Croatia is becoming increasingly popular as a cruising destination as more and more people discover its unique qualities.
Off the beaten track yet surprisingly cosmopolitan, Croatia is now the go-to destination for discerning clients who want to escape the summer crowds. The sunny blue skies, pristine waters, lush green vegetation and red-tiled rooftops are a delight for the senses. The Republic of Croatia is a sovereign state at the crossroads of Central Europe, southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. Its geographical situation makes it a bridge between east and west, a strategic position that, over the centuries, has led to colonization by many different cultures. From the Greeks and Romans to the Venetians, Ottomans and Austrians, the variety of influences have created a fascinating country with a distinct character.
Croatia lies on the Adriatic Sea; it boasts an extensive coastline and 1,185 islands. The scenery is dramatic — dense forests of cypress and pine plunge down steep hillsides to the rocky shoreline. The waters are crystal clear and beautifully colored, ranging from emerald green to stunning turquoise; there are both sand and shingle beaches to visit. Quiet anchorages in calm and secluded bays abound, while vineyards, olive groves, waterfalls, numerous national parks and remarkably well-preserved ancient towns wait to be explored ashore.
Stroll @ Dubrovnik, Croatia
This historic walled city of Dubrovnik was at one time an independent principality; now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beautiful and fascinating, it is surrounded by ramparts that were first built in the 16th century. Within Dubrovnik’s walls are dozens of churches, palaces, monasteries and other places of historical interest, but Dubrovnik is not a museum; it has a population of 5,000 people and is a bustling, thriving community. Cars are forbidden in Dubrovnik, but it’s easy to explore on foot. The old town is a labyrinth of streets and long, narrow alleys lined with bars, shops and galleries. The more active set will enjoy climbing the steep stairs that lead to the ramparts where you will find amazing views of the city and the surrounding area. Explore Dubrovnik with a private guide, who will explain its fascinating history and share some amusing anecdotes. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon or early evening when the cruise ship passengers have departed.
Dine @ D’Vino, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dining out in Dubrovnik is a delightful experience thanks to beautifully situated restaurants and bistros. The fish is locally caught and much of the produce comes from the farms, groves and vineyards surrounding the city. The different cultural influences are evident, but the cuisine is generally Mediterranean in style. D’Vino is one of those impressive local haunts, set back from the main street in a tiny alley, where you can sample excellent local wines.
Spend the day @ Lokrum, Croatia
Dubrovnik doesn’t offer much in the way of beaches but the small island of Lokrum, just a short tender ride away, is good for swimming and even has a beach reserved for nudists if you don’t want tan lines. It’s worth a stroll around the Botanical Gardens and climbing to Fort Royal, a souvenir of Napoleon’s occupation of Dubrovnik. Here, find beautiful views of the city. Don’t be surprised by the flocks of peacocks, which were imported from the Canary Islands by Austrian Archduke Maximilian in 1859.
Drop anchor @ Mljet, Croatia
Lying southwest of Dubrovnik — only a short cruise away – the island of Mljet is considered to be the greenest and most densely wooded island in the Adriatic. Anchor in the pristine bay of Polace on the western end of the island. A short tender ride will bring you to the extensive Mljet National Park, which is well worth a visit. There are two deep bays, which are referred to as lakes because of their very narrow outlets to the sea. In an idyllic setting in the middle of the larger lake is a former 13th-century Benedictine monastery, which is now a café. Take the ferry in the morning for breakfast with an incredible view. The best way to explore the National Park is on foot, but cars are available for hire, if needed. Mljet is an ideal place to anchor overnight as the waters are deep and calm, perfect for watersports, and it’s a beautiful spot to wake up to in the morning.
Montenegro, Europe’s youngest state, became an independent republic in 2006. Due to its strategic position close to the entrance to the Adriatic, this tiny Balkan country has endured a checkered and often turbulent past, but is now a peaceful, settled country that is fast becoming a yachting hot spot. Situated just southeast of Croatia and sharing the same temperate climate, Montenegro is blessed with stunning natural beauty and pristine waters. Still a relatively undiscovered gem, its coastline has countless uninhabited islands, secret coves and charming harbors, as well as unique historical sites that stand as reminders of the country’s rich past. An ideal place to begin a luxury charter, Montenegro currently is not part of the EU and charters starting here are exempt from taxes on charter fees, as well as on fuel and other provisions, which offers a significant financial advantage. From Montenegro, you can cruise northwest to Croatia (and beyond, to Italy) or south to the Ionian islands of Greece.
Stay @ Porto Montenegro
The new development at Porto Montenegro offers a state-of-the-art marina, as well as world-class hotel and leisure facilities with three international airports easily in reach.
Explore @ Bay of Kotor
If you are joining your yacht in Porto Montenegro, it is worth spending a day or two exploring the Bay of Kotor (also known as Boka Bay), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This deep, natural harbor is well protected from the open sea and, in addition to being absolutely beautiful, has a fascinating history. Situated at the end of the bay, the town of Kotor was an important artistic and commercial center in the Middle Ages, with its own
famous schools of masonry and iconography. Over the years, the monuments and city walls were seriously damaged by earthquakes, the last of which struck in 1979, but an intensive restoration and reconstruction program has now been completed. It is worth hiring a guide for a private tour of the town.
Go ashore @ St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks
High above the bay, soaring mountains plunge down to the water, their slopes lush with Mediterranean vegetation. It is possible to hike these slopes but you will need stamina. A less strenuous activity would be a tender ride to the islands of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks, just off Perast, each boasting a charming chapel.
Dine @ Stari Mlini
For an unforgettable lunch or dinner, Stari Mlini restaurant, near Kotor, is housed in a 16th-century flour mill, set close to the water and hidden in dense vegetation. There is a private dock, so you can arrive by tender. Specialties include delicious trout raised at the restaurant’s own farm, and other local produce. The ambiance is secluded and romantic — dine under grape trellises to the sound of the water wheel gently turning in the background.
Words by Fiona Maureso