Are sailing conditions better in Croatia or Greece? Both these countries offer sea lovers a unique experience: beautiful seas, historic cities and breathtaking countryside. But what about marina prices, sailing conditions, weather and the local cuisine? Let's take a closer look at these two popular sailing destinations.
Transport: what is the best way to get there?
In principle, both Greece and Croatia can be reached by car or by plane. All year round there are regular flights from European cities to Athens, with direct flights in high season to other destinations, such as Corfu, Kos, Lefkada, Paros and Rhodes. Even in low season, you’ll find connecting flights to most destinations via Athens. Getting to the marina will usually just be a matter of taking a taxi or using the local bus service, especially so on the islands where you won’t be covering long distances. Regarding Croatia, there are regular flights to Dubrovnik, Pula or Split and then you’ll need to use local transport to reach your destination.
Travelling by car or plane both have their pros and cons. By plane you can get to both countries in no time, but you will lack the flexibility of having your own transport there. Plus, you are limited by the weight of your luggage, so this can lead to problems deciding what to and what not to take with you. Similarly, there tend to be some issues with airlines if you decide to take your own self-inflating lifejacket. If you are driving from another part of Europe, it is possible to go to Croatia with a car packed full of food (and alcohol), which will save both time and money. If you fly, however, you definitely won't want to be wasting precious kilos on provisions. You’re probably much less likely to drive to Greece for sailing but fortunately there is a convenient way to sort out food shopping there. As many shops are used to dealing with sailors, they offer the option to take your purchases directly to the pier for free (or for a small extra charge) after you have paid for them. This effectively eliminates the main drawback of not having your own transport, so be sure to ask about this at the shop.
Croatia vs. Greece: Historical monuments and national parks
Both countries have stunning scenery with countless islands and islets, beautiful beaches and magnificent sights steeped in culture and history. They are both perfect to start living your dream life and having the vacation of a lifetime.
Croatian cities are charming. Don't miss a visit to Trogir, Rovinj, Dubrovnik (the filming location of the famous "Game of Thrones" series) or Pula, where, just like Athens, you’ll discover a well-preserved amphitheatre. And if you're generally drawn to nature, the Kornati National Park between Zadar and Sibenik is definitely not to be missed. The archipelago is dotted with pristine islands covered in olive trees, vines, fig trees and aromatic herbs, with stunning beaches and a seabed brimming with colourful fish (7 of the most beautiful places to go snorkelling in Croatia). And if you're lucky, you'll even encounter dolphins. Unfortunately, there is an avoidable fee to enter the National Park (a standard sailing trip will set you back about 600 kuna per day). The Krka National Park with its fantastic waterfalls and freshwater lakes, is well worth a visit too.
There are plenty of historical sites to discover in Croatia but how does it compare to Greece? Rightly known as the cradle of European civilization, there's an ancient monument at practically every turn in Greece with countless landmarks listed as UNESCO heritage sites, such as the Temple of Apollo Epicurius in Bassae, Rhodes, Olympia, Pythagoreion and Heraion, Mycenae or Corfu, to name a few (read our tips in our article Top 7 sailing destinations in Greece in 2022). If you're a film buff, visit the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos, the setting of the musical Mamma Mia!.
Islands and islets
In the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has 79 islands over 1 km², 525 islets over 0.01 km² and 642 reefs. As distances between islands and islets are small, you can visit several in a single day. It's no problem to set off in the morning and get back to a marina or sheltered bay for the night.
Approximately one quarter of the area of Greece today is made up of islands, of which there are over 3,000. This makes it a true yachting paradise. Each archipelago has its own culture and traditions as well as a highly diverse landscape. Sail through the Cyclades for the infamous and enchanting blue and white houses, or visit the beautiful Saronic Gulf and its ancient monuments of Athens, Corinth or Tiryns. The islands of the Ionian Sea offer a unique experience, with innumerable Greek and Roman ruins and every day you’ll get the chance to see something new and fascinating. However, the distances between islands are greater than in Croatia, so expect longer crossings (including night crossings), plan carefully and don't rely on anchoring at a marina or pier every night.
Greece is dominated by sandy beaches, but Croatian beaches aren’t lacking in beauty either
In Greece, you’ll find mostly sandy beaches whereas in Croatia, mostly pebble beaches. But there are a few sandy beaches to be found there too. If you’re making the decision solely based on the quality of the beaches, you don't have an easy choice.
Both destinations have beautiful beaches. The most famous beaches in Croatia are Sakarun on Dugi otok and Zlatni rat on the island of Brac. After Spain, Greece boasts the largest number of beaches awarded the Blue Flag, which is not only synonymous with quality and cleanliness, but also with being environmentally friendly. The most beautiful are Navagio on Zakynthos and Petani on Kefalonia. For our picks in both destinations, check out our article on the 10 most beautiful beaches and bays in Europe.
Anchoring in each country has its own specifics
As it differs significantly between the two destinations, the topic of mooring in marinas and at piers definitely deserves its own section.
