Winter is the perfect time to plan for the next sailing season, choose your boat rental, pick out an interesting destination or escape the cold weather for more exotic climes. At yachting.com, we closely follow trends and have found the hottest destinations for 2023. Our advice covers where to go with friends or family, and even where to hold a corporate team-building event. Plus, we've added tips on how to book a boat at the best price and what savings you can make if you book early.
When spring asks you what you've been up to this winter, you'll be able to answer that you've been preparing for the yachting season and choosing the best sailing destinations. Here are our top rankings for 2023.
1. Dalmatian islands — Croatia
The eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, where it bathes the shores of Croatia, has traditionally been one of the most popular sailing destinations for racing and recreational sailing. The coastline is lined with a number of islands and islets where you can find something for everyone — from bustling resorts, historic towns with numerous monuments, well-equipped marinas and nature parks to romantic, empty bays with pristine beaches. We recommend looking especially at the region between Split and Dubrovnik.
Kornati National Park: a breathtaking labyrinth of islands
The Kornati archipelago draws sailors in like a magnet with its beauty, so it is no wonder that it is one of the most visited places on the Adriatic. Every sailor has either heard of this Croatian gem or sailed there, but due to the size of Kornati National Park, there is still plenty to discover no matter how many times you've been there. What makes this belt of uninhabited islands so special? Which islands and islets are a must-see, how much is the entrance fee, where should you anchor and what is strictly forbidden? Find out everything you need to know in our complete guide to Kornati National Park and join us on a journey of discovery as we explore this magical place.
Hvar: discover Croatia's most beautiful island
Considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, Hvar is bathed in sunshine and infused with the fragrance of lavender fields. On Hvar you'll find a number of secluded coves that are often only accessible from the sea and you can anchor and enjoy the waters undisturbed.
The island of Korčula: enjoy sandy beaches and historic towns
The island of Korčula offers several gorgeous beaches, some of which are (unusually for Croatia) sandy. Lovers of historical sights will also find something to admire here while strolling through one of the many ancient towns, such as Korčula, Lumbarda, and Vela Luka.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Yachting in Croatia doesn't have to be just about the sailing, it's also about exploring beautiful cathedrals, medieval UNESCO-listed towns and monasteries standing on rocks. Discover the 9 must-see Croatian sights and check out which of the 33 most beautiful towns in Croatia you've already visited.
Mljet: combine yachting with hiking
The island of Mljet should definitely be on the list if you want to combine sailing with other activities. The island has a wealth of interesting flora and one part of it has been designated a national park. It is the ideal destination for sailors who want to explore the local beauty on foot or by bike. At the same time, it is a quiet island, suitable for an undisturbed holiday.
Brač: don't miss Croatia's most famous beach, Zlatni Rat
The island of Brač is for those boaters who prefer a more lively, bustling environment, rich in cultural life, entertainment and culinary delights. As the third largest island in the Adriatic archipelago, you'll find a number of resorts here. The most famous is probably the resort of Bol, due to the pebble beach of Zlatni Rat, which extends deep into the sea. This is the one you probably know from all the postcards.
YACHTING.COM TIP: If you book your boat for 2023 early, you'll be able to take advantage of our EARLY BIRD DEALS and, in addition to the best possible price, you'll get the benefit of free all-inclusive deposit insurance. And it's definitely worth having — read more in our article 5 reasons to take out deposit insurance.
2. Amalfi — Italy
This picturesque seaside town in Campania, southern Italy, is one of the traditional and long-standing favourite yachting destinations and it's no wonder. The historic republic of Amalfi was one of the leading maritime powers in the Middle Ages. Today, you'll be greeted by beautiful landscapes straight out of the paintings of the old Italian masters. From the top of the cliff, the terrain descends to the sea and is dotted with colourful, fairytale houses. Narrow roads wind between them, offering a fascinating view of the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.
Positano on the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi, on the Sorrento Peninsula, offers the lively atmosphere of southern Italy, clear sea, wild nature and excellent gastronomy, including fine local wine and famed lemon products. In Amalfi itself, you can enjoy historical sights that recall the city's glorious past and you shouldn't miss St. Andrew's Cathedral, the Byzantine Gate and a stroll through the narrow streets past the many fountains.
The Amalfi Coast is also suitable for both beginner skippers and experienced sailors. If you're just learning to sail a boat, along the coast is a great spot for improving your skills whilst taking in the beauty of the natural scenery. More experienced skippers can take trips to the islands of Capri and Ischia. For more ideas, check out 15 of the most beautiful places to sail in Italy.
Anchor in the port of Porto di Amalfi, close to the town centre, at Coppola Marina-Dock. The marina is very well-sheltered and equipped, and provides such services as assistance getting in and out, security, electricity, fresh water, and sanitary facilities. The marina has a relatively small capacity and offers 90 berths, so early booking is recommended.
