This is part 11 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 10 here.
Our July 4th started very early as we prepared for our 55nm journey to the island of Poros, by far our longest single day passage. We awoke at 5:30am to close hatches and cast off, though we all alternated napping and reading throughout the 7-8 hour journey.
Poros was a pleasant surprise with a notable contrast in architecture to the Cyclades islands. Here we found mostly red tiled roofs and it felt more Italian than Greek.
There is a vibrant marina scene here with many tavernas, markets, and gift shops along the harbor. The primary strip is on a narrow channel with the Peloponnese staring back at us about 200m away. The flat water with the tall wooded bluffs opposite reminded us of Keuka Lake. Greeting us upon arrival was Michael, a tall swarthy Greek that helps run the nearby Oasis Taverna. He immediately shared with us a Wifi access code as well as a plate of watermelon to cool us off. This is clearly a sales demand generation scheme for his business, but we applaud his gumption and generosity and suspect we may make a visit to the Oasis later.
The marina strip where we moored is at the bottom of a steep slope where you can climb up and over to experience a very different side of the island. Julie and I did just that in the afternoon and found ourselves at a beach resort where we rented two chairs and enjoyed a cold beverage. The swimming was quite nice.
While Julie and I were out hiking, our anchor came free and the rest of our crew helped Vassilis relocate our boat to a side mooring.
After some afternoon napping, Matthew and I sat down at the Oasis for a drink and a game of Lost Cities. Without the sun bearing down (it was hot earlier) this marina is delightfully cool and breezy. The whole crew then decided to take a pre-dinner hike up to the clock tower for a nice panorama view of the entire channel.
Dinner at the Oasis is above average and it was especially nice to have Vassilis join us. We are all slightly depressed as we know our adventure is nearly at an end.
The next morning we left Poros at about 8am to sail to Aigina, a resort town within a short distance of Athens so popular for Greeks. We anchored in the harbor and five us swam in about 300m and found some tide pools and cliffs.
The water was deep, clear and perfect for cliff jumping. We took turns leaping off the cliff then climbing back up for a repeat.
Above you can see a rare photo of me doing something interesting.
We had our last meal on our boat and got very creative in an attempt to finish off our leftovers. We made pasta with a variety of cheeses, Vassilis’ chicken dish, and being short on beer we got creative with whiskey cocktails.
In the photo above you can see the cabin that Julie and I share. It had an attached head that doubled as a shower (the whole toilet area doubled as the shower). Not really a living space but more than sufficient for sleeping and storing our gear.
After a two hour sail we were back in Alimos to “check out” with Alice. We had to return the boat full of fuel and had a fuel supplier try to swindle us by running the meter longer than they were actually filling our tanks. Fortunately Vassilis has a keen eye for this and called them on it, saving us some €.
I’ll conclude this Greek travel series in my next post with some summary information and tips on how to arrange an adventure like this.
This is part 10 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 9 here.
After a long but productive day exploring the treasures of Delos, we set sail from Mykonos for the adjacent island and small bay of Rineia. Here we taught our skipper the addictive social game Werewolf) and had quite a few laughs.
We arrived at the sleepy harbor town of Finikas, island of Syros, just before lunch the next day. Our plan was to re-provision and explore the town briefly. Finikas feels like a local Greek resort town, with many Greek families playing on the beach. There were two young boys playing “tennis” with paddles in a marked out court on the sand, even grunting emphatically with each serve.
We found two nice supermarkets and a bakery and we split up to explore in smaller groups. Business seemed slow at the row of tavernas along the beach – is this slow season for them? Perhaps if this is primarily where Greeks go this is a sign of the economic downturn there or maybe high season kicks in later in August.
Vassilis understandably suggested that we spend the night at Finikas, but we were eager to unwind our bad karma from our first night on the west side of Kythnos where just about everything that could break did. We had some serious anchor line un-fouling to do before leaving Finikas, but once underway it was a short two hour sail to Ag. Stefanou on the eastern side of Kythnos.
