Croatia has been the no.1 destination for yacht charters in the Mediterranean for the past few years, and for good reason…or, shall I say, plenty of good reasons! Croatia is one of the most enchanting, historically rich European countries with mesmerising natural beauty and endless opportunities for cruising.
Hugely varied sailing grounds, hundreds of kilometres of coastline, thousands of islands with something for everyone; be it parties that finish with a breakfast at sunrise or Robinson Crusoe-style vacations for a more secluded and adventure-filled holiday with a plethora of possible excursions, clear blue waters and wonderful weather.
There is no doubt that the best way to see, visit and experience Croatia and any other coastal area, is aboard a luxury yacht. However, even amongst luxury yachts, there is a variety of vessels to suit everyone’s needs: Motoryachts allow you to explore more areas with each nautical mile spent in luxury and comfort without worrying about the wind conditions. Catamarans get you closer to the shorelines, islands, creeks and bays, thanks to their shallow draft, and also allow you to get a larger group of friends or family together without being overcrowded. Sailing yachts give real sailors the buzz of heeling in the wind while nipping between islands; although the wind can be quite unreliable in the Adriatic and you need to be prepared for sudden changes in your itinerary and overall vacation programme.
But there are luxury Gulets!
Gulets are ideal for gathering and catering for larger groups of as many as 18 guests, this allows you and your friends or family to get together on the same private boat with enough deck space for a huge alfresco dining table to be able to seat you all together at mealtimes, but also enough space to escape each other’s clutches when you want to be alone in the sun, or the shade, or the water…
Aboard a gulet you can get the best of all possible worlds when it comes to space, intimacy and privacy: from enjoying the separate areas and volume of a motor yacht, the space of a catamaran, the feel of a monohull and the charm of a traditional wooden sailing vessel…and all this for a typically modest budget.
While they are an established tradition in Turkey, there is a growing number of exceptionally well-managed, very professionally crewed and immaculately maintained gulets in Croatia – a testament to this is the repeat booking factor. If you decide to charter one, you are better off starting early, as the best gulets on the Dalmatian coast are usually 40-50% booked up 11 months in advance of the season.
Now that we have you on board what can you do and where can you go, making sure you don’t beat the same path as everyone else?
In such a vast sailing ground, there are of course literally hundreds of itinerary possibilities. The one which we chose starts in Dubrovnik. Whether you are a Game of Thrones fan, an avid historian or a stroller who enjoys a nice view and ice cream, this town has to be seen, not only on land but also by sea. You can sail away beneath the famous walls, letting your gaze enjoy the spectacle before turning forward and setting your thoughts on the island of Sipan…
A personalised lunch and a refreshing swim while moored off Sipan will get you acclimatized, and ready for the short hop over to Pelješac and a visit to the Grgic winery. A forest wildfire destroyed part of the vines and building in 2015, but with dramatic speed, all have been rebuilt with a new visitor centre. Croatian wine is a bit of a mystery – how can wine this good be relatively unknown on the European market? It is because they wisely keep it to themselves! The reds are full of character, body and sunshine, with the whites being no poor cousin.
Tear yourselves away from this treat, wander back down to the boat and set sail for Mljet. The whole island of Mljet is a national park oozing with natural beauty and tranquillity. Tiny rocks and islets dotted about to make the entry into the harbour interesting and as usual, the water is crystal clear.
Moor up wherever you and the captain decide – the island is very big. Pomena is a great choice at the north-western tip and an excellent spot to get comfortable for the sundown cocktail and dinner.
In the morning stretch your legs, rent bicycles and go for the stunning ride through sweet-smelling pine trees down to the lakes. A chilled beer awaits in a tiny village at the far end, and as it’s a circuit, you can’t get lost. If you time it right, you can take a tiny shuttle boat into the middle of the lake to visit the monastery.
Set sail for Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo. After a lively sail up the channel past Lumbarda and the various tiny islands (Planjak, Badija…), you will moor outside the impressive fortifications, and it is definitely worth your while visiting and climbing to the top of the bell tower. Enjoy a late lunch either in one of the delightful establishments with a panoramic view or head back to the yacht. All of these stages allow you to take advantage and enjoy the vast selection of water toys, any hardcore windsurfer will love Korcula.
Next on your trip is Hvar, famous for being the Ibiza of the Adriatic. If this is not your scene though, Hvar is still a truly lovely place to visit and discover. My tip is not to even try entering the harbour but to moor instead just over in Pakleni. This tiny set of finger-shaped islands also demands exploration and relaxation…
Brac is another fascinating and beautiful island and it is worth having your captain organize a land tour. Skrip village is home to both a heritage museum and even more tantalizingly, an olive oil museum where you will have your heart broken as you suspect you’ll never taste olive oil this good again.
Prepare your heart to be broken again as you set sail for Split and the end of the adventure. Although your vacation is not entirely over yet, as Split old town has enough beauty, charm and character to keep you smiling as you visit the Palace of Diocletian, the walls and the winding streets. Enjoy a fabulous last meal aboard, freshly prepared by your personal Chef followed by a goodbye cocktail to finish off your holiday in a relaxing way, ready to disembark with a suitcase full of memories (and souvenirs).
Next time you call me to book again for the following year, I’ll take you through an itinerary heading north from Split – but that’s another story…
Broker Advice by Colin Srivastava, CharterWorld