With over 3,000 islands, Greece is a yachtie’s dream and the best platform is the ancient nation’s capital city, Athens. Athens Marina (formerly Faliro Marina), founded in June 2004 for use in the Olympic Games, lies only a few miles away from the city centre, offering 130 berthing spaces for yachts up to 130m.
Despite the fact that Greece is still in the midst of a debt-crisis with tensions high as to whether they will meet debt repayments, its Ionian and Aegean Seas are an easy distraction from any economic strife, offering some of the richest cruising grounds in the Mediterranean. Tony Vamvakidi, chairman and CEO of North Star Yachting in Monaco and George Koukoopoulos, specialist marina consultant for North Star Yachting, agree that while the country has experienced economic difficulties, the last two years for the marina sector in Greece have been stable with a reasonable amount of expansion, following the dip between 2009 and 2010. “The New Yachting Liberation Law voted April 2014, has given a significant boost to the ‘homporting in Greece’ for yachts,” Vamvakidi explains, emphasising that the law abolished much of the red tape in Greek waters.
There are over 14 marinas along the Athens peninsula, but for Koukoopoulos, Athens Marina is a hidden gem. “It is an awesome area, flooded with bars, cafes, fish restaurants and clubs,” he says, adding that the marina is “tranquil and safe” and in comparison, other marinas are perhaps for smaller yachts or are “too busy for the discerning owner.”
Part of Camper & Nicholsons Marinas’ 1782 Club, the marina is one of 13 others that the company has acquired for development, redevelopment and operation. Athens Marina has played host to 10 per cent of the world’s top 100 yachts in the last 10 years, offering 24-hour security, CCTV surveillance, complete privacy and access to a helipad. “The advantage of starting in Athens Marina is its location,” Greek superyacht owner, Harry Vafias tells The Superyacht Owner. “You can see what the city has to offer and in 20 minutes you can be back on your boat and start the rest of your Greek itinerary.” Both he, Vamvakidi and Koukoopoulos warn that the due to its location in a capital city, detritus and polluted water can sometimes make its way into the marina basin, but this is always cleared away promptly by the marina’s staff.
Athens has a multitude of places to visit and things to do, so assigning a couple days to explore this ‘cradle of civilisation’ is a necessity. Also known as the historical capital of Europe, dating back to the first settlement in the Neolithic age, Athens has an abundance of historical landmarks to visit as well as a lively modern culture to enjoy. Touring around the Acropolis, which includes the temple of Olympian Zeus, the Odeon of Herod Atticus and Hadrien’s arch is a good place to start before arriving at the Ancient Agora and going further to the Archaeological Museum and even the Temple of Poseidon; a short half day trip at Cape Sounion. Athens also has some culinary gems worth visiting, including Michelin-starred Spondi, Funky Gormet and Varoulko Seaside.
The marina itself offers transfers to and from heli-landings, Athens and the rest of mainland with sightseeing tours for those wishing to explore further and add an extra element to their superyacht journey.
Most Greek itineraries start in Athens and with good reason; it is the perfect starting point for exploring some of Greece’s thousands of islands. The Cylades and the Saronic islands, as well as the lively islands of Corfu and Mykonos are popular yachting destinations. “There are so many islands in Greece, they are scattered all over the Aegean,” says Vafias. “Depending on how much time you have and how much time you want to cruise, you have plenty of options; a quiet island, busy island or popular island.” He highlights Poros, with its beautiful beaches and its harbour well-suited for superyachts, Hydra, where cars are banned and the pace of life is wonderfully slow, and elegant Spetses as islands that are especially worth visiting,
“The Arogsaronic Gulf has numerous possibilities at a very short range, 10 to 50nm, from Athens,” says Koukoopoulos, “The islands of Aegeina, Angistri and Poros, with its natural ‘sea-lake’ offering shelter all year round, are just 30nm from Athens Marina. Yachting here can be a 12 month experience.”