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Trip Report The lovely Peloponnese and sailing with Beyond Yachting

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My sister and I recently went on a fabulous trip to Greece and before going we got a lot of help from online travel forums so this is an attempt to give back! The dates of our trip were 1 September to 19 September, 2011. We had fabulous hot, sunny weather with rain only twice and at night and not an issue. The sea temperature was great everywhere - refreshing but never cold - and we swam a lot!

We flew into Athens (Delta’s non-stop from JFK) and landed in Athens on September 2, 2011. Because of all of the talk about strikes, protests, etc. we rented a car – from a non-Greek company – that we hoped would keep us mobile in case of problems with taxis, airlines, ferries, etc. After doing a LOT of searching we ended up renting from autoUnion. We chose them based in large part on price – specifically the fact that we wanted to rent the car in Athens and drop it off in Lefkas, on Lefkada Island. Their drop-off fee was lower than all of their competitors and they seemed to have their online customer service together which was confidence inducing. They were a good choice – got a Hyundai 4 door – in good condition, easy to get it from the airport and the drop-off involved a call to a guy who got it at the marina in Lefkas without us even needing to be there. I would definitely use them again.

That first day we drove to Nafplion. My sister had been there in the distant past (not saying how distant) and always wanted to revisit it. It was not a bad drive at all to do on a first day and with jet lag. As always we had pre-printed directions and, as always, got off them totally but somehow ended up in Nafplion more or less when we had expected to and it was an easy drive (less than 3 hours including a lunch pit stop and getting lost).

We stayed about 8km outside of town at the wonderful Hotel Perivoli. It’s only about 15 minutes from the heart of Nafplion and is a lovely oasis of quiet and beauty. We booked it well in advance using booking.com. Find out what their sign looks like and then watch VERY closely for it as you head out of town. We also had dinner there the first night and it was very good. Great pool too which helped revive us a little on that first day. You don’t want to be finding them for the first time at night – there are some quick turns and it isn’t in a town.

The next place we stayed was the Westin Costa Navarinos. It took us about 6 or 7 hours to get there but should have taken maybe 4 or 5! We got lost and went to or around the town of Argos so many times we finally gave up and had lunch there at an excellent little restaurant – Retro. It truly took a village to even get us out of that village and then it took more like a small city to finally direct us to our destination! We took a very twisty mountain road with many little memorials to people who had died on said road.

Once you get within a reasonable distance of the Westin there start to be a fair number of small brown signs to help land you. We were there for 6 nights for free on points. Bottom line is that it was lovely with a wonderful sand beach and good pools but very expensive to eat there. If you have a car learn your way to Marathopoli right away and go there for your dinners. We took the Westin’s Messinian cooking class and I’d skip that if you aren’t a huge fan of fat-laden lukewarm food! It was funny that that was our worst meal in Greece! That region has a very different diet than the Mediterranean diet that we associated with Greece. The place where they hold the class is lovely and the women teaching it are very friendly and nice but go to the Souvlakateria at the Westin or to a nearby town for a cheaper and better meal.

When our stay at the Westin was over we drove to Lefkas to meet two friends and go sailing for a week. The whole trip was wonderful but the week of sailing was one of my most (favorably) memorable trips ever and I have traveled a lot (check credit card statements for verification).

We chartered our boat from a Bulgarian- owned company Beyond Yachting. We met the daughter of the owners at a travel show in Boston (where I live) and one thing had somehow led to another. They were absolutely wonderful – no caveats!

We did a lot of research before signing on with them. Here are some of the reasons I recommend them so highly: no hidden fees (pay for the boat, the skipper and to replace fuel used), English speaking, highly knowledgeable non-smoking skipper and a support base in Lefkas. We learned when looking for information that some companies in Greece quote you one price but when you get there they ask if you want a Zodiac and if so, that’s more money, as is a motor for it, etc. Also they often don’t have someone on land who can respond promptly if there’s any problem. This company has a man who has worked for the boat’s owners (in Bulgaria) for many years and is very conscientious and available basically 24/7 (in Greece) if needed – which, luckily, he wasn’t!

Beyond Yachting has a fleet of new (2 years old at most I think) Beneteau sailboats. We were on the 50’ Genesis (after the rock band –not a biblical reference). The skipper they got for us was also Bulgarian – Pavo. The boat was in perfect condition, very nicely outfitted, had some luxury touches such as high thread count Egyptian cotton for sheet snobs like me and more sensible things for people with the right priorities! We didn’t get a cook but our friends had stocked the boat with lots of provisions (wine, beer and ingredients to make Greek salads) so we were good to go.

Beyond Yachting had picked our friends up at the airport in Iaonnina the day before and recommended a marine-side hotel for them in Lefkas and that had all worked out beautifully. The first night we left port and went to Spartochori. We tied up at a restaurant there in exchange for free water and electric (and weak wi-fi if you ask for the password) if you eat at their place.

This will turn into a book if I detail everywhere we went. The main point is that you go where you want to go which is great. Pavo knew every place and didn’t hesitate to tell us where was nice and where was “stupid” and he always turned out to be right! In addition to being a terrific, amazingly competent skipper he is also in a rock band in Bulgaria and sings and plays his guitar in the evenings. To be honest we knew that ahead of time and were worried that it might be bad and either cringe or giggle inducing, but it was beyond wonderful! He’s very talented, a lot of fun and has a good repertoire. One night we anchored in a cove and other boats were shouting over suggestions and singing along. In between songs we heard goats bleating (or whatever they do) on the hills and it was magical (probably even without wine).

We also went to the islands of Ithaca, Keffalonia, and Lefkada. Most nights we stayed in a town harbor and two we spent at anchor. Personally I preferred the nights at anchor – quiet and nice breezes. Pavo knew wonderful places to swim and eat. Part of the “deal” is that you buy dinner for the skipper every evening and that was a delight. He’s also one of the last people I know who can really tell a joke well and he has an impressive inventory. Plus they’re all even funnier with a Bulgarian accent! (Be sure to ask about the skinhead and the bus conductor…)

I would be happy to provide more info about places we went on the boat or other questions. I just realized that I may have written a longer document than War and Peace so am trying to curb my enthusiasm! We really hope to come up with a way (read: the money) to go back next year and do at least another week sailing with Beyond Yachting with Pavo as our skipper. Not only did we go “beyond yachting” but the entire trip went “beyond wildest hopes”!

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