Sailing the Croatian Islands
Sailing the Croatian Islands has been a dream of mine for a while. Wouldn’t it be amazing to do a new adventure, see a new place, enjoy the crystal blue waters and just relax. I spend the whole trip wishing I had done this 6 months earlier.. What an incredible experience it was.
I went on a tour to experience sailing to as many islands as possible, luckily for me Topdeck offered an incredible tour to tick off all on my list. Topdeck is always my go to touring company as they offer great opportunities and the most incredible people to meet. I wasn’t disappointed I got to spend 8 wonderful days surrounded by great new friends who made the trip the perfect way to say around Croatia.
We began our trip in the port of Dubrovnik. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this as we boarded the most wonderful boat that is one of the Oldest in the Adriatic Sea, she is 131 years old and our ship for sailing was known as Petrina. We have such wonderful memories of Petrina, she has such a character and it was the perfect boat for the next 8 days.
We set sail from Dubrovnik towards Mljet. On the way to Mljet we all began to get to know each other as we lounged back in deck chairs on top of the ship with a tropical playlist in the background over looking the stunning views of deep blue waters, perfect blue skies and many islands passing us by. It was the perfect beginning to our day, I didn’t realise how easy it was to get onto Island time and begin to relax in the sun.
After spending all day sailing towards Mljet we where able to christen the trip when the ship docked in the waters and we all jumped off the boat into the crystal Adriatic waters.
Mljet is a lovely quiet island; home to a National Park with a lake, many charming walks and a 12th Century Benedictine Monastery on an island in the lake with donkeys of course. During our visit we docked our boat in the small village of Pomena.
Pomena is known for its fishing with many restaurants offering great choice. We spend our evening walking around the harbour, enjoying the stars shinning above us, seeing the crabs walking down the stairs into the sea, finding sea urchins in rock pools and sitting at Konoba Herc which is a restaurant on the edge of Pomena with the most perfect views and delicious local wine, we couldn’t get enough of it. But Pomena will always be the place where we bought our first floaties for relaxing in the sea.. It was a Donut called Charlotte as the Unicorn was too costly.
In the early morning we got to experience the National Park at Mljet. The park is a 15 minute walk away from Pomena, tickets to enter the National Park can we bought at the Kiosk at the edge of the Village with tickets costing 70HRK during the low season and up to 125HRK in the high season. You can either walk down to the National Park or rent a bicycle opposite the kiosk.
Inside the park you can stroll around, swim in the lakes with the little fish, hire a kayak or grab the ferry over to the little island with the Monastery. The ferry leaves once an hour on the hour from the dock near the Pomena Park entrance then returning from the Island at 45 minutes pass the hour which gives you enough time to explore the charming old church and walk to the top of the island. The park is full of wonderful nature that is the perfect view of what Island life is like in Croatia.
Korcula is the old walled town on the Island of Korcula. The town is a wonder to explore as it is said the town was made to be like a fish spine. You are able to walk into the fish spine by a stairway bridge into the town walls, as you walk down the main street you will be able to veer off into alleyways that are layered with architecture. You can spend your time strolling in the town walls, going to the bar Massimo that is at the top of Medieval Tower (you need to go through a trap door to reach the top), enjoy tasting wines at the local Bokar Wine Bar, strolling along the waters edge around the old town enjoying the views, maybe eat at one of the restaurants and visiting Saint Mark’s Cathedral which can be seen from every direction or most important visit the House of Marco Polo where the locals say he was born. It is a beautiful town to explore with so many beautiful places to unique corners to visit.
Vela Luka is a small village on the other side of the island of Korcula. It is the perfect place to stop and recharge after a day of sailing and swimming. It has many different delicious seafood restaurants to try out, I tried out Squid stuffed with cheese and ham which is a local dish to experience at Konoba Taberna Skalinada. We didn’t make it to the Caves at Vela Spila which is a 40 minute walk but it looks absolutely stunning and it would have been wonderful to visit. But the perfect end of the day or afternoon treat is to go spoil yourself at Diana Gelato, it is not only delicious Gelato but it is absolutely hilarious. The man who serves you is the funniest Italian on the whole island and plays games with you as you get your Gelato, so make sure you grab the cone before you lose your ice cream.
