With a super long Adriatic coastline, over 1200 islands and islets, beaches lapped by crystal clear waters, and dozens of scenic coastal towns, the best way to see Croatia by far is by boat.
Forget what you think you know about cruise ships. A much more comfortable and convenient way to travel by sea is by taking a mini-cruiser charter. Imagine sailing on a luxury yacht with your closest friends or dearest ones, and having the boat all to yourselves. Best of all, you can plan your own custom tour for your small group, making stops wherever you please.
“Mini-cruising is the best way to experience Croatia,” says Zvonimir Androić, President of Via Tours Croatia, a luxury mini-cruising charter company. “We charter luxury mini cruisers and offer a concierge service that includes hundreds of customized tours led by private local guides. This is how our clients get to explore all the local hotspots and secluded places you can only explore by boat.”
“This focus on local experiences continues on board,” he adds, “with fully-customized menus of regional dishes prepared with fresh local products. Another thing that sets us apart is that in addition to the usual on-board amenities like a cinema, outdoor gym, sauna, jacuzzi, pool, and gym, our mini cruisers are decked out with water toys such as jet skis, tubes or skis, seabobs, SUPs, and sea kayaks.”
Looking for a memorable way to explore Croatia’s coast? Here are a few of the best experiences of Croatia you can enjoy by boat.
Take in seaside heritage sites
Many of Croatia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located right on the Adriatic coast. Seaside Dubrovnik’s spectacular walled old town was recognized by UNESCO back in 1979. Inside its massive fortified walls are a maze of narrow lanes of limestone stretching in a neat grid pattern from the Stradun, the main thoroughfare. After exploring them, head up to the top of the 10th-century walls from where you can circumnavigate the entire old town and take in the panoramic views over the city’s terracotta rooftops and turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Since the 4th century, Diocletian’s Palace has been Split’s ancient waterfront landmark. The UNESCO-listed palace of the former Roman emperor is a mini-city of 200 buildings, including many churches and chapels. Climb the cathedral’s bell tower for views over the open-air palace and old town and nearby islands.
The medieval city of Trogir is actually a tiny island and another historical UNESCO site. Linked to the mainland by two bridges, and a third to Čiovo island, this is a compact treasure trove of Romanesque churches, Baroque buildings, and a cathedral that dates back to Venetian times.
Delightful Šibenik boasts not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The magnificent dome of its 15th century St. Jame’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of this coastal city, which is also home to four fortresses, including the island fortress of St Nicholas, added to UNESCO’s list in 2017.
Get close to nature
The western end of Mljet island is a national park covering 20 square miles of protected forests of Aleppo pines and holm oaks. The park’s star attraction is the 12th century St. Mary’s monastery situated on a tiny isle floating in the middle of Veliko Jezero lake, one of two saltwater lakes.
Okukle is Croatia’s oldest coastal settlement and one of only 19 on the island, many of which are fishing villages.
Another national park that can be reached by boat is Krka, known for its impressive waterfalls, cascades, and turquoise lakes. Travel upstream along the Krka River to Skradinski Buk, the largest of the park’s many falls, cascading down 17 tiers.
Sample local gastronomy
Thanks to its many gastronomic delights, Croatia attracts lovers of good food. Have a slow food experience by joining a cooking class and learning how to prepare Dalmatian specialties like pašticada (marinated beef stewed with tomatoes, parsnips, prunes, nutmeg, and prošek wine), or brodet, a fish stew.
In the rustic ambiance of traditional eateries called konoba, sample the local cuisine prepared homestyle. Seafood tends to dominate menus: try the crni rižoto (“black risotto”) prepared with squid ink and cuttlefish, a Dalmatian favorite.
Or join a gastro tour and visit the cellars of local wine and olive oil producers. Most wineries and olive farms are family-run and offer expert-led tastings of their high-quality wines and extra virgin olive oil.
Tour Game of Thrones locations
Several locations on the Dalmatian coast served as dramatic backdrops in the popular Game of Thrones series.
Set foot in King’s Landing with a visit to Dubrovnik, a city whose fortified walls and towers are now familiar to audiences around the world. Join a Game of Thrones tour and see the Jesuit staircase, now better known as the Walk of Shame, Minčeta Tower which was Qarth’s House of the Undying, towering St. Lawrence Fortress (a.k.a. the Red Keep), and Gradac Park which you’ll recognize as the site of the Purple Wedding feast.
On the nearby island of Lokrum you can sit on a replica of the Iron Throne, and then head 12 miles north of Dubrovnik to see the leafy gardens of the Trsteno Arboretum, a favorite haunt of the Tyrells.
In Split, you’ll get a sense of déjà vu in the cobblestone lanes of Diocletian’s Palace, another Game of Thrones backdrop, while just a few miles outside the city center looms the clifftop fortress of Klis, or the city of Meereen.
Adventures on the water
Just below the inviting waters of the Adriatic Sea is a surprising underwater world that can be explored on a snorkeling or diving adventure. Don a mask, snorkel, and fins to see the colorful flora and fauna of Kornati National Park, a surprising archipelago of 89 islands and islets.
Prefer to stay above the water? Get on a board and try windsurfing or paddle boarding. Or join a river rafting expedition past waterfalls and canyons on the Cetina, a 65-mile long river that empties into the Adriatic Sea at the town of Omiš.
Join a sunset kayaking tour in Dubrovnik for a slow-paced paddle while taking in the gorgeous views of the fortified city bathed in the glow of the sun descending into the sea
Explore on two wheels
Cycling is a fantastic way to take in the spectacular sea views and lush scenery at a relaxed pace while leaving a small eco-footprint.
A popular route to explore on two wheels is the trail through Krka National Park which runs along the Krka river past thundering waterfalls and cascades.
The long and narrow peninsula of Pelješac is another favorite with cyclists with plenty of opportunities to stop for a dip at one of the many sandy beaches and hidden pebble coves.