Cruise to Croatia? Here are five routes not to be missed

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cruise in Croatia - Losinj
Cruise Croatia – The small, protected cove overlooked by the ancient, colorful village of Veli Lošinj on the island of Losinj. Its port has been active since the 13th century.

How do you choose, among a thousand islands and rugged coastlines, what is the right itinerary for this summer’s Croatia cruise? We tell you which course to chart. With five must-do itineraries

Croatia cruise, where to go sailing

Why will a Croatia sailing cruise give you unique emotions? Meanwhile, because among the more than 1,000 islands and islets and along the rugged mainland coastline that makes up the Croatian coastline are countless bays and sheltered harbors, all ideal places for anchoring during summer vacations, when relaxing fun and solitary beauty are sought, but not only.

Cruise Croatia - Our 5 itineraries
Cruise Croatia – Our 5 itineraries

In addition to this absolutely not to be underestimated is the great charm that gives a boat vacation the fact that making its way among the Croatian islands is always a little explorer’s adventure: there are only fifty in fact that are normally inhabited, while all the others, many of which it is true are not very extensive, are really deserted.

And that is precisely why then they become even more beautiful destinations to reach by sea, because then they are full of spectacular and unspoiled nature, above and below the sea.

Croatia Cruise – Itinerary 1 – Opatija
and Kvarner Islands

A delightful and tourist town as well as one of ancient seafaring tradition and overlooking the Kvarner Bay in a strategic position overlooking all the islands in the Gulf, Opatija is the perfect starting point for sailing in this northeastern corner of the Croatian coast.

Croatia cruise - photos by Boris Kacan
Croatia cruise – photos by Boris Kacan

And it dominates an area such as the Kvarner Gulf, which is the stunning natural setting that holds some of the most beautiful nautical routes in the entire Mediterranean. From its 12-kilometer-long waterfront promenade, one can admire the coastlines of nearby islands starting with that of Krk, the second stop on this itinerary. It is the largest of all the Croatian islands, however, and is most famous for its dense vegetation of pine trees and Mediterranean scrub, among which countless beaches and bays sprout here and there, almost surprisingly.

However, the two most beautiful and to be reached at all costs are those located almost on the southeastern tip of Krk, the neighboring bays of Vela Luka and Mala Luka. The first in particular is a deep inlet located between Cape Redica and Cape Sokol, which runs into the coast for about 1 mile and is enclosed by a beautiful pebble beach.

The Kvarner cruise route then turns westward to reach the wild shores of the narrow and long Cres. Here, rounding the northern tip, one discovers the beautiful Martinšćica Bay, well sheltered and perfect for spending a night at anchor. Descending to the southern part of the island then, the beaches that open up around Punta Kriza are worth a stop.

And even further south, just near the village of Òssero and in front of the channel, dug in Roman times, that divides Cres from the island of Lošinj, is the small and beautiful bay of Bijar. Finally, here we are right on Losinj, a long and narrow shaped island that is characterized by the high peaks of the small hinterland and the dry stone walls that draw the landscape.

Descending then along the east coast of the island is the village of Veli Lošinj: it has a small harbor dating back to the 13th century and set in a cove where one can moor perhaps right at the quay below the church of St. Anthony. Continuing further along the south coast of Lošinj, one encounters several more uninhabited bays at the bottom of which open up small pebble beaches: the one at Cape Kriska is not to be missed.

Where to rent the boat: Trieste (Italy) or Opatija (Croatia)

One-week itinerary: Opatija, island of Krk, island of Cres, island of Lošinj.

Why go: to see on Krk, in the middle of the Ponte Lagoon, the islet with the Franciscan monastery of Kosljun.

Fun fact: Cres, the island’s capital, set in a large sheltered bay, is dominated by the ancient Venetian fortified citadel.

Croatia Cruise – Itinerary 2 – Long Island and the islands of Zadar

Part of the so-called Zadar archipelago-or Zadar-are all the islands from northern Dalmatia, from Selve further north to Kornati in the south, which are geographically clustered in the wide stretch of sea located west of the Dalmatian city. Almost all of these islands are also similar in size and certainly not huge: Selve, Premuda, Ulbo, Skadra, Eso, Sestrugno, and Melada are in fact between 10 and 25 square kilometers.

Only Isola Lunga is an exception: although for the 45 km along which it stretches in a north-south direction its hinterland never exceeds 4 km in width. The cruise, however, starts in Zadar: rightly considered the oldest and most aristocratic town in Dalmatia, its historic center located on a small peninsula is still protected by the mighty medieval walls, among which several Roman vestiges also sprout.