Naples with Vesuvius in the background
YACHTING.COM TIP: One way to get to Amalfi is to sail from the Bay of Naples. The city of Naples itself is the centre of Campania, an Italian province famous for its monuments from the days of ancient Rome (like the famous Pompeii), volcanoes (Vesuvius), spas, colourful houses and limoncello. Take a look at our guide, Sailing in Italy: explore the Bay of Naples with all your senses, to find out what to visit, where to sail and more. The waters around Naples can be enjoyed by both seasoned seafarers and beginners but if you are the latter, then you might be interested in these perfect sailing destinations for beginners, where you'll find even more great tips.
3. Balearic Islands — Spain
Spain's Balearic Islands are another popular destination, especially for summer holidays and for novice sailors. The islands, such as Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Cabrera will appeal to those sailors who want to combine sailing with sport, explore the local sights and countryside, enjoy the lively nightlife, anchor in romantic secluded coves with beautiful beaches, or simply want to spend their time up on deck.
Streets of the old town of Ibiza (Eivissa)
An attractive feature of this region is that you can sail around one of the islands for several days to really get to know it. A leisurely week-long cruise around Mallorca offers the chance to visit the capital and popular resort of Palma de Mallorca, enjoy the tranquil beaches and unspoilt countryside around the port of Cala Figuera or discover the local history in the towns of Valldemossa, Deià and Sóller.
Sailing around Mallorca and Menorca, the two largest islands of the Balearics, and visiting the charming little island of Cabrera along the way is also an interesting option. You'll find bustling resorts as well as peaceful harbours and beaches. The route is more suited to skippers who already have a few nautical miles under their belt but either way, sailing around the Balearic Islands is one of the best places for a romantic holiday. For more useful sailing tips and advice on the region, take a look at The Balearic Islands: discover Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza from the deck of a boat,
The 14th-century sacred site of Santuari del Puig de Maria on the island of Mallorca
With a fantastic location, numerous harbours, marinas and convenient anchorages to protect you from the weather, the Balearic Islands are a sailor's paradise. This is especially true in the summer months, as in spring and autumn you can be caught off guard by strong north to north-westerly Mistral winds. In the summer, you have to take into account the fact that the marinas will be operating at full capacity.
YACHTING.COM TIP: In the Mediterranean, certain winds can be encountered there regularly — some predictable whilst others that take even experienced sea dogs by surprise. Take a look at our rundown of the most common winds in the Adriatic.
4. Ionian Sea — Greece
The Ionian islands are synonymous with beautiful emerald and turquoise seas, breathtaking landscapes, rich history and great food. Here you'll find destinations that are suitable for beginners who want to enjoy a relaxing but active holiday as well as experienced sailors seeking their adrenaline fix at sea.
Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Beach is a bay off the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Islands, Greece.
In the peak summer season, there is a steady wind of 2 to 5 Beaufort, which rises around midday and dies down at sunset. Typical for this area is the north to north-westerly Mistral and the Meltemi, which can sometimes be a nuisance when sailing. For novice skippers, the southern Ionian Sea around the islands of Lefkada and Zakynthos is more suitable. The northern Ionian Sea between Corfu and the mainland is also very popular.
Among the most beautiful and popular destinations in the Ionian Sea is the second-largest Greek island of Corfu, where you can admire the beauty of the old town of Kerkyra or the coastal town of Palaiokastro with its famous beaches. Parga, Sivota (Muertos), Gaios and Lakka reign supreme among the ports. Beautiful scenery can be enjoyed in the bays of Ormos Valtou, Two Rock Bay and the bays on the west coast of Paxos.
Paxos island overlooking the village of Loggos
YACHTING.COM TIP: If you like the idea of a yacht charter holiday in Greece, check out our tips for easy sailing in Greece, including popular routes. Our tips for mooring in the Ionian Sea might come in handy too. If you don't know exactly where to head in Greece and why, you find some inspiration in our Top 7 destinations for yachting in Greece in 2023 which has tips on places and routes in both the Ionian and Aegean Seas.
5. Corsica and Sardinia — France and Italy
Although Corsica (France) and Sardinia (Italy) belong to different countries, they have several things in common. Both have a significant role to play in the Mediterranean, they are neighbours, although separated by a sea strait, and each has its own unique culture and history. What's more, they are yachting paradises, where you'll experience perfect conditions not only for sailing but also for scuba diving, lounging on pristine beaches, hiking, cycling and other sports. It is also the ideal destination for lovers of history, local gastronomy, culture and customs descending from ancient cultures.
Why sail to Corsica and what to see?
Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, belongs to the French domain and is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean. In addition to the stunning waters, which are perfect for sailing, you can admire the unspoilt landscape, ancient towns such as Ajaccio, Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio or Bastia and pristine beaches accessible only from the sea.
