Cruising the continent: we reveal Europe’s hottest sailing destinations

written by Oliver Pelling October 16, 2014

When sailing in Europe, you have to slap yourself every once in a while to make sure you haven’t stumbled into a cliché. Lying on a warm deck, with the waves of the Mediterranean lapping against the hull and the cliff-top villages of Amalfi drifting past the starboard bow, it can all get a little surreal.

Maybe it’s because yachting on the French Riviera or island hopping around Santorini sounds like something reserved for the glitterati, the sun-kissed celebs and A-Listers who ‘summer in Cannes’ and ‘winter in Aspen’. But that’s not the case. A European sailing voyage is easier (and cheaper) than you think. And you don’t need to know your spinnakers from your boom vangs (yep, those are real things) to enjoy it.

Sailing in Croatia

Secluded bays in the Croatian archipelago. Image Yacht Rent, Flickr

Secluded bays in the Croatian archipelago. Image Yacht Rent, Flickr

Sailing Croatia is hot right now. Seriously hot. After a few decades of cruising the blue waters of the Amalfi Coast and the Greek islands, the travel gods realised that there may in fact be a spot that eclipses them all: Croatia’s Istrian coast. Adriatic beaches are mostly sun-bleached limestone. Instead of worrying about sand getting everywhere, you can kick back on the warm rock, then dive straight into some of the bluest waters in the Med.

Island hotspots like Hvar, Korcula and Vis are celebrity favourites (just count the superyachts cruising past), but the mainland has an old world charm all of its own: the terracotta roofs of Dubrovnik, old sea caves and old pine forests on the Elafiti Islands and ancient Roman cities in the sea port of Split. If you’re looking for something a little different (and a little ridiculous), it’s time for a Croatia trip.

Sailing on the Amalfi Coast

amalfi coast (credit KimManleyOrt)

Image c/o KimManlyOrt, Flickr

There aren’t many better backdrops in the world than the Amalfi Coast, and certainly not for a grassroots sailing adventure on the blue waves of the Mediterranean. We start our nautical odyssey in picture-perfect Procida, the smallest island in the Bay of Naples.

We know it’s cruel to drag you away from the pastel-hued houses, hidden lemon groves and sunset coffees by the bay, but the voyage waits for no one. Board your single-hulled yacht and set sail for the volcanic outcrop of Ischia. Ischia gets only a fraction of Capri’s crowds, despite the quiet chestnut forests, rolling vineyards and picturesque small towns that give the more famous islands a serious run for their money. Wile away the afternoon in hot springs, wander through buried necropolises or sip cocktails in the trendy bars of Ischia Porto.

Of course a stop in Capri, Italy’s bougainvillea capital, is essential while you’re on the Amalfi Coast, and we also love cliff-top Sorrento for its views and understated charm. But that’s the beauty of the Amalfi Coast: there’s always another quaint village or hidden cove somewhere. Check out our popular Amalfi Coast Sailing Adventure to see what we mean.

Sailing in the Cote d’Azur

Cote d'azur (credit Synn Wang)

Image c/o Synn Wang

The French Riviera, or Cote d’Azur if you want to get fancy about it, is the new frontier of Intrepid’s sailing voyages. It’s one of those celebrity-studded, sundrenched stretches of coast that has built its own glamour and mythology over the years. It’s synonymous with movie A-Listers in Cannes, Bridget Bardot on the sands of St Tropez and Marseille’s fresh Provencal produce. But there’s more to the south of France than just paparazzi and bling.

How about the Iles d’Hyeres Archipelago? Heard of it? Legends say the gods turned a bunch of swimming princesses into this small group of islands, and there’s definitely a hint of magic about the region. You’ll feel it too when you sail in on your yacht and see the glittering mica-rich rock from which the archipelago gets its other name: Îles d’Or (Islands of Gold). You won’t find any celebs here, just quiet forest tracks, hidden coves and come of the clearest snorkelling waters in the Med. Like the cut of our jib? Check out our brand new Cote d’Azur Sailing Adventure for more info.

Sailing in the Greek Islands

greek islands (credit Visit Greece)

Image c/o Visit Greece, Flickr

We’re no legal experts, but we’re pretty sure the Greek Islands own the rights to the marmalade sunset. And kicking back on deck with some ouzo or a handful of Grecian olives and watching the sun dip below the waves is certainly a sight to see. But there’s more to this famous archipelago than just colour. Head to Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades, for steep cobbled lanes, endless olive groves and some seriously good local wine. Or (and this is the nice thing about having your own yacht), head out of port and search for your own deserted strip of sand. Trust us, it won’t take you long to find.

For a touch of drama, we’ve added a stop at Amorgos on the southern arc of the Cyclades: a vertiginous island of high mountain ridges and crazy cliff-top monasteries. It’s also a great place for culture vultures, with ancient Greek ruins scattered through the valleys and mountain passes. And no matter where you sail in the Greek Islands, you’ll find surprises. See those iconic sunsets with new eyes on our Santorini to Mykonos sailing adventure.

Ready to head off into the wide blue yonder? Check out Intrepid’s sailing trips here.

Feature image c/o Synn Wang


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