Staring across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, and sandwiched between the tiny, gorgeous countries of Slovenia and Montenegro, is an incredible country known as Croatia. For nearly a thousand years, this country fought invasion after invasion, until it became a republic in the Yugoslav nation post the Second World War. It later declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and today, Croatians are proud to have a country to call their own again.
You might recognize this Mediterranean paradise from the millions of photos that show off Plitvice Lakes all over Pinterest, or from your college roommate’s “Yacht Week” photos on Facebook, or maybe you’ve seen it on that little show called Game of Thrones. Wherever you know it from, you’ve seen the signs that Croatia is full of beautiful scenery, hip cities, belly-warming food, award-winning wine, and enough islands to keep you exploring for a lifetime.
We recently made our way to Croatia and embarked on an eight-day sailing trip with G Adventures up the rugged coastline from Dubrovnik to Split. We stretched our sails through local fishing villages, national parks, and open water. While the typical overland route is beautiful, we think trading land for sea is an exceptional way to explore this country. Here’s why.
1. You’ll get off the tourist track
Like most destinations worth the visit, Croatia has its major hot spots that are easy to get sucked into. The crazy hordes of tour buses combined with the younger backpacker trail lead most people to the same places, all crowding into the main attractions. When you swap the streets for the water, you get to explore Croatia in a way that is much more unique than most. No route is ever the same because of changing weather conditions, so each trip is devised on the fly. When you dock each night, you’ll find yourself in fishing villages that barely make it into guidebooks, ultimately creating the perfect opportunity for an off-the-beaten-path experience.
2. You’ll be treated to the most amazing sunsets
Sunsets are beautiful everywhere, but there is just something magical about watching the sun sink into the sea after you just spent a full day sailing across its waters. The sky dances with vibrant colours, as the wind hits your face and the smell of salty air overtakes your senses. At the risk of sounding extra cheesy, here, you’re not just watching the sunset, you’re actually feeling it.
3. You’ll get to hone your sailing skills
Speaking of a whole different way to travel, you can pick up a new skill while you’re at it. You might not walk away being able to set sail into the sunset all by your lonesome, but you can pick up the basics for how to operate a sailboat. On board, you’ll get the chance to actually drive the boat, raise the sails, and learn all the techy terms that make you sound like a pro. You might as well wear a sailing hat while you’re at it. Just sayin’
4. You’ll find secret swimming spots
When you’re cruising Croatia by sailboat, you’re about as close to Mother Nature as you can get. You listen to the wind and obey the weather; just you, the boat, and the sea. With this proximity to Her Highness comes more than a few epic swimming spots that you can only reach if you are fortunate enough to have a boat. Drop anchor down in a private cove, dive headfirst into turquoise waters, and swim to an empty beach. Try doing that without a boat.
5. You’ll make new boat friends
When you’re on a sailboat, the space is tight and the friendships are tighter. You are spending every night in the boat’s hull, eating 99 percent of your meals with your new boat mates, and you have a lot of downtime while sailing the sea together. You are bound to these people in a way you could never be on land. There is no walking the plank on these boats! You’re all committed to this journey together. Did we mention the sailing community is amazing? Each night when you’re in port, you might notice that you recognize sailors from the other boats taking similar journeys. It’s like one giant caravan in the ocean.
6. You won’t be distracted by technology
Nowadays we are all pretty reliant on our technology and usually connected to the outside world. We are so distracted and hooked to our phones and apps that we sometimes forget to appreciate the present moment. Well, when you are out in the middle of the sea with no Wi-Fi and no service, you have no other choice but to spend your time soaking up the sun on the bow of the boat and reading that book you meant to pick up ages ago. We’re not going to lie, it’s a pretty nice feeling to forget what day of the week it is.
7. You’ll see Croatia through the eyes of a local
Our skipper was born and raised in the Croatian islands. He knew those villages like the backs of his hands, and was able to give us the insider scoop pretty much everywhere we went. The best gelato in Korcula? The best beach in Sipan? Yep, Teo knew it all. It’s always comforting to know that you’re getting the best experience possible, and experiencing boat life with a local by your side does just that.
8. You’ll be on a boat
Last but definitely least, might be the most obvious; you’re on a boat. Busing it from town to town is fun, but boating from island to island is much cooler in our books. There are few experiences in this world that allow you to feel as free as sailing on a big ol’ ocean. You rise and fall with the sun, you feel the different moods of the ocean, and you sit and enjoy nature’s beauty. What else could you ask for?