A trip to the Island of Vis isn’t complete without a visit to the Blue Cave. The Blue Cave was discovered in 1884 when a man was fishing in the area and wanted to see where all the fish where going so he followed them underneath the waters popping up into this beautiful cave that illuminates the most beautiful blues from the sunlight hitting the sea surface. The Blue Cave is reached from the island of Biševo, we where lucky enough to have our boat drop us off at the port of the ticket kiosk but there are many boats that will take you there from Vis. You need to buy tickets which will give you a number for the queue as it can get busy during the peak season, tickets cost 100HRK during the peak season and 70HRK during the low season. Try and get there early enough to buy a ticket and be prepared to be waiting a while but there are places to walk to, sit and have a coffee or even swim in the bay.
You will then be taken in a tiny boat from the harbour to the cave, make sure you duck your head as you enter the tiny entrance in the rocky cliff face. But it is worth the wait, it is stunningly beautiful as I had never seen any colours like this before so make sure you have your waterproof camera to get close up with this natural beauty.
We docked our boat in the harbour of Vis for the night. Vis gives you the sense of what an old town it is as you weave in and out of the cobble street alleys. Especially as the town is topped off with beautiful old churches and Fort George which guards its harbour. To best see the surrounding area, rent a bicycle or scooter ( try and rent a scooter as soon as possible) to travel up the hill to Fort George or the Submarine Tunnels or just witness the landscape.
The town offers a wide range of restaurants along the shore line and we where not disappointed from Fruit Juices on the corner of the West of the harbour, enjoying a meal at either Nona Darinka or at Pansion Dionis, just stroll around the streets and follow your nose. You can spend the evening enjoying a walk around the Town or you can head over to the outdoor cinema to catch what movie they are playing that night.
We spent the morning in Hvar docked to the rocky shoreline island of Marinkovac. The water was the most crystal clear blue that it was beyond perfection as we got to see the sea grass clearly, the sea creatures living on the rocky edge and the thousands of different fish swimming around the boat. It was the perfect place for snorkeling. It seemed like something from all those movies showing off paradise, we didn’t want to leave the water.
After spending hours in the water we headed over to the town of Hvar. Hvar was an important part of Croatia from being the centre of trade and culture since the 13th Century. It was once part of the Venetian Empire which is evident from the street structure being similar to Venice and seeing the Venetian Lion carved into the walls. Hvar was an important naval base as you can see when you climb up to Hvar Fortress giving you clear views of the islands and horizon beyond. Hvar Fortress cost 40HRK to visit which offers incredible views. When Napolean took control of the Venetian Empire he made Hvar a strong foothold in the Adriatic Sea until it passed control to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today the old city remains which makes it a perfect place to stroll down the alleyways discovering delicious places to eat and jewellery shops with stone from the area. Just get lost and experience life in Hvar.
Hvar is also a great party place. We got to spend a night dancing and enjoying local bars with unique cocktails from Ka’lavanda Music Bar to a little hole in a wall bar at Caffe bar Sidro or the biggest party in the town at Kiva Bar.. I have never danced so much and it was just amazing. If you love to dance and dance all night why not try Carpe Diem which is a beach dance club where you need to take a ferry across to from Hvar, then you can spend the night dancing underneath the stars.
Stari Grad is on the other side of the Island of Hvar. It is a more laid back quiet town and it could be my favourite so far. It is one of the oldest towns in Europe, it is actually over 2,400 years old and you can see why it was so important from the Greeks to Romans to the Slavs, the Venetians then to the Austro-Hungarian Empire then finally becoming Croatian. The harbour of Stari Grad is a natural defense which lead it to becoming a rich land for growing crops and is still an important part of the towns charm with the plains down the road, you can try some of the delicious local fruit and veg from markets next to Park Vorba.
