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Yacht Charters Greece

Chartering a yacht in Greece is a chance to step into ancient history, alive today. A time to feast your eyes on gleaming white buildings, so bright they almost hurt your eyes, framed against a backdrop of a brilliant blue sky, or bright cobalt-colored seas. An opportunity to dine on the exquisite foods and wines of the region.

A discussion of Greece, or of any of the specific areas of Greece should logically begin with the ancient history of the region, truly ancient history, but that which is still very much in active development today.

Yacht Charters Greece

Plate tectonics, the shifting and moving of the giant plates on which the continents sit, have shaped the way the world looks to us now.

While it seems that it all happened tens of thousands of years ago, in truth, the repositioning continues yet today, and is more active in some areas of the world then other. Greece and her many islands, happen to sit on one of the more active plates, which goes a long way in explaining the numerous earthquakes of the region

Imagine that you have two dinner plates situated one above the other, with a dessert plate at their junction, but slightly to the right side. The top plate (the Eurasian plate) is sliding south, sliding under the bottom dinner plate (the African plate), which is moving north and slightly to the East. Caught between the two is the dessert plate (the Aegean Plate), which is moving to the southwest. Greece, of course, is situated on the Aegean Plate.

So Greece is both sinking and being stretched as the Eurasian Plate slides under the African Plate. As a result of this, the Athens region has moved about 6 feet in the past fifty years, and the southern Pelopannese has moved about 12 feet in the same time. Thanks to the movements of these plates, Greece is one of the world's "hot spots" for earthquakes.

There are almost daily tremors, very minor occurrences that most tourists don't even notice. Really devastating earthquakes hit the region about every fifty years. The plate movements, with the resulting buckling and upheavals of the crust beneath the sea, contribute to volcanoes.

The Cyclades, which are the island chain we will be discussing, is home to two of these volcanoes, an extinct one on Milos and a dormant one on Santorini. It is worthwhile to keep the vigorous activity of plate tectonics in mind, with its many tremors, when you view the architecture and comprehend the reason for the lack of tall buildings.

The Greeks have learned to live in harmony with their environment by adapting their housing styles to it, as indicated by the numerous many barrel-vaulted buildings.

The first evidence of human activity in Greece appears around 8500 BC. The islands, due to their relatively small sizes, the fact that they are within sight of each other, and were often heavily forested, made them perfect for small fishing villages and agrarian communities.

The activity surrounding the Cyclades was bourgeoning during the period of 4500-2000 BC, hence the period in Greek history has been named the Cycladic Period. 776 BC marks the recording of the first Olympic Games, with the upcoming games to beheld there again in 2002 AD, 2780 years later!

Yacht Charters Greece

To read the history of Greece, it would appear to be a continuing series of uprisings, battles and conquests, starting with the Minoan Period, continuing on trhough the Mycenaen Period, Archaic, Classical & Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian & Ottoman and on through to modern times.

Modern times being in fact, very recent, with independence coming to most of Greece, finally, in 1832. Apart from the Cyclades, most of the islands remained in foreign hands even then, returning (or being returned) slowly to Greek rule.

An interesting side note for the history buffs: up until the 19th Century, the Greek houses were an inconspicuous mud brick brown. In a demonstration of defiance against Turkish rule, the Greeks started painting their houses in the Greek national colors of white and blue, which continues to this day, especially in the Cyclades.

The Cyclades are by far the most famous of the Greek island groups and lies to the East, South/East of Athens. In fact, you will most likely fly into the new Athens airport and board your charter yacht in Piraeus, though Mykonos and Santorini both boast small airports. We will explore five of the more popular Cyclades Islands, the first and best perhaps known, being Mykonos

Mykonos has been near the top of the Greek island tourist map since the mid-1960's, courtesy of one of the most beautiful harbors in the Mediterranean, plenty of good sand beaches, several which tolerate nudism, and truly raucous nightlife. Playing host to over 750,000 visitors every year, to say that Hora, the capital, gets a bit crowded during the height of season, is probably an understatement. For the person who wants to be where the action is though, this is the place to be. However, there is also plenty quiet beauty for the guest in search of tranquility.

