Croatia is an amazing luxury yacht charter destination, and because the Eastern Mediterranean has a very warm spring and autumn, visitors can enjoy its charms almost throughout the year. My recent familiarisation trip along the Dalmatian Coast is a great example of what you can expect for your own week-long charter, but you can always customise it more to your interests.
Arriving in Dubrovnik on May 7th, I was booked into a small boutique hotel within the old city, an amazing place with so much history and so many things to do – from shop hop and dine out on various local cuisines, to guided tours and free-roaming the culture-rich streets. We opted to walk the outer walls ourselves and take in some amazing views. The old city is inhabited by around 1,500 permanent residents; no cars are allowed in, so it really has a lovely fresh air feel despite the close proximity of buildings and walls.
It’s possible to kayak around the city walls, and the Old Town is the most atmospheric with plenty of attractions around every corner. There are a few city beaches, but if you’re already aboard your own charter yacht, why not head off to Otok Lokrum or one of the other nearby islands? Mljet and Lastovo are great destinations for playing in the water or hiking along the trails.
On May 8th we set off for Split to board our 37m yacht NAVILUX for the next few days. 12 guests are accommodated over 6 spacious cabins; mine was starboard aft and had a large bed, desk, sofa and en-suite. The crew of 8 are incredible, such kind and attentive people. NAVILUX is well laid out with a huge open plan salon complete with a formal dining area, entertainment lounge and what proved to be a very popular cocktail bar. Surrounded by panoramic windows, there is plenty of light and fantastic views.
There are 3 yachts in the trip (ACAPELLA, NAVILUX and LOTUS) and 1 hosting the first night (LIBRA), so tonight we stayed at the dock, we all boarded host yacht LIBRA, a 31m/101.8ft traditional gulet. The chef put on an amazing spread of tapas-style foods, mostly authentic Croatian fare that was delicious. In the morning a group of us had a look around the shops and castle in Split, before setting off to Stari Grad, Hvar for the 2nd night.
The most famous sight in Split is the Diocletian’s Palace, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth a visit. There’s also Jupiter’s Temple nearby and lots of galleries and museums. But if you just want to stretch your legs, the scenic peninsula ‘Park Šuma Marjan’ is a great place to go and be in nature.
Stari Grad, Hvar
May 9th we made way for Stari Grad (which literally translates to ‘old town’). Stern to moored with the 3 yachts side by side, we had the chance to look around a bit before joining 2 gracious tour guides. They walked us through some of the highlights of this area, with some stunning gardens included. Croatia is famous for lavender, which was everywhere. We all hopped into 2 vans and headed across the Stari Grad Plain for Vrboska, after which we enjoyed a wine tasting at Caric winery. Croatian wines are absolutely amazing! We sampled sparkling, whites and reds. To accompany the wines were beautiful cheeses, my favourite being the rosemary-infused, olives, anchovies, and even chocolate. Upon returning to the yacht, the chef had laid out some light refreshments aboard NAVILUX.
May 10th After another fantastic breakfast of eggs any style to order, accompanied by an assortment of platters, offering fresh fruit, smoked salmon, cheeses, cereals, freshly squeezed juices, coffee and tea, we all took the opportunity to stretch our legs before setting off for the day. A couple of hours later we anchored across from Hvar main town for a lunch break and water toy fun. Out came the SUPs and sea bobs; not having tried a SUP yet, I took the opportunity to do so and quite liked it. Swimming was on the agenda, followed by a fresh rinse and time in the Jacuzzi.
Lunch today was aboard the gorgeous 49m modern gulet ACAPELLA, consisting of a homemade tomato soup, John dory fish paired with asparagus wrapped in a crispy tomato style wrapping and fluffy potato salad. The dessert offered, was a refreshing lemon-infused ice cream and a side of fresh whipped cream, just the ticket on a warm summer day in Croatia. A quick nip across the bay and we were in Hvar main town for the night, where we had the chance to sample the local restaurants. 4 of us found a truly authentic place right on the water and simply had to try the recommended wild boar, Croatian styled beef and even a dish we cannot still pronounce, called Cevapcici (a beef mince made into a kofta style meal with local seasonings). A fairly tired lot, we opted to head back to the yacht for the night and rest up for the next day.
The Pakleni Islands just off the coast of Hvar Town are a favourite spot for luxury yachts to anchor, and it’s not hard to see why: the bays are sheltered, the waters warm and crystal clear, and there are many beaches if you want to play and dine onshore.
May 11th. Another amazing breakfast and it is time to make way to the island of Vis. What a stunning island that is full of history! The port is laid back with a few small eateries but as it is early in the season, most were yet to open. Nonetheless, we still explore on foot, before heading back to enjoy lunch aboard NAVILUX. Served as a delicious starter of homemade pasta filled with seafood, followed by a beautiful filet of steak in a dark fruit reduction, desert with a stunning deconstructed cheesecake.
At 3 pm it is time to really explore Vis, in 4 land rovers with 4 guides, learning so much about the flora and fauna, the wars of the past, the ruler’s cave up a mountain of rock steps (his hideout), and getting to walk through the war bunker that remains intact as it was never officially put into operation.
From here we went to see the submarine bunker, an amazing feat of engineering inserted right into the side of the mountain, which is accessible on foot down either side. Heading back to port, the land rovers drop us off and everyone gets ready for dinner. Tonight, I am invited to join the gulet LOTUS for dinner, a 27m/88.7ft 2018 build, for up to 8 guests. Her happy smiling crew greet us and offers refreshments as we are seated. The talented chef serves a delectable menu starting with a homemade shrimp taco, and avocado side, followed by the main of tuna steak on a butternut squash puree. Desert was a feast for the eyes and a very unique dish, of a rice-based semi-sweet dish, fruit sauce and ice cream.
Ravnik Islet has a famous and beautiful Green Cave, but beware – famous usually means busy during the summer season, so pick the time you visit carefully. The Blue Lagoon at Budikovak Island is stunning, and getting out on the water by SUP or kayak is highly recommended to truly appreciate its hue.
On May 12th, We depart Vis after breakfast to head towards Trogir, stopping along the way for one last swim, lunch and a visit to the gulet SEA BREEZE, who kindly came to us. They pulled out all the stops putting on a lovely spread of tapas, and local liquor to wash it down with. The traditional gulet is a 28m/92ft yacht with the launch in 2019: Her interiors are incredibly spacious and elegant, and a great price range for up to 12 charter guests.
Lunch was had aboard NAVILUX for me, and was absolutely stunning, starting with a beautifully presented beef tartar, after which was a perfectly cooked and seasoned fresh snapper on a bed of spinach, completed with a very creative dome of cheesecake topped with a yoghurt crumb – something all the diners wanted to know how it was made! After this stop we make our way to the anchorage near the main town of Trogir, we go ashore to explore the many bars, eateries, shops, stands, historical sites and old town sections. We dine locally at a restaurant for dinner tonight, where we enjoy great food and lovely wines. A choice of tapas was laid out before us, and dinner was a la carte, with myself choosing the Croatian styled and excellent Squid.
May 13th, Sadly, this is the end of our fabulous time in Croatia, a truly exceptional country, with so much to offer and explore:
“The people are friendly and very proud of their heritage and culture. The food is mouth-watering and the wines all were stunning. All the crews on the yachts we were on we extremely hospitable, and I would go back in a heartbeat!”