Seven Windsurfing Wonders of the World

Greece: Aegean Adventure

Scattered in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, the Kyklálades (Cyclades) Islands, an island group midway between Greece and Turkey, has long been a popular tourist haven. The region's reliable winds also make them an excellent choice for windsurfers. And though hardcore European windsurfers still opt for the Canary Islands, the Cyclades offer a less expensive alternative—with more to do when the wind doesn't blow.

That's not to suggest that you should be overly concerned about a lack of wind, however. Greece enjoys a remarkably consistent summer wind pattern—known as the Meltemi—that rolls in from the Aegean Sea at 10 to 35 knots for 20 days a month on average, from May through October. And in the off-season—spring and fall—the region often experiences scirocco winds from the deserts of North Africa.
The sciroccos also blow in serious wave sailors keen to pit their skills against the swells kicked up by the hot African winds blasting across the Mediterranean. summer air temperatures in the Cyclades are usually in the mid-80s but can reach more than 100 degrees F. The water is warm in the summer but before July can be cool enough to require a short-sleeved fullsuit and a vest for warmer days.

Páros, a six-hour ferry ride from Athens and the third largest of the Cyclades, has developed into a premier international windsurfing spot and has been a regular stop on the Professional Boardsailing Association world tour since 1993. The most popular launch sites on Páros include Golden Beach and New Golden Beach on the south side of the island where the world cup competition is held. Golden Beach is set within a bay so there's plenty of flat water for slalom sailing. Other popular beaches for windsurfing include Kolimbithres in the picturesque village of Naoussa, near Golden Beach, and Pounda, about a mile from the airport.

And when the winds don't blow? There's still plenty to do here besides windsurf including diving, water skiing, and mountain biking. The shopping is excellent and at night—in the name of cross-country training, of course—you can shake your weary legs at any number of dance clubs.

While Páros has garnered a lot of attention the nearby island of Náxos has quietly become a favorite spot for windsurfers. For windsurfing conditions Náxos is pretty much like Páros—it's windy and for the most part flat. But what sets Náxos apart is the lack of tourists. It has much more of an authentic feel and there's no problem finding a room in June and July. There is no airport so the only way to get to Náxos is by ferry and you probably need a car.

But if you make it, there should be no problem finding a room, even in June and July. If you choose to windsurf near the town of Náxos the best spot is Agios Yeórgios at the end of the bay. Again, the water is very flat and the conditions are suitable for good slalom sailing. The accommodations are quite inexpensive on Náxos, about $30 a night for two people but camping is always a popular alternative.

Mikría Viglía, about 12 miles from the tow of Náxos may be the best windsurfing spot in all the Greek islands. Winds here can exceed 40 knots with three-to-six-foot waves. You can also camp here but there are some beautiful waterside resorts for $35 to $85 in the high season. Sailing rentals can be made through the hotels for about $50 per day.

The nearby islands of Santoríni and Ios are also well worth a visit. The windsurfing on Santorini isn't spectacular but for scenic beauty it is a must see. Ios is another great small island just a few hours from Náxos by ferry.

The greatest expense associated with a vacation in the Greek islands is in getting there. Once you arrive you can easily minimize your costs by heading to the more remote islands where you won't have to sacrifice on the quality of accommodations or food. Room rates more than double during July and August but prices are still reasonable and you have your choice of accommodations from luxury resorts to camping.

Another way to significantly lower your accommodation costs is to stay in one place for a weekly rate. It's hard to resist the temptation to island hop, however, and there will always be some form of lodging on offer: when you arrive on an island, your ferry will be greeted by a handful of locals offering rooms for rent in the family house. This is often a sensible option. A room for two without a bath costs $20, including breakfast.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 20 Jun 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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