Yacht Charters Greece

Most of the island villages are built on natural amphitheatrically sites, Hora is spread out over a flat area, centered on its famous crescent-shaped bay with windmills topping the headland.The streets appear to be an elaborate maze, flanked by brilliant whitewashed cubic houses, churches, pretty little tavernas and shops. The maze of streets is made even more confusing, thanks to being riddled with alleyways deliberately contrived to distract pirates (not to mention tourists) in earlier times, and the meltemi winds that blow vigorously each summer.

The west side of Hora boasts a plethora of medieval houses, standing like a wall above the sea. Other than these houses, Mykonos lacks the archeological or historical sites you would expect to find on an island such as this. Perhaps this was due to the close proximity of neighboring Delos, where we will explore next, which did little to encourage building during the classical period. There are some excellent museums to poke about it, including a working Windmill Museum, which is on the hillside east of the harbor.

This is the only working example of a windmill that you can visit on the islands, and since there is no admission fee, this might be a fun place to spend a bit of time exploring. Also worth a look is the Archaeological Museum of Hora, which contains finds from tombs on the nearby island of Rhenia, sculptures, vases and figurines. The Maritime Museum of the Aegean is hidden away in an old townhouse. Consisting of 3 rooms, plus the backyard lawn, the exhibits consist of nautical odds and ends including maps, models, assorted gravestones and the top 20 feet of a late 19th Century lighthouse. Finally, the Craft and Folklore Museum is housed in a restored 17th Century sea captain's house, and brings together a number of collections of furniture, icons, sculpture and folk musical instruments.

One of the biggest draws to the Mykonos is the golden beaches, particularly those on the south coast. These offer an appealing mix of bays decorated with long strands of sand, interspersed with windy headlands. Varying from Plati Yialos, backed by several hotels, to trendy Paradise Beach with its music, water sports and extremely expensive beach bar, to Super Beach, best known as a gay nudist beach, there is sure to be a strip of sand to appeal to everyone!

Delos is a mere 6 miles across a narrow strait from Mykonos, but where Mykonos is trendy and raucous, Delos whispers its ancient tales to those who listen for them as they explore the ageless ruins. The legend of Delos has it that in an effort to escape the amorous attentions of Zeus, a girl named Asteria turned herself into an island and drifted where tide and current would take her, sometimes above the surface, sometimes below. One day Poseidon decided that enough was enough, and anchored the island of "Asteria" to the seafloor. It was known from then on as "Delos" or "visible".

Yacht Charters Greece

Time passed and eventually another one of Zeus's escaping lovers (Leto) landed on Delos, disguised as a swan, and gave birth to the twin deities, Apollo and his sister Artemis. With a background like this, it was only a matter of time before Delos also emerged as the most important trade center of the Aegean.

A major Mycenaen site, Delos rose to prominence as a sanctuary with the construction of the Temple of Apollo in the early 7th Century BC. As the sanctuary grew in importance, it underwent various stages of ritual purification, which ultimately caused the demise of its domination as a trading center. The purification started in 540 BC with the removal of all graves to the neighboring island of Rhenia. This was followed in 426 BC with an edict making it illegal to give birth or to die on Delos. Please note that this policy is maintained yet today via a ban on overnight stays. One shudders to think of what horrible fate or fine would be levied on you if you were to flaunt the law and have a baby while visiting the Sacred Lake area, or expire while climbing Mt. Kynthos!

Those fears aside, Delos is maintained as a vast archaeological site, covering almost the entire island, starting on the west side where the sacred harbor was. It will take you the better part of three hours to explore Delos. Everyone must enter via the same ticket kiosk, and then decide which route to explore first, as shown on the small map you will receive when you buy your ticket. The suggestion would be made to go counter-clock-wise and start with Mt. Kynthos first, while you are still fresh. By the time you are finished, you will enjoy a much more complete appreciation of one of the great classical archaeological site of the Mediterranean.

