No trip to the Greek islands would be complete without a sailing tour. After all, who doesn’t dream of being sailed away on the blue waters of the Aegean Sea? Letting the wind carry you away to islands that only a handful of people call home. Places where time has stood still for ages and left the beauty of the land untouched. This is the dream-come-true day we had with Xanemo Sailing in Naxos.
When we started looking for an island-hopping tour around Naxos, we knew what we wanted, and what we wanted to avoid. We’ve had too many experiences being crammed into boats that are too small to carry everyone. We know (and hate) being rushed off from one place to the next with barely enough time to take in the beauty of the place. Worse of all, we never again want to be taken to a place that is so crowded with tourists, you can barely move (Hello Maya Bay, we’re talking about you!). We wanted a tour that fit into our way of doing things.
We looked for a tour that has a personalized approach, that worked with the conditions of the day to make the best route. We looked for a small group on the boat, where everyone could be comfy and get to talk to each other. We wanted to go to secluded places that were still pristine. We wanted to feel like we were the masters of our destiny, sailing the seas, free to explore as we wanted.
Luckily, we found Xanemo Sailing. They checked off every single item on our wish list. This became our favourite day of our trip to Greece. How could it not? We had a great captain, an amazing skipper, and a small crew to hang out with for a day.
Our day on the boat
We met Jerome, Depy and the rest of the group early in the morning, at 8:30, at the Naxos Marina. The day was sunny, without a single cloud in the sky. The perfect day to set out and explore the blue waters of the Aegean Sea. We left the port and headed out to our first destination.
First stop: Iraklia
Usually, the boats that go around Naxos will take you to Koufonisia. It’s supposed to be a really cute island right off Naxos. Let the masses head there if they want. We have better plans. We are off to Iraklia. This is what Naxos used to be like, before tourists, both foreign and domestic, discovered its beauty.
Iraklia is a tiny island of the Small Cyclades, right between Naxos and Ios. It’s the smallest of the Cyclades, only 120 people live here, mainly fishermen and their families. Once we get here, we set the anchor down, and jump into clear turquoise waters.
We are the only ship there to swim. Just the 10 of us, and some locals. Talk about the perfect way to jump into this trip. With our snorkel masks on, we swim around the bay. Clear, crisp and calm waves, a few tiny fish, and above all, refreshing waters to cool us down after our sunny journey here.
We hear someone ask Depy how long we have to swim here. Clearly, they are used to being rushed around on these boat tours too. Our hostess just smiles and says “As long as you want”. There is no set time-frame for our day, we can all decide how long we stay in each location. Win!
The second stop: Schoinousa
Yeah… We have no idea how to say the name of this island. It’s teeny-tiny as well. About 200 people live here, and yes, they are mainly fishermen too. What we can tell you is that it’s absolutely beautiful.
The Xanemo sailboat anchors just inside the little bay of the island. Depy points out to the beach. There to the right, we can find a natural “swimming pool” – clear waters that go up to your belly, and a sandy floor perfect for walking around. To the left, we have a flat rock platform where we can spot tons of fish, clams and snails. The water there is shallow but floating is easy.
Here, we have about 40 minutes to float around, sunbathe on the deck, chill in the shade of the trees on the shore, or walk up the hill. Once we get back on board, lunch is served. Copious amounts of homemade tsatsiki, grilled pita, Greek salad, pork souvlaki (for Derek), and spanakopita (spinach pie), just for me! All we can say is yum! An added bonus, all drink are part of the price you pay to do the tour. No surprise at the end of the day. No hidden additional charges. Cheers to that.
Final stop: Aliko Beach
Once we’ve all had our fill, we head to the last beach of the day. Aliko beach is located on Naxos island, but it’s quite hard to get to. Mainly, locals go here to enjoy the calm waters and sweet views.
This beach is surrounded by the Mediterranean’s only protected cedar forest. On one side of the beach, you can see an old hotel, abandoned mid-construction, that has been standing there for 50 years. The hotel looks like an ancient structure with its many arches. On the other side, you have these impressive hills jutting out of the island. Paradise views all around.
We jump in one last time and swim around the beach. Clear blue waters as far as the eyes can see. A perfect way to cap off the day. Goodbye fishies, goodbye cedar trees, goodbye epic mountains. This was a perfect day.
Sailing back to port
Back on the boat, we’re offered more refreshments – fresh fruits, some more delicious cookies and we’re off to the port. Sitting back on deck, Derek and I talk about the day. The dolphin we saw in the morning (did we forget to mention that?), the turtle we didn’t see (Derek has bad luck with this) but everyone else did, the epic waters we sailed in, the kindness of our hosts, the sweet new friends we made, and these memories we will cherish forever.
Staring out at the beauty around us, we are constantly reminded how lucky we are to be on this journey, and how we are not alone in this crazy dream we’re living. In fact, early in the day, we sat with Jerome and Depy to chat about life on the boat. In talking with them, we realize why were so drawn to them from the beginning.
Xanemo Sailing – Jerome and Depy
Jerome and Depy founded and have been operating Xanemo Sailing for the last 3 years. They set sail every day. Yup, 7 days a week, for 6 months out of the year. This 30-something couple met here on the island in a happenstance meeting. He’s French, she’s Greek and they are one awesome team.
They started this as a way to make their dreams of finding balance and happiness come true. To sail every day, to meet new and exciting people, to share with them the beauty of their home. That is what drives them every day. Best of all, they don’t forget to give back – they worked with the Make a Wish foundation to take some kids out on this epic day as well.
Not only do they offer day cruises around the islands, but they can also organize private charters. Needless to say, next time we’re in Greece, this is what we’ll be going for. We only spent the day with this awesome couple on their beautiful boat, but we can only imagine what a few days, or even a week would be like.
If you’re looking for a boat tour around Naxos, we can’t say enough good things about Xanemo Sailing. You’ll avoid the crowds, you’ll see beautiful bays, beaches and islands, meet a few new friends, and best of all, you will get to spend time with an awe-inspiring couple.
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