through the northerly swell against the wind.
Measurement of Difficulty
The Cyclades holds within its cluster of islands some of the most legendary destinations in Greece, embedded in folklore and at the top of everybody’s wishlist. However, this can also be one of the most skillfully challenging; without excellent planning, preparation and experience could become frustrating, if not dangerous.
The Cyclades is affected by a powerful, frequent prevailing wind called the Meltemi, most prominent in the hottest months between mid-June and mid-September, and where the cyclonic effects of a high-pressure cyclone to the west and a low-pressure cyclone to the east meet in the middle. As a result, you can experience 35 to 40 knots, sometimes for days at a time, whilst enjoying blue, cloudless skies and blazing sunshine. For a yacht, this can make sailing between the islands, travelling against the wind back up to the north, and arriving and departing from harbours and mooring positions very difficult and sometimes impossible.
Much thought, planning and skill are required here; you mustn’t take unnecessary risks, you must understand the weather and plan your week accordingly. You don’t want to be stuck in Ios or Santorini with a days sail back to Mykonos ahead of you, straight into the Meltemi. Indeed, you don’t want to be stuck on one island all week. If you are there when the Meltemi blows, pick a larger destination with lots of dock space and arrive early in the morning of the wind or even the day before. If possible, anchor with your stern lines into the wind, and you won’t have to worry so much about your anchor dragging.
See our ‘Guide To Safe Docking And Anchoring’ for more information.
Places To Visit
“The island of Mykonos”
Lat/Long – 38.3946° N, 14.9706° E
One of the most famous and well-visited islands in Greece, Mykonos is a busy, beautiful yet barren island situated in the middle of the Cyclades. Such a lively and active island with a collection of extraordinary beaches is a unique and striking place to visit. However, it can be quite crowded during the summer months – the docks, towns and beaches – and for this reason, many yachts and cruisers try to avoid it.
For the most part, visiting yachts berth at the partially built Mykonos around two miles north of Mykonos Town. Moreover, this is actually the only safe harbour on the island – it is not possible to dock or anchor at the Old Harbour. This is solely reserved for tripper boats.
Such a lively and active island with a collection of extraordinary beaches is a unique and striking place to visit. However, crowded it can be during the summer months – the docks, towns and beaches – and for this reason, many yachts and cruisers try to avoid it.
You may experience this marina to be noisy and crowded, however, it’s considered to be protected and sheltered from the strong gales of the Meltemi. Be careful, though, as the swell reaching into the harbour can be considerable and dangerous. If you can get onto the south-west jetty, it is much quieter there.
Anchoring is not necessary when berthing in the marina anymore. Back in July 2017, the last dock positions without mooring lines had them installed making a much safer place to moor through a strong gale. Additionally, you’ll find power and water available at every position with typically Greek low prices. Between 5 and 8 EURO for an overnight mooring and an additional 10 EURO for water and electricity
“The island of Paros”
Lat / Long – 39.1974° N, 20.1852° E
Naoussa is a picturesque, beautiful fishing village, found within a huge bay on the northern side of Parks, just 10km east of the Parikia, the Capital. Considered to be one of the most attractive villages in the Cyclades, Naoussa maintains its traditional charm, character and authenticity. The lovely village, built amphitheatrically around the port, is filled with colourful fishing boats they call Caiques, with floral, whitewashed houses, chapels and churches, engulfed in a labyrinth of stone-paved, narrow streets. From the waterfront, you can see the remains of an old Venetian castle, helping to create a unique and enchanting atmosphere. You may also be interested to learn the history of Captain Barbossa, the pirate!
Naoussa used to have a small overcrowded harbour with only enough room for a handful of large yachts. However, back in 2011 completely redesigned into a picturesque, well-facilitated marina with spaces for as many as 80 vessels in good weather. Larger boats go stern-to on their anchor but watch out for the laid lines which extend out in the marina.
