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If you are wondering whether to sail the Mediterranean or the Adriatic this year, we’ve put together a guide to help you choose between the Greek or Croatian islands. We’re here with all the travel information, marina costs, sailing conditions, best time to sail and recommended local cuisine to help you make that important decision.
Getting to Greece and Croatia
There are 2,000 Greek islands split into five groups, the Ionian, Dodecanese, Cyclades, Saronic and Sporades with 10,000 miles of coastline. Greece is easy to fly to but the flights can be expensive and availability is limited if you go last minute, especially when the schools are out. You’ll get the best prices and convenient flight times if you book in advance, so planning is key. From the UK and US you can fly direct to Athens and charter from Lavrion to sail the Cyclades and Saronic. The other island groups have direct flights from the UK. US passengers can fly to Athens and get short connecting flights or ferries to the other islands.
When to go
The sailing season begins in spring and ends in the autumn in Greece and Croatia. The peak season runs from the end of July to the beginning of September and charters tend to be more expensive. You’ll find parts of Greece and Croatia are busy during this time, such as the Saronic Gulf, Corfu and Lefkas in Greece, as well as Dubrovnik and Kornati National Park in Croatia. The marinas will also be in high demand.
Many sailors opt to sail in the spring or autumn when there are fewer charter boats and tourists. Sailing in autumn is still very pleasant in the Mediterranean and Adriatic with temperatures reaching:
- Greece: 24ºC/76ºF (September) and 20ºC/67ºF (October) and sea temperatures between 24ºC-22ºC or 72ºF-75ºF
- Croatia: 21ºC/69ºF (September) and 17ºC/62ºF (October) and sea temperatures between 20ºC-23ºC or 67ºF-73ºF
Sailors love Greece because you can moor for free or at low cost at local harbours, especially if you are staying less than 24 hours. While you will save money in the marinas, you cannot book in advance. Your passage may not always be recorded but make sure you have all your documents ready for inspection. If you moor free of charge, it is good manners to buy your meal or a drink from the nearby bar or restaurant as a thank you. The marinas vary in price, so research before you sail.
In Croatia, the Bura wind can blow hard at night and you need a sheltered anchorage. Private marina prices vary depending on the category of the marina, its location, the size of your yacht and the time of year. Peak season is the most expensive, up to £56/$80 or more for a 40ft monohull in Dubrovnik. Checkout the prices and book in advance using the ACI Marinas website and read our guide to marinas in Split.
There are ways to save on your mooring costs in Croatia:
- Mooring buoys in the bays cost one to two euros per metre length
- Small fishing harbours charge around two to five euros per metre length of your yacht but arrive early or you will miss out
- If you head for the Kornati Archipelago national park with its 140 islands, islets and reefs, you will find places to anchor and avoid mooring fees. The ACI Marinas are cheaper here, and ACI Marina Skradin is the perfect stopover for Krka National Park’s impressive natural waterfalls
- You can also moor for free if you dine at some restaurants, such as:
- Restaurant Frankie – Seget Donji, Trogir
- Restaurant Zrno Soli, ACI Split
- Restaurant Dvor, Split
- Restaurant MOVI, Split
- Restaurant Velo Misto, Split
- Restaurant Kod Kapetana, Hvar
- Carpe Diem, Hvar
- Restaurant Luculus, Hvar
- Restaurant Gariful, Hvar
If you want a relaxed sail with short legs, then head for the Ionian islands. More experienced sailors can challenge their skills in the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, known for its longer passages. Greece has the best winds between June and September, with particularly windy times at the end of July and beginning of August.
In Croatia, the Bura is a northeast wind that blows cold, dry air for a few days from land to sea. It’s strongest closest to mountains and clouds circling mountain tops, short, broken waves and white foam are giveaways that’s it’s time to head for anchorage to avoid a choppy sail.
Tasting traditional cooking
In Greece, enjoy the waterfront tavernas and small plates of Tzatziki, Dolmas, Kalamarakia and Spanakopita. You will probably see fishermen beating fresh octopi to tenderise them and then hang them on a line in the sun to dry before grilling. Other highlights include Moussaka, Pastitsio, Paidakia, Souvlaki and Gyros.
While dining out in Croatia, order Peka, a traditional method using hot ashes to cook Octopus over five hours so it melts in your mouth. Also try the local homemade flavoured brandies, such as Travarica, a popular herb brandy. If you are sailing between Istria and Dubrovnik, order Crni Rižoto, a delicious black cuttlefish risotto.