More than 1,200 islands dot the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia, easily making it one of the most delightful sailing locations in all Europe. Croatia’s intricate coastline and its offshore islands were created by a dramatic rise in the sea level 13,000 years ago. Shear cliffs and dramatic reefs, protected inlets and anchorages abound. But people do not. Out of all those islands, only about 50 are inhabited.
Known as the Republic of Croatia today, the history of this southeastern European nation reaches back into antiquity. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I when Croats, Serbs and Slovenes formed a kingdom known as Yugoslavia. After World War II, a communist country was established. Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, an event that led to a four-year war of independence. In April 2009, however, the country joined NATO, and is currently a candidate to join the European Union.
There are three prime sailing regions in Croatia: Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia. Our base is centrally located along the Adriatic in the city of Sibenik, which lies at 43 degrees 43 minutes north latitude and 15 degrees 54 minutes east longitude. Established in the 10th century close to a deep bay, Sibenik was the capital of Croatia for a short time. The historical center of the ancient city, with its narrow streets and the fortress of Saint Anne above it, is one of the city’s key attractions. Another is the St. Jacques cathedral built between 1431 and 1535 by Italian and Dalmatian craftsmen. Because of its unique style and architectural harmony, the cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Patrimony.
Istria is Croatia’s largest peninsula. The Adriatic’s deep azure contrasts with lush green landscape and white stone one sees on land. This is a multicultural region with hospitable towns, clean ports and lively fishing communities. Narrow stone streets conjure Mediterranean charm, while medieval towns nestled on hilltops remind us of Tuscany or Provence.
The coastal landscape of Kvarner with its gentle Mediterranean climate rises almost immediately to meet the inland mountains and forests of Gorski Kotar and its much harsher environment. Because it offers travelers the sea on one side and mountains on the other, Kvarner has been a popular tourist resort for more than 150 years. Opatija, for example, is a trendy place with lush parks, elegant villas and a seaside promenade more than seven miles long.
Zadar in the northern part of Dalmatia is a region of historical importance, richness, and beautiful natural landscapes. Here, as in Istria, vivid colors are what visitors first note. The iridescent blue sea contrasts with the deep green of pine trees and olive groves that stretch to the shoreline. The brilliant white Dalmatian stone, which forms beaches in slabs or tiny pebbles, is itself a tourist attraction. Zadar is 3,000 years old; it is particularly known for its Romanesque churches, and claims the smallest cathedral in the world. The Church of the Holy Cross is said to measure only 36 paces across.
Farther down the cost, Split is known for its olives and aromatic plants. The city is historically important as well; Roman Emperor Diocletian built a home there because the islands of the Split archipelago are protected by the sea on one side and by high mountains on the landward side.
Dubrovnik, in Dalmatia’s southernmost region, is an ancient walled city sometimes called the “pearl of the Adriatic.” Historically, the city’s economy has been based on maritime trade, but tourism has played an important role in its success as well. It was discovered by celebrities in the 19th century and was long considered a place to be seen. English writer George Bernard Shaw once said, “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and find it.” The city’s climate is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Visitors can find groves of lemon, orange and tangerine trees beside palms and agaves. In addition, they can stroll through renaissance parks, flower gardens and medieval stone palaces.
Although Croatia and the Adriatic may not be well known by North American sailors, the country offers true sailing adventures, and Dream Yacht Charter can make those sailing dreams become reality.