Day 2 - 6 - Sailing the Greek Islands
Today we cast off for a short amble (approximately 3 hours) to the Small Cyclades. While all the islands harboured communities in ancient times, the middle ages saw this reduced to just pirates and goats. Today, only Koufonisia, Iraklia, Schinousa and Donousa have permanent residents, with the largest population said to be somewhere around 300. Here you'll discover clear waters, great beaches, friendly locals and sleepy tavernas all built around quaint fishing villages. Explore the town, perhaps sampling some fresh seafood in a waterfront taverna, a great way to take in the magic of the Mediterranean.
Continue to the rugged mountainous island of Amorgos – known as the stunning location of Luc Bresson's film, 'The Big Blue'. Amorgos has a history of colonisation and occupation with evidence of a functioning society back as far as 4,000 BC. At Katapola, the island's main port, you'll see classic Cycladic architecture with windmills and an old Venetian castle. Stroll the waterfront and perhaps take some time to explore the ancient Minoan Settlement nearby. Also worth a visit is the village of Hora (Amorgos town) which sits high up on the rocky mountainside. Explore the labyrinth of narrow stone laneways and Byzantine churches surrounding the town square. The Amorgos Archaeological Collection is housed nearby in Gavros Tower, one of the few remaining towers on the island. There is an option to take a drive up to the spectacular 11th-century monastery, Moni Hozoviotissis (either late morning or early evening). It was built gripping the cliff-face, so the panoramic views across the Aegean Sea are breathtaking. On our way north to Naxos we will cross the Small Cyclades area once more. These magical little islands demand more of our time, so we will spend one more night here.
Continue to Naxos to discover the beautiful beaches, charming villages and fragrant olive groves of Hora (the capital of Naxos). This place has a colourful mythological history. The old town areas of Hora are perfect for a stroll, and the nightlife is vibrant. The best beach choices are to the south, where water sports are also on offer. Follow a pathway up to the impressive Venetian Kastro where mansions, monuments and churches all retain their medieval spirit in a mass of winding laneways. While here, stop by the old Roman Catholic Cathedral in the square, and the nearby Archaeological Museum which is housed in the former Jesuit School of Commerce. The massive Portara stands as the gateway to the unfinished Temple of Apollo on the islet of Palatia, just to the north of the marina. There's also an optional jaunt out into the countryside to glimpse local rural life, visit one of the oldest temples in Greece and chill out up in the hills with lunch at a family tavern. Get a taste of the heady local brew, Kitron (best described as a lemon liquor), and top it off with a walk along the beach.