The Ultimate Guide For Experiencing The Magic Of Croatian Islands

The Ultimate Guide For Experiencing The Magic Of Croatian Islands

Written by Marin @Danielis on May 16, 2017 in Sailing News & Events, Sailing Stories

With the advent of summer looking over the horizon the question arises: Where to spend your summer holidays? Well, it is no secret that Croatia has risen in the last couple of years from the undiscovered pearl of the Mediterranean to a popular and sought after summer destination. No wonder, since the beauty of its coast can hardly be matched by any other place in the world, with hundreds of islands lined up likes pearls on a bead, each and every one of them holding many undiscovered secrets.

From magical walled towns at its shores to forested and solemn pieces of solace scattered across the Adriatic sea to the virgin coves and bays that have not been discovered since the ancient times, Croatia has something that will suit everyone’s taste.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The summer vacation is a time when the stress-inducing work days, which all too often keep us from enjoying the simple things in life, can be replaced by the relief, a feeling of content and relaxation while traveling to unseen places, meeting new people and spending time in enjoyment and entertainment.

It is a time when we can refill our inner batteries, connect with ourselves and remind us why we do the things we do. It is a time for years when we collect the energy necessary to plow through the rest of the year, to come again to an old holiday destination with the feeling of accomplishment and success.

During the summertime, there is a place that lies on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, with rich and vast cultural heritage left behind by from before the written history. That place is Croatia. A sought-after destination, populated by the ancient Greeks, and the Romans, with traces of many other great civilizations that have left their mark upon the land.

But, the most beautiful part, is undoubted, the coast. The spirit of simpler times still lives in its people, their customs, their way of living.

A remnant of a much slower time, an eon away from the fast-paced way of living we experience today. For a taste of that magic that still lies scattered across the coast of Croatia, which breathes life into the stone streets of ancient cities, which makes you savor the food you eat, which makes you admire the natures hand in shaping the many islands and islets that lie scattered just in your hands reach.

So read on and prepare yourself to experience it yourself.

Where to go?

The coast of Croatia can be divided into two distinct regions: Istrian Peninsula and Kvarner (northern Croatia) and Dalmatia, which can be further divided into Northern Dalmatia, Central Dalmatia and Southern Dalmatia.
Each region is unique in its own right, with its own blend of historical, cultural and entohraphical heritage.

The coast of Croatia is home to over 1000 islands, 4 National Parks and retains the spirit of Mediterranean as it once was.

Krka National Park in Croatia

The question of logistics also arises, namely, how to enjoy the most Croatia has to offer in that limited interval of time?

Well, in that regard, sailing just might be your best (and cheapest!) option, which we will cover extensively later on.

What is the best way to travel?

It is only natural that you ask yourself what is the best means of travel. You may find yourself wondering in what way can you get the highest return on your money. IN regards to quality and quantity of service.

There are many different options to choose from, but namely, they fall into two categories. Either a classic, planned itinerary with the stay at the hotel from where you can make your daily excursions or a more adventuresome, mobile means of travel. Sailing.

What is the best way to travel in Croatia? Sailing

Yes, sailing is no longer a favorite past time of the elite. When you take all things into account, it is even cheaper than the classical vacation!

The advantages of sailing over the other mean od spending your vacation are numerous. One of the best, if the best, perks are that you can enjoy unique view every day while sailing from one destination to another.

Since the Croatian islands are so closely linked together you can sail to another one in just a couple of hours, frequently even less than that and visit laces unavailable by other means, such as beautiful caves carved by natures hand.

And if you get tired you can just throw an anchor and dive right into the crystal, blue sea with your friends and family, while the cook is preparing a delicious meal on the deck.

Not to mention that when you take all things into account it will cost you less than if you have stayed for the hotel for the duration of your stay.

Let's take a look at one example - if you’re planning on sailing in Split, Croatia, hiring a boat will cost you around €1,138 per week. There’s room for seven people on this boat, so when you divide the total by seven the cost drops to just €23 per person per day. Cheaper than you thought, right?

When is the best time to travel?

If you take into account the weather and availability of cultural events, the hottest summer months of July and August is your first choice, but if you’re aiming for the best bang for your buck, late spring month of May and late summer month of September is your best choice.

You shouldn’t worry too much about the tourist traps if you decide to visit Croatia during the high season since the locals are friendly and welcoming.