Clear waters around the island of Mortorio in Sardinia
The ideal time for a boating holiday in Corsica is May and June and late September/early October. Corsica is best avoided from mid-July to mid-August when the Italians themselves are on holiday, and the whole island and surrounding sea are flooded with tourists. As for the sailing itself, beware of the Mistral, a strong and cold wind that is a good servant for experienced sailors but a bad master for novices.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Check out all that yachting in Corsica has to offer, including the boats you can rent there.
Southern or Northern Sardinia: which is better for sailing?
Like Corsica, Sardinia is a sailor's paradise where, especially in its southern part, you can enjoy a taste of the Caribbean. If you love rugged yet romantic and magical landscapes, untamed nature, white sandy beaches, fascinating local culture and welcoming harbours, then this is the obvious choice.
Li Cossi beach in Sardinia
Sardinia is a large island that is practically impossible to get around during a week-long holiday. It's much better to pick a part of it and explore it thoroughly. If you want to combine sailing with exploring the local natural beauty, head north to Sardinia's Costa Smeralda or Costa Paradiso national parks. There's also a very interesting sailing route in the strait between Corsica and Sardinia, where you can stop off at the beautiful beaches of countless small islands along the way. Well worth seeing are the pink sands of the beaches on Budelli or the coral reefs of the Iles Lavezzi archipelago. However, we recommend Northern Sardinia and the Bonifacio Strait exclusively for experienced sailors.
6. Turkish Riviera — Turkey
Turkey is by no means lagging behind the most popular sailing destinations in Europe. The coastal waters are usually divided into southern Turkey (the so-called Turkish Riviera) and southwestern and western Turkey (the so-called Aegean Riviera). The Aegean Riviera starts at the city of Izmir and heads south. If you like more exotic destinations, the sea that washes the shores of Turkey is the one for you.
The town of Bodrum on the Bodrum peninsula
One of the most frequented ports which sailors set off from is the port of Antalya on the Turkish Riviera. As it is a popular starting point, it is also fairly busy. If you prefer a quieter destination, head to Marmaris, Bodrum or Fethiye.
If you sail along the shores of Turkey, you can look forward to spectacular scenery, secluded coves, warm seas and sunny weather. During your voyage, don't miss a visit to one of the many coastal villages, where you will be welcomed with open arms by the locals and get to sample the local cuisine at very reasonable prices. Compared to Croatia or Greece, where the crowds tend to head, it's thoroughly refreshing. Plus, you'll experience the charm of the exotic Orient.
The most popular destinations are the former fishing village of Marmaris or Bodrum on the Aegean Riviera. The best time to go cruising in Turkish waters is from May to the end of November. During this period, the sea is pleasantly warm, the weather is sunny and you can expect generally stable sailing conditions. The only threat is posed by the Meltemi wind, which is particularly strong in the open sea and can cause large waves.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Weather conditions, yachting infrastructure, local customs, boats on offer, sailing options to Greece, and tips on unmissable places — we've put together a complete guide to sailing in Turkey to help you get your bearings. And if you want to find out what makes sailing in Turkey interesting and why you should sail along the Aegean and Turkish Riviera, check out our top 10 reasons to sail in Turkey.
7. Exotic destinations for sailing
A holiday in a warm, coastal location with white sandy beaches, local gastronomic delights and a tropical atmosphere is a dream that is particularly appealing in the winter months. If you want to escape the cold, you can visit a number of locations that are like something out of a movie.
One of the most popular exotic destinations for sailors is the Caribbean with its beautiful scenery, azure seas, welcoming atmosphere and great cuisine, where fish and other seafood play a major role. Try the British Virgin Islands, Cuba or Martinique.
A sailboat anchored off the paradise islands of San Blas, Panama
In the Indian Ocean, you shouldn't miss the Seychelles, which ranks among the most beautiful places in the world. Sandy beaches await you here, with palm trees leaning towards the sea and unique species of animals. The wind is gentle to moderate and the waves are relatively small. Plus, it's a destination you can visit all year round.
In Asia, Thailand and Malaysia are yachting paradises. In Thailand, you will find incredibly rich and beautiful underwater life. Take a look at the top destinations for snorkellers and scuba divers of all levels in our guide — Snorkelling and scuba diving in Thailand: 11 of the most beautiful spots. Don't let them pass you by during your exotic sailing adventure.
In the Pacific, you will enjoy sailing in French Polynesia, especially around the islands of Bora Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa or Huahine. There are many places to head to experience yachting in the exotic.
YACHTING.COM TIP: To find out everything you need to know about yachting in exotic destinations — what to expect, the best locations, boats and sailing dates, take a look at our Guide to exotic sailing holidays: where, when and which boats to charter?. And don't forget to check when hurricane season hits in exotic destinations.