Croatia Cruise - Dugi Otok
Croatia Cruise – The turquoise sea that characterizes the Telascica Fjord that opens up on the southern part of the Long Island: nature here is so unique that it is protected by the Kornati Nature Park, islands that are only a few miles sailing south.

Then it is finally time to take to the sea, and so we head northwest: first stop is the wild and uninhabited island of Skadra. Entirely covered by Mediterranean bush, it is home to several delightful bays such as the deep Griparica cove located on the southern coast. From here, sailing ever southward we reach the even smaller Isto and Melada: overlooking the narrow channel that separates them, on the coast of Isto, is the tiny and fascinating Mijake Bay, where there are also well-roofed buoys for spending a night at anchor.

We are finally in sight of Long Island, but before we reach it we stay a little further east to discover the beauty of the smaller island of Sestrugno. It is truly wild and almost completely overgrown with maquis on its craggy shores: between which, to the southwest, however, opens the beautiful, deep inlet of Kablin.

Then resuming the westward course, here is the first must-see landing at Isola Lunga: it is the deserted bay of Sakarun Lopata and is characterized by the azure sea especially around the small islet of Taler. Going south along the east coast of Isola Lunga, in the narrow arm of sea that separates the island from the smaller Eso, one discovers the islet of Rava: it hosts several coves the most beautiful of which is the one just south of the village of Veli Rava.

Where to Rent a Boat: Zadar (Croatia)

One-week itinerary: Zadar, Skadra, Melada, Sestrugno, Eso, Isola Lunga.

Why go there: discover typical Dalmatian cuisine at Dva Ribara in Zadar (tel. +385 23213445)

Fun fact: Visit, in the center of Zadar, St. Donatus, the Byzantine-era basilica erected in the 9th century with a 27-meter-high dome.

Croatia Cruise – Itinerary 3 – In the Park of the Kornati Islands

It is truly an Eden just a stone’s throw from home for sailors and boaters alike, the Dalmatian archipelago of the Kornati Islands. It unites as many as ninety islands and white rock reefs that have been protected since 1980 by the National Park of the same name, which protects the narrow stretch of sea about 35 kilometers long and no more than 13 kilometers wide in which, however, it is possible to sail by respecting the rules and after paying a small entrance fee (info on www.np-kornati.hr).

cruise in Croatia - Kornati
Croatia Cruise – A spectacular aerial view of some of the 90 islets that make up the Kornati Archipelago, protected by the Nature Park of the same name. You can sail here after paying an entry fee for your boat.

The route to the Park starts from Zadar in the north or from Šibenik in the south: in the former case, the first stop to make leads to the southern end of Isola Lunga. In fact, it is here that the deep and wild Telascica Fjord opens, an opening that creeps almost 5 miles into the island’s coastline.

And right in front of the north coast of Kornati-the largest island of the Kornati archipelago: in fact, Telascica is also part of the area protected by the Kornati Islands Park. Here you can bottom in all the most sheltered and wild bays and especially in the shallow water surrounding the Skoli islets. A scenic narrow road starts on the ground and leads to the village of Sali in 6 km of walking.

Having resumed the boat, the cruise then resumes southward until it enters the the Kornati Channel, a narrow gulf between the large Kornati and other small islands. The first of which one encounters going south, marked by the presence of the ruins of a medieval Venetian fort and dominated by a small church, is Lavernata.

Here, in a deep inlet, you drop anchor in front of a lovely pebble beach. Continuing the course in a southerly direction, we then reach the small, rounded island of Laussa, which is characterized by a vast, shallow central lagoon reminiscent of those seen among Pacific atolls. At the southern end of the large island of Kornati we then reach the wide bay of Opat.

From here or from one of the other bays in the southern part of Kornati Island, one can go ashore to hike along the marked trail to the top of Mount Melina. It is the highest on the island at 237 meters, and from its summit there is an unparalleled view of the archipelago itself and the not far away island of Morter.

Where to rent the boat: Zadar or Sibenik

One-week itinerary: Zadar or Sibenik, Long Island, Kornati Islands.

Why go there: to take a sunset swim in the deserted bay of Stiniva, surrounded by silence.

Fun fact: Don’t miss the fish dishes at Konoba Soleta (+385 951978102) small seafront trattoria in Kornati.

Itinerary 4 – Lissa and the islands of Split

In the center is Split, or Split, as Croatian puts it. All around is the wonderful world of enchanted islands, clear blue sea, as well as stony beaches and coves that also open along the “mainland” coast of Central Dalmatia.

