Home Crafts & Hobbies Avoid the crowds at Northeast Greece

Avoid the crowds at Northeast Greece


A couple discovers a quiet place in the busy Mediterranean with a trip through Northeast Greece.

The islands of northeast Greece have an entirely different atmosphere from those in the south and west. The flotillas disappear and the western tourists are quickly replaced by Eastern Europeans who live in this part of Greece.

The islands are few, but the gems are Samothraki and Thassos in the middle. There are many beautiful islands and many things to see in the three fingers of Halkidiki. The wind during our two-month trip (June and Jul) was usually a gentle Force 1 to 3 coming from different directions almost every day. However, in the far northeast the Meltemi can hinder upwind progress.

After a week of waiting at Samothraki, we gave up on Alexandroupolis in the corner part of Greece and headed to Thassos. We found plenty of town and village harbors that were both spacious and affordable. Twelve of our 28 stops were anchorages. Ten were harbours, and six were stern-to marina moorings. We sailed three days per weeks, on average, and averaged 20 miles each leg. This gave us plenty of time to explore, swim, or go for an evening stroll. The Mount Athos Peninsula (Akti is the eastern finger) was the longest trip.

Only pre-invited men are allowed to set foot on the land in this famously autonomous area. Yachts with female crews must stay at least a mile away from the shore. These 20+ historic monasteries are located on the cliff edge and have spectacular views. But, since they are organized by different orthodox nations, it seems that there is an opulent frenzy. The Russian monastery that is regularly visited by Putin looks like a palace.

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From east (Lesvos), we traveled to west (Thessaloniki). You will have to cross the shipping lanes of the Dardanelles in order to make the long journey from Lesvos to Limnos. Mirina has a nice town quay and anchoring area, as well a wonderful beach.

The next morning, we motored to Hephaestus Bay in the north of Limnos. We watched the stars reflecting in the still water. Limnos, we agree, is one of Greece’s most beautiful and unspoiled islands.

Kamariotissa – the Samothraki harbour village – is safe and welcoming. The hill town of Chora is located 5km and 300 meters away. We bicycled along the coast to the Sanctuary of the Gods, a lush site filled with goats as well as temple ruins – if it was good enough for Herodotus, Plato and Aristophanes then it was good enough for us too. The famous winged Nike statue was found here.

Storm Warning

Thassos – our next destination – is known for its beauty. The pine groves and streams are beautiful, even during the summer. They’re so different to most semi barren Greek islands. Aliki is located in the southeast corner, protected by a peninsula known for its ancient marble quarries.

Chris searches for shade in the scorching Greek sun

Skala Marion quickly became our favorite. It is a small, quayside village with wonderful beaches to the north or south. There’s space for about three boats alongside and we were mostly alone for our stay. We were not worried about the bay being open to the West until 0100 the last morning when two locals came to tell us of a thunderstorm that was coming. The storm would bring 1.5m waves right to the quayside. ‘Go, go, go!’ said the restaurant owner, urging us to forget the bill, and soon we found ourselves in pitch black off a rocky coastline trying to work out where to go.

The only way we could navigate was by GPS. We motored around three invisible headlands, arriving at Limenaria Fishing Harbour where distant lights showed the harbour wall 20m directly in front of us. Waking to the sound of cranes, we found out in the morning that the harbour wall was being extended – a lucky escape.

Thassos, which has ferries running every hour to the mainland, was a great place for my daughter and her friend to join me. After visiting the ruins, we did a second round of the island, visited the restaurant at Marion to repay the kindness, and then crossed over to the mainland in the enclosed bay at Elevtheron. The trip was only 7 miles to Kavala. We spent a whole week exploring the area and took a bus to Philippi, an ancient city where Mark Antony defeated Brutus.

Dolphins joined this couple during their visit to the island of Diaporos

No women allowed

We aimed to reach the fingers of Halkidiki by a safe harbour at Paralia, which would be protected from the Force 4 night winds. We found shallow water, but we anchored firmly in the middle of the boat with only 40cm below the keel. The waves were 0.5m outside.

Ormos Plati is our next anchorage. It is located at the beginning of the Mount Athos Peninsular. The territory is not open to women, but we were able to swim there to a lovely shell bay. We left the anchorage at 0615 on the following morning to make the long trip around the peninsula.

Aliki’s marble peninsula, with its ancient ruins, secluded bays and ancient ruins

The monasteries on the eastern side are isolated and majestic, nestled in wooded valleys. The western side was the complete opposite: tourists were in abundance, taking boat trips to see the extravagant monasteries. Ammoulliani is a beautiful island with woods at the head Sithonia Gulf. We spent a restful day there before crossing to Diaporos on the other side.

The large and expensive Porto Carras Marina dominates the eastern side of Sinthonia. The beautiful natural harbour Porto Koufos was crowded and located near the tip Sinthonia. Instead of sailing around Kassandra, we chose to use the Portas Canal. The 2.5m depths are prone to silting and a bridge provides a clearance of only 16m. This is just 60cm higher than our masthead.

We were now on the Thermaikos Peninsula and heading to Thessaloniki. We very much enjoyed visiting historic and culinary hotspots in Thessaloniki – it was the perfect way to end our sailing season.

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