One of the most beautiful parts to visit in Croatia is the Dalmatian Coast. And there is no better way than to discover it by cruise. But where do you start looking for the best company and itinerary? During my Sail Croatia cruise I sailed along the most beautiful islands of Croatia that are located in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. It was the perfect combination between exploring medieval villages and towns, spending time on board, enjoying swim stops, going on excursions and experiencing nature. In this article I’ll tell you more about the best itinerary to discover the Dalmatian Coast with Sail Croatia.
Sail Croatia itinerary – a review
For a long time, I thought cruising wouldn’t be for me. Until I got in touch with Sail Croatia, a boutique organization that offers different cruises from Split to Dubrovnik, in Croatia. From luxury elegance cruises and active explorer cruises to cruises that are all about hiking and cycling. Because I like active travel, we soon find out that the Sail Croatia Explorer cruise along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia suits me best. My cruise is called the Almissa and sails in 7 days from Split to Dubrovnik in Croatia. In the next article you’ll read everything you want to know about this beautiful Sail Croatia itinerary.
Itinerary: Split – Dubrovvnik
The map is color coded as follows:
Red: places and destinations
Day 1 : Split (1) – Makarska (2) – mainland of Dalmatian coast of Croatia
On the first day you are welcomed on the Sail Croatia cruise in the port of Split at 10:30. Split is hysterically crowded with people. It is high season and walking through the small tourist streets with a suitcase is quite a task. I realise that I haven’t felt like such a tourist for a long time. Yet I surrender because it’s only a short walk to the harbor and I think it’s nonsense to order a cab all the way there.
Once in the harbor, it takes a while to find the Sail Croatia Almissa cruise because there are so many boats. But my contact person knows exactly where I can find my home for the week. Unfortunately, it immediately starts raining. Not a good start for a cruise, you might think, but since it is a pleasant temperature, I let it go. A representative of Sail Croatia is waiting for us and before I know it I am installed on the Sail Croatia Almissa.
The Sail Croatia Almissa
We get a brief introduction about the Sail Croatia Almissa and meet the 6-man crew: the captain, two assistants, the chef, the cool bar girl and the tour guide, who will talk us through the trip every day. All super friendly and enthusiastic. Over a three-course lunch, everyone briefly gets to know each other. There appear to be 22 guests on board, from the USA, Australia and several European countries. A nice mix of nationalities and ages.
And then we start sailing. I love the sight of sailing out of Split and enjoying the views of the mountainous coast.
The weather is still not looking too good but somehow it clears up completely, during our first swimming stop. This is a small sandy beach, Lovrecina, on the island of Brac. And wow, what a beautiful bay this is. If this is the case every day, it promises to be a beautiful trip along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia!
After a few more hours of sailing, we arrive at our first overnight location around 6 pm: Makarska. Makarska is a town on the mainland, at the foot of the Biokovo Mountains. It is part of the Makarska Riviera, a stunning coastline along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. And you have all evening to explore the town because the departure time is not until the next morning.
There is a central square with a pretty church Katedrala sv. Marko. Around it, there are numerous small streets with restaurants and stores. And if you’re lucky, the locals put tables and chairs outside for a traditional performance.
It is also worth walking to the monument, of St Peter, on the other side of the bay. From here you have a nice view over Makarska. Especially in the evening, when you see the numerous lights.
Looking for a place to drink and party in a unique location? Club Deep is a club in an open cave on the beach. Even if you don’t like going out, it’s definitely worth having a drink here.
Day 2 : Makarska – Stari Grad (3)
The next day there is breakfast between 8 and 9 am. Simple but tasty! Then we sail for a few hours and stop in a lovely bay for a swim. The water is blue and so clear! These stops become a daily ritual. What I like about these swim stops is that you can swim to a rocky outcrop or beach for a little walk (bring water shoes). If you don’t feel like doing this, you can float in one of the floaties around the boat or just sunbathe on the deck.
Stari Grad (3)
Today the Sail Croatia explorer cruise docks in the port of Stari Grad. Stari Grad is located on Hvar island and is a less visited town than Hvar.
Immediately I fall in love with this little town, so friendly and pretty, and everywhere you look you see flowers. Also here you have time to walk around the numerous alleys, take pictures, shop in delis like Za Pod Zub Gourmet and walk into small art spaces. Do not forget to visit St Stephen’s Church and Tvrdalj, the former home/castle, of writer Petar Hektorovic, from the 16th century.
If you feel like going for a nice walk, you can hike to the Glavica hill, the highest point of Stari Grad, within 20 minutes. Here is a large cross with a chapel offering beautiful views over the Adriatic Sea and Stari Grad. Along the way you see butterflies, hear lots of crickets and in my case also a snake flashed by. So pay attention!
