It’s been a few years since we had the most wonderful sailing holiday in Croatia. In fact, it was before I started blogging. However, I just found my trip diary so thought I would share some of our Croatian sailing experiences. It’s an incredible place to visit, if you haven’t been there already.
Croatia is in the crystalline Adriatic Sea. Six of us spent a week on a 42-foot chartered catamaran. Over the week we visited four of the 1185 islands and islets that showcase the Dalmatian coast mooring in a different historic village each night.
A little history
Croatia was originally part of Yugoslavia. It was devastated by civil war between 1991 and 1995. Over that time it lost 25% of its economy (an estimated $37 billion) and 20,000 people. Yet despite the horrific destruction Croatia picked itself up. Tourism is booming and Croatians are not only proud of what they have to offer, but keen their visitors have a positive experience.
The coastline is stunning. It’s long and intricately indented creating many coves and peppered with islands. It’s perfect for a sailing holiday whether it’s a few days on a traditional wooden gullet or chartered catamaran. And if you can’t sail, you can hire a skipper.
Having set sail from Split, these are the island we visited (but not exactly in this order).
Brac was our first destination, short and sweet. It’s the third largest of the Adriatic islands and is close enough to Split that it was an easy sail on our first afternoon. We avoided the bustle of Supertar, Brac’s main town choosing to moor for the night in a small bay called Milini. Here we enjoyed the solitude of the bay and watched the sun slip behind the bush-clad hills.
With a clear morning sky and the wind in our favour we were on our way to Vis, the farthest of the Dalmatian islands. But not before sailing around the southern coast of Brac to see the famous Zlatni rat. Shaped like a horn, this triangular spit of shingle reaches out into the sea. It’s ‘picture perfect’ with shallow, turquoise waters. While we didn’t stop it was certainly worth a look.
After a good-days sailing we arrived into Vis late afternoon. Vis was a military base until 1989 and tourists have only recently discovered it which was largely appealed to us. The deep bay is surrounded by grey-brown buildings above the steep escarpment, the remains of abandoned agricultural terraces.
We moored at Kut, a 16th century tangle of narrow cobbled streets and one of the islands less well-known towns. Later that evening after a walk around the maze of streets we found a restaurant set in a lush garden of palms. With no menu, a selection of fresh local fish was brought to our table and we choose scampi, calamari and sea bass. Grilled to perfection and served with risotto we devoured it with generous quantities of local wines from the barrel.
Like many of the Croatian islands, Vis has a fascinating history. The architecture speaks volumes about the Romans, Greeks and Venetians who all ruled the island at some point.
Wanting to see as much of the island as possible we commandeered one of the locals (the restaurateur’s friend, Ivan) to drive us around the island the next morning. Nearing the summit of the island we climbed 200 steps to the cave of leader, Tito. He called the cave his headquarters in 1944 while evading capture by the Germans. Tito was largely responsible for the unification of Yugoslavia’s six nations and served as Yugoslavia first Prime Minister and later President. However, after his death in 1980 tension between the republics increased resulting in the civil wars of 1991-95.
Our morning ended in the dark stone cellar at Ivan’s family vineyard, established 500 years ago. Tasting the wines and buying olive oil from the family’s harvest was a great way to farewell Vis.
All hands-on deck as we pulled the mooring ropes free and heading back out into the glassy Adriatic. Headed for Hvar, it is one of the most visited and popular islands in the Adriatic
Before mooring for our first night, we dropped the anchor short of the town and braved the refreshing water before feasting on pasta and delicious spicy local sausage with wild oregano, thyme and sage collected during our walk up to Tito’s cave.
Our three days on Hvar were spent at Palmizana, Stari Grad and Jelsa. With shorter distances to sail between each town, we had more time to explore.
Palmizana is a small marina close to the town of Hvar. With its grainy white and brown buildings following the contours of the bay this medieval town is a maze of pedestrian alleyways and ancient stone houses. We dined at Divino’s on the promenade, experiencing Hvar’s famous cuisine of fish, lobster and scampi.
Our second night was spent at Stari Grad, my favourite. It’s long indented harbour could easily have been mistaken for Venice, had the yachts been gondolas. From a distance, the medieval stones houses with their colourful shutters and terracotta roofs looked as though they were in the water. As we got closer the worn stone promenade with its immaculate flower boxes and mounds of fishing nets came into view. Berthing among a cluster of fishing boats in one of Europe’s oldest towns, it was special.
The little town of Jelsa sits in a wooded bay. A former fishing village, it is sleepy and quiet. We were one of only three yachts moored for the night so enjoyed the silence despite the hourly chiming of competing church bells echoing into the dark night.
After a morning visit to Jelsa’s local store for our favorite herbed crusted and feta pasties we left for our final destination, Solta.
Mooring at Stomorska, on Solta we swam at the rocky beaches and later ate at another great restaurant, Nervera, on the waterfront.
It is always hard when a great holiday draws to a close. Determined to enjoy it to the very last minute we reminisced about all the great food we had eaten, the towns we had visited, the walks we had done, the history we had learnt about while tucking into another platter of succulent grilled whole baby calamari, scampi and fish. As we raised our glasses we all vowed to come back and see more of this extraordinarily beautiful country.
For all your sailing needs in Croatia, contact Nava Charter .We used this outfit and they were great.