The town has a sense of a Venetian life as you stroll around all the whiny cobble stone lanes, it is a place of beauty and calm. You are able to see the centuries of history with little markers all over the town from the old town walls that now have become part of someones garden, the houses that have adapted with time, carvings that have been there from one culture or another, the low ceilings you have to duck underneath to walk down the path, the Church of St. Stephen that towers over the town which really makes you double take if you are in Venice or not with its Bell Tower. It is the perfect town to relax in and take life slowly as there is no need to rush but just enjoy its charm.
There was a unique art display during our trip which was called the 500 Cinderella’s. It consisted of 500 single shoes that have been washed up or found in the waters in the Adriatic Sea which is a sad but powerful statement showing the damage we are making on the oceans.
We ended our trip in Split which is the largest city in Dalmatia. It felt weird to be back in the busy world. As we docked we where shockingly awoken to busy street life and so many cars. But we didn’t spend long docked before half of us decided to go on an adventure and try our luck at Ziplining.
Ziplining is something I had never been done before and as scared as I was, I soon became the instructors favourite zipliner with them asking me to stay and teach others as I was so graceful with my landing (what a compliment!!). We drove down to Omis which is at the mouth of the River Cetina and the mountain ranges. Up we went high into the mountains where we were taught how to use our harness and breaks, once we reached the top we where faced with the first line which was 700 metres long and 150 metres above ground, I was screaming but soon as we glided across it was screams of joy. I was hooked literally and hooked to this new wonderful experience. We travelled across 8 lines of all shapes and sizes, from all heights and across the River twice. I am so pleased I got to do this and I can not wait to do it again as soon as possible. When in Split make sure you give yourself time to go to Zipline Croatia. It costs 400HRK and it is worth every penny.
We made our way back to Split just in time for the sun setting over the harbour. It was the perfect way to finish off our tour walking along the harbour enjoying the great atmosphere it has to offer, but we wanted something a bit special for our last night as a group. We headed over to Toto’s Burger Bar which is probably the best burger I have had after 9 years in Europe, then we sat along the harbour at Matejuška which offers at great place to sit for a picnic and even better to watch the sunset over Split.
I sadly didn’t have anymore time to visit in Split but I can not wait to get back. It has a long history full of Byzantine, Venetian, Napoleonic, Austro-Hungrian and life as part of Yugoslavia, it will be to interesting to see. I now have a long list of places to visit such as:
Cathedral of St Domnius
Temple of Jupiter
The Roman Ruins of Salona
Swimming at Bene Beach
Eat more seafood on the Riva
My Bucket list of Plitvice Lakes. I am just dying to go.
I look forward to going back and this gives me the perfect excuse to go back to Croatia.
Boat life was fun but hard as you lived in bunk beds in little cabins, but I loved every minute of it especially the laughter I had climbing up onto my bunk bed every night. Boat life is something special and has it own rules including other boats stealing your floaties after drinking in the night but don’t worry we got them all back. So make sure you keep all your floaties locked up! or wait to the end of the trip to steal their Flamingo to strap to the bow of the boat.
Each day we had time to swim in the beautiful waters. From just laying in the salty water relaxing on inflatable donuts or Unicorns to testing ourselves by jumping off different heights of the boat.
I loved every moment of this experience, it was the perfect way to explore Croatia, swim in the sea, enjoy the summer sun and to recharge my batteries.
I want to thank all these beautiful people for this wonderful experience. They taught me to live again.. I need to live my life to the fullest, live in the moment, to dance, to leap off ships and be myself.. you awoke a girl that hasn’t be there for a long time and thank you for the most wonderful time under the Croatian Sun.
Topdeck offers this tour ‘Adriatic Sunsets’ every year from May to September, it is best to go at the end of the season when it isn’t extremely hot and things become quieter to allow you to enjoy life a bit more. It will not be long again until I am on another Sailing experience across Croatia.