Everyone was in Greece this summer. After a two-year pause, Mykonos, Santorini, and the ancient sites of Athens were more crowded than record-breaking 2019, when 33 million travelers arrived on the Grecian shores.
We all know someone who was there: 500,000 Americans spent their summer holiday in the Mediterranean country, according to the Greek Ministry of Tourism, with 5.12 million travelers arriving in July alone, compared to 4.49 million in 2019.
“I spend three weeks in Greece every summer and I am gone by July 1,” said Kelly Shea, founder of high-end travel agency Kelly Shea Travels. “I can’t deal with the crowds or the heat.”
Her other favorite time of year? September and October, especially by yacht.
“If the island doesn’t have an airport, you’re relegated to the Greek ferry system, which is complicated and inconsistent. If you charter a boat, you can go where you want when you want, assuming the distance is feasible.”
Fall provides fantastic weather for exploring a more laid-back Greece by yacht, and better still, plenty of vessels of varying price points available during the cooler, calmer months (praise Zeus for the current parity exchange rate).
“From September onward, the temperature is very good, from 28 to 32 degrees centigrade,” Dimitris Altanis, a captain based in Athens, told The Post. “And while there can be some rain, there’s not much in the Cyclades and only for a few minutes at most.” It’s his favorite time to sail.
Of course, it ain’t cheap, a group of six can squeak in for around $6,000 per person for a week, all in, for a pretty luxe and memorable trip.
So where does one begin? With a reputable broker. Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS Expeditions, is still booking last-minute charters for Greece’s Cycladic islands in early fall.
“If you want a personalized trip — even if you simply want to start and end in different ports — you need a good broker to confirm everything and make sure your trip goes smoothly. You can’t really Google that,” Lyons said, noting that while all the world’s 9,000 yachts can be spied online, you really can’t do your own research.“You don’t need to vet 20 brokers, just find someone you trust. Our philosophy is to connect you to a vessel that we personally know and help curate the experience.”
Once you settle on a broker, such as London-based superyacht broker Hume Jones at Y.Co (who recommends some a range of watercraft below) they’ll send you a preference form to learn about timing, desired destinations, room requirements and budget, followed by a handful of motor yacht, sailing yacht and catamaran options.
For their work, a broker typically gets between 5% and 20% of the charter fee, which can range from about $20,000 a week for a 75-foot, three-cabin motor yacht that sleeps eight to $100,000 (and beyond) for a magazine cover-worthy megayacht, though prices are almost always negotiable.
Also remember that the price quoted is for the yacht, crew, toys (like Jet Skis and Seabobs) and insurance only; you still have to pay a VAT of 9.6% to 13% in Greece, plus the “advance provisioning allowance” of around 30%, which covers food, alcohol and port charges. Whatever you don’t use, you can put toward tips: 5% to 15% of the charter fee is the industry standard.
Not convinced you’re getting the yacht of your dreams? Ask the broker to connect you with the owner or the last group who chartered it, experts say.
Once you secure your yacht, there are contracts to sign and deposits to wire, then you’ll get on the phone with your broker and the ship’s captain to discuss itineraries and menus. Because local regulations require crew to have Greek charter licenses, the captains know the destinations exceedingly well. So settle on an itinerary, but be flexible.
“That is key no matter where you are,” said Lyons. “There are so many variables” — from weather, fires and choppy waters, to avoiding a run-in with a pasty Elon Musk. Still, he says, September and October offer less bustle and potentially 10% to 15% off high summer rates.
“There is a serenity to Greece in fall that isn’t otherwise there,” said Lyons.
Boats for different budgets
Some charter companies can find sweet deals, and most owners are negotiable during the shoulder season that runs through October. As long as you’re willing to shell out at least $36,000 for six people, you can find a pretty special vessel. Choose from a motor yacht, one with sails, or a more stable and spacious (and cost-efficient) catamaran. Whatever you charter, you can start your day with a jump in the sea or expedition by Jet Ski, dine on fresh-caught fish prepared by your private chef and end an evening on the town in the same bed, awakening the next morning in a different port.
Here’s a look at what’s on the market courtesy of Hume Jones of yacht brokerage, Y.CO, and Maria Tsaroucha, owner of Hermes Yachting.
Yachts to watch
Length: 87 feet
Number of Guests: 8
Number of Crew: 4
Perks: Award-winning interior design, including a “penthouse.”
Base cost: About $55,000 per week
Length: 68 feet
Number of guests: 8
Number of crew: 2
Perks: Jet Ski, water ski, wakeboard, kneeboard plus fishing and snorkeling equipment.
Base cost: About $17,500 per week
Length: 130 feet
Number of guests: 10
Number of crew: 7
Perks: Vast interiors that are perfect for families.
Base cost: About $90,000 per week
Winds of Change
Length: 90 feet
Number of guests: 6
Number of crew: 4
Perks: Classic design (you’ll need a striped shirts and captain’s hat for this one) plus water skis and a banana boat for the kids.
Base cost: About $24,000 per week
Number of guests: 10
Number of crew: 6
Perks: A central lounging space with a panoramic view, large aft platform and, most importantly, a saloon.
Base cost: About $50,000 per week
The ultimate Cycladic itinerary
The 220 islands that make up the Cyclades, an island group flung into the Aegean Sea southeast of the mainland, are awash in those blue-roofed buildings clinging to cliffs, some truly magnificent beaches and nightlife til dawn, even in October. What could be more dreamy?
Day 1: Paros
Start your trip here and you can spend the night (or just tender in for dinner) at Cosme (from $450 a night), a new Luxury Collection hotel set against the backdrop of the whitewashed village of Naoussa. The 40-room hotel has a killer beach club and culinary experiences by celebrated Greek chef Yiannis Kioroglou, as well as an unparalleled wellness center, Elios Spa. Check out the Ágii Anárgyri monastery above Parikiá for incredible views, then dine at a taverna in town.
Day 2: Naxos
Anchor off Plaka beach, the longest stretch of powdery sand in the Cyclades, or head inland to explore the ancient Temple of Demeter and the 13th-century hilltop castle. “It’s what Mykonos was 50 years ago,” said Shea.
Day 3-4: Mykonos
Party city! Cruise into Chora’s bay and walk among the whitewashed buildings, but bring your dancing shoes. Club hop from SantAnna by day to Cavo Paradiso by night, where all the top DJs come to spin.
Day 5 and 6: Santorini
Sneak in a night bobbing in a secluded bay to sleep off the glitter and sweat, then set sail for the caldera that centers Santorini. Those blue-domed roofs and distinctive turquoise shutters mimic the shades of the sea, while black sand beaches and charming towns like Oia and Fira echo with the sounds of an ancient culture.
Day 7: Folegandros
This tiny island has little more than a hilltop town and some charming farms, making it the perfect place to hang out and enjoy the #yachtlife.
Day 8: Athens
You’ll fly in or out of Athens, and the ancient city is worth a night’s stay — it is the cradle of democracy, after all. Book a slot at the Acropolis Museum and a separate ticket to the 2,500-year-old Acropolis itself. Then spend your last night at the new Xenodocheio Milos hotel (from $233 a night), which straddles the historic Plaka and the fashionable Kolonaki neighborhoods and houses Greece’s first Estiatorio Milos restaurant. Head to the chic Naxos Apothecary around the corner and have the wizards there create a bespoke face cream just for your sun-kissed skin — the ideal keepsake from an ideal holiday.