Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 9 – Mykonos and Delos

Ship setting sail from Mykonos

This is part 9 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 8 here.

Enjoying a drink on the boat in Mykonos new harbour

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.

Windmill in Mykonos Town

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.

The pelicans of Mykonos

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.

Gassing up the ATVs on Mykonos

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!

Fantastic gyro at The Fisherman Taverna at Ano Mera, Mykonos

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.

King of the Hill at Paradise Beach, Mykonos

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.

Our guide, Amarylis Grypari, on Delos

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.

View form the top of Mt. Kythnos, Delos

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.

At the top of Mt. Kythnos, Delos

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.

Temple of Isis on Delos

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.

In the Sacred Lake Area on Delos

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.

Jacob and Dave working to free the fouled anchor lines - in Mykonos

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 8 – Antiparos and Naxos

Beautiful spot to moor for the evening - between Antiparos and Despotiko

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.

Antiparos to Naxos

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.

Chris makes fried cheese - YUM!

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.

Reupplying in Naxos - FIX us up!

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.

Heading out to explore Naxos Chora

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.

Best museum tour ever - free drinks at the end

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.

C'mon, say cheese - at the Temple of Apollo in Naxos

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.

Dinner at Maro's Taverna in Naxos Chora, on the advice of our Kastro tour guide

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)
  • Drink mixes (like Crystal Light)
  • Sticheln Deck
  • 12 volt car adapters for charging USB devices
  • Bluetooth speakers for on boat music
  • Cheap sunglasses
  • Baby wipes (should have brought more)

Wish we brought

  • Clothes pins
  • Clothes line
  • French press for making coffee

Church in Filoti, Naxos

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.

Enjoying the water in Moutsouna, Naxos

We enjoyed watching some local kids play around, jumping off the pier into the cool water.

Carving up a yellowfin tuna at Moutsouna, Naxos

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.

Next stop, Mykonos!!

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 7 – Ios

View of Ios Town

This is part 7 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 6 here.

En route to Ios

On June 27 we set sail for Ios, an island I last visited in 1990 during the World Cup. The wind did not last so we slowly motored into a harbor at some prime beach location where Julie, Jacob, and Andrew swam into the beach. Matthew, Adrienne, and I paddled the dinghy in.

Windsurfing at Ios (note our catamaran anchored in the bay).

Lots of beautiful people on this popular tourist destination, including six or so topless women. The young men immediately rented some windsurfing gear, with Jacob and Matthew getting lessons from the more experienced Andrew. I just swam around and enjoyed the relaxing beach. In the photo above you can see our boat in the harbor behind the boys.

Playing cards on board in Gialos Port on Ios

This would not be our anchorage so we sailed over to Gialos Port. The boys broke out my handy universal Sticheln game package to play Lost Cities.

Now it was time for a difficult conversation. A nearly universal destination for Cyclades visitors is Santorini. I mentioned before that visiting the island with our boat would not be an option. Julie and a few others were keen on doing an overnight excursion there via ferry, but the schedules were disagreeable. Julie made a compelling case: it was the island several of us were hoping to visit. It didn’t help that I had pumped it up so much prior to our trip. We would have to take a 5pm ferry, spend the night, then return on a noon ferry to Ios. The plan would be to explore Thira town at night, including the amazing sunset, then Akrotiri) in the morning.

I took the dissenting position, arguing that sailing requires flexibility and adaptation. I love Santorini (I also visited there in 1990) but did not relish the idea of staying in a hotel and leaving our boat. We cast secret ballots with 4 voting for staying on Ios and 3 for going to Santorini. I felt bad about the outcome knowing how much Julie wanted to go — maybe I resisted too hard and should have bent to those with stronger desires. In any case we better have a good time on Ios.

Refreshing swim and drinks at the Liostasi Hotel in Ios Town

The ferry booking agent that we discussed the Santorini trip with was pushing a restaurant up the hill called Grandmas. I’m always suspicious (likely kickbacks are involved!) but the view shown in the photos looked amazing. They also offered up their pool.

A plan began to emerge: take their offered car ride up the hill to the hotel, take a swim and have a few drinks, hike up to the chora peak, then walk back for a late dinner. Everything surpassed our expectations: the view was spectacular, we shared a bottle of rose over dinner, and the meal was the best we’ve had so far.

Adrienne takes the wheel! On Ios.

The next day we rented three quads plus a Panda mini SUV To explore the island, reaching the northern-most point to see Homer’s grave. We then visited the tiny beach town of Psathis Beach — windswept with some sand but mostly rocks. The quads were a blast and we all took turns driving. The terrain was dramatic with tall peaks and majestic views.

Cheers from Psathi, Ios

The lunch in Psathis was memorable for its variety; I ordered rabbit in red sauce which was just ok and a bit too bony. Julie’s stuffed zucchini flowers were the definite highlight.

