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Yacht Charter Guide to Northern Croatia

Croatia has been the darling of the superyacht set for some time now, but its yachting fame tends to centre in the Dalmatian Islands, where Hvar, Mljet, Korcula, Vis and Brac create a little cruising paradise just off the coast of Dubrovnik and Split.

Sailing yacht in Pula, Croatia

Yet just to the north of Split lies another superyacht cruising ground—just as magnificent, but in stunningly different ways. As you drift northwards through the Kornati Islands to Pag and Krk and finally Pula, you’ll encounter towering sea cliffs and spectacular lunar landscapes, blue-green coves and cascading emerald waterfalls. Blessed with a unique cuisine and a rich living history, a Northern Croatia yacht charter offers a lesser-known experience of staggering beauty.

Sunset in Krk, Croatia

Many Northern Croatia yacht charters begin in the historic city of Zadar, although you could very easily begin your charter in Split, which we covered in detail in our Dalmatia Croatia Yachting Series and which you can check out here.

Wherever you begin, on a Northern Croatia yacht charter, you are in for a visual and gastronomic feast.

Kornati Islands 

Where the islands of the Dalmatian archipelago to the south are heavily forested, the Kornati islands are strikingly barren, a natural masterpiece of karst rock formations and towering cliffs edging cool turquoise seas.

Stunning scenery in the Kornati Islands

Farmers tend their olive groves and vineyards on stony ground, and the marquis shrub releases its heady scent of wild sage and oregano under the Mediterranean sun. Ancient ruins- Roman, Illyrian, medieval—scatter the landscape, and peregrine falcons soar above sea cliffs that rise over 100m into the sky. The rocky island coasts are riddled with caves and bird colonies, while divers and snorkelers discover a world of bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead turtles and waving meadows of Poseidon seagrass.

Landscape in the Kornati Islands, Croatia

There are 147 islands and islets in the Kornati archipelago, all clustered in a tiny group that is sheltered from the Adriatic Sea. With an abundance of crystal clear bays with visually searing backdrops, the Kornati Islands are yachting heaven.

Drop anchor at Lavsa, Levrnaka or Ravni Zakan bays or yachts up to 30m can enter the ACI marina on the island of Piskera, which has a good fish restaurant of the same name.

Panorama of the Kornati Islands

It is no wonder that George Bernard Shaw once wrote of the Kornati archipelago, ‘On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath’.

Telascica Nature Park

You will not have to cruise far to get to your next destination, as the Telascica Nature Park lies just across the channel on the island of Dugi Otok.

This magnificent national park stretches for 8 kilometres, with 160metre high cliffs hemming in a bay of blissful blue, and a thermal lake surrounded by Aleppo pines and oak. Wild donkeys roam the island, falcons wheel through the skies, and vibrant corals and marine life beckon you to strap on your scuba tank and dive right in.

Lake in Telascica park, Croatia

This awe-inspiring park is a place to walk along the high cliffs, swim off the back of the yacht in deep, cool waters, and float in the warm lake of Mir.

Pristine and exquisitely beautiful, the Telascica Nature Park is a hard place to say goodbye to. But many more wonders await on your Northern Croatia yacht charter.

Zadar

Move aside, Dubrovnik and Split: Zadar is a clear contender for the title of Croatia’s coolest city. Much less crowded than its more famous brethren, this ancient capital of Dalmatia offers a little bit of everything to its visitors. With its jostle of terracotta roofs and spires occupying a little peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic, Zadar has made a name for itself with its cosmopolitan blend of Roman ruins, medieval cathedrals, and seafood-heavy gourmet scene.

The city of Zadar in Croatia

For sightseeing, the Byzantine St Donat’s church is considered one of the finest examples in the world, the 3rd century-origin St Anastasia’s cathedral has a wonderful bell tower to climb, and the Venetian city gates still stand proud in the thick stone walls. Zadar also offers three fantastic museums: the mind-bending Museum of Illusions, the wonderful Ancient Glass Museum, and the Archaeological Museum displaying the city’s splendid past.

Zadar is best known, however, for its interactive sound and light art installations down on the Riva waterfront, where the sea makes music as it laps on the steps of the Sea Organ, and crowds gather to dance on the Monument to the Sun, a solar light dance floor which lights up in waves of colour when people move across it.

Bike on the seafront at Zadar during sunset

If you’re craving a beach experience to balance a day of exploring the city, take the short cruise back across to Dugi Otok, where Sahuran Beach absolutely stuns with its rare white sands and Caribbean-like water.

Plitvice Lakes or Krka Waterfalls

From Zadar, your captain can organise a private car to take you to Plitvice Lakes, an area of cascading emerald lakes and waterfalls deep in the forest. One of the most famous sights of Croatia, you will never forget your day at Plitvice. Unfortunately swimming is prohibited due to the fragile formations of the pools, but if swimming in waterfall pools takes your fancy, you can also easily reach the superb Krka waterfalls from your yacht in Zadar.

