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Adventure Cruises in Croatia
Croatia's coastline is scattered with idyllic islands to explore from a luxury cruise. Historical sites and towns along with Mediterranean weather, make for a perfect trip.
For travellers in the know, the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia has become a popular alternative to the pricier and more crowded Mediterranean Coast, and a Croatian cruise aboard a small luxury yacht is one of the best ways to explore the beautiful and exciting region. To sail Croatia is to cruise from one UNESCO World Heritage site to another, stopping along the way to swim at secluded beaches, explore uninhabited islands and wander streets lined with charming cafés and Venetian architecture.
Deluxe cruises of the Croatian coastline will make clear why the region has become the newest European tourism hot spot. Croatia sailing cruises include city tours of UNESCO World Heritage sites, visits to tiny island fishing villages, and plenty of time spent relaxing on the beach and swimming in crystalline waters. Most Adriatic cruises will feature some or all of the highlights listed below.
Split, a common departure points for island-hopping cruises of the Dalmatian Coast, hides a wealth of artistic and historical treasures within its walls. A UNESCO World Heritage site and working port city, Split blends the ancient and the modern, making it one of the most fascinating and atmospheric cities in Europe. Dripping with Roman relics, Split’s claim to fame is Diocletian’s Palace. Though dating back to the year 305, this is no musty museum. The Palace is a living part of the city, with laundry hanging from balconies and music drifting out from bustling restaurants.
The Makarska Coast, also known as the “Makarska Riviera” is Croatia’s most popular mainland resort. Featuring excellent beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop, Makarska also offers some of the region’s best wines. Wandering the town of Makarska offers the opportunity to visit numerous churches and cathedrals, as well as two ancient monasteries. Visitors seeking adventure activities can head for nearby Cetina for white water rafting and ziplining.
Korčula Island, covered in thick forest and stippled with mountains, is the location of Korčula Town, known as both the birthplace of Marco Polo and as one of the prettiest towns in the region. The walled town has terracotta roofs that seem to burn in the sun, contrasted with the blue of the surrounding Adriatic. Sun worshipers will find a series of small beaches east of town, while culture buffs can remain within the town walls to visit its many churches, art shops and the Marco Polo House.
Mljet Island is a nature lover's paradise. Covered in dense woods and punctuated with limestone mountains, a third of Mljet’s surface consists of the Mljet National Park. Visitors can hike or cycle through the park or take a boat ride on one of its two salt-water lakes. The island is also rich with wildlife, including wild boar, hare, and deer, while underwater is grouper and the protected monk seal. Mljet’s coast is dotted with beautiful beaches, including Saplunara, at its southeastern tip, considered one of the best beaches in the region.
Hvar Island is a favourite holiday getaway for Croatians, and it’s not difficult to see why. In addition to sparkling coves and sweet-smelling lavender fields, Hvar Island features Hvar Town, the perfect spot to wander the Old Town, admire Venetian architecture, and hike to the hilltop Fortica to enjoy the views. After a gourmet meal at one of the town’s restaurants, set out to explore the pristine beaches of the nearby Pakleni Islands, before heading back at sundown to enjoy dancing and cocktails at an after hours beach bar.
Stari Grad, on Hvar Island, lies at the end of a long bay and serves as a quieter, more leisurely alternative to Hvar Town. Founded by the Greeks in 384 BC, Stari Grad is the oldest town in the region and, in fact, its name means “Old Town”. Outside this stately and charming town lay fields still divided the ancient Greek method of parcelling.
Vis was off limits to tourism until 1989, due to its status as a military installation. Now, visitors can enjoy this largely untouched island, with its superb beaches and an impressive inland mountain chain. The town of Vis features Venetian-Gothic architecture and the white-walled Our Lady of Spilica. The island is also home to the remains of Issa, an ancient Greek settlement and the oldest urban centre in Croatia.
Bol is a small town on the island of Brač and, though a simple fishing village, it has become a popular tourist stop due to its proximity to Zlatni Rat, one of the most iconic beaches in the Adriatic. Like a blade plunging into the sea, this golden sand beach changes shape with the tide. In addition to swimming, the waters and conditions here are perfect for windsurfing.
Dubrovnik typically serves as the starting or end point of Dalmatian Coast cruises, but it is worth spending an extra day or two to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site. Dubrovnik is known both for its massive Old City Walls and as a stand in for King’s Landing, the fictional city on the Game of Thrones television series. City tours will take visitors along the walls or to Game of Thrones-related sites. Visitors seeking a spot to enjoy a coffee or glass of local wine can head to the pedestrianized Stradun or ride the city cable car for majestic views of the city and surrounding sea.
Best time to sail Croatia
Croatia’s Dalmatian coast has a well-defined peak season and off season. Croatia in June to August is the peak season when the sun is bright but crowds are bigger and prices are generally higher. Croatia in October to April is the off season, when many shops, restaurants and hotels are closed and options for island hopping are limited.
The best time to visit Croatia’s coast and islands is May and September, the shoulder months when prices are sometimes lower, crowds are thinner and facilities are still open.
How to get to Croatia
Croatia’s coast is serviced by three international airports, in Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. All three airports can be reached by direct flight from any one of over a dozen European countries. Flights arriving from outside Europe will need to connect in Zagreb or another European airport before continuing on to the coast.
Where do Croatia cruises depart from?
Sailing cruises of the Dalmatian coast typically depart from Split or Dubrovnik. If your cruise leaves from Split, you will fly into the Split International Airport, while Dubrovnik is serviced by its own international airport.
Croatia Cruise Tips
- Plan ahead as Croatia has a definite peak season and off season, which may affect the availability of deluxe cruises of the Adriatic. Luxury cruises during the peak season should be booked far in advance. During the off season certain cruise options may not be available.
- Choose the right trip for you. If you’re looking for adventure activities, make sure Mljet Island and a trip to Cetina, near Makarska, are included on your itinerary. Art lovers will want to spend a little extra time in Split, while those hoping to party until the sun comes need to ensure a stop on Hvar Island.
- It is recommended to arrive a day or two before your small ship cruise of Croatia to avoid unforeseen delays.
- The Dalmatian Coast in the summer can be hot and bright, so sunscreen, sunglasses and a good hat are musts.
- The local currency in Croatia is the Kuna. ATMs are easy to find and larger hotels, restaurants and shops will accept credit cards, while small shops and accommodations will accept only cash.
- Citizens of the European Union can enter Croatia using their ID cards, while all other visitors will need a passport valid for three months past the date of departure. Visas are generally not required for most visitors staying for ninety days or less, though travellers from China, India, South Africa, Russia and Turkey will need a visa.
Take a look at the itineraries on offer in Croatia onboard a small ship cruise and contact our reservations team to discuss your next trip.