Cruise Croatia - Vis
Cruise Croatia – The ancient stone alleys in the old town of Vis, capital of the Dalmatian island of the same name whose construction dates back to the Middle Ages

Leaving Split we head west, coastwise, to Trogir, a spectacular little town almost “wedged” between the mountains of the Kozjak massif and the small island of Ciovo. Thanks to its fascinating and labyrinthine historic center it is protected by UNESCO, but spectacular above all are the walls that enclose the oldest part. And coming in from the sea, the island of Ciovo is also worth discovering: it has a high, rocky coastline in which, however, delightful coves such as those of Sveti Fumija and Toce open up.

Continuing then to sail westward, one reaches the small island of Drvenik Mali: Located immediately west of the larger Little Zirona, it has a low coastline covered with pine and olive trees, between which are a few pebble beaches in front of which you can drop anchor for a refreshing swim. Now, however, it is time to head south, past the quiet Soltanski Kanal to discover the first of the large islands facing Split, Solta.

About ten miles long, it is home to several very special landings, the first of which, located along the west coast, is the so-called Sesula Fjord: very wild suggestive you can bottom in front of the left bank where the channel opens into 5 meters of water. Continuing along the south coast then skirts an uninhabited area, with some small bays suitable for a swim stop: among them the deep Tatinja cove. Sheltered enough for an overnight stop at anchor, it is uninhabited and gives a sense of wild beauty.

Stiniva (Vis)
Croatia Cruise – The tiny bay of Stiniva opens up on the coast of the island of Vis.

Also left Solta the helm always holds south for a short but enjoyable crossing of just over 30 miles to the island of Lissa. Here the most beautiful and must-see spot is the bay of Rukavac: is located on the east coast and is home to a spectacular white pebble beach. Sailing further west, before reaching the ancient capital town of Vis, here is also the beautiful Srebrena, a cove formed by silvery rocks.

Where to rent the boat: Split (Croatia)

One-week itinerary: Split, Trogir, Drvenik Veli, Solta, Vis.

Why go there: see on the island of Vis the remains of the Greek Doric colony of Issa, dating back to the 4th century BC.

Fun facts: in Split visit such beauties as Diocletian’s Palace and the ancient Cathedral of St. Doimus with Gothic bell tower.

Itinerary 5 – The south around Dubrovnik

Forget for a moment the magnificent Dubrovnik, which will also be the final port of call on this cruise, and set a course immediately toward the spectacular Elaphite Islands: small gardens coming out of the north side of the arm of the sea that lies immediately north of downtown Ragusa and just south of the Ston Canal.

Mljet
Cruising Croatia – An overview view
of St. Mary’s Monastery, which is located on the tiny islet of the same name in the middle of the salt lake Veliko Jezero. We are in southern Croatia within the west coast of the verdant island of Meleda: it is so wild and unspoiled that it is protected by a Nature Reserve
(info at www.np-mljet.hr).

The cruise departs from Liciniana Island, which is the northernmost of the group, which also includes several smaller uninhabited islets, and is characterized to the south by the presence of high cliffs. At the southern end is the Prolaz Harpoti passage separating Liciniana Island from Sipan: it hosts, on the Liciniana Island side, a really beautiful cove, bordered on the south by a shoal and some outcropping rocks: a perfect place for a relaxing and solitary swim.

In Sipan, which is the largest and most extensive of the Elafiti instead, one soon discovers the small and pretty sheltered bay of Misnjac. Here you can give bottom to enjoy snorkeling among sandy bottoms rich in posidonia. Then arriving at the south side of Sipan, inside the Middle Strait and protected by the islet Ruda, one discovers the beautiful bay of Sudjurad. The village at the end of the cove is a little gem, built around a large castle that was the residence of the patrician Stjepovic family.

Leaving Sipan here is Mezzo on whose south coast is Sunj Bay: surrounded by dense vegetation it is famous for its crystal clear water. Last of the Elafiti to reach is Calamotta, an island that is home to the enchanting cove of Gornje Celo, where you dive into the emerald sea. Now it is time to head west to land on the neighboring but much larger island of Meleda: almost entirely covered with pine forests, it appears to those arriving from the sea as deep green and compact.

Here the first bay to visit is Saplunara Bay, located in the far southeast and famous for its sandy beach. Along the north coast, however, here is Polace Bay: more than 2 miles deep and full of islets and bays it takes its name from the ruins of a Roman villa from the Diocletian era. Leaving these magnificent islands in southern Croatia, one sets course for the base of Dubrovnik, but the wonders are not over: the historic center of the ancient maritime republic of Dubrovnik are full of surprises for those who love art and history.

Where to rent the boat: Dubrovnik (Croatia)

One-week itinerary: Dubrovnik, Elaphite Islands, Meleda.

Why go: to stroll on Ragusa’s Stradun (main street) to the Cathedral of St. Blaise.

Fun fact: South of downtown Ragusa is the verdant islet of Lacroma, dense with paths leading from the forest to the sea. Unmissable.

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