“One of Greece’s top three cultural holidays” – The Telegraph
“One of the top 10 cultural holidays in Greece” – The Telegraph
Join us for the ultimate Greek Islands tour and explore the astonishing historical wealth and natural beauty of the Aegean Sea in spring when the sites are carpeted with wild-flowers or in autumn when the shores and coves are inviting us to swim in lovely warm waters. Clear blue seas, vast island-dotted horizons and a stunning range of prehistoric, ancient and medieval treasures combine to make our small ship Cyclades cruise the quintessential Greek Islands experience.
This two-week gulet cruise in Greece, through the Dodecanese and Cyclades archipelagos includes about a dozen Aegean islands in its itinerary. Our visits are a carefully chosen mix of the world-famous (such as glorious Santorini, laid-back Kos, mountainous Naxos and UNESCO-listed Delos) and rarely visited secrets of the Aegean (such as remote Astypalaia, picturesque Nisyros and tiny Anafi), each one with its own distinctive character and beauty.
This region has been a crucible of history from the very earliest times. Its archaeological sites range from whole Bronze Age cities to Classical temples, Roman towns, Byzantine monasteries and Crusader castles, as well as countless traditional villages and towns. Our expert guides will bring them all to life, and as the islands glide by you will travel through the pages of history.
Avoiding the hectic crowds and the hustle and bustle of conventional island-hopping, you will travel in style aboard a beautiful and traditional gulet. The delicious meals prepared by the on-board chef will be a constant highlight of your journey, as will the many lunches and dinners ashore, all carefully chosen to showcase authentic Greek cuisine and traditional hospitality.
On this voyage you will feel the excitement of discovery, crossing wide open seas or narrow straits to drop anchor at a new island, be it in a bustling port town, a tranquil seaside village or a peaceful cove, and there will be plenty of time to relax, swim, snorkel or kayak, or just lie back and watch the ever-changing island scenery.
Why not join us on this unique Cyclades tour, an exceptional experience of exploration and relaxation, a perfect mix of culture and nature, in a truly epic maritime setting?
Our tours receive an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 754 reviews, according to AITO reviews.
Day 1: NB: The itinerary on this cruise is likely to change slightly according to the weather conditions. Some modifications regarding the order or days of crossings or visits are likely to occur, so please bear that in mind when reading.
Our gulet is about 40 minutes from Bodrum Airport in the beautiful harbour of the city, site of ancient Halicarnassus (in Latin) or Halikarnassos (Ancient Greek). If possible, we set out into the Aegean in the late afternoon. We serve welcome drinks and dinner on board.
Day 2: We make an early crossing to Greece, arriving at Pothia, the capital and port town of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese Islands. The bustling settlement, surrounding the harbour in a striking setting, is dominated by houses and mansions from the 19th and early 20th centuries, witnesses to the island's erstwhile wealth won by its large fleet of sponge-diving vessels. After an island lunch, we walk through quiet streets and lanes – our first stop really is the perfect Greek island town! - to visit the excellent local archaeological museum, the biggest surprise in the Dodecanese. It makes a great introduction to the archaeology of the Aegean Islands and has an outstandingly fine collection of Archaic and Classical Greek sculpture, including the stunning Lady of Kalymnos, a near-fully preserved bronze statue of a woman recovered from the seabed near the island. Returning to the harbour side, we get to grips with the tradition of sponge-diving, Kalymnos being the last Aegean Island to retain a sponge-diving fleet, and the properties of this unique natural resource. After, we aim to continue westwards to the tiny islet of Levitha, halfway between the Dodecanese and the Cyclades. Day 3: Wonderful maritime scenery abounds, often giving us great views across vast swathes of the eastern Aegean as we make the long and scenic westward crossing to the picturesque harbour of Katapola on the stupendously rugged Cycladic island of Amorgos. Katapola was the harbour of Minoa, one of the three independent city-states of ancient Amorgos, and the physical remains of its distant past are visible here and there on the island. We make our way to the interior, where we visit the supremely picturesque historic capital, Amorgos Chora. Once again it steps straight out of a Greek island fantasy, with a wealth of whitewashed houses and chapels set along labyrinthine lanes, all overlooked by a tiny but imposing Venetian castle. As the first of a series of Cycladic Island towns on our itinerary, it’s a great location to see how people once lived in these villages. Later, we continue to the island's southern shore, where