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A Mediterranean cruise is a wonderful way to discover many of Europe’s best known destinations. The long yacht charter season, warm weather and mostly friendly winds make the Mediterranean Sea one of the world’s best sailing grounds, with stunning scenery, enormous cultural and geographic diversity, and calm sailing conditions perfect for beginners and experienced sailors alike. From the Straits of Gibraltar in the west to the flourishing city of Antalya in the east, Mediterranean islands and shores lure travellers from every corner of the world to experience unforgettable European cruises in some of the region’s most authentic, unworldly and most glamorous places.
Mediterranean cruises offer a unique opportunity to both explore the region’s history and have a memorable summer seaside holiday. Many destinations combine the best of both worlds and, regardless of country, it is hard to go wrong when deciding on a sailing route. Most itineraries abound in historic sites, fabulous beaches, welcoming ports of call, and ways to experience the diverse local cultures and traditions and try the outstanding cuisine and wines.
The Mediterranean climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Limited tides (except for Gibraltar, the Straits of Messina, the Euripus Strait and the north of Evia island in Greece) and the absence of strong winds during the sailing season make yacht charters a popular way of getting around the Mediterranean and some of its top destinations.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule. The mistral or tramontana wind that occasionally blows in the area west of Toulon on the French coast, and occasional gusts of the bora in the Adriatic Sea are not uncommon, but they seldom last for more than a few days and are usually well forecast. The Greek meltemi, typical of the Aegean region in the summer, is best avoided as it sometimes exceeds forecast levels.
The best time to go on a Mediterranean cruise is between the months of April and October. April is too early for most destinations as the weather can still be chilly and the main attractions may still be closed, but places like the Saronic Islands in Greece and Göcek and Fehtiye in Turkey are usually open. In May, Greece and Turkey – especially the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands, and the cities of Bodrum and Marmaris – are quite warm and mostly open for business. Croatia, Italy and Spain have good weather from late spring to early autumn and also make good cruising destinations in May. June is the best month to set sail to any destination in the Mediterranean as the weather is lovely and it is easier to find a berth than during high season.
The peak season in July and August brings hot weather, more options for summer sports and adventure, and a variety of events, but weather extremes are perhaps best avoided in the Cyclades Islands, which get very windy, and along the Turkish coast, which gets incredibly hot this time of year. Croatia, Italy and Spain have the best weather during the high season and stay warm throughout September.
The Cyclades are still windy in September, but most other sailing areas in Greece offer easy sailing and good weather for most of the month. Turkey and Greece stay warm and dry throughout October, with winds in the Cyclades dying down, but other Mediterranean destinations, including Croatia and Italy, tend to get colder in mid- to late autumn. Croatia has stronger winds and more rain in October, and stormy weather becomes more frequent in Italy.
Going from west to east, the majestic cities of Valencia, Barcelona, Marseille, Monaco, Genoa, Naples, Venice, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, Athens, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Izmir, Bodrum and Antalya are starting points for cruising itineraries that take travellers to some of Europe’s most fascinating destinations.
The Mediterranean coastline extends for 46,000 km across 22 countries and three continents. It is divided into two major sailing regions, the West Mediterranean and East Mediterranean. The West Mediterranean offer a combination of small idyllic ports, long stunning beaches and large cosmopolitan resorts in Italy, Spain and France, with best known destinations including Naples, Capri, Sicily, Sardinia, Ibiza, Formentera, Corsica, Cannes and Saint-Tropez.
The East Mediterranean is famous for its arresting natural landscapes and historic sites scattered around the islands and coasts of Croatia, Greece and Turkey, with the most visited destinations including the Greek islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes, the historic cities of Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, and the cities of Bodrum, Marmaris and Antalya on the Turkish coast.
The most popular areas for bareboating are the Ionian islands – Corfu, Lefkas, Ithaca, Paxos, Zakynthos, Cephalonia and Kythira – in the north of Greece, the Saronic Gulf in the south, the Dalmatian coastline between the city of Pula and the island of Korčula, Turkey’s Gulf of Fethiye and the waters off the Datça Peninsula, the island of Mallorca, northeast Sardinia with the offshore islands, northern Sicily, and the waters of the French Riviera when the mistral is not blowing. These areas are favoured by beginners because they offer a very easy sailing ground, one that is perfect for the first experience of sailing.