Krka waterfalls in Croatia

Pag Island

With its barren, lunar landscape falling away into sapphire seas and pretty hamlet waterfronts jostling with yachts, Pag Island has become Croatia’s rather surprising answer to Ibiza.

Landscape on the Croatian island of Pag

This up-and-coming isle welcomes the party set each year to the lively beachfront at Zrce, which is lined with alfresco clubs such as Papaya and Aquarius and plays host to summer music festivals headed by international DJs. The nearby seaside resort of Novalja lures tourists with its stunning beaches and rather wonderful Roman aqueduct, while the medieval township of Pag, once an important salt trading town, is a very pleasant place to explore.

Sunset in Pag, Croatia

Away from the wild abandon of Zrce and the bustling towns of Pag Town and Novalja, an ancient landscape awaits. Vineyards cloaking the rocky hills that slope down into coves of exquisite beauty, salty lakes attract wading birds in their thousands, and 1500 year old olive groves sit twisted and gnarly by old drywalls, providing a rare flash of green in an arid, almost surreal landscape.

Pag island in Croatia

The unique island has created its own distinctive cuisine—the local Paski sheep graze on the salty grasses and wild herbs that grow here, giving their meat a distinctive flavour. The sheep milk gets turned into the famous Pag cheese, Paksi Sir, a salty, hard cheese often described as one of the best 10 cheeses in the world. The local herbs flavour delicious sage honey, the prosciutto is cured with Pag salt, and the dry white local Žutica dry white wine cultivated on this rocky, ancient soil is very good indeed. Even the fish tastes different due to the high salt content of the waters around Pag. Despite its party reputation, much about Pag remains locked in time.

If you’re eating ashore, Na Tale is the best table in Pag Town, with its famous fish dishes and octopus lasagne served up on the seafront terrace or in the shady courtyard. A perfect end to a perfect day on Pag.

Krk

Krk, or ‘Golden Island’ is Croatia’s largest island, and it’s hard not to be impressed by the visual impact offered by bright turquoise seas backed by whitewashed buildings and sun-bleached, rugged mountains.

Bridge in Krk, Croatia

Krk is extremely diverse geographically, leaving you with plenty to do on charter, whether that’s soaking in the mud pools at Soline, walking through the great cavern hall of Biserujke Cave, or exploring the historic churches of Krk Town and Baska.

Seafront in Krk, Croatia

There are also other islands scattered around Krk, including Losinj and Cres which offer beautiful beaches for an afternoon at anchor.

Pula & Brijuni National Park

The final, glorious stop on your Northern Croatia yacht charter, Pula wears its glorious past for all to see.

The star of Pula is unquestionably the Arena, a vast 20,000 seat Roman Colosseum which looms high above the port. The only amphitheatre earth with a complete circular wall, the Arena is still used today as an atmospheric venue for concerts, food markets and the summer film festival. Explore the gladiator tunnels and marvel at the stone channels that funnelled perfumed water to the spectators to mask the smell of blood and gore, from slave-versus-lion battles in Roman times through to medieval jousting competitions.

Roman arena theatre in Pula, Croatia

Pula’s Temple of Augustus in the Forum is also outstanding, while the Franciscan monastery dates back to 1300 with an oasis courtyard of palm trees, sculptures, and tortoises basking on ancient stone. Kastel is a mighty Venetian fortress built in 1600s to protect the town, and the ornate Triumphal Arch is remarkably well preserved for a 2000 year old city gate, depicting war chariots and cupids. There is history at every turn on charter in Pula.

Roman arch in Pula, Istria, Croatia

Pula’s history is also on show on local restaurant menus, as the ubiquitous pizza and gelato reveals that Pula was Italian until as late as 1947. The beautiful art deco glass and iron-roofed market is the perfect place to savour the produce of the province of Istria and pick up a bottle of Rakija, the local honey or mistletoe-flavoured liqueur, while the restaurants along the Limksi Canal serve up marvellous oysters and mussels, best washed down with a carafe of Malvasia wine.

Once you’ve explored the historic and gastronomic wonders of Pula, your yacht will take you out to the islands of the Brijuni National Park, where ancient Roman villas, dinosaur footprints and a Knights Templar church only serve to distract ever so slightly from the stunning setting, crystal clear water and white pebble beaches, as well as the peacocks and donkeys wandering around under the pines.

Brijuni National Park in Croatia

Alternatively, for your last day on charter you might like to anchor off Cap Kamenjak at the very south of the Istria Peninsula, soaking up the best of Croatian life as you join the locals in jumping off the cliffs into the sparkling sea.

Another moment, another memory, on charter in Northern Croatia.

To make this Croatia yachting itinerary a reality, contact Bespoke Yacht Charter for a Croatia yachting vacation expressly tailored to your tastes:

This article was written by Jo Morgan – Jo is a freelance writer for yachts and travel, offering targeted feature articles, content marketing, blogs and press releases for the yachting and travel industries.

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