Sailing around Europe is a stunning way to spend your holiday time. Hop aboard and set sail on your private charter to explore the crystal blue sea of the Mediterranean.
There is nothing quite like being on your own boat, quietly sailing from port to port. It gives you a sense of immense privacy and independence. It’s also one of the best ways to see parts of the coastline that would otherwise be impossible to get to.
Start your mornings with sunrises and refreshing swims and spend your days Robinson Crueso-ing around the coast and dipping into civilization for the amazing food, history, and culture.
Whether you want to charter a yacht, a sailboat or do a boat rental, there are several charter operations to choose from. They have created a kind of Airbnb for boats that would otherwise sit around not being used. You can find the kind of vessel you like and often for a great price. You can choose to hire a boat with a skipper or a bareboat if you have your captain’s license.
Sailing in Greece
Everyone dreams of sailing the Greek islands. Greece is well known for its island-hopping and for good reason.
The most famous of sailing routes is around the Ionian islands which are famously picturesque. There are 7 large islands and quite a few smaller ones on the way.
It’s worth stopping at as many islands as you can on your voyage and some of the best ones along the way are Antipaxoi and Paxoi. You will see huge cliffs, crystal blue seas, harbours full of colourful fishing boats, stunning secluded beaches, white villages, and mountains.
The best place to start from is Corfu or Lefkada and from there you can sail the blue seas to all the islands you wish.
A lesser-known sailing route in Greece is around the Sporades Islands that are found on the East coast.
The Sporades is known as the emerald of the Aegean and is made up of 11 islands. You would be hard pushed to see them all unless you were on a long voyage, but you will manage to cover quite a few at least.
Here, you’ll experience a more traditional and secluded way of life, empty blue-green ocean, rich vegetation and a host of secluded coves. A must-see is the Marine Park of Alonissos which is surrounded by secret coves, and you can interact with monk seals.
Sailing in France
Imagine yourself sailing across the Atlantic.
Sailing in France is split between the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.
The Atlantic side is a little cooler and quieter and you will find yourself sailing around the Brittany area. The Mediterranean is by far the more popular choice and your options include the island of Corsica and the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera.
Corsica is by far the quieter option of the two and is full of steep cliffs and secluded bays to moor up at, helping you avoid marinas for more of a private experience.
The country is home to a more traditional way of life and the culture is very different from what you’d expect from France.
The island has over 200 hundred beaches, some of which are very unspoiled, complete with quaint coastal towns and hidden coves, all of which are amazing to explore through sailing.
One of the best places to stop off at is the town of Ajaccio, which is surrounded by mountains falling into the sea. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy Corsican culture, some fine wine, and great food before setting sail again.
The Cote d’Azur is well known as a world for the rich and famous and is a beautiful sailing destination.
You can make your way from Saint-Tropez and down the coast to Monaco, stopping in at Cannes and Nice on the way. It’s not all glitz and glamour though; there’s a host of beautiful little towns and sandy beaches. Since you’re on a yacht, you can escape to quiet spots and little islands to find some peace.
Both of these areas can be affected by sudden winds known as the Mistral and Libeccio. These come out of nowhere and you will need to have a plan.
Luckily, both Corsica and the Cote d’Azur have plenty of marinas to find shelter in, but they are not cheap to moor up at. In Corsica, there are a lot of safe anchorages to be found outside of marinas if you would prefer.
Sailing in Croatia
The Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is quickly becoming more and more popular as a sailing destination, along with a myriad of Croatia sailing charters around.
It has 1185 islands along its azure blue Adriatic coastline and sailing between them is one of the best ways to discover their charms.
Most charters will start from Dubrovnik or Split and from there, you can mix and match your Croatia sailing trips between the islands and Croatia’s coastline. You’ll find ancient history, secluded coves, party islands, cute fishing villages, beaches, and national parks.
There are so many islands, it’s pretty hard to know which ones to choose. The islands of Hvar, Vis, Kornati, Elafiti, and Mljet are great ports of call.
Mljet is unspoiled, serene and home to a stunning national park which is full of caves and little inlets to discover. Vis was cut off from tourism until 1990 and is now the least discovered island in the chain. It’s also famous for its caves, how secluded it is and beautiful scenery. The island of Hvar has a bit more going on and is a great step into the culture of Croatia with its vineyards, coves, stone towns, and fun nightlife.
