1 DUBROVNIK’S CITY WALLS
The unyielding stone walls rise straight up from the sea and rock, almost daring their attackers to try to scale them. And as impressive as it is to walk the 2km walls and look out to the horizon, squinting to try to imagine what it might have been like spotting enemies approaching, it’s impossible to truly appreciate their scale until you’re in the position of someone sailing across an ocean to invade.
Bobbing up to the walls in a comparatively tiny yacht really gives you a sense of scale and an appreciation for how on earth they were built.
2 THE ISLANDS
With its clear, azure waters, Croatia is all about what lies off the mainland. The Dalmatian Coast is scattered with islands that easily rival their more commercial neighbours off nearby Greece.
From the walled Korcula — which prides itself on being the rumoured birthplace of Marco Polo and offers a less crowded walled-city experience than Dubrovnik — to the superyacht and socialite laden Hvar, all can be hopped within a few hours. But why not head further afield and take in the stunning national park on Mljet? With a tiny island, in a lake on an island, it’s just begging to be explored — preferably by bike.
3 IT’S HOT
During peak season, Croatia gets hot — really hot. In August, Split and Dubrovnik will often get hotter than 30C, which feels even hotter as the historic stone buildings trap the heat. The only cure is a light sea breeze or a dive straight into the cool sea.
Being on a yacht, which is usually white, so reflects the sun’s rays back at itself, also offers an escape from the crowds, who only seem to add to the scorching temperatures.
4 THE FLEXIBILITY
During one of the days on my SailWeek Croatia tour, our skipper stopped mid-voyage for us to jump off the edge for a swim. A simple interlude, sure. But the interruption in the schedule surprisingly turned into one of the trip’s highlights when the skipper tossed us a rope. Hilarity ensued as we watched mates being dragged through the deep, sapphire sea, clinging desperately to their togs as they were threatening to be pulled off in the boat’s wake.
Being on a yacht means there’s no timetable to keep, bus to catch, or hotel to check out of by 10am. It’s your holiday — you set the rules.
5 THE PORTS
Hvar is famed for its nightlife and celebrity sightings and staying on a boat moored there has its advantages — if you can afford it. The portage fees are eye-watering and most of the space is reserved for the world’s elite on their superyachts. But if you drop anchor in a bay around the corner, you get to catch the speedboat to shore — an adventure in itself. Other ports we visited were just as, if not more, impressive. From the beautiful Sipan where we were guided in by chortling men in speedos, to the relaxed harbour of Mljet, which has free mooring as long as you dine at one of the bay’s fresh seafood restaurants.
6 THE BOATLIFE
There are few things more relaxing than reading a book in the shade with a gentle sea breeze and rhythmic bobbing over the waves. Even those who usually get seasick managed to avoid turning green during our SailWeek Croatia trip because of the gentle seas. The boat life also bonds people in a way a plane or bus can’t — and the limited space forces you to get to know people quickly. Not to mention the sense of pride you get cooking spaghetti bolognese for seven people in a kitchen the size of a portaloo.