Pre­mium yachts are the best way to dis­cover the ‘Land of 1000 is­lands’

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The early spring sun rises over the Di­naric Alps, cast­ing the re­flec­tions of the ter­ra­cot­ta­roofed vil­lages along the craggy shore­line across the crys­tal-clear wa­ters and up the bright, white hull of Fu­tura, a 47-me­tre-long sail­ing yacht drift­ing by just off­shore. Mi­mosa in hand, I lux­u­ri­ate in the warmth of the sun­deck’s Jacuzzi, tak­ing it all in with noth­ing and no one in sight ex­cept for the mov­ing the­atre of Croa­tia’s spec­tac­u­lar Dal­ma­tian Coast. Kilo­me­tre upon kilo­me­tre of im­pos­ing lime­stone karsts — speck­led with olive trees, grapevines and fields of per­fumed laven­der and or­ange blos­soms — gives us a won­der­land of hid­den beaches and pri­vate coves. And en­velop­ing it all: wa­ter as clear as a glass. Is­land-hop­ping through time In Croa­tia, big­ger isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter — since larger ships are un­able to ac­cess har­bours in the heart of cities and smaller towns — and Kata­rina Line’s fleet of pre­mium and deluxe yachts are the per­fect way to ex­plore the cor­ners of the ‘Land of 1,000 Is­lands’. Fu­tura is not a racer, with a cruis­ing speed of nine nau­ti­cal miles, 19 cab­ins and a loung­ing sun­deck to­talling a sur­face of 200 square me­tres; she is an in­ti­mate and el­e­gant set­ting. Hark­ing back to yes­ter­year, when cruis­ing was a high­so­ci­ety af­fair that called for gourmet cui­sine and fancy dress, the con­cept is sim­ple yet ge­nius: lower den­sity ves­sels fo­cused on im­mers­ing dis­cern­ing sea­far­ers in in­spir­ing des­ti­na­tions.

Our first port of call is the most beau­ti­ful of Croa­tia’s is­lands and its best-kept se­cret. From the wa­ter, Korčula is the archetype of post­card­per­fect. Jut­ting out into the sea, its 14th-cen­tury town walls co­coon a melange of beau­ti­fully re­stored Re­nais­sance build­ings, Ro­manesque cathe­drals and mar­ble-paved al­ley­ways. Chic restau­rants line the fringes, where con­tented tourists sip glasses of Pošip – the lo­cal white – and en­joy views of the main­land’s moun­tains across the Pel­ješac Chan­nel. We ar­rive with plenty of time to wan­der its nar­row streets with our lo­cal guide, An­drea, who points out the al­leged birth­place of Marco Polo.

The mini pearl of the Adri­atic

If Dubrovnik is the pearl of the Adri­atic, Hvar is the mini pearl of the Adri­atic; of­fer­ing the coun­try’s most so­phis­ti­cated ho­tels, most mod­ern and in­no­va­tive restau­rants and the gen­eral sense that this is the place to see and be seen. The har­bour hums with the quiet en­ergy of the wealthy and the well-heeled, the des­ti­na­tion of choice among the likes of Ro­man Abramovich, Princess Caro­line of Monaco, Bill Gates and the Hol­ly­wood set. New­com­ers quickly set­tle into the Hvar rhythm: a late-morn­ing break­fast in a shady part of St Stephen’s Square; a lazy after­noon at the beach fol­lowed by sun­downer cock­tails at Hula Hula; and by 10pm ev­ery­one is glam and back on the streets, eat­ing, drink­ing and shim­my­ing on har­bour­side ter­races be­neath a roof of stars. Although host to A Mid­sum­mer Night’s

Dream-type mad­ness in the mid-year, come shoul­der sea­son, Hvar re­turns to its mys­te­ri­ous and me­dieval self. Its traf­ficfree streets and exquisitely or­na­mented build­ings are rem­i­nis­cent of Venice, and loom­ing above it all is the grandiose Fortress For­tica Špan­jola, un­furl­ing down the hill­side to­wards the patch­work of red rooftops, myr­iad of churches and megay­achts in the ma­rina be­low.

Idyl­lic iso­la­tion

The big­gest of the Adri­atic is­lands, Brač is home to Croa­tia’s most fa­mous stretch of sand, the al­lur­ing Zlatni Rat beach. We dock, and I look up to see the epit­ome of a cast­away is­land: a spit of white peb­bles that ta­pers into the sea, made dra­matic by its back­drop of tow­er­ing pine-forested moun­tains.

In town, our first stop is Stina, a lo­cal win­ery op­er­at­ing a cel­lar and wine tast­ing room on the water­front, where we taste the top drops, in­clud­ing its Plavac Mali. Then to the lo­cal mar­kets, where a capella groups croon be­neath crum­bling ivy-clad por­ti­cos while I stock up on cher­ries, al­monds, bot­tles of chilli olive oil and truf­fle salt.

I’m un­sure whether it is the tran­quil­lity of the early sea­son, the traces of his­tory or the small-town ease of the lo­cals them­selves, but I have never be­fore felt so acutely that I have stepped back through the pages of time. It’s not hard to be­lieve that the is­lands look the same as they al­ways have or that, for all its in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity, Croa­tia will al­ways re­tain its be­guil­ing charm. Travel file Cruise kata­ In­for­ma­tion croa­



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