Have you ever thought of sailing in Greece in the Spring?
We are cautiously optimistic about our first sailing trip to the Ionian Islands over Greek Easter. Island hopping from Lefkada, home of poets, with its steep white cliffs after which it is named (The White One), to Kefalonia and Ithaca, the mythical island of Odysseus, that ancient sailor. Weather permitting, we will sail over to Zakynthos, known as the flower of the east by the Venetians. Famed for its music, sea-caves, and loggerhead turtles, which are protected in the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. These are the perfect places to explore by sailboat.
Spring Sailing in Greece
Springtime is one of the most delightful times to visit. The countryside is abloom with wildflowers, a multitude of vernal colours scattered through the bright green grass; the blood-red wild poppy beautifying the countryside. This is Greece at its greenest!
You can expect warm balmy days and chilly nights. If you find the sweltering heat of the summer overwhelming, it is ideal. The water is still cold from the melting snow runoff, and you won’t find the locals swimming yet, but swimming and diving is possible and sailing conditions in the Ionian Sea are ideal.
Sailing around the Ionian Islands
Located off the west coast of mainland Greece in the Ionian Sea, the Ionian Islands are a group of seven main islands, and 123 islets and rocky outcroppings. They stand apart from other island groups due to their accessible anchorage spots and easy sailing conditions. Over the centuries, they were occupied by various powers, but it was the Venetians, French, and English who seem to have left a lasting impression; this is apparent in the atmosphere, cuisine, and tastes of these lush isles.
Mostly sheltered from the summer ‘Meltemi’ winds, predictable and ideal sailing conditions make the Ionian Islands a popular destination for sailboats. Ports can get crowded in the summer and pre-Covid there were many flotillas. May to September sees wind from the North-West at Force 2-5. In spring and autumn, the wind is not as strong and usually blows from the South-West. Sailing in the Ionian is recommended for novice to competent sailors and is perfect for sailing with a family.
A well-visited location, there is excellent tourism infrastructure, great hotels, a variety of water sports and full service marinas.
Easter in Greece
The Greek year is a succession of festivities and events some of which are cultural and some of which are religious. By far the most important in the Orthodox calendar is Greek Easter, or Pascha, and if you are in the right place at the right time you will definitely be invited to join in the revelry.
Pascha is a joyous occasion as the emphasis of the celebration is on the Resurrection as opposed to the Crucifixion of Christ. Preparations start the week before with a general hustle and bustle of cleaning, pruning, and painting, baking and cooking in Greek homes across the country. The festival starts on Good Friday with the Perifora Ipotavios when a shrouded bier (representing the funeral bier of Christ) is carried through the streets to the local church and can be witnessed in towns and villages across the country. The religious celebrations culminate in the Resurrection Mass, starting at 11pm on the Saturday night and the climax is when the chief priest brings the ‘holy light’ out into the darkness ( all the lights are switched off ) where the congregation waits; each with their own ornately decorated candle, to receive the light. This symbolizes Christ’s passing through the underworld. The light is passed on from candle to candle until the blackness is banished by the light of a hundred flickering candles. It is a poignant and beautiful ceremony; not to be missed! Everyone then walks home trying to keep the light from their candles burning, to bring the holy light into their houses and prepare to break the Lenten fast with a traditional tripe and herb soup.
Easter Sunday starts off with the cracking of the red Easter eggs which has the children excited to see who has the strongest egg. All over Greece, people can be found cooking whole lamb or goat, sometimes more than one, on a spit in the sunshine, drinking tsipouro and greeting neighbours, friends, and family with “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen). Preparations occupy everyone and there is a mad rush until all are finally gathered at the table to feast on lamb and seasonal side dishes all washed down with plenty of wine, tsipouro, and beer. Music and dancing and a bit of plate-breaking are the order later on in the day. A real knees-up and a great experience for the passing sailor.
Each area of Greece has a particular way of celebrating with some of the islands having the most interesting and spectacular customs.
Book a sailing holiday in the Ionian
Hopefully, if it’s safe and responsible to travel, we’ll get to see sail these beautiful Ionian isles and witness some of these Greek Easter traditions on our sailing trip at Greek Easter. After so many months in lockdown, a sailing adventure in the Ionian is just the ticket!
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Adapted from articles written by Merryn for yacht-rent.com