Two weeks Route in the Cyclades:
Paros, Koufonissi, Milos, Serifos
A trip in the Spectacular Beaches of the Cyclades Islands
The number of the Cyclades islands and their unique beauty is such that a sailing cruise of two weeks hardly offers the required time to visit most of them and feel absorbed by the atmosphere and their distinctive landscape. This route includes some of the most beautiful Cyclades islands, such as the Minor Cyclades, Milos, and more astonishing destinations, such as Paros, Syros, Sifnos and more.
The route can be challenging, considering the tough weather conditions that can prevail with the strong north winds. On average the daily routes last for around 3 hours, except for the second and last day, that is mostly the trip from Athens to the area of the Cyclades. Definitely, these distances are mitigated if the cruise starts from Lavrion port, instead of Alimos, the main marina in Athens. On the other hand, the possible challenges posed by the winds would be mitigated by a small change in the plan, allowing to avoid a difficult route on a specific day.
Athens - Kea - Syros - Paros - Naxos - Koufonissi - Schoinoussa - Antiparos - Serifos - Milos - Kimolos - Sifnos - Athens
Day 1: Athens – Sounion (22 nautical miles from Alimos marina, 5 nm from Lavrion port)
Starting on Saturday afternoon from Athens, we arrived in the cape of Sounion just before dark. We anchored near the temple, among many other yachts, as this is a popular destination for the first night after the start of the cruise. Other nearby alternatives are also available however (e.g. the bay of Anavissos or the nearby island of Kea), if required.
Please note that in case of departing from Lavrion port, it takes an hour to reach Sounion, or 3 hours to Kea (either port or a bay).
Sounion bay is suitable with north winds, but it may be affected by waves in case of southern winds (although not very common in summer months). In such case, the port of Kea offers better protection.
Cape Sounion: Sunset view from the Temple of Poseidon
Day 2: Sounion – Syros, port of Ermoupoli (52 nm)
There are various options on how to start your first morning on the yacht. Some people would not resist to visiting the temple of Poseidon, which takes about 2 hours altogether, some others may start directly the next sailing cruise, or even just relax on the yacht. We decided to leave early, because of the long trip to Syros, perhaps the longest sailing day of the whole fortnight cruise. Obviously, the specific conditions of the trip depend directly on the weather conditions, but we were lucky to have a northern breeze that got us smoothly to Syros port in about 7 hours.
There are two ports in Syros island: the main port in Ermoupolis, located at the eastern coast of Syros, and Foinikas, at the western coast (closer to the mainland). Foinikas offers great shelter for the north winds, and there is also a dock, opposite in the big bay, in Poseidonia, that can offer protection to the southern wind. However, the port of Ermoupolis has the great advantage that the boat is berthed at the beautiful main town of the island, so you can easily explore the cozy alleys and the historic buildings in the town. The port is affected by the strong north winds and the waves and swell are developed in the port. However, unless the conditions are extreme, it might be preferable to be in the beautiful port, rather than the distant port of Foinikas. If, on the other hand, you prefer to cut the trip shorter by docking in Foinikas port, there is dense transport to Ermoupolis.
Part of the port of Ermoupolis, with view to the 2 monasteries of the town at the top of the hills
Day 3: Syros – Paros, port of Naoussa (21 nm)
The next day we continued the trip south, to the island of Paros, at the center of the Cyclades islands. The nearest port is Naoussa, located in a large bay open to the north winds. Although the port is protected to the North, in case of heavy winds the port is not safe. Additionally, because the port is small, it needs to get there early in order to find an available spot. However, if there is no docking space, yachts can stay out of the port on anchor, and get by dinghy to the shore (assuming there are no strong, northern winds).
The port is usually busy and picturesque. The alleys have the traditional feeling of the Cycladic architecture and there are also many restaurants and bars creating a warm atmosphere at night, which might continue until the morning hours as well.
Aerial photo of the port of Naoussa
Day 4: Paros – Naxos port (9 nm)
We left Paros early in the morning to get a spot in Naxos port. Although the distance is small, we have to rush because the port is usually full. Being there by 10 am is the safest way to ensure a spot. Once we berthed in the port, we decided to explore the mainland. Renting a car was a great idea and soon we found ourselves on the mountains of the island, visiting the villages with spectacular view and delicious cuisine, definitely less affected by the tourist masses of the average Cycladic ports. It was a different experience, that we enjoyed a lot.
In case there are no available spots in Naxos port, there are not sufficient alternatives in a close distance, considering that the strait between Paros and Naxos enhances the winds and the waves. The second alternative we can recommend is the port of Kalados, at the southern coast of Naxos, some 16 nm south, opposite to Schoinoussa island. So, in case you wish to visit Naxos port, you better arrive there early in the morning.