The top sailing destinations in the Mediterranean are the Greek islands, the Balearic Islands, the French Riviera, the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, the Italian Riviera, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, and Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.
Greece has countless anchorages, ports and full-service marinas that make excellent bases for exploring the surrounding areas. The Greek islands offer the sailing adventure of a lifetime, combining spectacular natural beauty and Mediterranean traditions with remarkable remnants of ancient Greece. The most popular sailing itineraries include several groups of islands – the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands, the Saronic Islands, the Dodecanese Islands and the Sporades – each with their own distinctive charm and character.
The Italian Riviera offers its own mix of fashionable resorts, rugged landscapes and serene towns and villages where visitors can explore the country’s history, medieval streets, brightly coloured houses, chic cafes and traditional restaurants serving exquisite Italian dishes. Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are the main sailing areas in the country.
Sicily offers an astounding number of historic sights, from Baroque towns, Phoenician ruins and Roman mosaics to remains of ancient Greek cities and temples. The island also attracts visitors with its world-famous beaches and quiet villages, while the nearby Aeolian Islands offer spectacular sights of volcanic landscapes. Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda is known for its emerald waters, lush landscape and white sand beaches.
The Amalfi Coast, Naples and the islands of Capri and Ischia are among the country’s most fascinating places, combining scenic beauty, distinctive architecture and beautiful quiet beaches along the picturesque coastline.
The Dalmatian islands along Croatia’s Adriatic coast are an excellent destination for an island hopping holiday. With more than 1,200 mostly unpopulated islands, Croatia offers a unique combination of quiet, undiscovered picturesque villages and large tourist hotspots with a vibrant party scene. The UNESCO-protected cities of Zadar, Trogir, Split and Dubrovnik, the Kornati archipelago and the lush islands of Korčula and Mljet are included in most sailing itineraries. The islands of Vis, Brač and Hvar have some of Croatia’s best beaches and make great destinations for a summer holiday, while the national parks on Brijuni, Mljet and Kornati islands offer some of the country’s most impressive natural sights. Those looking to experience Croatia’s high-energy nightlife in the summer usually head to the islands of Hvar, Pag and Brač and the cities of Split, Pula, Rijeka and Zadar.
Travellers visiting Dubrovnik often finish their memorable journey in the Bay of Kotor, Europe’s southernmost fjord. Increasingly popular as a yachting destination, Montenegro offers breathtaking views of the bay’s lush vegetation and scenic landscape.
With main harbours at Izmir, Bodrum, Marmaris, Göcek, Fethiye and Antalya, Turkey’s Turquoise Coast offers an exceptionally diverse sailing experience, with countless ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins, stunning beaches inaccessible by road, traditional fishing villages and vibrant coastal cities. The Blue Lagoon in Ölüdeniz is one of the best Mediterranean beaches, perfect for swimming, water sports and paragliding, while the cities of Marmaris and Bodrum offer countless options for shopping, dining and other tourist activities.
The Balearic Islands are one of the most popular charter destinations off the Mediterranean coast. The four main islands of Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca offer some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, as well as a wealth of culture and an incredible range of entertainment options.
The Côte d'Azur is one of the Europe’s best known yachting hubs, visited by some of the world’s largest superyachts on a regular basis. The glamour of the French Riviera between the towns of Marseilles, Toulon, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice and Cannes makes it the perfect place for a luxury yacht charter in the Mediterranean. The smaller towns such as Beaulieu, Saint-Tropez, Cassis and Hyères make idyllic stops for anyone looking to sample the region’s finest seafood dishes and wines. Only a short trip from Saint-Tropez, the islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Levant make a beautiful sailing area and are known for their dazzling nightlife.
Corsica, the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean, offers a variety of options for hiking as well as for diving and snorkeling on one of the island’s unspoiled beaches. The rustic French island is a popular destination for a luxury cruise, drawing visitors to its many stylish cafes, restaurants and boutique shops in the narrow winding streets of its historic towns.
