Historic towns, crystal-clear waters, rugged mountains, sun-kissed islands and tasty Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh breeze will take you to unpopulated islands, lost in the dream of the Mediterranean of old. Lonely trails, forgotten ruins and breathtaking views are routine here. By contrast, coastal cities are brimming with life, proudly displaying architecture and museums dating back to antiquity, whereas the secluded anchorages and the national parks of Kornati and Krk’a await nature lovers.
The Dalmatian coast has so many first-rate attractions that you need to return several times to sample them all.
Kornati: the densest archipelago of the Mediterranean counts 140 islands that are spread along 35 kilometres of jewel-like scintillating waters. The air here is filled with sailing spirits, and the secluded bays and hidden coves beckon explorers and offer fresh seafood in local tavernas.
Historic towns: Gleaming white houses, red roofs, stone labyrinths of steep backstreets and alleys are a joy to explore. You can dine or simply sip coffee in cobbled squares or waterfront restaurants. Zadar is alight with medieval glory, the Sibenik cathedral of St James astounds with Croatia’s rich historical heritage. The tiny town of Trogir is gorgeously set within medieval walls and its streets are knotted and mazelike. Its seafront boasts a wide promenade lined with bars and cafes, and yachts in the summer. Split’s Diocletian’s Palace is filled with dozens of bars, restaurants and shops thriving amid the atmospheric old walls where city life has been bustling for thousands of years.
Krka National Park: 2 hours sailing up the Krka River will transport you into an entirely different land, reminiscent of sailing in the lakes of Scandinavia. The lush green banks of the river take you to Skradin – a pretty riverside town combining brightly painted and bare stone houses on its main street overlooked by a ruined fortress. The clear waters of the Krka River have forged a 200 m deep canyon through the limestone bed. The most spectacular sight is the waterfall Skradinski Buk where 17 cascades fall down in a waterfall 100 m wide and almost 50 m high. Swimming in emerald waters is a yachtie favourite.
Dubrovnik: Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, the city is bewitching and its setting sublime. The sense of awe never fails to descend upon travellers when they set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Wander through the white marble streets between baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or find inspiration in a walk along the ancient city walls that have protected a civilized, sophisticated republic for centuries.
Every Mediterranean empire has left its footprint on Croatia. The Romans, Venetians, Habsburgs and even Turks once controlled the blessed coasts of the Adriatic. The Ancient Romans built impressive palaces and theatres, some of which can be admired in Split and Pula. Venetian architecture adorns most of the ports with fortresses and castles: the splendid harbour of Hvar is the best example. Monumental Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance churches can be found along the coastal cities.
The Mediterranean lifestyle dominates in Croatia. As the summer days are hot, all activities begin after sunset. Dining is a celebration here and it might last for hours, often ending in guitar playing, singing and dancing. Towns have impressive selections of bars, cafes and discos to fit every taste. Live music is often heard on cobbled streets and squares.
Split and Hvar (known as the St. Tropez of Croatia) both boast a top-notch night-life scene. Various festivals and celebrations are held during the summer, so check your calendar when setting up sail.
Natural bays: shaped by the elements, natural harbours have been a shelter for sailors and fishermen for millennia. To this day, many retain their pristine charm. When you take a morning swim the seabirds are your only witness.
Hvar Island: unusual in the area with its fresh water springs, the hillsides of Hvar are covered in pine forests, with vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields.
Blue Grotto: between 11am and noon the sun’s rays filter through an underwater opening in this coastal cave to bathe the interior in an unearthly blue light. Beneath the crystal azure water, rocks glimmer in silver and pink to a depth of 16m.
Italian, central and Eastern European influences are all blended in Croatian cuisine, a delight for any serious foodie. Here the focus is on fresh, quality ingredients: seafood, cheese, olive oil, seasonal vegetables and dozens of herbs.
- Croatian prsut (prosciutto) is excellent – thicker and stronger tasting – than in Italy or Spain, but the flavour is unbeatable.
- Seafood: the richness of the sea meets all of Dalmatia’s needs in terms of top-quality fresh fish, and local recipes enhance the fish with simple, flavoursome ingredients such as garlic, tomatoes and herbs. The fish is served grilled or stewed with red wine, sage and thyme.
- Cheese: Pag Island is famous for paski sir. Soaked in olive oil and aged in stone, its flavour comes from sturdy local sheep that graze on thyme and rosemary. Pag’s lamb is some of Croatia’s best, as is the lamb from the island of Cres.
- Wine: Dalmatia has a long wine-producing tradition, and its techniques continue to improve each year. Wine is plentiful in the region, and very good; the most famous varietals are posip, rukata and grk from the island of Korcula, dingac and postup from the Peljesac Peninsula, mali plavac from Hvar, and brac and vugava from Vis.
- Rakia: Croatians don’t dine without their world renowned brandy. The Adriatic coast is known for a great variety of herbal grappas. Hvar is famous for Myrtus grappa, while Korcula and Dubrovnik prefer aniseta – anise grappa. Typically, homemade Rakia is served with dry fruits or figs.
Sailing conditions are impeccable in Croatia. Fresh breezes cool the air and the long islands protect the coast from the open sea so that few swells enter the passages in between the islands. Water is warm and you can swim from the middle of May right up to the end of September. The season starts in the middle of April and lasts until late October.
The best area to begin your sailing holiday is central Dalmatia with at least a dozen marinas. The Yachting Club base is in Sibenik, at the mouth of the Krka River, but our yachts are also available at other marinas in the Region: Sukosan, Biograd, Murter, Vodice, Trogir or Split.
International flights fly into Zadar and Split airports which are conveniently located 15 min to 1 h drive from the different marinas. A number of airlines service connections from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.