The port of Naxos, looking Northwest: the Gate of Apollo at the background
Day 5: Naxos – Koufonissi (21 nm)
The area of the Minor Cyclades is praised by poets as much as travelers across the world for their serenity and simplicity of the landscape. Picturesque villages are built on the small islets, which are surrounded by sandy beaches and of course the endless blue of the Aegean Sea. Regarding the weather conditions, the Minor Cyclades are lesser affected by the strong northern winds compared to the rest of the Cyclades islands. The big island of Naxos protects both from winds and from waves, so conditions are tolerable, even when the rest of the Aegean is tormented by the so called ‘meltemi’.
Koufonissi is the main islet of the Minor Cyclades, located farther east, or just few hours from Naxos. There are very specific options on the islet. Either dock in the small marina (if there are any spots available) or anchor in the turquoise waters of the bay in front of the village. At the north coast of the islet, you can also visit the cove of Pori, with crystal, turquoise waters, offering good protection from the North wind also because of the swallow waters in the bay.
Koufonissi is famous for its natural beauty, simplicity of the landscape, and the turquoise color of the sea
Day 6: Koufonissi – Schoinoussa (7 nm)
After exploring the islet of Koufonissi, we headed to the rest of the Minor Cyclades: the “Small (or Lower) Koufonissi”, Antikeria, Schoinoussa and Iraklia complete the complex of the astonishing islets. The distance straight to Schoinoussa is small (only 7 miles), so sailing south to Antikeria can be an option. Swimming at the wonderful coast of the Small Koufonissi, as well as the numerous coves of Schoinoussa is also a wonderful alternative. All in all, spending time in the Minor Cyclades feels like a return to the natural life, among the most beautiful colors of the sea.
In case you head to the port of Schoinoussa, this is a small place with a dock that can host about ten yachts; so docking is a challenge. Many yachts just anchor within the bay of the port. It always needs attention, as the space is limited for a long anchor chain and the gusts can get strong even during the night.
The port of Schoinoussa consists of this small dock and the rocks at the north side, where yachts anhcor
Day 7: Schoinoussa – Antiparos (21 nm)
This is a beautiful sailing trip, southern of the islands of Naxos and Paros. This condition results in smaller waves (if there are strong winds in the wider area), so ideal sailing conditions. Soon, you are reaching the islet of Antiparos and Despotikon further south, but close to Antiparos. There are many options: you can sail by the coast of Despotikon, as there are many coves, usually without many other boats. Closing the day, you can anchor in the large bay between the two islands, Despotikon (on the south) and Antiparos (on the north). The anchorage in this place is exceptional, because all the bay has ideal sea bottom (sandy, up to 13 meters deep, lots of space at 4-5 meters). Swimming is fantastic and there is also the ancient temple of Apollo on Despotikon (toward the west), which is restored recently and worth a visit. Finally, another option is to anchor near (or inside) the port of Antiparos. There is no dock available even inside the port, and it is rather shallow to enter the port with a monohull; for this reason there are mostly catamarans that anchor inside the port. The port of Antiparos is quite beautiful and picturesque; fancy and traditional restaurants and bars offer a vivid nightlife.
The serenity of the Minor Cyclades. Plain landscape in the endless blue
Day 8: Antiparos – Sifnos, bay of Platis Gialos (21 nm)
The next day we continued southwest to the island of Sifnos. We decided to anchor in the bay of Platis Gialos, at the southeastern coast of the island, because of the safe anchorage the place offers with north winds, as well as the available options in terms of restaurants, cafes and shops with traditional items. There is a small marina in the bay, where there can be available spots if one arrives early. However, it can be problematic to berth there, so staying on anchor remains a strong option.
Sifnos is a special island; it is considered the center of gastronomy of the Cyclades and you can try delicious recipes not only in Platis Gialos but also on the main village, Apollonia. Taking a taxi or, better, renting a car is always a good option on Sifnos. Additionally, the island is famous for the pottery craft as well as the architecture, especially regarding the orthodox temples and the archaeological sites, especially the village of Kastro (Castle in Greek language), at the eastern coast. Apart from this and the main village, Apollonia, it is worth visiting also the village of Pharos, a bit southern than Kastro. One day is definitely tight in order to explore the island of Sifnos.
Sifnos island: A cultural center in the Cyclades, amazing landscape, unique atmosphere
Day 9: Sifnos – Milos, port of Adamas (23 nm)
The next day we sailed further south, to the island of Milos and its nicest satellites, the islets of Kimolos and the uninhabited Polyaigos.
For many, this area has some of the nicest swimming spots in the Cyclades, and probably all over Greece. Kleftiko, a formation of rocks at the southwestern coast of Milos, the “Blue Waters” at the western coast of Polyaigos, Sarakiniko, at the northern coast of Milos, Prasonissi in Kimolos, all compose an astonishing area with amazing spots. Which of these areas you can visit depends on the weather conditions, as well as your mood to sail from one place to the other. We followed the plan below, but you can adjust it to the preferences and conditions of your own trip.
As we were heading south, the northern winds were rather calm, so we passed Kimolos and anchored in Sarakiniko. We enjoyed diving off the cliffs and had a walk on the unique landscape. After few hours we sailed to the main port of Milos, Adamas. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we were lucky to find free some of he last spots there. In the evening we visited the picturesque town of Klima uphill, the largest settlement of the island.
