As safe, scenic, and affordable as it gets; this Adriatic gem is one of the most popular sailing destinations in the Mediterranean. As the cruising industry can be very detrimental to the environment, here’s a responsible and sustainable sailing guide to Croatia to help you make the right decisions.
Shorelines don’t come any better than around the seas of the Mediterranean, especially those of the 2000km of the ruggedly striking Adriatic Coast. That said, this piece of paradise on earth is struggling to keep environmental pollution at bay. For this region, cruise ship tourism can be both a blessing and a curse. Just like tourism, sustainability also has become a hot topic all over the region and needs to be kept at the forefront. This should be the prime concern of both the captain and the guest while on a cruise ship regardless of movement and location.
- Sustainability in the sailing industry, a pending issue
- Why should you choose a sailing ship instead of a cruising boat?
- Which are the top sailing destinations in Croatia?
- When is the best time to sail in Croatia?
Sustainability in the sailing industry, a pending issue
When you decide next to head to the Adriatic for a sailing journey, once the travel restrictions are lifted, it is important to remember the following: Your role in following environmentally friendly practices while on a cruise, will be equally vital towards sustainable sailing, as that of the crew.
There is no doubt that big cruise ships contribute millions of dollars to the local economy, but that’s just about all if you take environmental protection into consideration. In fact, they are terrible at it by generating thousands of liters of sewage per day and dumping it into the sea using minimum treatment as required by law. Keeping this in mind, a more sustainable approach can be turning towards small ship cruising. These smaller boats, use sails as far as possible and carry not more than 10-12 guests while adopting a variety of renewable energy methods to promote the natural appeal.
To raise the awareness of sustainable tourism policies in Croatia, it is of paramount importance to implement changes in cruise charter operations. Cruise companies have begun to invite people who are passionate about safeguarding the environment, to go on a sailing trip with like-minded travelers. Not only these eco-friendly cruises impart education to the guest from local environment activists but involve exploring the beautiful islands of the Adriatic.
Why should you choose a sailing ship instead of a cruising boat?
You are closest to nature when on a sailing vessel. Sailing yachts are a much better option for exploring the many islands of Croatia as you can see a lot by covering short distances. Groups of up to 12 persons can charter an entire boat for a reasonable price and chalk out their own itinerary. The mission is to create a sort of luxurious trip with a firm commitment to sustainability.
For your Croatia sailing trips, you can choose from a variety of small ships, each offering different levels of comfort over traditional ships and are available each week for an Adriatic holiday. Some legendary small sailing ships in Croatia are M/S Malena, Kadena, Dolce Vita, and Perla that operate on a particular route every week. The individual amenities onboard may vary from ship to ship, though typically all of them are of deluxe standard with en-suite facilities and a mixture of twin and double-bedded accommodation. The stunning interiors, high-class service, onboard entertainment, and excellent sailing performance makes for a wonderful experience.
If you are ready to go on an ultimate sailing vacation, Croatia’s breathtaking views of the historic towns and the natural surroundings will make it a memorable one. While onboard the comforts will be world-class, on land you will discover some of the country’s finest islands and coastal cities, complemented by local Croatian cuisine and local wines.
Which are the top sailing destinations in Croatia?
The Southern Dalmatian Islands are some of the best sailing destinations of Croatia and are the perfect choice if you are on your first visit to this lovely country. Most itineraries begin or end at Split or Dubrovnik or one-way cruises connecting the two. One week is the ideal period to cover a few important islands, though most yachts and boats do the direct trip in eight days.
Some of the top spots that Croatia sailing trips cover regularly are:
The popular stop of Hvar and the UNESCO listed plains of Stari Grad enjoy a big reputation with all sailing ships. With its stone villages, cobbled streets, vineyards, and pebbly coves, Hvar is a must-stop on any cruise. What’s best, the chic bars and restaurants are quite affordable and family-friendly.
If you are looking for adventure and fun, Brač has you covered. The third-largest island of Croatia boasts of the stunning Zlatni Rat beach, ideal for windsurfing, while the laid-back town of Milna on Brac is known for its earthly charm.
The sleepy island of Šolta can accommodate only fifteen boats at one time and despite its proximity to Split is more or less off the tourist radar. Apart from privacy and seclusion, the village of Stomorska is a great place to relax and take long walks.
These small forested islands are situated quite close to Hvar, and a stop-over at the Palmizana Harbour will give you an opportunity to explore the vehicle-free town of Sveti Klement. The islands are easily accessible from Hvar town and provide a great route on any Croatia sailing itinerary.
Cut off from tourist activity till the early 1990s due to military activity, Vis is one of the furthest of all islands from the shore. Vis is however home to the magnificent Blue Cave, which draws visitors in massive numbers to view the surreal natural effect of sunlight reflecting through the hole of a cave to give an aquamarine light.