Wine tasting Hora Stari Grad (4)
Sail Croatia offers different tours every day, and today a wine tasting is on the program. The area around Stari Grad is known for its good wines. We visit Hora Stari Grad, a vineyard that was once built by the Greek colonists and is still in use. The area is even on the UNESCO World Heritage List, because of the ancient Greek farming system. The vineyard is a short 10-minute drive from Stari Grad and the peaceful environment makes you not want to leave anymore. There are fields of grapes, olives and lavender from which the most delicious olive oils, wines and aromatic oils are made.
During the wine tasting you are introduced to four different wines, two white wines, one rosé and one red. And these are accompanied by tasty snacks consisting of cheeses, olives, meat and fish, all from the nearby region. Between wines you have time to walk through the fields, visit a small museum or enjoy the views while listening to a concert of crickets.
In the evening you have the opportunity to enjoy a captains dinner on the Sail Croatia Explorer cruise, where the crew prepares a delicious BBQ for you.
Day 3 Stari Grad – Hvar town (5), most populair island at the Dalmatian coast of Croatia
Today we stop at the Pakleni Islands, a small archipelago off the island of Hvar, along the Dalmatian coast with crystal clear waters. From the Sail Croatia Almissa we swim to Carpe diem. During the day this is a chic beach club, where you come for a lunch or to relax on a beach bed. In the evening after 00.00H it turns into a happening after party place.
Hvar Stad (5)
After a three-course lunch on the Sail Croatia cruise, we depart by water cab for Hvar town. Hvar is one of the most popular islands on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and it shows immediately. There are gigantic yachts in the harbor and it is crowded with all kinds of tourists.
Hvar, then, is magnificent. The small winding streets that run up the mountain, the St Stephens Cathedral with the central Trg Sv Stjepana square, the Benedictine and Franciscan monasteries: Hvar exudes history on all sides.
One of the highlights is a visit to the large 16th century fortress, which is located high above the town. From here you have a great view of Hvar.
Hvar is full of bars and restaurants. In the small streets around the square you will find many options. An absolute must visit is the wine bar Teraca on the right at the top of the square up the stairs, and restaurant Passarola where you can enjoy the traditional fish stew Gregada. One of the hotspots along the promenade, for a sunset cocktail, is the popular Hula Hula beach bar
Curious to read more tips and things to do on the islands of Croatia? Have a look in the next article.
Dag 4 Hvar – Vis (7)
This morning we leave early, at 5.00 am. So any partygoers (which Hvar invites to because of its many bars, cafes and clubs) should be back on time.
Blue Grotto (6)
Today we sail to the Blue Grotto, on the island of Biševo. A visit to this special blue cave should not be missed during a visit to the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. However, you should prepare yourself a little bit for this. It is crazy busy. But our Sail Croatia crew knows exactly how to avoid the big crowds. We leave so early that we arrive at the cave around 7:30 am. This ensures us that we can buy a ticket at 8 am (at that time we are already number 90) and therefore only have to wait about 15 minutes.
In a small rubber boat (max 10 people) you sail to the entrance of the cave. Entrance is a big word because when you see the opening you cannot imagine that a boat would fit through it. Everyone bends forward in the boat and on the waves we bob along. Inside, of course, it is breathtakingly beautiful. The underground light fall that creates the special color blue is fascinating. Unfortunately, a visit is short. You sail around and before you know it the next boat is already sailing in. The cave is very small so it is certainly enough to get an impression but preferably you just want to spend half an hour here on your own.
After lunch and a swim stop in a lovely bay, it’s time to dock on the island Vis. You can choose to explore the town of Vis or take one of the Sail Croatia tours on the island. Vis used to be a Yugoslav military base and closed to visitors until 1989. On a tour, you’ll dive into the interesting history and visit a submarine base and several secret military installations.
The town of Vis has its own unique charm. It is less visited than the surrounding islands so you experience a relaxed atmosphere. The center consists of two parts, the 19th century Luka (the port) and the medieval Kut, separated by a promenade.
Facts & Figures: Did you know that the movie Mama Mia was shot in Vis? In the open Air Cinema, located on the boulevard you can watch the movie on a weekly base.
An absolute must, is a visit to Fort George, located on a mountain just outside the center. It is not an ideal hiking route because you walk on the road but the views along the way are stunning. Within about half an hour from the center you reach the fort. You can walk around, enjoy the views and have a drink in the fortress restaurant while gazing out over the sea! The best time to do this is of course during sunset.