The high season is the time of the year when the streets of coastal cities are brimming with the joy of people from all around the world while they marvel at the beauty they are witnesses to.

It is the time of the year when you can imagine old Greeks throwing anchor at the same place where you have berthed your ship, in a cove untouched by human hand.

When is the best time to sail in Croatia

It is the time when the fruits are ripe with juice when everything tastes that much better when the smell of the pine trees and salty sea washes over you while sunbathing at Croatia's most beautiful beaches.
It is the time of year to feel alive.

Istrian Peninsula and Kvarner

Pula, Croatia

Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, situated at the northwestern tip of Croatia. It truly is a unique Croatian region, with the influence of past Venetian and Italian rule still heavily felt in the cuisine, language and in culture.

The coastal towns like Poreč, Rovinj, and Pula are popular tourist destinations, with the swarm of people flocking to its streets.

Rovinj is the home of Croatia's first Michelin Star Restaurant, where you can have a relaxing meal after a lovely stroll along its stone streets.

Rovinj, Croatia

Pula, on the other hand, is the largest city in the region, and home to the largest, preserved Roman amhieteathar, the best place to listen to world-class artist performs during the summer months.

Poreč, an enchanting city with rich Roman history, filled with quality restaurants and a mere walk away from pebble beaches where you can enjoy the hot, Mediterranean Sun.

Istria has made a name for itself in the gourmet world, some even call it “the new Tuscany”. There will be no shortage of restaurants that serve classic Mediterranean dishes made with the best local produce Istria has to offer.

Not to mention that the region is famous for the truffles, which grow only in certain areas of Europe, so be sure to taste at least one dish spiced up with “The Mozart of Mushrooms”.

While Istria is not famous for its nightlife it makes up for it in natural beauty and local culture. From small towns at the central plains of Istria where you can eat farm-fresh produce, to wine tastings and cycling tours, Istria is a great option for families or small groups that wish to experience the culture of the cuisine of Croatia.

The northern region of Adriatic is also the home of Brijuni islands, a picturesque chain of 14 islands that is nicknamed “The Hidden Paradise”.

Once you take a stroll around them, you will find out why. The islands have a feeling of a well-kept resort to them, with wild animals grazing peacefully along its meadows. In the past, they have been a private residence of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito, where he welcomed foreign guests and dignitaries.

It truly is a perfect place to be.

Dalmatia

This is the region of Croatia which we will cover most extensively since it has no equal with regards to the vastness of islands, number of places of historic and cultural value to the natural wonders scattered across it.
The Dalmatian region as we said can be divided into three subregions:

  • Northern Dalmatia (With Šibenik and Zadar as starting hubs)
  • Central Dalmatia (With Split as the anchor that binds it all together)
  • Southern Dalmatia (With Dubrovnik as the jewel in its crown)

The differences in the subregions are subtle, with Northern and Central Dalmatia sharing most of its history, with only Southern Dalmatian region with Dubrovnik as its jewel standing proudly, with witnesses of its time of glory, when the whole southern region was a part of Dubrovnik’s Republic.

Northern Dalmatia

Sunset in Zadar, Croatia

With Zadar as your starting point on your sailing adventure, a city which beauty is on par with Dubrovnik, you are only a small distance away from hundreds of islands of its coast.

The most prominent of which are the islands chain of Kornati. The Kornati are the most indented group of islands in the Mediterranean.

The locals say that when God made the world, he was left with a handful of white rocks and he threw them over the shoulder with the intention of ordering them afterward.

But, when he saw his work, he was content to leave them as they are.

And this is what Irish writer George Bernand Shaw has to say:

"On the last day of the Creation, God desired to crown His work and thus created Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath"

Kornati islands - Croatian national park

This sailing region is the ideal place for those seeking peace and quiet, calm seas and, we must mention, good cuisine.

A small distance away from Zadar is the city of Šibenik where you can have your fill of quality food at the restaurant Pelegrini, one of the Michelin star restaurants located just opposite of St. Jacobs Cathedral, right in the middle of the city.
If you would like to visit other Gods creation, the Krka National Park is right around the corner and we have made an extensive guide on how to get there and what to do while there.

For those wanting to have a good time, a few cocktails and such, after an arduous day at sea, have no worries. Vodice is close at hand, a place to be for a good night out.

During the summer, that small coastal city transforms into a central hotspot for nightlife in the region, thanks to the neverending beach parties and clubs which host world-class DJ’s.

