You may have seen on my Instagram in recent weeks that I once again headed to the Ionian Islands in Greece for a sailing holiday. It’s something I’ve done with my family since I was about fifteen and it’s something I’ve always found really difficult to convey to other people what an incredible holiday it really is because not everyone understands the sailing element!
It’s something I regularly shout about on my Instagram but I don’t think I’ve ever done a blog post completely dedicated to my trips, purely because they aren’t the kind of things I can do travel guides for. Most of the places we visit are only reachable by boat and aren’t always tourist hotspots. It’s also quite nice to keep some of these places a secret because it means you can embark on your own little adventure when you go.
So how did we end up sailing, you ask... Well, my dad used to be in the Merchant Navy driving supertankers and my brother and I used to race dinghies on a Friday night at our local sailing club, so there are some sailing skills running in the family. Dad always wanted to give it a go and we have been pretty much every year since about 2010! We always chartered yachts until a few years ago when we bought into a syndicate, which means we own a quarter of yacht, alongside three other families so we get six weeks holiday on it each year.
In case you needed any persuading, here are five reasons why you should book (or at least consider booking!) a sailing holiday for your next trip.
1. You don’t have to be a seasoned sailor
Most people who go on sailing holidays have had some experiences with boats and sailing before but it doesn’t matter if you’re not a seasoned sailor. As I mentioned, my Dad, and my brother and I do have experience. The first year we went, Dad had to get his International Certificate of Competency (ICC) which meant we could go ‘bareboat’, which means chartering a yacht without a skipper. Dad is the Captain and we all help out!
We have always used Sail Ionian which is a family-run charter company based in Vliho on Lefkas. If you don’t want to or can’t go bareboat, you can hire a skipper throughout your holiday or you could use a flotilla company (like Sailing Holidays or Sunsail) where you get put in a big group, then taught the basics and all head to the same place each day. You don’t have to be a pro to get on a boat!
2. There is always somewhere new to discover
Here is a day in the life on a boat: Wake up, swim, breakfast, sail, anchor in a nice bay, snorkel, lunch, sail, anchor in another nice bay, swim, shower on the back of the boat, have a G&T, eat at a taverna, sleep. The routine might stay pretty much the same each day, but every day we wake up in a new place, whether it’s a secluded bay off the coast of an island or a little harbour.
Although we have visited nearly all of the same places year on year, there is still a plethora of places left in the Ionian left for us to explore. We haven’t been as far south as Zakynthos yet but my parents have made it up north to Paxos and Anti-Paxos - this is on my list when we go back next year! There are hundreds of little bays littering the coastlines which mean lots of snorkelling spots and beautiful scenery to discover.
3. You can disconnect yourself from reality
This year, we spent the night in a secluded bay just off the south coast of Ithaca. There was no one there but us, leaving us to admire the incredible view of the sea, the hills and snorkel to our heart's content. We cooked pasta on the boat, drank Lefkada wine then lay on the boat deck and watched the stars. Even when we aren’t in a bay, the towns are sleepy, only coming properly alive at night as people come into the tavernas and bars for dinner. Life is slow out here, and it suits me just fine.
4. The food!
One thing I love - actually, like the main thing I love - is the simplicity of the food on the Greek Islands. You pretty much only get local, family-owned Tavernas in each town and a majority of them will be using local, fresh ingredients. If you like fresh seafood, this is the place to eat it as most of their catch is caught that day and then put on a plate. I had two stand out dishes this year; Moussaka at Tslenti in Fiskardo, Kefalonia and Gyros at Family Cafe in Sivota, Lefkas. Dan and I also had a platter of fish between us which was absolutely amazing. I mean, I think these pictures speak for themselves…
5. Quite simply, it's like no other holiday
In case the photos haven’t persuaded you otherwise, sailing is a completely idyllic holiday and it’s like no other. It’s not like a cruise where there are hundreds of other people, it’s not like an all-inclusive hotel where you have to fight for your sunbed… it’s just you, the boat, the sea and the sun. One day, we moored in a bay just south of Kioni which has the most dramatic rock face. Dan and I swam ashore to the beach and walked to the beach bar, which happened to be made of scaffolding draped in fishing nets. We got an ice cold G&T and a beer for €7 and we sat just looking out towards the sea. No phones, nothing. Just us and the view. I don’t think I can recreate that moment on any other holiday. It was just perfect.