As Spring approaches, the Mediterranean beckons for the luxury yacht charter summer season and nowhere is more tempting than the stunning coastline of Croatia. For those unfamiliar with the ‘land of a thousand islands’, Croatia dominates the jewel-like Adriatic with over 1500km of coastline, 78 inhabited islands plus hundreds of smaller islets and reefs. So, visitors are guaranteed to find their own hidden paradise while island hopping on board a crewed charter yacht.
A deluxe motor sailer is an ideal choice thanks to the region’s Jugo (south wind) and Bura (north wind), plus many yachts are crewed by Croatian locals with extensive knowledge of the best places to soak up the diverse natural beauty and explore the rich history, culture and cuisine.
Croatia has a long and proud tradition of yacht building, which has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. The country’s skilled craftsmen have been building high-quality yachts for both commercial and recreational purposes since the early 19th century, and today, dedicated local owners and builders are developing luxury motor sailers specifically for the yacht charter market creating a fleet of contemporary, next-generation vessels in the area.
The owner of soon-to-be-launched S/Y Scorpios demonstrates the local passion, commenting “our family dates back 13 generations in this area and this is a driving force for me. Scorpios isn’t just about having a luxury yacht, it is about creating opportunities for locals, giving back to the community, and proudly showing guests our country.”
Having decided on your travel companions, agreed on Croatia as a destination and enlisted the help of a charter broker to select your luxury yacht, all that remains is to plan your itinerary before heading off on a trip of a lifetime. This Croatian guide gives a glimpse of how to make the most of your time away.
Given its proximity, the northern peninsula of Istria has a strong Italian influence and easily connects to the rest of Europe by sea, making it the ideal starting point for a charter vacation. The area is best known for its fortified cliff-edge towns such as the cultural centre of Rovinj, home to many artists and writers, UNESCO World Heritage monuments, like the 6th-century basilica in Porec and the magnificent Pula amphitheatre in the region’s largest city. This imposing structure overlooks the port where there are outstanding restaurants, bars and boutiques, plus an annual International Film Festival. For lovers of hiking, the Brijuni National Park is a small group of islands just off the coast which make an exceptional day’s anchorage.
Around the southern tip of Istria, the islands of Cres and Krk will come into view, nestled in the curved coastline of the Kvarner Riviera. Visit historic towns such as Opatija, which was once a popular destination for the European elite and is still considered something of an upmarket resort today with the 12km Lungomare promenade being the place to be seen amongst the magnificent water-front villas and hotels. If anchoring here overnight, the crew can make reservations at the best restaurants and bars while ensuring you arrive back on board safely.
Krk is the busier of these two islands, having been inhabited by the Franciscans from as early as the 15th Century, with their monastery of Kosljun, now a museum, being one of the biggest cultural centres in Croatia. Cres is less developed, boasts a very deep northern bay, and is a haven for wildlife including a very rare vulture which amongst other plants and animals makes its home on the island. Anchor off the coast of one of the stunning beaches and spend an afternoon swimming, snorkelling or playing on the yacht’s water toys before being served a delicious meal by the onboard chef.
On board a charter yacht, unhindered by ferry times and the state of the roads, you are free to choose between cosmopolitan resorts full of restaurants and bars or some of the most beautiful remote bays the Mediterranean has to offer. The area from Rab in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south at the border with Montenegro is known as the Dalmatian Coast and is perhaps the most recognisable part of Croatia. Along the coast, cities include Zadar and its adjacent otok (islands), the ancient Roman city of Split, now one of the hottest destinations in Europe for chic shopping and nightlife and the beautiful city of Dubrovnik of which George Bernard Shaw once said, “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik”. The city is a blend of both historic and modern cultures and is the backdrop for the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival where musicians, dancers and theatre groups perform in August.
Zadar is often considered the cultural capital of Croatia and the charming Old Town with its Roman Forum and Archaeological Museum are a must on any list of things to do there. The restaurants in and around the city are also famed for their Northern Dalmatian cuisine such as peka (a kind of stew) served with garlic and wine-infused octopus, Pršut a local air-dried prosciutto made using local salt from Nin and bluefin Tuna, sustainably caught around the nearby islands. Visitors on board a luxury yacht also benefit from easily reaching the nearby Kornati Nation Park, an uninhabited marine reserve where dolphins swim, lizards bask and nearly 70 species of butterfly fill the air. Many yachts are set up for SCUBA diving with trained dive masters as part of the crew, making a dive on the park’s reef an ideal way to spend an afternoon. Private tours to inland destinations such as Plitvička Lakes National Park, famed for its terraced lakes and Croatia’s highest waterfall can also be organised by the onboard crew.
A day’s cruise down to Split can be punctuated with stops along the way in any number of sheltered bays where lunch can be served on board or set up on a beach while guests cool off in the azure blue sea. Split is a vibrant city where tradition meets contemporary with the ancient Roman civilization in evidence, at the Diocletian Palace and designer shops, high-end restaurants and chic night clubs showcasing the best of modern Croatian culture.
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This part of the Dalmatian Coast is home to some of the most exclusive and beautiful islands including Brac, the largest of Croatia and its neighbour, Hvar. Brac boasts one of the most well-known beaches in the Adriatic, Zlatni Rat (The Golden Horn) a simply stunning white sandy stretch near the small town of Bol on the south of the island. Meanwhile, Hvar has gained a reputation for being an upmarket destination favoured by the rich and famous with Prince Harry and Jay Z & Beyonce have visited in recent years. Hvar is not without its traditional charms though, and this lush island is noted for its sweet aromas, particularly in Spring when the lavender is harvested and turned into lavender oil, the main export from the island.
The final stop on a charter yacht vacation on the Croatian coast may well be Dubrovnik also known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. Given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1979, it is a city full of gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture and has long marine trade history. In the Middle Ages it was the only rival for the city-state of Venice and during its remarkable development during the 15th and 16th centuries was the home to many well know poets, playwrights and other esteemed scholars. Nowadays, culture is still a headline here, with the annual summer festival, busy theatre and music scene and myriad restaurants, bars, clubs and theatres tucked within the city walls. Dubrovnik is an easy city to navigate and the perfect place to end a luxury charter holiday in Croatia.
Croatia is the gateway to other fascinating and beautiful Mediterranean locations and charters can be extended into Montenegro or even Albania in the South or the Italian resort of Trieste and floating city of Venice in the North.