The Harbourmaster will likely meet you at the end of the breakwater, guide you to your mooring and assist with the lines. Expect the fees to be around €15 for the night with cheap water and electronics. Youla, +30 6956 098080) Alternatively, it’s perfectly sensible to anchor outside the marina / in the bay and visit the town by dinghy in fair weather.
Naoussa Bay itself is a wide, open bay with shallow waters and a great holding on the island’s north-eastern side. You can find several beautiful locations to drop your anchor within it, but be careful with a deep draught keel as the water does get remarkably shallow. At the north-eastern corner of the bay, there quaint little monastery and a pretty beach. A water taxi does go to and fro Naoussa during the daytime. Stand on your bow and wave down, taxi driver or instead, take your dinghy in.
“The island of Paros”
Lat / Long – 37.0856° N, 25.1488° E
Parikia, otherwise known as Hora or Paros Town, has just 3000 inhabitants and was built at the site where the ancient city and capital once stood. Parikia is the main harbour on the island, serving ferries and connection with the other islands, and is the cultural and commercial centre of Paros. Amphitheatrically built around the port, Parikia has classic Cycladic architecture with flat-roofed, whitewashed houses defined by their architectural lines, coloured wooden doors, balconies and windows. At the mouth of the mouth, you’ll see a magnificent whitewashed windmill, considered the trademark of Paros.
Around town, you’ll find many traditional tavernas, restaurants, bars, night clubs and cafes along the coast, with a beach just south of Parikia port. There is many cultural tours, museums and architecture to explore in town, and you can lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets exploring the many hidden gems, boutique shops and more.
Parikia can be a busy harbour and is the main commercial harbour on the island; however, it provides excellent protection when the Meltemi blows and from the south winds. You can moor stern-to with your anchor on the yacht quay, taking notice of the boulders. The holding is good with sand and some weed at the bottom. There are also permanent moorings inside the yacht harbour. Be sure to call ahead, and Friday and Saturdays are usually full due to turnover day for charter yachts.
“The island of Antiparos“
Lat/Long – 37.0403° N, 25.0814° E
At the heart of the Aegean Sea, to the west of Paros, lies the stunning island of Antiparos. Despite being as close as it is to Paros, Antiparos is not a crowded island but maintains its cosmopolitan, chic character.
Antiparos is renowned for its lovely beaches, mostly within walking distance of Chora, the island’s island. Swimming here in the crystal clear waters by its sandy beaches is one of the most pleasant things you can do on this peaceful island. On the south side of the island, you can find Antiparos cave and its most famous. It’s an incredible sight and well worth a visit, full of stalactites and stalagmites.
Chora, the beautiful capital of Antiparos, is where the island’s heart is beating and also where most Antiparos hotels, restaurants, bars and taverns lie. Chora Antiparos boasts traditional Cycladic architecture and is home to the Venetian castle and fortress of Antiparos. Its overall effect is deeply charming!
You can find some protection from the Meltemi here when it blows, but it’s quite shallow at just 2 to 3m. Towards the south, through the Antiparos Channel, there are also several anchoring opportunities, and any of these places are good for visiting the cave.
“The Cyclades Islands”
Lat/Long -37.4385° N, 24.9139° E
Syros is a beautiful, culture packed island with around 35,000 inhabitants and most famously known for it’s easter festivities! Surrounded by nature and it’s capital, Ermoupoli, filled with a mixutre of Venetian and Cycladic architecture; whitewashed houses, blended with colourful mansions, imposing orthodox squares and churches and other neoclassical buildings. Worthy of any picture perfect postcard! If you hike the hill above Ermoupoli, you’ll also discover old catholic town of Syros, Ano Syros – your classic cycladic town of winding narrow alleys and whitewashed houses, perfect for a stroll under the sun. The islands coastline is brimming with beaches and the best ones to visit on Syros are Kini, Galissa, Delfini and Dellagratsia.
There are two main marinas here, the first being Finikas Marina (VHF Channel 12). There are no dangers on the approach, and you can anchor with lines stern-to the dock, wherever there is space. Try and get there in good time, as usually by 5pm this marina is full. There is an attendant with good facilities ashore.