a stepped path leads to the astonishing Chozoviotissa monastery, an extraordinary gleaming post-Byzantine marvel, seemingly pinned to a cliff-face overlooking the impossibly blue waters of the Aegean. The Chozoviotissa is unique: the top floor is the oldest part of this astounding building. Day 4: An early crossing takes us through the Little or Lesser Cyclades. We might stop for a view of the islet of Keros, a protected archaeological zone not currently open to the public, where recent British and Greek excavation have discovered important evidence of the Cycladic Civilisation of the Early Bronze Age. We continue to Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic Islands, and to its capital town and main harbour, also called Naxos. First settled some 6,000 years ago, it is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited urban settlements in the world. It was the capital of the Classical Greek city-state or polis of Naxos and from the 13th to 16th centuries the seat of the Venetian Duchy of Naxos. In the early afternoon, we walk up to the latter’s castle, surrounded by another labyrinthine settlement, and visit the Archaeological Museum. These have rich displays of Cycladic material, including a thought-provoking collection of Cycladic figurines, the famous stylised marble statuettes, influential on modern art, that characterise the Early Bronze Age culture of the islands during the 3rd millennium BC. Up in the Castle we hear of Marco Sanudo, the Venetian adventurer who founded the Duchy in the early 13th century. In the evening we take a stroll to the Portara of Naxos, the enormous and famous marble gateway that stands on a headland just outside Naxos port, probably intended as the entrance to a never-finished 6th century BC temple. The Portara and its striking vista of Naxos Town and Castle make a perfect setting for an atmospheric sunset! Day 5: Naxos deserves more exploration, so we make our way to the interior of the island. We visit the site of Yria, the legendary birthplace of Dionysos, god of wine, theatre and other good things, where we can trace the development of Greek temple building from its very beginnings to the 6th century BC, from mud and wood to marble, in the very place where stone architecture was invented. If we can, we’ll also drop by the 6th century BC Temple at Gyroulas/Sangri, sacred to Demeter and among the earliest marble buildings in Greece. Our next stop is the 1,500-year-old church of the Panagia (Virgin) Drosiani with its unusual and very early frescoes, fascinating in themselves and even more so when we consider the cultural and theological background that produced them. After a village lunch we explore the ancient marble quarries at Flerio, where unfinished 2600-year-old statues lie as if asleep on the ground, accidental witnesses to an essential element of Greek culture and to the central role Naxos played in it – stone sculpture also started here! After returning to our boat, we set out northwards for Rhineia, near the more famous islet of Delos.
Day 6: We make a short early morning crossing to Delos. One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece – and the world, as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites - the islet is nearly entirely covered in unusually well-preserved ancient ruins. Being the mythical birthplace of two Olympian gods, Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, Delos was sacred across Greece, attracting ambitious cities and kings from ever greater distances to make their mark with offerings, especially after Athens made it central to its imperial ambitions in the 5th century BC. Later, the island was favourably taxed by the Romans, bringing great wealth – from some dark trades - and making it a major commercial centre. This has left a grand legacy of shrines and multiple temples to Apollo as well as the streets and homes of the affluent trading city that existed here in the last two centuries BC. We’ll visit public buildings like the theatre to admire its rich array of sculpture, but also see the household items on display in the local museum. Delos makes for a long and fascinating visit. In the afternoon, we cross southwards to Paros.
Day 7: We devote the whole morning to Parikia, Paros’ lovely capital. It’s a place with a long history, beautifully laid out from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic and beyond in the town museum, but also woven throughout its fabric, from the charming church of Ekatontapyliani - ultimately stretching back to the earliest days of Christianity as a legal religion in the fourth century – to a fortified Venetian kastro which manages to cheer as much as it overawes. Assembled almost haphazardly from the ancient city’s building stones and columns, it gives the impression of being thrown together playfully in some archaeological Jenga of child’s building blocks. It leaves a particularly warm impression to talk over during lunch on the gulet before we head seaward again to find some quiet cove on Ios or Sikinos to while away the day and wait for the sunset.