Monastery Ag. Ioannis Kalamou

We finished our visit to Ios with a drive to a mountain-top monastery which was unfortunately closed. We then returned to Milopotas beach for another hour of windsurfing.

Leaving Ios

We set sail for our next stop Antiparos at about 4:30pm.

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 6 – Folegandros

En route to Folegandros

This is part 6 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 5 here.

Are you following along on a map? Might be worth your while as the place names can run together. We are now hanging out in the lower part of the Cyclades islands, with Santorini positioned at the bottom of the circle of islands. We are sailing yacht pros by now, still underway without wind, but enjoying ourselves nonetheless. Next stop is Folegandros.

Waiting for the bus to Folegandros Chora

While there was a harbor in Folegandros we found no available slip so we had to anchor in the bay. I think we pissed off a French skipper who thought we anchored too close to him. Though this made my day, there’s a legitimate risk of fouling our anchor lines.

Eager for another beautiful Greek sunset we boarded a bus for the town on the hill.

In Folegandros Chora near sunset

All the boys but moi hung out in the town while I escorted the ladies to a church on the hill above the town on the hill.

Watching the Folegandros sunset from the roof of a church

We were rewarded with another spectacular sunset, made even more dramatic by our perch on the church roof. The chora center was even nicer than Milos. A maze of hotels and tavernas with sidewalk seating and pretty lights in the trees. It feels more upscale than the other islands. We gander at six cute Greek girls aged 10-12 riding their bicycles through the packed tiny sidewalks.

Vassilis treats us to a delicious dinner on the boat - in Folegandros

We returned via bus to the port then paddle back to our boat for a wonderful Greek dinner prepared by our master chef and skipper. These are the moments we cherish – a prepared meal with local wine and engaging conversation.

Leaving Folegandros

Our next stop will be the island where I partied with SoCal folks and Aussies while watching the World Cup back in 1990.

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 5 – Serifos to Milos

Vassilis with another skipper

This is part 5 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 4 here.

Our day started early in Serifos with Julie and I strolling into town for coffee and to catch some early morning sites and photos. The harbor was already vibrant, with fisherman just returning with their morning catches. Cats hung around waiting for scraps and we saw one rewarded with a whole fish.

Fishermen on Serifos working on the morning catch

I mentioned before how clear and nutrient-free the water seems to be, and I get the sense that life as a commercial fisherman on these islands must be rough. We would see them spending an hour or more pulling what looks to be bait fish from their gill nets.

Mooring at Adamas port on Milos

We had a longer than usual sailing day ahead of us so we made a point of departing early for Milos. Mooring at Adamas port we find a big supermarket and multiple tavernas and gift shops.

Taking a dip near Milos harbour

Our first stop was a short dinghy ride or walk across the harbor for some nice swimming and beer drinking. We mostly mingle with locals when hitting these swimming holes.

Bow down before him...

The main town on the hill (chora) is a long walk so we opt for 2 taxis to haul us up the hill for a sunset view and dinner (8 € each way). Unlike the harbor which is setup for vehicle traffic and the usual flow of boats in and out, Plaka has narrow sheltered streets hugging the cliffs perched above the western side of the island.

Church in Milos Plaka near sunset

We climbed another hill above the town to see the ancient castle (castro) then settled back into the main Plaka and roamed the streets looking for a spot to watch the sunset. We landed at a taverna and ordered a bottle of red wine and enjoyed a red sunset over the Med.

Boats in Milos Harbor

Julie and I awoke at 7am the next morning to a perfectly lit golden harbor. Our plan: catch a taxi to go visit the catacombs on the slope between Plaka and our harbor. They were supposed to be free and open at 8am; alas they would be 3€ and open at 8:30. One must be ready to adapt and go with the flow.

What to do but hike up to another church? Along the way we find a breathtaking panorama looking west, an ancient theater, and the original location where they found the Venus de Milos.

Learning about the Catacombs on Milos

The tour is more than worth the cost and it looks like they are investing the revenue into a strong guide program. The catacombs consist of arches within arches and there appears to be much speculation about how they were used and decorated.

Snorkeling on Milos

We set sail by 10am and cruised to a swimming spot on the south side of the island. The panga motor is still not functioning so we swim out about 400 yards to a rock formation and caves. Jacob and Matthew enjoy climbing the cliffs and jumping feet first. While snorkeling I spot a few flounder (or maybe sole?) and we also find a mountain goat colony with over 20 goats. The swim back to the boat was torturous for me — I don’t do well with long swims in choppy water and I’m seasick by the time I make it to the boat. Nothing that a long nap boat side in the shade wouldn’t fix.

Next we go to Folegandros!