Sailing in Spain
Compared to Spain’s northern coast, its Mediterranean coastline is huge and diverse. It starts at the French border and wraps all the way around to Tarifa and Gibraltar.
The coastline can be split up into four main areas; the Barcelona region, Valencia and Alicante, Malaga and Marbella, and the Balearic Islands.
There is excellent sailing infrastructure along the coast, from marinas to sheltered bays and small fishing ports. The coast is full of differing and dramatic landscapes and each part of the coast has its own character. You’ll find rocky coves, beaches, farmlands, mountains, olive groves, and stunning cliffs.
The Costa Brava refers to the northeastern section of the Spanish Mediterranean coast and is known as the wild coast. It features rugged and steep cliffs, secluded bays, pretty beaches, and headlands.
There are a lot of bays that are only accessible by boat, giving you a sense of peace and discovery.
If you want a remote sailing holiday which isn’t too busy with other tourists, this is a great choice.
The coast between Cunit and Alcanar is known as the Gold Coast for its many long sandy beaches. There are very few secluded bays and you’ll moor off the beach or in marinas on your sail.
On this route, it’s well worth popping into Barcelona to soak up some culture in the Catalonian Capital and stopping off next to the Parc Natural del Delta de l’Ebre, which is a famous national park for bird watching.
As you travel further south, you’ll find the Orange Blossom Coast or the Costa del Azahar. This coastline is full of sandy beaches and the odd secluded cove.
While sailing down, it is worth spending time in Serra d’Irta Natural Park. There are some beautiful secluded beaches to moor at and the views of the mountains dropping into the sea are spectacular.
From the Costa del Azhar it is an easy hop to the Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, Formentera, and Menorca. This is a much busier place to sail around, but if you’re into late nights and a bit of hustle and bustle, it’s a good option. The Balearics are a beautiful sailing destination and you can avoid the crowds with a little know-how. There are some lovely secluded spots, including the bay of Cala Llentrisca in Ibiza and the old towns of Deia in Mallorca.
Sailing in Italy
Italy has a huge coast and the variety of coastlines available is out of this world. You’ll never tire sailing in Italy. You can fill your trip with art and culture in Venice, cruise around remote Sardinia or bob down the Amalfi coast. The choices are endless and therefore I’m going to focus on some of the best.
One of the most stunning coastlines in Europe is the Amalfi coast.
Start your sail from the coastal town of Naples and cruise south down the coast toward Sicily. You can expect to see beautiful towns and fishing villages, pretty and sunny beaches, and taste incredible food and wine in this part of Italy.
Be sure to stop over on the Island of Capri and take in the sights of the famous Blue Grotto and have a day of water sports and cliff diving, or head up to Monte Solaro for stunning views over the sea. Visit Pompei for the day and see the remains after the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The community of Positano and the island of Ischia are also worth a stopover.
Sardinia is full of history and its coastline is nothing short of amazing. It’s a destination where you can get involved in the hustle and bustle of island life or sail away to quieter coves where you’ll find peace and quiet.
The sea life is also on show – Sardinia is home to dolphins, good snorkelling and great cave diving if that’s your thing.
The coast is lined with huge cliffs, white sand beaches, secluded bays, and lively towns. The food in Sardinia is delicious and you have to pull in to shore to try all the sumptuous Italian options. Freshly caught squid and octopus are some of its delicacies.
Sicily is a great place to sail if you love island-hopping, great architecture, amazing food and stunning scenery.
If you’re a lover of sailing, head to the islands north of Sicily. Their deep-water anchorages and long crossings make for a sailing adventure. The scenery of the islands is mind-blowing, especially if you visit Salina. The island of Lipari is full of history and is home to a stone fortress and an ancient acropolis.
Sailing down the east coast of Sicily will give you views of Mt Etna, beautiful coves and beaches, a dip into history at Teatro Antico di Taormina as well as the chance to explore the busy towns of Messina and Catania.
Sailing from Palermo towards Marsala on the west coast will give you access to ancient ruins, museums, busy towns and the quiet islands of Favignana, Marettimo and Isola di Levanzo.
As you can see, there are almost an endless amount of options for sailing trips in Europe, especially around the Mediterranean. From coastlines with jaw-dropping views, to picturesque islands where you can just drop anchor, there is something for everyone. All you have to do is decide how much time you can have off work!