Day 8: In the morning we continue southwards to Santorini (or Thera) and enter the enormous caldera, stark witness to a long history of huge volcanic eruptions. Reaching Santorini by boat is a unique experience, both awesome and beautiful, as sheer cliffs of lava and pumice rise from the deep blue waters of the Aegean, with the toy-like clusters of whitewashed houses and blue-domed chapels that mark the famous crater-side villages sitting above like some other-worldly icing. We take the cable-car up to Fira, the island's capital. Here we visit the wonderful Museum of Prehistoric Thera, housing a fascinating array of finds from the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri, which we visit tomorrow. The astonishingly lovely painted household pottery from the site, the wealth of imported objects and most of all the famous Akrotiri frescoes - which now have a whole floor to themselves, amply justified by their rich and very mysterious narrative content - combine to throw some light on the affluence of the Bronze Age city, and on its refined and joyful aesthetics. There is ample time to explore the bustling byways and shops of the town, or to relax on one of countless caldera-side terraces before we dine in a well-hidden local taverna serving the typical Santorini specialities and finally return to our gulet.
Day 9: We make our way up to Fira a second time to further explore Santorini. Our first and most important stop is Akrotiri itself, the site sometimes described as a 'Bronze Age Pompeii', since it was both destroyed and preserved by the great eruption of the 17th or 16th century BC. There are few archaeological experiences to march this, as we view 3,600-year-old houses built of mudbrick and wood but still standing up to three storeys high, representing only a part of what must have been a much larger town. We’ll see what excavation can tell us about the lay-out of the town, how the buildings were lived-in and how some special features give us insights into the beliefs and ceremonies of their long-departed inhabitants. After a tasting session at one of Santorini's finest wineries, where we encounter the Assyrtiko grape special to it, we have another delightful local lunch, and return to our boat. Day 10: We start our day on Santorini’s small, rarely visited, and unspoiled neighbour Anafi; perhaps just to have a little walk through its single village, or maybe to visit the post-Byzantine Kalamiotissa monastery, built over an imposing ancient temple of Apollo. We continue to the remote island of Astypalaia. Administratively part of the Dodecanese, historically more closely connected with the Cyclades and geographically far from either, Astypalaia is a place apart, or a place in between. We find a lovely cove to relax and enjoy the soothing waters of the Aegean once again.
Day 11: We spend the morning and early afternoon in one or several coves of Astypalaia, devoting our time to the joys of sea and scenery, of swimming and relaxing. In the late afternoon, we ascend the island’s superb traditional Chora, another labyrinth of twisting stepped paths, whitewashed houses and countless chapels, a place of supreme serenity and beauty, crowned by the mighty castle of the Venetian Querini family. From the castle there are stunning views across Astypalaia and the surrounding seas and even to distant islands on a clear day.
Day 12: Continuing eastwards from early on, we return to the Dodecanese. We usually make our first anchorage off the tiny island of Giali, between Kos and Nisyros. Well-known in prehistoric archaeology as one of only two sources of the natural volcanic glass obsidian in the Aegean, it was first settled in the Neolithic, so that sought-after obsidian could be traded throughout the surrounding islands and adjacent mainland. Today, it has quarries exploiting the island's excellent pumice and perlite, unique materials that result from the area's volcanic history. Our main reason to linger is the pristine surrounding waters, inviting us to indulge in some leisurely swimming. Later, a short crossing takes us to Nisyros, another little-known island, which is a semi-extinct volcano rising above the waves of the Eastern Aegean. We moor at Mandraki, the main settlement, and one of the most attractive in the Dodecanese, our final labyrinth. Stretched out along the coast with a twisting main street, its squares decorated with lovely pebble mosaics in a Dodecanesian tradition, Mandraki is peaceful and atmospheric, picturesque, and steeped in tradition. After a short visit to the Archaeological Museum of Nisyros, with its fascinating collection of finds from the island's ancient cemeteries, you’ll have some free time to explore at your own pace. Later, an inland excursion takes us first to the great Classical fortification of Paliokastro, one of the finest examples of Ancient Greek defensive architecture in the region, and then to the caldera, the collapsed crater at the core of the Nisyros volcano. There, we visit the phreatic steam-volcanic crater of Stefanos, a place that is both weird and remarkable, before dining on the caldera rim. Day 13: We set out for Symi, off to the east. On arrival at St George’s Bay we’ll stop for lunch and perhaps a swim. Once we continue, we’ll eagerly watch on deck as we enter Symi's lovely port town, one of the prettiest sights in the Mediterranean, built on its nineteenth-century affluence derived from sponge-trading and shipbuilding. Striking pastel-coloured homes cascade down the slopes towards the harbour, the many-stepped Kali Strata ('beautiful street') from the upper village thronged with fine neoclassical mansions.