Two other boats are running lines onto shore to tie off on trees, but we stick to traditional anchoring though it takes two attempts to get our anchor to take.
Most of us decide to hang out on the boat for a while, but Andrew opted to swim to shore and explore. He took a stroll up the access road leading into the hills beyond our eventual dinner location, even finding a nice bottle of thyme-honey wine for later sharing as a reward for his adventurous spirit.
The panga actually worked for our journey to shore and in about 5 minutes we had explored the village. There was a single snack shop on the east end of the bay and a nicer taverna at the other end, about 100m off the beach (on the road Andrew hiked out of town). The meal was fantastic in presentation and taste. We had some Kythnos specialities such as fried cheese balls, Greek salad, spicy pork, lamb with lemon, and meatballs. A few of us finished the meal with a chilled grappa, a perfect end to another fantastic Greek island day. Oh, and the panga motor held up for our return ride to the boat.
Our next and final stop before returning to Athens will be Poros, an island unlike any we have visited so far in the Cyclades.
This is part 9 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 8 here.
Mykonos has a reputation:
Mykonos is the great glamour island of the Cyclades and happily flaunts its sizzling style and reputation. The high-season mix of good-time holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds which can reach 15,000 a day, and posturing fashionistas throngs through Mykonos town, a traditional Cycladic maze, delighting in its authentic cubist charms and its pricey cafe-bar-shopping scene. Read more.
Mykonos has a big boy harbor. We have to use the new port which is near where the cruise ships and big ferries dock. The big plus is that we have a market right across the Main Street where we can re-supply with beer and ice. It is a mile and a half into town but there is a bus stop near us for 1.60€ each.
The bus drops us off at the old port which still puts us about 1/4 mile away from the main town. I must admit, the town feels touristy, especially the shops and taverns facing the harbor. The description above calling out the maze in old town is apropos — it is fun to get lost in it! We find a nice Italian restaurant with great pizza, calzone, and salads. We wanted to find some nightlife after that but settled for a pleasant outdoor bar where we have some drinks before walking back. Ah, walking back… 1.5 miles along a harbor-side cliff with no sidewalk — fun!
When we return to the boat, Vassilis broke the news that there was no way for us to sail ourselves to Delos. This means another day in Mykonos and 17€ ferry tickets.
It is Monday, July 1 and Julie and I walk into town early and find the fabled pelicans of Mykonos)! We also enjoy a coffee and crepe breakfast.
Now it is time for adventure. We rent four quads to allow us to easily explore the small island and the beaches on the south coast. We start with a break at the town of Ano Mera to see the Panaga Tourliani monastery. It is common to have strict dress codes for places of worship in Europe but not so here.
From there we visit Kala Livadi and Elia beaches, which are nice but we are more interested in the main tourist beach at Paradise. We stop back in Ano Mera on our way back for lunch, and the tavernas fight for our business!
We settle on the Fisherman taverna and we are not disappointed! Very unique gyros there — double pitas (like a panini) with their special sauce. We finish our ATV adventure with a 2-3 hour stay at Paradise beach.
This was a very relaxing stop. Laying out in the sun, playing with a ball in the water. We paid for it though – chair plus chair plus umbrella = 12 €.
We had planned to take Vassilis out for a birthday dinner but he surprised us by cooking a late second lunch and a full dinner. The highlight was an eggplant salad. After dinner we strolled down the harbor for a drink and share some Cuban cigars while we walked.
The next day, Tuesday, is our Delos adventure. Our first move is to drive the ladies and Matthew into town on the quads, then double back to drop them off at the rental spot. We convince the driver to take us all the way back into town and meet up with the others who purchased the ferry tickets. We wander the town maze for a bit looking for lunch we can carry with us and score some cheese and ham/cheese sandwiches.
We find our guide Amaryllis by the ferry, and we can tell right away that she will be a great guide. The trip to Delos is about 30 minutes.
We stay in the island from 10:30 to 15:00 and we were engaged every minute. This island is the true archeological and historical treasure of the Cyclades. We most enjoyed the tile mosaics and hiking to the top of Mt Kythnos.
