“It will be the greatest trip of your life”.
“Oh my God! You guys are starting with the best trip”
“After you do this, how is any other trip going to even come close?”
With comments like these from friends that had already been sailing across Croatia trip, needless to say, Vruchi and I had pretty high expectations. This was one of the very first trips we booked when we decided to move to London.
Croatia has an official Yacht Week sail group which can be found here. However, going through the itinerary, we thought it involved way too many parties (something we knew we wouldn’t be too keen on doing every night). We opted for a slightly mellower Sail Croatia/Med Experience yacht week - highly recommended by our friends, so it was a no brainer for us. It follows the same route of islands as the official Yacht Week but provides some amazing non-party related items to explore to mix up your 8 days on the water. (Plus, Sail Croatia is owned and operated as a local Croatian company instead of Yacht Week’s American operators, so your Skipper for the week is a local Croatian)
We were all so excited when we landed in Split. This was it! This is what we had been waiting for. In my head, I had pictured a Richard Branson/Jordan Belfort-like yacht. This was going to be a week of luxury. When finally we get to ACI Marina at Split, in search of our Yacht, I spot some Sail Croatia flags and see some skippers waiting there. He points to a ship that's in total about the size of a single living room, except this has fit 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen!!
Ok, very funny! Where is our actual yacht? No .. that's it. Oh and by the way, with the two bathrooms, you can’t flush any paper so it has to go in a plastic bag and you have to pump water in order to flush. Welcome aboard your new home for the next 8 days!
So granted, inside the yacht was hardly the life of luxury for 8 days. However, thats the beautiful thing about travel. You get pushed out of your comfort zone, you learn things about yourself, and those that you travel with, and you experience new cultures, countrysides and cuisines. That was exactly what we got in our week of sailing in Croatia.
We spent our days sailing through the seas, sitting on the top of the yacht taking in the amazing landscape around us whilst the sun was beating down. Each day we would stop at a random point in the middle of the sea to swim in the most beautiful blue waters. By the afternoon, we would dock at a different town and get to explore the sights and sounds of the different islands of Croatia.
Sailing across the Adriatic Sea and exploring these small town islands was truly a beautiful and different way to see Croatia!
Our first night was spent in the island Brac. We had stopped in a tiny little town of only 80 people on a secluded little bay. After a brief swim stop, we got ready and went for dinner in the only restaurant in that town! The signature dish was grilled sea bass with lemon and a side of vegetables. Truly delicious, however it did seem like the restaurant was not ready for four boat loads of travellers, total 36 people including the skippers, all arriving for dinner at the same time. The poor staff probably did not know what to do when 30-odd people all ordered the fish!
The next day, we woke up with the Mediterranean sun and set sail again whilst enjoying some breakfast bought to us by our Skipper.
We chilled on the sun-deck, sailing through the bright blue waters of the Adriatic Sea soaking in the much missed Vitamin D! ;)
Our next stop was the island of Makarska. From the minute we docked at the port, there was a definite party vibe. As we were walking towards the beach in the mid afternoon, we thought we would bring the party with us and started blasting some music through our UE Boom. Such was the party atmosphere of Makarska, that before we knew it, we were in the street, dancing with some Slovakian tourists. The main party of Makarska is a pirate/sailor party that starts around midnight. We costumed up, made our way to the party and were amazed to find that this was set up inside a cave! A fantastic location and a truly fun night of partying.
The next day, we were off to Jelsa. We docked at a small port in Vrboska. In stark contrast to Makarska, this town had an wonderfully romantic charm to it. From the small canals to the little alley ways to the local street bowling matches to the sounds of the church bells ringing atop the hill, it was the sort of town that you would love to get lost in. The highlight of the town, and quite possibly of the entire trip was the afternoon we spent in Stari Grad - Hora farm. The farm is a UNESCO protected world heritage and, the minute you arrive there, you can truly understand why. Pictures do not do it justice.
We had booked a lunch and wine tasting package for the afternoon, and what is special about Stari Grad, is that everything on their menu is grown locally. If they don’t grow it, they don’t sell it. 100% pure organic. We tried a signature Croatian dish called Peka, a baked dish with meat and vegetables cooked for 4 hours in a large clay pot. An absolutely delicious meal. Come prepared with a massive appetite because the servings are huge! We also got to taste an amazing selection of local wines and olive oils. After lunch, we were taken on a tour of the farm itself and got to play with the dogs, chickens, donkeys and other farm animals in Stari Grad. It was a truly magical afternoon and a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Makarska. Not to mention, our tiny apartment in London.