Day 14: Today is given over to our passage to the wide and sparkling bay of Fethiye, through seas of the richest deep blue, past beautifully green and lofty hills and shapely headlands on one of the most celebrated parts of Turkey’s wonderful coast. Though you’ll already be wishing you had longer – and thinking of all you’ll tell friends and family – it’s not quite over yet. There’s still some more magnificent food, wine and company to be had, and perhaps a last dip in perfect waters.
Day 15: Transfer to Dalaman airport.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Departure Airport – Dalaman
Arrival Location – Bodrum Harbour (approx. 40 mins from airport)
Departure Location – Fethiye Marina (approx. 1 hr 20 mins from airport)
Embarkation is from 15:30 and departure is planned for approx.17:00. in order that the gulet can clear customs and enter Greek waters. You are more than welcome to arrive earlier to drop off your bags, but please be aware that the crew will be busy cleaning and tidying making everything ready for your group so you will not be able to settle into your cabin.
If your travel plans or flights do not allow you to arrive before 17:00 we recommend arriving the day before the tour starts. This would also allow time to relax, recover from any jet lag and arrive at the boat on time for embarkation and departure.
If you arrive at the gulet after 17:00, we will do our best to enable you to join the tour at a later time and place.
Please Note: Departure time is subject to change depending on weather, harbour, or other conditions.
Disembarkation is around 09:00. We will arrange local transfers on the first and last day of the tour.
Booking Flights: If you are staying in or connecting via Istanbul then the easiest way to get to and from the gulet is to fly. There are a number of airlines that offer domestic flights in Turkey. The cheapest way to book flights is directly with the airline online.
Please note: Flights are subject to change. Please contact the airline for exact details.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel Insurance:We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered.
A Visa is required to pass through Turkish customs during the cruise. Visas are easily obtained online at eVisa and must be purchased before you travel.
From 2 March 2020, British nationals travelling to Turkey for tourist or business purposes will no longer need a visa for visits of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
For UK Nationals, travel to the EU will change from 1 January 2021. Please check the current situation regarding visa requirements before you travel. You can find more information online here.
Citizens of European Union or Schengen Treaty member states need no visa for Greece, those from the United States, Canada and Australia do not need to apply for a visa to visit Greece for trips of less than 90 days duration.
Athens, Kos and the Greek islands If you are planning to stay in Athens before or after your tour we have included below links to more information and things to see and do. If you intend to add time on Kos or any other Greek island, we are happy to offer information and advice.
Nature of the Cruising to the Cyclades itinerary
Cruising and Itinerary: This remarkable cruise has a character very different to that of most of our other gulet cruises. We will be crossing some stretches of wide open sea between the islands and covering considerable distances on some of the days. In so doing you’ll gain a wonderful appreciation of the nature and beauty of this part of the Aegean, a thoroughfare for sailors since the Bronze Age. There will be some early starts so we can make passage in the early morning before the wind picks up in the afternoon. While the average travelling time will be longer than our normal coastal gulet cruises, there will be opportunities to swim nearly every day (schedule and weather permitting), but occasionally they will be quite early in the day or quite late.
As with all of our gulet cruises, we have spent a great deal of time crafting the itinerary to be as good as it can be, but we are travelling aboard a boat and may need to make changes according to the weather and the captain’s authority.
Overnights: Compared with our coastal gulet cruises in Turkey and Italy, where we tend to spend a good number of nights moored out in isolated bays, on this trip we will be spending more nights in harbour on the islands. This means you’ll have the chance to explore not only as part of the expert led outings, you’ll also be able to go ashore and wander in the mornings and evenings when we are tied up in the picturesque Greek harbour towns.
Food: The boat is a Turkish gulet with a Turkish crew including a chef who will be cooking up wonderful meals throughout your cruise. As such the food served on board will be traditional ‘Turkish’ or Eastern Mediterranean. We will be going ashore to eat authentic Greek food in family run tavernas at intervals along the way and your tour leader will ensure you’ll have the chance to sample a good many of the local Greek delicacies of the islands. The gulet will be stocked with Greek wine and spirits and your guide, Heinrich, something of a Greek wine connoisseur, will introduce you to some of the best beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) the Greek islands have to offer.