For beach bums, Korčula on the southern coast provides an excellent setting. The sandy bays and secluded coves of this island are known for their beauty and are the pride of Croatia. Apart from the beaches, the island features pine forests, ancient villages, vineyards, and olive groves, all of which provide a fantastic backdrop should you fancy swimming in the crystal clear waters. Read more on all the things to do in Korčula here.
Home to the beautiful Mljet National Park, the island has gained in reputation since its inception. A wide range of outdoor activities is available here ranging from kayaking, swimming, hiking, etc in the lush green environment. Though unspoiled and serene, there is a bit of a buzz around the town of Pomena.
Known for its scenic villages and wine and olive culture, Istria has many attractive spots like Kangers in the north, Cape Kamenjak on the west coast, and the stunning cliffs of Brsec and cove of Tunarica in the east. On the other hand, the sunny island is also famous for its vibrant nightlife.
This is another perfect place to visit on a cruise trip to Croatia. The marina at Rovinj is situated on the southeastern side of the island as it offers full protection from the elements thanks to the tiny island of Sveta Katrina. After admiring the medieval architecture of this charming town, head to the Brijuni archipelago, home to the only national park of Istria, and located just 12 nautical miles from Rovinj. A secret attraction of the Istrian archipelago are two large underwater caves quite close to Cape Kamenjak which can only be accessed by foot.
While you are in this region the historic town of Pula is definitely worth visiting, simply because of the well-preserved Roman ruins found here. The highlight is the amphitheater, dating back to the first century, the sixth-largest in the world, which is still used for holding cultural events. There are several marinas around the city center to tie up your boat.
From Istria, one can easily access the beautiful Kvarner region, which is home to the lovely island of Krk. There are some good docking points in this lively town extending from Opatija in the north to Karlibag in the south. Due to a strong northerly wind, Krk has few visitors, mostly windsurfers. The nearby medieval island of Rab is close to Krk and worth exploring, as is Cres, a bit further away for its peaceful and natural environment.
The beautiful coves of Lošinj are another logical place to visit, where visitors can even get a glimpse of dolphins. While the main harbor is Mali Lošinj, there are many coves where anchoring is safe.
For adventure lovers, the two islands of Goli Otok and Grgur should provide some fun as both of them at one time served as one of the famous prisons of Europe. While Goli Otok can be accessed by boat from the north of Krk, Bali Otok is situated between Rab and Prvić. Both the islands are roughly three hours apart by boat. A small tourist train by the name of Goli Express takes tourists around the prison building and the other structures around the island during the summer months.
The major draw of your Croatian cruise is bound to be the region around Split. Here your small boat can sail between the islands of Drvenik, Veli, Mali, Solta, Brač, Šćedro and Biševo. Each and every island is unique in its own way, both in language and culture. This Central Dalmatian Region is the hub of entertainment and quality food and provides cruise boats with great docking points.
The city of Split itself is the center of cultural events and has a busy nightlife. Home to the legendary palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Split is also famous for its antiquity architecture.
Situated slightly north-west of Dubrovnik, the Elaphiti Islands archipelago basically consists of three main islands for the purpose of tourism namely, Koločep, Šipan, and Lopud. The islands got their name from the Greek word ‘elafos’ meaning deer, thereby indicating that a large population of these animals must have roamed this region at some time. These three pieces of paradise, especially Lopud and Koločep are totally car-free and provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik.
This breathtaking medieval city is famous for its charming Old Town, well-preserved churches, cobbled streets, and orange-roofed houses located at the base of the Lovcen massif in Kotor Bay. Much of the old fortifications in Kotor are still intact including the town walls which are fifty feet thick in places. The iconic landmark of the town is the Tryphon Cathedral, which houses a wealth of jewels and artifacts.
*Although this town is located in Montenegro and involves a slight detour, it’s often included in Croatia sailing itineraries.
This small town is situated between Split and Sibenik on a small island which is also connected to the mainland. Known for its crystal clear waters and pristine beaches, Primošten is a true city devoted only to tourism. A popular destination here is Velika Raduča beach with its extraordinary swimming facilities. There are some good coffee bars along the beachfront where one can enjoy refreshing drinks while overlooking the ocean.
Thirty-seven kilometers north of Dubrovnik, Slano is a small town strewn with Roman and Greek ruins up to this day. The most famous of them is Gardina Hill, which is well preserved. The town lies on a small bay with a picturesque two kilometers long beach with thick groves of olive and pine. Due to its proximity to some important destinations, Slano is a perfect place for those wishing to explore South Dalmatia.
When is the best time to sail in Croatia?
The yacht charter season in Croatia generally begins around May and lasts till October. During this time the weather is nice and warm till the end of August. The best month to charter a small sailing yacht is September when the climate is sublime, the seas are warm, crowds are a minimum and the charters are 20% cheaper. This also puts less pressure on the destination and makes for an overall pleasant cruising experience.
A sailing trip around Croatia and its more than a thousand Islands, historical towns, deep dark forests, and hospitable locals will leave you enchanted. Enjoy!