With the sheer variety of boating holidays available in Europe these days, you are spoilt for choice. Charter a bareboat yacht, rent a fully-crewed motorboat, escape on a Turkish gullet, elope on a skippered sailboat or sail alongside an experienced crew. Here are 2019’s ultimate sailing destinations in Europe.
Island-hopping in Croatia
Found at the top of most best-sailing-destination lists, sailing holidays in Croatia are ideal. The mild climate, fresh air, clear sapphire waters, developed infrastructure and its thousands of islands make it so. Sailing offers a myriad of options for peaceful, active or explorative vacations on a variety of sailing boats, such as catamarans, motorboats, and gullets.
Whether you choose a charter in the North Adriatic, South Adriatic or the Dalmatian coast, peaceful hidden coves, sandy beaches, and unspoiled nature in all its beauty are waiting to be enjoyed. The calm and casual nature of the places along with its breathtaking scenery leave the impression that time has stopped. Croatia offers glorious national parks, ancient walled towns and numerous cultural and gastronomic events, which abound in the summer months. Active types will find plenty to keep busy with regattas, rafting, big game fishing, cycling, scuba diving and hiking to name just a few.
The main charter bases in southern Croatia are Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Makarska, Kastela, and Sibenik. In the North charter bases include Porec, Opatija, Rovinj, and Krk.
Your own Greek Odyssey
Sailing in Greece is one of the most pleasurable ways to discover its myriad of islands, quaint fishing villages, lonely bays, and remote islands. Whether it’s the busy, bigger, more cosmopolitan islands; or the quieter, off-the-beaten-track destinations of the lesser-known Greece that strike a chord with you; sailing around these sun-kissed Greek Islands is a sailor’s dream.
Over 3000 islands await you with relatively small distances between them, making sailing navigation straightforward and one can island-hop by sailboat from one side of the Aegean to the other. Perhaps explore all seven islands on the Ionian side by motorboat or learn to sail in Lefkada.
Mostly excellent sailing conditions and hot, bright summer days offer an ideal climate for chartering a yacht. Popular Greek charter bases are in Athens, Rhodes, Corfu, Lefkada, Mykonos, and Skiathos.
Gullet sailing in Turkey
If old school beauty, elegance and nostalgia capture your imagination - try a Turkish gullet. These traditional wooden boats with two or three masts are originally from the southwestern coast of Turkey. Today, this type of vessel, varying in size from 14 to 35 metres, is a popular choice for fully-crewed chartering holidays. They evoke the feeling of sailing in another era.
Gullets usually have 6 to 8 cabins and can accommodate 12 to 16. They are made with maximum comfort in mind and offer full customer service, much like a hotel. Menus can be planned according to clients’ wishes, and there is a fully stocked bar on board.
Motor sailers are characterized by spacious decks with plenty of room for sunbathing, comfortable cabins with en-suite bathrooms and large areas for lounging and dining. These types of boats can moor far from the hotspots or close to towns and nightlife as preferred.
The main charter bases for gullets in Turkey are Bodrum and Marmaris. Turkish gullet rentals can also be found in Croatia and Greece.
Cruising along Italy’s Amalfi Coast
For style and glamour, you can’t beat Italy. Add to that the wine, food and the incredible coastline and you have the makings of a memorable sailing trip. Close to Naples, the birthplace of the pizza, stretches the Amalfi Coast boasting picturesque seaside towns and lovely beaches with plenty of anchorages. Both experienced sailors and beginners will enjoy this section of the coast which has an excellent nightlife, bustling towns, and the prettiest, pastel villages. It’s a charming spot for a one-week sailing charter, or the perfect place for a luxury yacht charter. Make sure you stop Positano for the delectable lunches. A little further out is seriously beautiful Capri, the island synonymous with high-fashion, glitz, and spectacular natural beauty.
For old-school enchantment drift down to the French Riviera, or Cote d’Azur, in style. This iconic stretch of coast with its seductive landscapes that drew great masters like Rénoir, Chagall, Cézanne and Picasso, will draw you in too with its bright sunshine, crystalline waters and glamourous cities like Saint Raphael, Saint Tropez Cannes and Nice. Take a leisurely sail along the coast and explore the national parks, or set sail for the charming Hyeres Islands, where time seems to have stood still.
Right in the heart of the Mediterranean, the French Riveira is the most popular place to rent a boat in France.
Sicily's dramatic landscape is impressive. Rent a boat from Palermo and sail into the sparkling Golfo di Castellammare. The sea with its dramatic backdrop of volcanic mountain is a breathtaking place to sail a boat. Sicily and its many offshore islands offer enough activities for an exciting sailing holiday.
The area between the northern coast of Sicily, Calabria and the Aeolian Islands are recommended for sailing charters, with the main charter bases being in Palermo, Cefalu, Santa Agata, Milazzo and Porto Rosa. The Aeolian Islands (Lipari Islands) lying Northwest off the coast of Sicily are a must. Their volcanic origin has produced incredible topography and rock formations, as well as black sand beaches and still-active volcanoes. For unforgettable cruising – try Sicily!
Spain's Mediterranean coastline extends over 1,700 km and offers excellent sailing opportunities. Each of the coastal regions has its own unique character. Picturesque bays, headlands and beaches are found all along the coast and the Balearic Islands are recommended for a stopover.
In Spain, the infrastructure for sailing is excellent and there are many charter bases and comfortable marinas along the Spanish Mediterranean coastline. Spanish cuisine and plenty of historic sites add to the experience ensuring a sailing holiday to remember.
With European sailing destinations like these, you can’t go wrong. Pick your favourite and make 2019 the year for sailing adventures.
By Merryn Wainwright