Tip: Don’t forget to have an ice cream at Pa Ti Odoli, one of the best Ice Cream stores on the island with so many different flavors.
Day 5 Vis – Korcula (8)
From Vis to Korcula it is a 6 hour sail and therefore we have another early departure scheduled, at 6 am. Fortunately, when you are in your bed, you notice little or nothing of the early sailing.
Tip: Our Sail Croatia guide often organized a yoga session on the roof at 7:15 am. I personally did not participate in this because I enjoyed the evenings too much. But if you are an early bird, you should absolutely give it a try.
Again this day we stop in a beautiful bay for a swim. After lunch, it’s a few more hours of sailing before we anchor off the Dalmatian coast of the island of Korcula. We sail to the island by small boat and ride in a van to the medieval town.
In Korcula you just want to walk around the medieval streets and take in the atmosphere. The old town is conveniently laid out in the form of a fishbone. And this is for a reason. The streets in the West were built so that the inhabitants could enjoy a summer sea breeze and the streets in the East were protected from the cold winds in the winter period.
It is worth climbing the St Mark clock tower for a nice view. Also, don’t miss a visit to the cocktail bar Massimo, located on the old city wall. A great place with fine cocktails!
Since Korcula is also known for its wines, we decide to visit the beautiful village of Lumbarda, for a wine tasting at Vitis. While enjoying delicious wines and snacks, we enjoy a great view of the surroundings.
Day 6 Korcula – Mljet (9), National Park along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia
Something I had been looking forward to all week was Mljet. Mljet is an island with one of the most beautiful national parks of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia: Mljet NP. I love visiting historical cities but a beautiful natural area on the program makes me very happy.
The Sail Croatia cruise arrives in Pomena, on the island of Mljet Croatia. From here it is possible to rent a bike, one of the best ways to explore the park. Since I actually prefer hiking, I decide to rent a bike but go for a combination of walking and cycling. You can go for a nice walk around the Malo Jezero (the small lake). You just leave the bike at the starting point and pick it up later.
The Veliko Jezero (large lake) is best explored by bike. Along the way you can stop and hike to a viewpoint, take a dip in the azure water, rent a kayak or take a boat trip to the former monastery on St Mary’s Island. You’ll also pass a number of small villages where you can have a drink. It is an area where I could stay for days. A place to definitely come back to!
On the cruise, we enjoy a late lunch before making a swim stop and continue our journey to the small island of Sipan, part of the Elafati islands. In the small town, with only a few hundred inhabitants, it seems as if time has stood still. And that is what makes it so unique. You will find a small church with surrounding olive, fig and citrus plantations and along the boulevard there are some nice restaurants.
Tonight a big farewell dinner and party will take place on the Sail Croatia explorer cruise. Tomorrow we arrive in Dubrovnik and the last evening everyone usually goes their own way.
Day 7 Mljet – Dubrovnik (11)
It is already the last day. After breakfast we stop for our last swim stop and lunch at Lopud along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, near Dubrovnik. Our final destination for this week.
Around 2 pm we arrive at the port of Gruz, a fifteen minute drive from the old town. Immediately we notice that Dubrovnik is a busy tourist destination. And that takes some getting used to after all the idyllic spots of the past week. Nevertheless, Dubrovnik is a cool city to discover. You can walk over the 1940meter long city walls, take a cable car to the top of the mountain for fantastic views and stroll for hours through the center looking for small quiet streets and nice bars.
Did you know? Dubrovnik was the setting for the popular HBO series Game of Thrones?Sail Croatia offers some fun tours where you visit the coolest movie locations. A great thing to do if you are a connoisseur and enthusiast!
And then the last night on the Sail Croatia Explorer cruise approaches. The next day is early check-out time. I could have continued this life for days more and I can tell that my fellow travelers are thinking the same. How we are going to miss this! Now it’s time to digest all the amazing impressions of the last week.
I had never been on a cruise but discovering the islands of the Dalmatian Coast with a Sail Croatia cruise was one of the best choices I could have made. The Sail Croatia explorer cruise is a small boutique ship cruising alond the beautiful islands. You spend the mornings and early afternoon on the boat enjoying views, eating and drinking and swimming in bays. And at the end of the afternoon you have the time to discover the islands and towns of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia! I can’t recommend it more!
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Everything you want to know about a Sail Croatia Explorer cruise
Do you want to read more about cruising in Croatia. In the next article you’ll read everything you want to know about a Sail Croatia cruise, including tips about traveling time and what to bring. Interesting in learning more about the different islands and things to do along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia? Check out the next article. Would you like more information about cruising along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia? Then make sure to have a look at the Sail Croatia website.