The following morning, we set sail again .. this time to Hvar Palmizana.
From Hvar Palmizana, you can catch a water taxi to Hvar town where the main restaurants, bars and parties are. A return trip costs 25 kunas (£3). Due to adverse weather conditions, we spent two nights in Palmizana instead of one. As a result, we decided to explore Palmizana the first night and Hvar Town on the second.
As far as Palmizana is concerned, there is not really a whole lot to do. There’s a small little bay on the other side of the island, where you can swim. There are a few restaurants and cafes, but thats about it. Our experience with the locals was hit and miss. We had some extremely rude service at some places, but there was one restaurant called Restaurant Marina where the service was fantastic. The staff went over and above everything that you would expect of great service. For those who don't know, Vruchi likes chillies with everything and she had asked for fresh chillies with her pasta. Instead of just giving normal chillies, the chef whipped up this absolutely yummy cream chilli paste! We carried the left overs with us and had it for breakfast each morning with our eggs! Vruchi even wanted to carry it back to London - so delicious!
Another beautiful restaurant / lounge was Laganini. Highly recommend checking this out. Barefoot luxury - is the atmosphere here, where yo can sip cocktails and wind down in crisp white pergolas overlooking the setting sun.
Vruchi's sister Krish had flown in from Sydney and was traveling with us on this trip. They got to spend some quality sister time on this island!
On the second night, we decided to make the short (~15 min) journey via water taxi to Hvar Town. The town was definitely buzzing with tourists.
After exploring the streets of Hvar Town, we made our way to Hula Hula bar, just in time for the sunset. Hula Hula, is one of the two main clubs in Hvar (the other being Carpe Diem, which we did not go to), where hundreds of yacht week party goers enjoy some cocktails, music and dancing whilst they watch the sunset over beautiful Hvar. A special mention must go the live saxophone player, at Hula Hula, playing along with the music for over 3 hours non-stop! Incredible!!! We had a great time dancing for a bit, dipping in to the crystal clear waters, and then relaxing - sitting by the rocks watching the beautiful sunset.
The next day we set sail to our final island - called Sesula.
Being our last night before heading back to Split, we wanted to just relax and reflect on the week that was, whilst enjoying some local food and wine. We explored the island a little bit, which is quite easy to do on foot as you can literally walk over a hill to get from one side to the other.
As good as the local culture, the food and scenery were, we were all enamoured with the amazing, unobstructed view of the stars. After a relaxing dinner, we decided to sit on top our boat and enjoy the serenity of Sesula whilst gazing at the stars. Words can not begin to describe how amazing the view was.
The following day, we set sail back to Split where we spent the final night of our week in Croatia. There are a number of activities that one can take part in in Split, such as canyoning and kayaking, however due to the bushfires that were taking place in Croatia at the time, we were advised against it. Being our last night before heading back home, we wanted to explore the town of Split a bit more. We ventured out in search of a rooftop bar/cafe overlooking the town. In typical faux-hipster fashion, we found a quaint little rooftop bar called Libar, in a little alleyway in Split. The walls and stairs of the cafe are decorated with book pages. We asked the manager what the significance was, only to find out that Libar in Croatian means The Book. This cafe was home to the first book every published in Croatian. The author of that book was actually buried in the church across the street from the cafe.
What a week it was! From sailing through the beautiful islands, to amazing sunny weather, to spending a few hours every day swimming in middle of the seas, this was a trip that we will never forget. Some of the highlights of the trip included:
A special mention must also go to our skipper Andrija. Despite only being 21, Andrija’s professionalism, maturity and experience was well above his years and made the entire week a breeze for us. We would wake up every morning to find Andrija had cleaned the yacht and bought breakfast for us.
In summary, if you are looking for a cost-effective way to explore Croatia and it’s islands, then we would definitely not recommend this. In fact, we would probably recommend booking an AirBnb in Split for a week and, each day, sailing to a different islands as a day trip (which would cost approximately 100 euros per day. Just to give you all an idea, approx cost for the 7 nights on a yacht is 700 euros per person + food costs). However, if you are looking to experience a week of travel that will be different to any other trip you have been on, be thrown out of your comfort zone and see parts of the world that you would normally never get to see, then we would definitely recommend booking a week of sailing in Croatia. :)
Let us know if you have been sailing before and what were your thoughts?
S & V