If you dream of discovering multiple islands on one holiday, each with its own unique identity, then chartering a yacht and island hopping are definitely for you. A yacht charter enables you to enjoy golden beaches and lazy, balmy swims one day and rugged peaks and hair-raising hikes the next. What’s more, you can choose European yacht destinations that suit your wishes to a tee and revel in the thrills and spills of a customized cruise at your own pace. Hop from hedonistic party islands to archipelagos where adrenaline junkies convene, or sail from a beach bum’s paradise to the ultimate spot to soak up history.
From party-hardy Hvar to tranquil Tiree, here are Europe’s ultimate yacht destinations for breathtaking views, gourmet cuisine and endless activities, all enhanced by the excitement and romance of living on a sailing yacht.
Cerulean Waters in Greece
With over 8,000 miles of coastline and more than 6,000 islands to explore, it’s no surprise that the ultimate way to experience Greece is by boat.
Once ashore, you can meander through Cycladic flag stoned streets where pink bougainvillea contrast against a backdrop of never ending azure, or enjoy meze at one of the Saronic islands’ friendly waterside restaurants. The Ionian islands, off Greece’s west coast, are no less spectacular with their white sands, isolated coves, and mountainous interior. Other island chains to explore include the Aegean and Dodecanese islands, as well as the Northern Sporades.
Thrill seekers can climb rugged limestone cliffs, marveling over breathtaking views while dedicated beach bums can alternate splashing in translucent waters with snoozing under straw umbrellas.
The Jewel-Toned Balearics
The Mediterranean archipelago is not only awash with sandy beaches, terracotta coloured villages, and secret ‘calas,’ but it also boasts some of Spain’s most alluring seaside cities like Palma de Mallorca, a buzzing city with a relaxed atmosphere and hippy-chic Ibiza Town, the life and soul of the party.
Underwater enthusiasts will be glad to know that there are more than 80 dive sites around the Balearics, offering divers and snorkelers close encounters with giant groupers and loggerhead turtles. Unsurprisingly, Mission Blue, an initiative which actively supports special places that are vital to the health of the ocean, awarded the Balearic Islands as a “Hope Spot,” a special place that is critical to the health of the ocean.
Both Mallorca and Ibiza pride themselves on chic waterfronts, Michelin-starred restaurants, and a vibrant social scene, but it’s Menorca’s mellow vibe and jewel-toned vistas which will take your breath away, making it one of the perfect island yacht destinations.
Mud Baths and Watermelon Granitas at the The Aeolian Islands
Sicily makes our list of one of the top yacht destinations for its volcanic archipelago just north of the main island. The largest and liveliest of the seven islands is Lipari, but it’s by no means your only option for entertainment. Head to Salina to climb Monte Fossa delle Felci, the highest peak in the archipelago (962m), or relax on Lingua’s stony beach before lingering over one of Da Alfredo’s famous watermelon granitas (made to a 1968 family recipe). Tour Stromboli and marvel over the lava-spewing force of one of Earth’s most active volcanoes. Or head to Vulcano for its mud baths and black-sand beaches. Jet-set-chic Panarea is good for a sunset aperitivo in its pretty port, while Filicudi and Alicudi are a true diver’s dream with their caves, shoals, and dozens of ancient shipwrecks.
Portorosa’s consistent winds make it a great spot from which to set course for the UNESCO-protected Aeolian Islands, a stripg of pristine island yacht destinations that rise out of the azul seas off Sicily’s northeastern coast. Named after Aeolus, god of the winds, the Aeolian Islands, (Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi, and Alicudi) offer beauty and excitement at every turn.
While there, don’t forget to check out our guide to the Best Things to do in Sicily.
Empty Beaches and Folk Music Sessions in the Scottish Isles
The scattered islands off Scotland’s coast (admittedly not the first places people associate with European yacht destinations) offer compelling seascapes and pristine beaches, minus the Mediterranean’s scorching heat and crowds. What’s more, there are no less than 790 islands to visit, each with a unique identity and different highlights to explore.
One of the best island groups to visit is the Inner Hebrides. Here, you can explore Jura’s rugged beauty, go windsurfing in Tiree, or visit the ancient abbey on the isle of Iona. Wildlife enthusiasts should keep their eyes peeled for white-tailed sea eagles and basking sharks off the islands of Mull and Coll. Skye is the most photographed of the Scottish islands, and rightly so. The drama of its deep blue lochs and soaring cliffs will undoubtedly stay with you forever.
Experience Gaelic culture in the Outer Hebrides, an island group off the country’s west coast, by visiting cosy pubs and listening to lively folk music sessions, or opt for solitude and take a stroll on one of the islands’ endless, empty beaches.
Dive into Croatia’s Teal Seas
A Dalmatian coast charter includes all of Croatia’s highlights. Opalescent blue waters, medieval cities, pine-backed beaches, and net-fresh fish truly make it one of the top European sailing destinations. Hundreds of islands, some without an inch of development, adorn the 350 km stretch of coast, as do a myriad of sparkling anchorages.
You can marvel over Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls and limestone streets, bob around on Hvar’s swanky shores, an island which boasts 2720 hours of sunshine annually, or sail to Vis, an unspoiled gem, loved for its tranquility and famed for its Blue Grotto.
Of course, a visit to the ancient town of Split is not to be missed. Here you can soak up one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments, Diocletian’s Palace, as well as lounge on one of the city’s many terraces and sample cold artisanal beers.