There you will find safe harbor, all the amenities that you might need and of course, a good time.

If after spending the night out at Vodice, you still didn’t have your fill of Croatian summer nightlife, then you must visit Zrce beach on the island of Pag.

Called the “Croatian Ibiza”, an entire part of the island is transformed into a party powerhouse with never-ending afterparties all across the islands. You will never get bored while there.

Central Dalmatia

Arguably the best place to start your sailing journey and the most popular. Thanks to the great traffic connections (the Split airport) and a huge number of marinas situated in the area around Split as well as the most popular touristic attractions situated in that region, Split is an ideal starting point on your sailing adventure for experiencing the magic of Croatian islands.

The islands in the region are bigger than the ones in North Dalmatia, filled with interesting towns and villages. While there you should also visit the nearby town of Trogir, known as “town-museum” since its entire old core is under the protection of UNESCO, just as the Diocletian Palace is in Split.

Trogir town sunset view

The spirit of times long past still lives on its streets, it oozes out from the stone walls and you can feel it in the relaxed atmosphere.

Starting your journey from the part of Split, you may wish to sail to the nearby islands of Brač and Hvar, since both of them are unique in their own right.

Brač is more of rocky islands, but home to the most famous beach in all of Croatia, Zlatni rat beach. Even if you haven’t been there, you have surely seen its photo on a postcard.

Zlatni rat beach - Bol

The islands are also ideal for those wanting to spend some time hiking, and it is well worth it after you climb the highest peak on the island and the whole of Adriatic, Vidova Gora (778m), where you will have a commanding view of all the surrounding area.

And right next to it is the island of Hvar, which should be a sailing destination you simply must visit if you have decided to spend your holiday in Croatia.

Where to start? From the history of the island, which dates back to the Neolithic time believe it or not, to the beautiful beaches, coves, and bays which are scattered throughout, Hvar is a true paradise.

Hvar town view

The cuisine is exceptional and the wine, well unique. Hvar is a home to many autochthonic wines, most of which can only be tasted while on the island, so do not miss the opportunity!

The villages have still retained the spirit of a true Dalmatian way of living and some have transformed into a living museum, witnesses to times long past.

Once on Hvar, you will not want to depart it, but after you avert your gaze to the East, the view of the Pakleni Islands will pull your adventurous heart in that direction.

Only a small distance away from Hvar, Pakleni islands are an archipelago of small islands that form something of a maze with numerous bays and coves.

Not to mention beautiful beaches from where you can soak in the hot Mediterranean Sun!

Hvar - Pakleni Islands

And now for those of a more adventurous spirit, who wish to sail off the beaten path and into the distant islands that hold many treasures.

We recommend you sail first to Lastovo, a chain of 46 islands the biggest of which gave them a name.

It is an island lush with vegetation, untouched by human hand. It is so charming that Roman emperor Augustus had its residence there and the island bore the name “Augusta Insula”.

The island’s relative remoteness has kept nature and wildlife almost unspoiled, more than 70% of the surface is covered with forests, so as to preserve its beauty it has been declared as Natures Park.

While there, you must sail to Zaklopatice bay on the northern part of the island and taste some authentic cuisine and realize why the Roman emperors made the island their summer destination.

Lastovo island

After Lastovo, set your sails to the island of Vis, a perfect sailing paradise with deep, clean blue sea and many virgin bays.

The island was quite isolated during the reign of Tito’s Yugoslavia and the island has a philosophy “Life is easy; people are complicated”.

Since it was home to armed forces, there are a lot of tunnels, bunkers and other remnants which serve as a perfect contrast to tranquil vineyards, the olive plantations, the stone houses and other magnificent scenery.

From the island of Vis, you can see the nearby island of Biševo, home of one of natures most amazing works, the blue cave.

Biševo, Blue Cave, Croatia

This beautiful cove is specific due to the way the sun rays reflect of the limestone surface, making for a memorable sight.

On a bright sunny day, between 11 and 12 a.m., sun rays enter through the entrance in the water and are reflected off the limestone rocks at the bottom. The sun lights up the water which lights up the walls, making them shine in a blue color while the underwater objects appear to have a silver shine.

South Dalmatia

The central point of South Dalmatia and the central point around everything revolves is Dubrovnik. What can be said about that jewel of the Adriatic that hasn't been said so many times before?

A town of stone, a tourist mecca, where you can enjoy romantic sunsets while dining at charming restaurants.