We explore the sanctuary of Zeus then wandered into the museum to see the original Delos lion sculptures.
The Terrace of the Lions also dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos shortly before 600 BC, had originally nine to twelve squatting, snarling marble guardian lions along the Sacred Way; one is inserted over the main gate to the Venetian Arsenal. The lions create a monumental avenue comparable to Egyptian avenues of sphinxes. (There is a Greek sphinx in the Delos Museum.) Today only seven of the original lions remain.
We paid our guide 230€ and think it was worth every penny. I advise other travelers to seek our quality guides like Amaryllis when exploring such a world treasure. I’ve had similar experiences in Jerusalem, China, and now Greece and have never regretted the choice.
After returning to Mykonos we hastily provision before setting sail for Rineia. We should have taken more time to get some veggies and water. And more beer.
This is part 8 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 7 here.
Early Friday evening, June 28 2013, we left Ios to set sail for a an anchored bay visit between Antiparos and Despotiko. Wikipedia says:
The strait separating Despotiko from Antiparos only has a minimum depth of about 1m, with the intervening islet of Koimitiri. This extreme shallowness of the strait suggests the possibility of a link between Antiparos and Despotiko in former times.
While we love exploring towns on foot, finding restaurants, and climbing hills, it sure is nice to have a periodic break where you are captive on the boat and sharing a bottle of wine and food you prepare as a group.
I experimented with a saganaki (fried cheese) recipe with decent success, and we cooked up a tasty dinner of sliced sausage with veggies alongside mashed potatoes. There were beautiful ships in the bay, including a giant slate grey yacht flying the British ensign. Vassilis and the rest of us enjoyed this view over a fine bottle of cheap Greek rosé wine.
Our next stop after a morning sail for about 4 hours on Saturday was the island of Naxos. This is easily the most built out of the islands we have visited, and it is large with tall mountains (Mt Zeus is over 3,000 ft). Our first stop was a grocery resupply, with the priority being a large flat of Fix beer.
We also dropped into a local souvenir shop that specialized in the local liquor Kitron plus some of the local red wines. Kitron is tasty and the dry variety reminds me of Cointreau.
Before dinner we hiked up the hill to the Castro and the Venetian House museum. What a treat this was! For 5€ each we got a private guided tour.
This may sound a bit steep, but our guide was extremely knowledgeable and there was ample spirit tasting at the end. She also gave us a strong dinner recommendation.
Before dinner was a visit to the Temple of Apollo for a sea-level sunset and more photos. The temple is at the end of a narrow isthmus and offers a great view of the harbor.
We picked up Vassilis on our way back at the pier then up to the maze that is the town to find our dinner spot, Maro. People were so helpful with directions but we needed Vassilis to guide and translate. I wish we knew enough Greek for simple directions like this. Maro did not disappoint, with highlights such as drunken pig and spaghetti with a big slab of slow-cooked pork.
A brief sidebar to talk about the things we were glad we brought, and the things we wished we had brought:
Glad we brought
Starbucks Via instant coffee (though we should have brought more)
Ranch mix (useful for dips, ad-hoc salads – wish we had brought more)
On Sunday in Naxos we needed to find rental cars to explore the island. Dave and I thought we had a good line on 2 cars to rent for 25€ a bit off the main drag to the south of the city, but alas they did not seem in a rush to open. We looped back toward the pier and found more expensive options. Persistence paid off as we found 2 soft top Chevy Matize for 25€ each. Traffic is much more of a pain on Naxos than other towns — this is definitely more urban. We worked our way across the middle of the island to see a cool church in Filoti.
These are sleepy, non-touristy villages with beautiful churches and main streets. We continued on to the coastal town of Moutsouna.
We enjoyed watching some local kids play around, jumping off the pier into the cool water.
The taverna had just brought in a big yellow fin, using an electric saw to take him apart. We have drinks at the tavern but with time running short we head back across the mountains to visit Mt Zeus on our left. We had hoped to see the Temple of Demeter, but alas it was closed.