Sailing along the Croatian coast exploring her islands

It is difficult to even begin to imagine that only a quarter of a century ago the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995) was being fought. I had never visited the former Yugoslavia and my only imageries of that part of the world had been served from daily news bulletins of crumbling edifices; faces of brutal army commanders; and bombardments of historical sites. We had however, in 2008 had a glimpse of the former Yugoslavia by undertaking a walking holiday in beautiful Slovenia, Croatia’s neighbour, which too had endured a war of independence from Yugoslavia; albeit ten days in length ending on 6th July, 1991 with no visual signs of scarring given the low intensity of their war. So when the opportunity came five years ago to visit friends in Croatia, we went with an open mind! What would we encounter? Suffice to say we have since returned several times to the beautiful land that is Croatia!

Given its geography, one way to explore the country is sailing along its glorious long coastline and taking in its many beautiful islands. This we undertook on our most recent trip. It is a dream destination for an activity based holiday and the islands offer up so many activities to choose from. Croatia is not currently a ‘top gourmet’ destination with often an awkward mix of staple Italian dishes and hearty country comfort food on offer. However, with its abundance of fresh fish and seasonal fruit and vegetables, you can choose ‘Mediterranean style’ simple cuisines and you will find them to be delicious.

Our chosen sailing journey was bookended by Split and Dubrovnik. Sandwiched in between were the islands of Trogir, Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Mijet and the lovely lively costal town dwarfed by the mighty Biokovo Mountain; namely Makarska.

We immersed ourselves in the history of both Split and Dubrovnik. The former was founded as a Greek colony with a very colourful journey to its present day status as Croatia’s second city. No visit to the stunning city of Dubrovnik is complete without walking atop the walled city to enjoy the views both within and outside this historic UNESCO world heritage site.

The islands showcase beautiful ancient villages, winding streets, pretty harbours and small towns with stunning scenery from every vista. One of our favourite activities was the ability to swim in deserted sandy coves off the islands. We anchored every morning and swam in the refreshing sparking crystal clear chilled sea! On Mijet we hired bicycles and enjoyed the flat terrain around the wonderful lakes. Hvar offered hilly walking terrain. We grabbed some buggies on Korcula and did a spot of Kayaking. Some islands were famous for their vineyards, monasteries, others fields of lavender and ceramic making.

As like the major towns and cities of Croatia, each island has its own history to tell and Korcula claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo much to the annoyance of the Venetians!

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain

Sailing is a wonderful way to visit this part of the world. We witnessed every kind of vessel on the waters, all looking so serene as they glided past. We had so much fun messing about – in and out of the the water, enjoying the array of activities in the fresh air, being active and at the same time reaping health benefits in an effortless, fun and enjoyable way. The social connections we made with people from around the globe; a time for reflexion; and a sense of a by-gone age connecting with nature as we sailed ensures that we will keep returning to wonderful Croatia!