Unique rock formations in a spectacular coastline
Day 10: Milos – Kleftiko (14 miles)
The next day was planned to be a relaxed one. We enjoyed a calm breakfast in the port and then sailed to Kleftiko, a formation of rocks at the southern coast of the island. The landscape is amazing and hard to describe in words. After anchoring, it is better to explore the rocks and the numerous caves with the dinghy, or even snorkel along the coast as much as possible. The landscape is unique. Spending the whole day in that spot cannot be boring, but alternatively you can also sail few miles to the East and spend the night in the bay of Provatas.
Please note that staying overnight by that coast is safe only with north winds. Any other wind direction (south, western or – more scarce – eastern) may bring troublesome waves, as the island is highly exposed.
Bay of Kleftiko, Milos island
Day 11: Milos – Polyaigos - Kimolos (16 nm)
Having explored the southern coast of Milos, we headed toward the islet of Polyaigos. The western coast of this uninhabited islet offers some incredible rock formations, as well as serene sandy beaches. We approached the coast by the yacht and then sailed with northern direction admiring the diverse rock formations. The winds were calm, so we could drop anchor and swim wherever we liked. We visited the bay of Manolonissi further north, and snorkel by the northern coast, during the amazing rock formations and the small beaches.
After a long day in the turquoise waters of Polyaigos, we sailed to the island of Kimolos. Our main option was the port of Psathi, a picturesque, small place with nice shops around. From there, you can also walk up the hill and visit the village of the islet, up the small hill. Unfortunately, the port was full, as there are only few spots and the place gets full as early as noon. We could also anchor in the wide open at the north of the port, available only with calm winds. However, we decided to sail 2 miles more and visit the bay of Prassa, at the northeast of the islet. There is a beautiful beach with white sand there, and there is also a restaurant at the eastern side. We booked a table and enjoyed dinner there.
According to the maps, the depths are very shallow in that place, so we were very careful when anchoring.
Astonishing swimming spots in Polyaigos islet
Day 12: Kimolos – Serifos (24 nm)
The next day we started very early in the morning, in order to get on our way north, back to Athens. The first stop is Serifos, 24 miles away. We knew that we had to start early in order to get to one of the few spots of the small marina of the island. Sailing was nice! There was a strong breeze from the North, so we sailed upwind, against some considerable waves that got smaller as we approached the southern coast of Serifos, although windy force was stable. We anchored in the marina and we also visited the picturesque main village uphill.
In general, this marina is not a very safe option. The winds come very strong in the big bay of Livadi and the sea bottom is composed of a slippery type of mud, hence anchoring is not reliable. The mooring lines are not maintained, so usually they are not available and there are only few spots where yachts can berth side-to the dock, securing their position. Perhaps it is a good idea to avoid the port of Serifos with strong winds. If you have to stay in Serifos, the bays in the southern coast might be safer to anchor and spend the night.
Picturesque Serifos island; the port in the background
Day 13: Serifos – Kithnos (23 nm)
Kithnos island is gifted with one of the most impressive beaches in the Cyclades islands, in Kolona, at the northwestern coast and near the main port of Merichas. The bay of Kolona offers numerous spots for anchorage, as well as the wonderful experience of visiting a beach that consists of a strap of sand surrounded by the sea in both sides. There is also a beach bar and restaurant at the end of this beach, for some more fun and dinner options. When visiting the Cyclades, the beach of Kolona is usually the first (or last) stop we do, not only because of the position of the island (the one closest to Athens when sailing to the Cyclades) but also for the immense beauty of the area. It is also important that the beach of Kolona, and the bay of Fikiada at the other side of the ‘strap’ offer protection from all wind directions.
In case you prefer a port for the last night of the cruise before returning to Athens, the port of Kithnos, Merichas, is a very good choice. The place is calm, there are several restaurants and few bars built on the sand by the sea, food is good; all in all, you can find all the conditions that make the evening comfortable and relaxing. You need to get to the port early, since the berthing spots are limited and the port gets full pretty early, especially at the beginning or end of each week.
The spectacular cove of Kolona, Kithnos island
Day 14: Kithnos – Athens (42 nm to Alimos marina, 26 to Lavrion port)
The next day of the trip was strange, as it was the last one. It is always incredible to start the end on the yacht and swimming in the crystal waters of the Aegean Sea, but there is also some melancholy for this wonderful trip to come to an end. We started the day slowly and sailed to cape Sounion for a last swim. We enjoyed lunch there and soon departed for the home port of the yacht (due to be back before 18:00 pm).
In case there are strong northern winds, returning to Lavrion port is challenging, as the yacht has to sail against the wind. In case of return to Alimos marina, things can be easier, but perhaps you do not need to aim at Sounion. Head further south, so the trip can be more comfortable and as you are entering the Saronic Gulf, both waves and winds become calmer, making it smooth to sail toward North. Either way, a wonderful trip is completed back in Athens!