You’ve been dreaming of a Mediterranean charter cruise for as long as you can remember. The tranquil, sparkling blue waves … the warm sun and the balmy breeze … the picturesque seaside villages … the delicious flavors of Mediterranean wines and cuisine.
But where should you travel? You are tempted by Greece, Croatia and Turkey—but you know you cannot sail to all three. What are the differences in sailing off the coasts of each of these countries, and how do you know which will offer you the vacation you are dreaming of?
Greece: Thousands of Islands to Explore
There are literally thousands of islands to explore off the coast of Greece. Many are inhabited, many more are not. So this is an ideal destination for the intrepid explorer who wants to chart a course to unspoiled shores.
As far as the winds are concerned, they are stronger here than they are in Turkey or Croatia—so this may pose some challenges for the unprepared mariner, particularly during the months of July and August. Still, the Mediterranean climate is relatively mild, and overall sailing conditions are friendlier in Greece than they are in Turkey.
One possible drawback involves the availability of gulets—if that is the type of vessel you wish to charter. Chartering a gulet in Greece can be an incredible experience, but it is also one in high demand. You will find that you need to book pretty far ahead in most cases. You also may find that gulet sailing in Greece is out of your price range, unless you are shopping specifically for luxury.
Where to Sail: Paros, Naxos, Spetses, Milos, Leros, Thasos, Ios and Folegandros, Little Cyclades.
Benefits: Island hopping adventures abound, as does Greek history, architecture and culture. The people of Greece are wonderfully warm and welcoming.
Drawbacks: Gulet availability is not always the best, there are strong winds during July and August, and the weather in midsummer can be uncomfortably hot.
Croatia: Walled Fairytale Cities Await
While Greece has plenty to offer, a charter cruise in Croatia can easily compete for a memorable experience. Croatia also has numerous islands to explore; on the whole, they feature more in the way of lush green foliage than the Greek islands, which tend to be more barren. Croatia also can be pretty busy during peak season, but many of the islands have more of an “off the beaten path” feel than those in Greece. As a result, Croatia is an ideal destination for nature-lovers.
Croatia is famous for its walled cities, which look like something out of a fairytale, and for the unique melting pot of cultures which have blended together over the nation’s long and rich history. The people here are friendly, and the cuisine is spectacular.
As far as sailing goes, one of the best things about Croatia is that you never have to go far to get from one island to the next. It’s a smaller area than the Greek islands, and it is rare to need to journey for more than 3-4 hours at a time. For those who are not used to spending long hours on a sailboat, this may be ideal. Marinas offer plenty of moorings, and you should never have trouble finding a place to drop anchor for the night.
Another reason Croatia may be better for beginning sailors than Greece involves the winds. As you already know, the winds in Greece can be quite fierce, but in Croatia, it is rare for gusts to top 20 knots (aside from the Bora wind, which can be quite severe).
Where to Sail: Dubrovnik, Makarska, Mljet, Hvar, Brac, Split, Pelješac, Rovinj.
Benefits: Sailing conditions here favor beginners. When you moor, you can explore walled historical cities and beautiful nature parks.
Drawbacks: While the weather is usually fairly steady, unpredictable strong winds may sometimes arise without much warning. Most beaches are rocky, not sandy.
Turkey: Serene Bays and Historical Wonder
Like Greece, Turkey is the perfect Mediterranean charter destination if you are looking for sites of archaeological and historical interest. Here you can explore an abundance of castles, temples, and ruins. You will also find many large, beautiful bays which are perfect for swimming and snorkeling—though not so many smaller islands. Like Croatia, Turkey is rich with verdant foliage, so there are some lovely parks.
Culturally speaking, Turkey is another very warm and inviting Mediterranean country. It is also a great place to party (much like Croatia), even at the start and end of the season. Turkeys also are where gulets originated, so this is the place to charter one.
What is the sailing like?
Sailing conditions overall are considered to be better in Greece, but the winds during midsummer are less brutal in Turkey. The nights are warmer here than they are in Greece, which can be pleasant in springtime. But during the summer, Turkey can be swelteringly hot.
Where to Sail: Marmaris, Ekincik, Bay of Manastir, Samanlik Bay, Göcek, Fethiye.
Benefits: Not so windy, warmer nights in spring, amazing history and archaeology, gulet charters, long party season.
Drawbacks: It can be very hot sailing in Turkey during the summer. Turkey is not as great for island-hopping.
Best Options in Different Categories
If you want to go island-hopping …
Choose either Greece or Croatia. The Turkish coastline is amazing, but it simply doesn’t offer the huge abundance of islands to explore that you will find off the Greek and Croatian coastlines. Greece is an excellent choice if you don’t mind some longer voyages. Croatia is perfect if you want to keep your jaunts between islands down to 3-4 hours.
If you are looking for historical sites and tours …
You literally can’t go wrong here. You could pick a name out of a hat and do great with any of the three destinations. Greece and Turkey are probably more famous for their historical sites than Croatia, but Croatia’s cultural heritage is incredibly unique and well worth exploring.
If you want to party …
Croatia and Turkey are best for partying with plenty of options when it comes to clubs, beach parties, bars and other nightlife. Turkey has a long tourist season, so if you are traveling in spring or autumn, it may be a better choice than Croatia. Plus, gulets are a big deal in Turkey, and there is nothing quite like hosting your own private gulet party!
If you want easy sailing …
This is a tough call. The sailing conditions overall are considered to be excellent in Greece, but the harsh winds during July and August do not make for easy sailing for a beginner. Both Turkey and Croatia are less windy. Then again, if you steer clear of July and August, you probably will not run into this issue in the waters around Greece.
The overall winner however might be Croatia. Why? Not only are the waters calm and the winds mild during the season, but there are other benefits too. With most islands being just several hours from one another, you can learn to sail on relatively short hops. You also will find that Croatia wins out in terms of marinas and amenities. In Greece, you may be forced regularly to drop anchor on your own without a proper mooring, but in Croatia, there is almost always a spot where you can dock your boat.
If you enjoy hiking and outdoor exploration …
Greece certainly has some incredible natural landscapes, but Croatia and Turkey both offer more in the way of forested parks. Of course, you may appreciate the rocky hillsides of Greece, especially in the springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom. You’ll just need to look up pictures and decide what type of scenery appeals to you most.
If you want to enjoy great food and wine and meet awesome people …
You didn’t think we could pick just winner here, did you? The people of Croatia, Greece and Turkey are all incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists! As to food and drink, the entire Mediterranean is a culinary delight. At the bars and restaurants in the region’s seaside towns and villages, you will find great food and even better company.
Conclusion: No Matter Which Country You Choose, a Charter Cruise in the Mediterranean Is the Trip of a Lifetime
Now you may have some idea as to whether you should plan a charter holiday in Croatia, Greece or Turkey. As you may notice, each destination has its benefits and drawbacks, and each has something unique to offer, whether you are into partying, historical tours, outdoor exploration, or island-hopping. But in all honesty, you could pick any of these three countries blindfolded and you’d be making a great decision. No matter which you choose, you will have a spectacular holiday charter sailing in the Mediterranean!