Greece is a vast and diverse seafaring nation, thanks largely to its geography of 7 scattered island groups - Crete, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Ionian, Sporades, Saronic and Eastern Aegean.
These form superb sailing areas, each with their own unique characteristics, charms and weather patterns for a holiday to suit all levels of sailor, from absolute beginners to bareboat experts.
Generally in peak season, the calmest region is the Ionian, while the Cyclades are the windiest group, ideal for more experienced sailors.
The Greek climate is warm from May to October, with temperatures peaking in the mid-30sC in July and August. Thankfully, these hotter days are often calmed by a thermal Meltemi, a sea breeze that funnels down from the mountainous north.
Wind patterns in Greece are also a product of the local flora – the more lush Ionian has a lot more greenery and so the land heats up slower, which in turn creates less breeze than the more barren, windier Aegean.
Below, we divide the islands by region, and explain the local winds in each glorious Greek sailing area.
The main summer wind in the Ionian is called the Maistro, and it is a mild-mannered NW wind, delivering a reliable and steady breeze from late May to late September.
In the Ionian in the height of summer, it is said that you can set your watch to the wind – not a breath before 11am, then a gradually building medium breeze that is ideal for a relaxed afternoon sail, before the wind ‘goes to sleep’ shortly before dusk.
The shape of the southern Ionian, sheltered by its largest islands (Lefkas and Kefalonia), also means that you’re almost always sailing in flat water
By contrast, the Meltemi – the Aegean’s main summer wind, is a katabatic wind that blows down from the valleys of northern Greece, occasionally reaching ferocious power through the Cyclades on the hottest August afternoons.
A katabatic wind is caused by dense, cold air being forced down a slope towards the sea by gravity and pressure differences.
The Meltemi starts in the early afternoon, often peaking at 15-20 knots, but occasionally topping 30 knots.
This dry northerly wind usually dies down in the evening, but stronger Meltemis have been known to blow for a few days.
The Saronic and Argolic gulfs are more sheltered from the Aegean’s prevailing Northerly winds. in the early season, there is usually very little wind at all here, apart from the occasional local, light SE scirocco winds in the afternoon.
From mid July to late August, a meltemi blows, but weaker than in less sheltered regions like the Cyclades or Dodecanese.
One of the two regions of Greece most affected by the summer Meltemi, the Cyclades Islands experience a growing thermal wind as the land heats up from May to August.
The meltemi can reach 30 knots at times and make sailing uncomfortable, but is usually reasonably benign and can be the source of some great sailing.
The meltemi then fades away as autumn arrives, making it a good destination for late season trips in lighter airs, too.
The Meltemi can be prevalent in the summer months in this remote corner of the northern Mediterranean, but the Sporades are on the whole much more lush and less windy than the Cyclades, and tend to benefit from a pleasantly cooling breeze rather than anything hairy.