Paros, to the south of Delos, is the third-largest of the Cyclades after Mykonos and Andros. To the utter confusion of the visitor unsure of their geography, Paros and Poros are separated by merely one letter, but Poros is found to the North, close to Kefalonia (where Capt. Correlli's Mandolin was filmed). The fun-loving Greeks take the joke one step better, and have named one of the beaches on Paros, Parosporos. Indeed, Paros is ringed with sandy beaches, it's gently rolling hills surround the predominantly agricultural interior, which is crisscrossed with vineyards and the source of the beautiful Parian marble.

Yacht Charters Greece

Paros's main port and tourist center is the capital of Parikia. At the heart of Parikia lies a typical Cycladic chora, complete with the odd wall of a Venetian dastro built on the site of the ancient acropolis in 1207 AD. One of the best things about Parikia is that it is ideally situated for sitting back at a small taverna and enjoying a drink as the sun sets over the harbor!

Milos is the most southerly of the Wester Cyclades. Noted for its volcanic soil and for the rich deposits of minerals, its civilization is considered to be as ancient as that of Crete, and spans a period of at least 5000 years. Quite possibly it's greatest moment in history was the grim result of an act of defiance. In 416 BC, Milos refused to join Athens in her war with Sparta, and Athenians responded by voting for the execution of all adult males on the island, with the women and children being sold into slavery.

The Venus de Milo, discovered in 1820 by a farmer, now resides in the Louvre in Paris, and is represented in the town museum of Plaka with a plaster replica. The Ancient City is down the road at nearby Tripiti. The most impressive remains there are the Catacombs, the earliest known Christian site in Greece. The Catacombs are also part of one of the more original day excursions in the Greek islands, that of the Mining and Geology Tour that ends at the working Angeria mine.

The final island in our exploration is quite possibly the most fascinating. Differing vastly from the other islands in the Cyclades, Santorini (also known as Thira) is the largest fragment of a volcanic archipelago made up of the broken remnants of the largest caldera on earth. The summit of the pre-eruption island of Kalliste ("most beautiful") was estimated at 1700 meters, and the highest point of Santorini is 566 meters. It is theorized that this is the origin of the Atlantis legend, with the inpouring of the sea into the caldera during a massive eruption (about 1500 BC) giving early sailors the impression that the greater part of the island had sunk, taking the settlements with it.

Yacht Charters Greece

The archeological site at Akrotiri, near the southern end of the island, has yielded 43 structures of a Minoan city destroyed in the same eruption, but buried beneath volcanic ash, some of the structures are a two and three storied houses, shops, workshops, and so on.

Fira Town, also known as "Thira" and "Phira" is the capital of Santorini and is perched on the edge of the caldera rim, with a switchback staircase (587 steps) leading up to it from the water. You take a donkey ride to the top, walk (watch out for donkey droppings!) or hop on the cable-car, for any way you arrive at the top, it will certainly be well worth the effort if only for the view over the caldera and the volcano. There are too many museums and excavation sites to even start mentioning here, so the history fanatics will be very happy. Further to the north, following the caldera rim, is the town of Oia. Oia, also called Ia, is known for its little houses made from the soft rock, of which some are whitewashed, others painted blue or ochre, and its neo-classical mansions. Hundreds of steps, similar to those found at Fira Town, will lead you down from Oia and its sweeping views, to the tiny port below the town. Inland from the caldera rim, the rest of the island slopes steeply away and is given over to the production of tomatoes and the ground-crawling vines from which the wine that Santorini is famous for. Not necessarily vying for international honors for taste, it would seem the wine is more famous for its labels, with imaginative names such as "Lava" and "Volcano".

The striking landscape, the peculiarities of the natural environment, the unusual architecture and the outstanding monuments of Santorini all combine to be the perfect ending to a perfect charter. The temptation to simply reverse the trip and experience the islands all over again, is tempered by curiosity to what you are likely to find at perhaps the next island over. The region is so filled with so many islands of varying history and geography, it would seem that the only solution is to visit again and again!

Suggested Itinerary

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Yacht Charters Greece
Yacht Charters Greece
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