Greek Gems: a Corinth Canal Cruise, sacred Delphi and epic Athens

The iconic coastlands of Greece offer a wealth of sights and experiences for any intrepid traveller, merging modern living with the country’s epic ancient past. From Athena to Zeus, there is so much to be learned from Greece’s rich history – and there’s no better way to do so than by immersing yourself in its culture.

With a number of our Adriatic and Mediterranean superyacht itineraries cruising Greece’s history-steeped shorelines, your perfect Emerald Cruises odyssey awaits!

Aegean wonders

Here are three Greek treasures that shouldn’t be missed on an Emerald Cruises luxury yacht cruise in the Aegean Sea:
  • Our Corinth Canal Cruise
  • Itea and nearby Delphi
  • Piraeus and mighty Athens

Our spectacular Corinth Canal cruise

A cruise through Greece’s Corinth Canal is a special occasion for even the most intrepid of travellers. Sailing through this iconic waterway not only takes you on a voyage between two seas, but also on a journey through history. The Corinth Canal is a spectacle not to be missed.

An Emerald Cruises superyacht voyage through the Mediterranean offers you the rare chance to take a trip through this Greek gem in a luxury vessel, as well as traversing highlights throughout Italy, Croatia and more.

Where is the Corinth Canal?

This Greek waterway crosses the Isthmus of Corinth, a narrow strip of land located in the country’s mainland, which takes its name from the Ancient Greek for ‘neck’ due to its shape. Before the canal was constructed, the Isthmus connected the Peloponnese peninsula to the rest of mainland Greece. 

The Corinth Canal itself now cuts right through the Isthmus, joining the Gulf of Corinth in the northwest of Greece with the Saronic Gulf in the northeast. The Canal also connects the Ionian and Aegean seas. 

The history of the Corinth Canal

This manmade waterway has been serving Greeks for over a century, but there is a much longer history associated with the Corinth Canal. This isthmus has long been an important navigation route, with the Ancient Greek tyrant Periander first conceiving the idea of crossing the strip of land in around 600BCE. Before this was made possible, sailors would have to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, adding an extra 185 nautical miles to their voyages. 

Periander is thought to be the first Greek ruler to consider digging a canal through the land, but this was made difficult given the tools and technology available at the time. Instead, he ordered the building of the Diolkos, a stone-paved track which allowed boats to be transported over the isthmus.

Throughout the next six centuries, many Greek rulers had ambitions of digging a canal through the isthmus. But the likes of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Caligula all abandoned these hopes after warnings that connecting the two seas would cause the Adriatic to flood the Aegean. In 67AD, Emperor Nero overcame these fears, ordering 6,000 slaves to begin constructing the canal – but construction was once again abandoned the next year after Nero’s downfall.

Only in the 1800s did plans for the canal resurface, but large costs associated with digging the canal ruled construction out for decades. That was until 1882, when work on the canal officially began. Construction was completed some 11 years later after many delays to the work. The creation of the canal turned the Peloponnese into an island, and boats first began sailing the waterway in late 1893. 

In the years that followed, the canal brought great economic benefits to the nearby ports of Posidonia at the northwest of the canal and Isthmia at its southeast end. But with the size of ships and boats growing throughout the decades, most modern-day cargo ships are now too large to pass through the narrow canal. These days, you’ll mainly find smaller boats in the Corinth Canal touring this epic corridor.

Sailing through the Corinth Canal

Due to the nature of the canal, there are limits to the type of vessel that can pass through. The water in the Corinth Canal has a depth of 8 metres, and the canal’s width measures only 21 metres across at its narrowest point and 25 metres at the water’s surface. Because of this, only smaller vessels such as the Emerald Azzurra are able to sail through. 

For most taking a voyage around Greece and its islands and wishing to experience a Corinth Canal cruise, they would need to take a trip on one of the many tourist boats which pass through each day. Guests on an Emerald Cruises superyacht cruising this waterway will have the unique chance to experience the smooth sailing and soaring walls of the Corinth Canal without ever having to step out of the comfort of luxury.

The canal is a sight to behold, even when viewing from one of the bridges overhead – but cruising through the azure waters of the Corinth Canal is truly breathtaking. With towering limestone walls rising to over 50 metres high at its midpoint, you’ll truly feel the scale of the canal. At points, you’ll be able to see foot and road bridges above you, but looking straight ahead, you’ll see only the mouth of the canal and boats in front of you.
The canal is approximately 4 miles in length. With traffic only flowing in one direction – east to west or vice versa – at a time, and no overtaking allowed in the canal, you’ll be able to enjoy a leisurely cruise without having to worry about passing boats obstructing these glorious views. Those sailing through the canal might even spot one or two of the brave bungee jumpers diving from the Corinth footbridge! 

Find out more about our Emerald Cruises Adriatic Coast and Eastern Mediterranean superyacht itineraries offering a Corinth Canal cruise.

Sailing for Itea and nearby Delphi

After you complete your cruise through the Corinth Canal, your Emerald Cruises superyacht will head for the nearby port of Itea. Located in the Fokida region in mainland Greece, this waterfront town is lined with olive trees and surrounded by crystalline seas in the south and looming mountains in the north. The idyllic port of Itea is the perfect spot to take a stroll and enjoy the picturesque landscapes on offer.

Emerald Cruises guests visiting the port of Itea also have the chance to travel to the nearby ancient site of Delphi, where they will be given a guided tour. This archaeological wonder is an important and sacred site in Greek history. Once a sanctuary to the Ancient Greek god of the Sun, Apollo, the site was home to the Oracle of Delphi, the high priestesses known as Pythia. It is estimated that Pythia served as Delphi’s Oracles from around the eighth century BCE, all the way through to the fourth century AD.

Considered by Ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world, Delphi was home to the Pythian Games – second in Ancient Greece only to the Olympics. The rise of Christianity in Greece saw Delphi buried as Greeks turned away from the ancient gods of Olympus. That is until it was uncovered in the 19th century and later declared a UNESCO world heritage site in the 1980s.

Heading for Piraeus and mighty Athens

From Itea, your Emerald Cruises luxury yacht journey will take you to the port of Piraeus, the gateway to Greece’s iconic capital Athens. Guests visiting the Piraeus mid-cruise will be offered an Athens city tour. Those ending their cruise in Athens will have the chance to extend their stay for two nights – a fantastic opportunity to explore the city while letting us take care of hotels and transfers to the airport.

Athens’ highlight, the Acropolis, is not to be missed when traversing the city. Towering above the capital from its hilltop location, this ancient citadel is truly a sight to behold. Throughout the centuries, the modern-day Greek capital has been built around the Acropolis and its Parthenon, the temple which dominates it. It is believed that many of the buildings on the Acropolis (which remain today as ruins) were constructed under the orders of ancient Greek politician Pericles in the fifth century BCE. The Parthenon was once dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena who the city takes its name from – and is considered to be Athens’ patroness.

Visitors to Athens should also make sure not to miss the nearby Acropolis Museum, which houses archaeological findings from the ancient site, and there are plenty of other historic sights to see around the city. Those looking to take a more relaxed stroll through the streets of Athens will be spoiled for choice when it comes to cafes, restaurants and local shopping.

Find out more about extending your stay in this Aegean wonder.

Begin your Greek odyssey today

With a number of our Adriatic and Mediterranean yacht itineraries cruising the Aegean coast, an Emerald Cruises voyage offers a wealth of choice for every keen traveller.
Ready to start planning your cruise? Download your FREE luxury yacht cruises brochure today to learn about the Emerald Cruises experience that awaits you.