The archipelago south-east of Naxos consists of four small islands and a few uninhabited isles. Most crews usually ignore this group of islands on their way to Ios, Santorini or Naxos. If looking for unspoilt nature, sheltered bays with long, not overcrowded sandy beaches and the original Greece, then include the Minor Cyclades in your itinerary.
The Minor Cyclades islands are also called “Erimonisia”, which more or less means “the deserted ones“ or “the lonely ones”. In fact, the islands are not really well-known among boaters and it is a lot less crowded than their more well-known sisters in the north and south. Numerous yachts bustle around here only in high summer, bringing turmoil to the otherwise so tranquil way of life of the locals. The islands in detail:
Irakleia is the most south-westerly island of the Minor Cyclades, bare and mainly unspectacular. However, it does look friendly and inviting. The port of Iraklia lies on the north-eastern side in the fjord-like bay of Ormos Georgiou. When approaching the port, a power generator can be seen on the starboard side. Yachts moor stern-to at the short side of the quay. The inner side, which is better protected, is occupied mainly by local boats. The north side of the pier has to be kept clear for the regular ferry service. Should the harbour be full, then it is also possible to anchor slightly further to the north-west. The harbour protects from southerly winds, but it can become rough when the winds blow from the north. When there are strong Meltemi winds, it is better to haul your boat to Schoinousa. There are several lovely taverns, bars and smaller supermarkets on shore.
Livadi Bay is located slightly further to the south-west. When the weather is calm or there are southerly winds, boats can anchor here at 4-8 metres in front of a beautiful sandy beach. In summer a tavern is open now and then.
Alimnia Bay lies in the south-east of the island and provides two more anchor opportunities amidst unspoilt nature. Only a few people know that there is a plane wreck from the second world war at about 8-10 metres deep in the bay.
This quite flat, bare island has a number of wonderful anchorages with dream beaches and one of the best havens for sheltering from the Meltemi when it blows yet again. Local skippers regard Mersini harbour as one of the best harbours which will shelter you from strong Meltemi winds. There is practically no swell, but expect some strong gusts. Yachts moor stern-to at the eastern side of the ferry dock (let out a lot of chain when the Meltemi blows). The south side of the jetty is reserved for ferries. Alternatively, it is also possible to moor at the quay in the north. However, the water is quite shallow there at just over 2 metres and boats need to keep at least 2 metres distance to the waterfront. There are two taverns at the waterfront. The Mersini tavern is very popular with locals, but “Nicolas” also serves good food.
The roughly 10-minute march into the Chora (hillside village called Panagia) is very worthwhile. In 2013 a new footpath was built and is lit-up at night so that visitors can now confidently leave their torches on board. There are several lovely taverns, two supermarkets, a bakery and some cafes in the Chora. In the off-season, time seems to stand still. Farmers riding on their donkeys, wind chimes converting the Meltemi into a harmonious sound, chickens clucking and a breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea. Panagia radiates a sense of calm. Hectic doesn’t seem to exist here. Simply soak up this tranquillity and enjoy.
In the south of the island there are a few sheltered anchorages. In Livadi, for example, boats anchor at a water depth of 7-10 metres in front of a beautiful beach with fine sand. At the Livadi restaurant, guests can not only eat well but can also enjoy the glorious view of the bay. And should a guest have a toothache, then Nikos, the boss’ son, can help. Nikos works as a dentist for 6 months of the year and the rest of the time he helps out in his parents’ restaurant. Hardly surprising considering how beautiful the island is.
Kato Koufonisi is a long, virtually uninhabited island with an impressive bizarre south coast. A few dropouts and cattle breeders live in Kato Koufonisi but only in summer, the rest of the year the island is uninhabited. There is absolutely nowhere to buy provisions and most of the anchorages can only be recommended when the weather is calm. But this is why they are even more spectacular. When the weather is totally calm, the visibility conditions good and you approach very carefully, you can anchor on the south side between the rocks, which look like they are forming streaks in the water. Land lines are imperative. You moor here between sand-coloured rock layers sloping towards the sea at the ends of which small caves have been eroded into the rock. There are small pebble beaches at the waterfront. The water is crystal clear. Simply glorious.
Slightly further to the south is the anchorage “Nero”. Boats can moor here at a water depth of approx. 6-8 metres, without shoals. The waterfront has fine sand. The surrounding hills covered in trees and bushes have formed a small valley where there is a bony but shady tree at the crest. The perfect place to unpack the boat’s barbecue and to cook a meal on shore. And get to feel like Robinson Crusoe.
Pano Koufonisi is a virtually circular island with a beautiful Chora and fine sandy beaches but only a few sheltered anchorages. Koufonisi Port does provide shelter and secure anchorages but only for a few small yachts in the 10-metre class. In addition, most spots are occupied by locals. Parianos Port, which lies slightly further to the north-west, is nearly completely in the hands of fishermen and offers practically no places for visiting boats. But you can buy fresh fish straight from the cutter. It is worth exploring the Chora, simply drop your anchor slightly to the east of the harbour entrance. Shelter from the Meltemi is moderate but the sandy bottom is holding decently and the water is wonderfully clear.
The Chora with its white houses goes up the gentle hillside. In the village there are a number of good taverns, two supermarkets, a bakery and a bicycle hire. It is not possible to hire scooters or even cars in Pano Koufonisi.
In the north of the island bizarre rock formations, some lime wash, some sandy-coloured, tower above, bracing themselves against the waves rolling in. The Meltemi whips the foam over the cliffs. An impressive sight, especially from the sea. In the NE of the island lies Pori Bay, a true dream for all boaters. The large crescent-shaped bay provides plenty of room to swing anchor. Once the anchor is buried, the sandy seabed has an excellent hold. If light rocking does not bother you, then you can moor here and will be sheltered here with winds up to wind force 6. But if the winds are stronger than 6, then the swell becomes unpleasant as the offshore cliffs are flat and the wind has no obstructions and is totally unbridled when it hits the bay.
The extensive waterfront is made up of fine sand, the crystal-clear turquoise water is ideal for swimming and the seabed slopes gently. Also perfect for children. There are two taverns, which both serve as a breakfast bar, beach cafe and tavern at the same time.
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