Alternatively, you can visit Ermoupolis Marina. It’s a large commercial hub where the town is nice but the harbour is not so pretty. During the Meltemi, the harbor can have an uncomfortable swell and there are many ferries here creating swell of their own. Moor stern-to or alongside the quay, working clockwise from the statue of Hermes found at the north end of the harbour. It’s a good holding hear with mud.
“The island of Naxos”
Lat/Long – 37.1036° N, 25.3777° E
Naxos is arguably the most compelling destinations in Greece with its glorious, ancient past. Strong influences from the Venetians and the Franks are responsible for an abundance of ancient sites. Naxos breathes ancient Greek history. Naxos’ many archaeological sites embellish its rich history, and the most iconic of all of them is the highlight of Naxos – “Portara”, the last remaining gate of the ancient temple dedicated to the Greek God Apollo.
Besides its impressive monuments, however, Naxos boasts a remarkable landscape, considered the greenest island of the whole Cyclades which it’s green valleys, imposing mountains, rural villages and sensational beaches that are sure to tickle the fancy of any nature lover.
Chora, the main town of Naxos, is a fine mixture of Venetian and traditional Cycladic architecture. Above the Cycladic whitewashed houses of Chora stands the dignified Venetian castle, exuding a medieval charm.
The commercial harbour at Naxos is not a great destination for visiting yachts and can be noisy with an uncomfortable and considerable swell. Instead, visit the new Naxos Marina operated by the local municipality. A marina attendant is typically available to assist with visiting yachts, but it can be a squeeze, and you’ll need your wits about you. Thankfully, the marina is well protected from the Meltemi winds, and you’ll be dropping your anchor with stern-to lines ashore. Space is limited, and it can be tight. It may not always be possible to find room here during peak season.
“The island of Milos”
Lat/Long – 36.6914° N, 24.3936° E
Milos, found at the heart of the Aegean sea overlooking Cyclades’ archipelago, enchants visitors with its unpretentious charm. Defined by a rich history, grand ambience, charming fishing villages, indigo bays and marvellous food, Milos is one of the timeless, Cycladic treasures that will take your breath away with its beauty.
The landscapes of Milos and their variety are unreal; there is always something unique, new and dramatic to discover, such as the breathtaking, iconic Sarakinito Beach. This lunar landscape, consisting of crystal clear turquoise waters and volcanic, gleaming white rock formations, is a spectacle. Explore the mysterious catacombs, jump off the cliffs or nap under the sun – you’ll cherish the enchanting atmosphere of this beach unendingly. An equally important visit is the wildly popular Kleftiko beach, boasting emerald waters and towering rock formations; this former pirate hideaway is now the island’s monumental trademark.
Milos is also home to the Venus of Milo Statue, discovered on Milos in 1820; this stunning piece of history is now displayed in the Louvre Museum, Paris, where thousands of visitors stand in awe of its beauty.
Port Milos, otherwise known as Adamas, is the only harbour on the island of Milos. Found at the end of Milos Bay, this is one of the largest natural harbours in the Med’ – the volcano’s caldera. Consequently, there can be an uncomfortable groundswell, and the ferry wash doesn’t help, but the harbour provides good (if not always comfortable) protection from the Meltemi winds. There is some exposure to southerlies. Yachts visiting the harbour can dock stern-to the yacht quay, space for about ten yachts or on the outside of the day-tripper boat harbour with space for another 10 or 12. Alternatively, you can anchor out in the bay towards the east where the holding is good; mud and weed.
“The island of Folegandros”
Lat/Long: 36.6171° N, 24.9161° E
“The island of Ios”
Lat/Long -36.7226° N, 25.2826° E
“The island of Santorini”
Lat/Long: 36.3932° N, 25.4615° E
“The island of Koufinisia”
Lat/Long -36.8912° N, 25.6451° E
“The island of Schinoussa”
Lat/Long: 36.8700° N, 25.5181° E
“The island of Iraklia”
Lat/Long: 36.8441° N, 25.4556° E