Malta, consisting of the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, gets 300 days of sunshine a year and has a sailing season that lasts until December. The tiny country offers an impressive blend of natural wonders, historic sites and excellent tourist infrastructure. The UNESCO-protected Baroque City of Valletta, Megalithic Temples of Malta, and the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, a Neolithic burial site, are must-sees.
Cyprus has a number of remarkable sites of its own but, due to the political split between the north and the south, the cruising options are limited. The ancient Roman ruins at Salamis and stunning Byzantine and Venetian castles at Kyrenia and Hilarion are situated in the Turkish north, while the south is home to the World Heritage Sites of Choirokoitia, a well-preserved Neolithic settlement, a complex of richly decorated Byzantine churches and monasteries in the Troödos Region, and the ancient city of Paphos, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite.
North Africa and Levant are coasts of passage, providing access to the relics of Egypt and other early civilizations. However, they do not offer much in terms of cruising ground and port-to-port traffic is tightly controlled. The tourist-friendly Tunisia and Morocco are exceptions. Tunisia has the best yachting facilities in North Africa, with marinas at Sidi Bou Said, Hammamet, Port Kantaoui and Monastir.
The Mediterranean offers a little something for everyone, from the exclusive resorts on the French Riviera and the Amalfi Coast to the countless uninhabited coasts, fascinating natural wonders, sleepy fishing villages and quaint little towns that make this part of Europe every yachting enthusiast’s dream.
Sardinia is a premier destination for luxury yachting holidays. The amazing beaches of the island’s Costa Smeralda, posh bars and boutiques, luxury hotels and exclusive restaurants, have been drawing the world’s wealthiest travellers for the last 50 years.
The Mediterranean also offers a number of secluded destinations ideal for getting away from the bustle of big tourist resorts. The peaceful, unspoiled coves of the island of Vis and the Kornati archipelago are places of outstanding raw beauty, frequently included in island hopping itineraries in Croatia. The ancient port of Trogir and historic core of Korčula are wonderful places for those who prefer peace and quiet. For more upscale travellers, the small, privately owned island of Cavallo near Corsica is known for its understated luxury, discrete landscape, covered with maquis and sprinkled with granite boulders, and many luxury villas offering extreme privacy.
Nature lovers can enjoy the serenity of the Greek island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea, and go on turtle-spotting trips to the Bay of Laganas, the largest nesting ground for the Caretta Caretta loggerhead sea turtle in the Mediterranean. The Cycladic island of Santorini is Greece’s top destination for a romantic getaway, captivating visitors with its steep sloping volcanic landscapes and vivid nightlife. The Aeolian Islands Stromboli and Vulcano north of Sicily are just as impressive, being home to active volcanoes that are responsible for their distinctive shape. The island of Crete is one of the best places to go hiking. With long shepherds’ trails leading to the island’s lovely beaches, striking gorges and mountains, Crete is a favourite among travellers looking to explore dramatic unspoiled landscapes.
Travellers looking for the best beaches for a summer vacation can find them on the islands of Formentera and Naxos. Situated just south of Ibiza in the Balearic archipelago, Formentera is often compared to the Caribbean, with astonishing white sand beaches and transparent waters. Migjorn beach, which curves along the island’s south coast extends for 8 km and has many beach bars and restaurants as well as peaceful spots where visitors can simply rest and relax. The island of Naxos in the Cyclades archipelago has some of the most extraordinary beaches in Greece, with long stretches of soft white and golden sand and lovely views of the neighbouring islands.
For a vibrant nightlife, Ibiza and Mykonos are hard to beat. With numerous clubs scattered across the islands and world-class DJs drawing huge crowds in the peak season, the islands are the most popular destinations for the younger crowd looking to spend their holidays partying.
Mallorca and Corfu are among the best destinations for a family holiday. With long, child-friendly beaches and a diverse range of activities for all ages, Mallorca draws countless visitors to its shores every summer. Corfu’s beautiful beaches, waterpark and many other attractions make the island an excellent choice for anyone travelling with children.
In addition to these, there are countless other destinations that provide a picturesque backdrop and make an exciting summer playground for an unforgettable sailing holiday. Mediterranean cruises offer an unparalleled blend of tradition, world-famous historic landmarks, glittering beaches and secluded bays for the perfect sailing adventure in the light Mediterranean breeze.
Lavrion Main Port
Marina di Portorosa