An archipelago of outstanding beauty, the Sporades are scattered along the eastern coast of mainland Greece, with only four of the 24 isles permanently inhabited: Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros. Rugged and charming, these cruising grounds deliver peaceful serenity whilst sailing amongst some truly breath-taking island scenery. This is an area rich in natural splendour where the sparkling waters and countless secluded anchorages are perfect to enjoy a relaxing yacht charter.
Conveniently close to the mainland, it is no wonder that pretty Skiathos is widely known as the Greek Riviera. Fishing villages strewn with friendly tavernas exude a wonderful easy-going appeal and no end of golden beaches are packed with water sports opportunities. The hub of all entertainment is found around the harbour’s restaurants and bars, where nightlife is always lively. A short sail from Skiathos harbour, visit the Greek paradise of tiny Arkos. Anchor in front of its fairy-tale sandy beach on the west coast and make a point of taking lunch at the excellent taverna.
Another local gem is Platanias Bay, a little fishing village backed by green hills, located on the southern coast of pretty Skiathos. Here you will find just a handful of friendly tavernas and bars with traditionally Greek laid-back appeal. Platanias Beach uniquely showcases the little church of Agios Taxiarchis set right on the sand, and neighbouring Kolios Beach is a semi-circle sandy bay with crystal clear, shallow water. The beaches together form the shape of a heart and offer wonderful opportunities for snorkelling and water sports
With slopes covered in lush woodland, the bountiful island of Skopelos is a delightful visual feast. The greenest Greek island, famed for plum tree and thick forests of fragrant pines, this spot delivers a back-to-nature feel. Incomparable beauty is found amongst the rich colours that mingle with sun, sky and sand, making this an idyllic place to visit by yacht.
Anchor in Stafylos Bay, a sleepy, rural village on the southern tip of the island, spread across a scenic pine-covered valley and scattered with family-run tavernas. Popular Stafylos Beach is only 500m from the village centre, set within the picturesque wooded bay and blessed with warm, clear waters. The location is named after the mythical Prince Stafylos, whose golden sword is displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Activity seekers can hike the countless meandering trails or explore rocky shores and hidden coves by sea kayak. Visit the whitewashed Chora with sinuous streets and authentic charm, and don’t miss popular Panormos Beach at sunset.
Awarded marine park status, picturesque Alonissos is packed with yachting pleasures. The uninhabited islets nearby exude raw beauty – this national area of environmental importance has enthralling appeal. With very few inhabitants, the lush island of Peristera is secluded and tranquil, with sheltered beaches and bays offering fantastic swimming and many sea caves providing homes to Mediterranean monk seals. The ancient shipwreck of Peristeras, found in the narrow channel of water separating the island from Alonnisos, is a great opportunity for divers.
Neighbouring Gioura boasts a huge cave, home to a rare species of wild goat, while protected Piperi hosts a vast Mediterranean monk seal breeding population – both isles have restricted access. Pelagos is blessed with deep bays and great anchorages, while nearby Skantzoura and Adelfoi islets offer secretive swimming spots. Wooded Kira Panayia provides a stunning anchorage at Monastery Bay and fascinating ruins ashore. Divers will delight in the underwater city ruins found on the north coast of volcanic Psathoura.
Back on Alonissos, soak up the laid-back vibe in seaside villages at Votsi and Roussoum Gialos and climb the hilltop Chora for spectacular views. Take an evening stroll around main town Patitiri and enjoy some delicious local cuisine. At Alonissos Port, soak up the sight of flower-filled balconies adorning colourful terraces. Renowned for tavernas serving delicious fresh fish, this is an excellent option for dinner ashore.
Full of character and the largest of the Sporades, lesser-known Skyros is a surprising island, blessed with natural harbours and sugary beaches that frame the rugged coastline. The hilly Chora is decked with sugar-cube white houses, where vibrant tavernas and shops line the narrow streets – some exceptional views are found atop the ancient Saint George castle ruins. Creative Skyros locals still practice age-old traditions of pottery-making and woodcarving, providing a great opportunity to acquire authentic handmade goods.
Skyros is surrounded by deserted islets set amongst crystal clear waters – providing a surfeit of sensational anchorages and perfect cruising grounds. To the southwest, oblong Valaxa has protected swimming spots along Liminaki Bay, while the craggy bays of private Skyropoula are surrounded by turquoise sea, promising an underwater paradise. Anchor at the southern side of uninhabited Sarakino, where a hidden and secluded cove offers sandy swathes exclusively for you.
To the south, but not essentially belonging to the Sporades chain, Evia is a hidden gem and well worth incorporating in your yachting itinerary. Second largest in Greece to Crete, the island boasts enchanting mix of historical treasures and coastal delights. Ancient monasteries nestle in verdant woodland, while swathes of velvet shore appear around every bay. On Evia’s western tip, stunning Lichadonisia, nicknamed ‘the Seychelles of Greece’ is a cluster of rocky isles, blessed with sandy coves and translucent water – inhabited only by seals, turtles and summer beach bars. To the far south, the miniature archipelago of Petalioi are ten sensational islets, again only accessible by yacht, with emerald anchorages and pristine beaches.
With an unbeatable combination of crystal-clear water and beautiful beaches, it is no wonder that an island-hopping escape in the Sporades is irresistible. Spend idyllic nights anchored in uninhabited, sheltered bays, with just the twinkle of starlight above and the sound of waves gently lapping the shore. Take advantage of relaxation and tranquillity in a pristine destination, rich in olive groves and natural beauty, where friendly locals in picturesque villages are waiting to welcome you.
Nicholas Dean is Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Ocean Independence is a global leader in luxury yachting, providing a bespoke experience across yacht charter, sales and management.