Unlike Greece, the Croatian shore is generally rocky, making it not entirely suitable for mooring. As a result of this, it is common to use buoys (and there are plenty of them), moorings at restaurants, marinas and to a lesser extent, town piers (the one in Tribunj is popular). Unfortunately, none of these options are free, every buoy belongs to someone and it won’t be long until someone comes to collect their fee, although at most restaurants, the fee is covered if you are a guest there. Croatia has gotten pretty expensive in recent years, fee collectors are less and less willing to haggle (but you can still try), and it’s extremely rare to be let off without paying.
In Greece, you're probably much more likely to lay at anchor, both because the seabed is ideal for anchoring and there are greater distances between destinations so it won't always be possible to plan your route to reach a marina for the night. Unlike Croatia, there aren't as many buoys for rent, but there are more accessible places to moor in urban areas. And it's not uncommon for them to let you stay there for free or for just a small fee. Plus, these quays tend to have water and electricity, so unless you're really dying for a shower, there's no reason to spend unnecessarily on a marina. However, be aware that mooring at town quays in Greece is a bit more complicated. It's not uncommon to anchor stern-to and as such, manoeuvring requires a bit of training and skill. So, it won’t hurt to study it beforehand (see our step-by-step guide on anchoring stern-to).
The weather off-season is fine, but watch out for the wind
In both destinations, the sailing season runs from spring to autumn. As the high season is usually from July to early September, expect more traffic and crowded marinas during this period, especially in Croatia. As a result, many sailors prefer to choose spring or autumn to enjoy a bit more peace and quiet. With average temperatures of between 20 °C and 24 °C in Greece and 17 °C and 21 °C in Croatia, autumn sailing is still very pleasant on the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. Even the sea is still warm enough.
The Bora, the scourge of Croatian sailors, is at its most powerful in winter but you will encounter it in autumn or spring as well. It can also strike in the summer, but it usually lasts no more than 3 days, sometimes just a few hours. Adrenaline junkies even actively seek it out. The dreaded Sirocco, which can sometimes, especially in the colder half of the year, reach gale force, is rare between mid-June and September and in summer usually lasts only 2 to 3 days, never reaching more than 7 degrees on the Beaufort scale.
Just as in Croatia, everyone expects to be caught by a storm in Greece, specifically in the Aegean Sea, where the Meltemi strikes. This northerly wind blows in summer between May and September and is frequently just a pleasant 5 degrees on the Beaufort scale. But it can also pick up to 40 knots, building up short and high waves and turning a leisurely cruise into quite a drama.
Sailing in Croatia vs. Sailing in Greece: where is more suitable for beginners?
Because sailing in Croatia takes place mostly between islands, there is no risk of big waves or powerful gusts and if you’re hit by bad weather, there is usually somewhere to shelter quickly. From this perspective, Croatia is definitely more suitable for beginners or an inexperienced crew who are worried about seasickness. In Greece, count much more on sailing on the open sea. While this can provide unique experiences, including a visit from dolphins, the conditions can be a bit harsher. In respect to bigger waves or stronger winds, Greece is definitely a destination for those more experienced sailors.
Cuisine and atmosphere
Although Croatia is part of the Balkans, culturally and linguistically it is closer to Central Europe. Croatians use the Latin alphabet, which makes it a bit easier to find your way around than with the Greek alphabet which can look rather alien to English speakers. In Greek remember at least kalimera (good day), kalispera (good evening) and efcharistó (thank you) and similarly dobar dan (good day), dobra večer (good evening) and hvala (thank you) in Croatian. However as Greeks rely more heavily on international tourism, it's usually easier to get by in English with most restaurants having an English menu.
The traditional food of Croatia and Greece are unique mixes of the various civilisations that have inhabited these lands. Croatian cuisine has a lot to offer aside from its grilled meat and beer (such as white truffles, black risotto) and, of course, excellent seafood. Even the pizza is pretty good and some may find it better than Italian pizza, being more generous with the dough and toppings.
Greek food is well-known across the globe and it would certainly be a shame to miss out on visiting an authentic Greek restaurant. You’ll be able to sample some fantastic seafood (you’ll see octopus hanging on lines in front of the restaurants), various grilled meats and other specialties (for some inspiration take a look at our article on what delicacies to try). Greek cuisine does differ in flavour to Croatian, particularly in its use of mint and yoghurt but fresh seafood, olive oils and herbs are abundant in both and there are plenty of new tastes to discover.
Availability and price of boats in Croatia and in Greece
Yachting.com charters sailboats in both destinations. We currently have around 3,000 different vessels available in Greece, and 3,500 in Croatia. Prices in Croatia range from 720 to 55,000 Euros per week in the most popular periods, while in Greece the range is 1,215 to 62,000 Euros. Whether in Croatia or in Greece we can offer you a wide range of starting points. In Greece, you can rent a boat both in Lavrion (a port just outside Athens, a pleasant half hour from the airport) and on the individual islands. In Croatia we have practically the whole coastline covered. Our team will be happy to help you choose the right boat for you, no matter which destination you choose. We guarantee you won't be disappointed.
So, Croatia or Greece?