Dubrovnik town view

Dubrovnik was always a popular destination, nowadays even more so for the worldwide fame in the popular series Game of Thrones, where the city of Dubrovnik took the place of Kings Landing. No wonder, since cities, impressive walls have served its purpose as a barrier to outside invaders and have thus allowed the city to prosper during the middle ages.

The city of Dubrovnik was an advanced urban, maritime and commercial center of the Mediterranean, with fame comparable to that of Venice. But in 1667, a violent earthquake demolished 70% of the town and killed 80% of the population which stopped its further growth.

Not to mention that since the discovery of New World, the city was steadily losing its commercial dominance.

But, the city turned towards tourism, thanks to its pleasant climate, picturesque sights, not to mention numerous architecture and cultural treasures.

The city can be regarded as Croatia's tourist capital.

From Dubrovnik, as your central hub, turn your sights to the sea and set sail to the nearby island chain of Elaphiti. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek word for deer, which used to inhabit islands in large numbers. Today, however, there are none. Roman author Pliny the Elder was the first to mention the islands by the name Elaphiti Islands (Croatian: Jelenski otoci or Deer Archipelago) in his work Naturalis Historia, published in the 1st century. There are several historic sites set on the island so cultural heritage lovers will relish in the archipelago. There are tiny pre-Romanesque churches, chapel ruins and remains on the island of Koločep, and a Franciscan monastery on Lopud. The archipelago consists of many islands: Šipan, Koločep, and Lopud are the largest islands of the archipelago, and there also are 10 smaller ones: Daksa, Sv. Andrija, Ruda, Mišnjak, Jakljan, Olipa, Kosmeč, Goleč, Crkvine and Tajan.

Elaphiti Islands - Dubrovnik

The entire size of this archipelago is around thirty sq. kilometers, spreading between Mljet island and Dubrovnik. 

For sailors who are cruising the Dalmatian coast on sailing boats and yachts, the Elaphites can offer days of fun and pleasure. You can go island-hopping with one of our yachts. Relax on the deck to soak up the sunshine, while Danielis Yachting and our skippers take you from one stunning location to the next.

Sunj Beach Elaphiti Islands

The island of Mljet is not far from there. It is one of larger islands on the coast of Southern Dalmatia. Although many people live on the island, mainly in the port of Sobra on the east end, the west end port of Polače holds the entrance to the national park of Mljet.

There is a famous cave, Odysseus cave, where according to legend, ancient Greek hero Odysseus spent 7 years with the sea goddess Calypso.

Mljet sailing island

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the island of Mljet to realize that it didn’t take a lot of persuading to make Odysseus spend so much time there. The entire island of Mljet is extremely popular with those wanting to experience their own little odyssey since the island is filled with untouched coves.

Telemachus_Landing_on_the_Isle_of_Calypso

A little bit further up is the island of Korčula, the birthplace of famous Marco Polo. Korčula was built on the foundations of a Greek colony, just like Hvar, and it is historical and tourist center of the largest island in the Dubrovnik region.
Rich in vineyards, olive groves, and small villages, and harboring a glorious old town there are many legends connected to this island.  From  Cadmus and Harmony, the legend of Kerkyra all the way the legend of Antenor.

When the Greeks settled on the island the dense woods led them to call the island Korkyra Melaina (Black Korčula). Quiet coves and small sandy beaches dot the steep southern coast while the northern shore is flatter and more pebbly.

Conclusion

As you can see, the places to see, restaurants to visit, beaches to visit are simply too many to enumerate. We have even managed to cover only the most visited and biggest islands, since Croatia holds many more, simply too many even to mention them by name.

Surrounded with so many natural treasures and opportunities that present themselves, when faced with the short amount of time given on any holiday, chartering a yacht is simply the best option.

You have total freedom to explore any place you wish to visit, you can marvel at the sunset from a different place every evening, not to mention that the level of comfort you will enjoy is envious, since you are in fact traveling in a floating hotel.
Croatia, as a country with over 1000 islands, can only be properly enjoyed while cruising along its shore and visiting its many islands and towns along the way.

To prepare yourself for your Croatian holiday, we have made a list of all the things to keep in mind so before you charter a trip, be sure to take a look at it.

This year you will make some unforgettable memories with the people you hold dear, so make them onboard a yacht while cruising along the magical Croatian islands with style!

 

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