Best Sailing Spots in Europe
Sailing around Europe is one of the most fun activities in the summer! We all need something to look forward to right now. So I asked the experts to pitch in on the best sailing spots in Europe!
You will find many of the best sailling destinations in the Mediterranean. And the list also includes some off the beaten path locations to inspire you.
The Archipelago of La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy
Contributed by Rachel from Average Lives
The National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena, in North Sardinia in Italy is one of the best sailing spots in Europe. Sardinia is a paradise in the Mediterranean. La Maddalena boasts some of its most beautiful places with translucent seas.
The islands are only a 20-minute ferry away from the port of Palau in the Sardinian mainland. In the archipelago, the main activities include sailing, snorkelling, swimming and walking.
The landscape is rugged, the beaches beautiful, and the water is clean and clear. Some of the bays are only accessible by boat, so sailing here is heavenly. The best islands to visit are Spargi Island, Isola Di Budelli, Caprera Island (stop at Cala Coticcio) and Cala Moresca.
There are many options on how to discover La Maddalena by sailboat. These include day tours to visit the most popular islands and much longer trips sailing as far as Corsica.
However, if you want to travel at your own pace and set your route, you can book a private sailing trip. But this will be a more expensive option.
To reach the most remote islands and bays, you can shop around for a tour or a charter at the quay in La Maddalena.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best sailing spots in Europe, a unique paradise – ready to be explored.
Ionian Islands, Greece
by Chrysoula of Greece Travel Ideas
There is the fantastic opportunity to skipper or crew a yacht in the beautiful Ionian Islands in Greece. Known locally Eptanisa – meaning ‘seven islands’. It is a group of seven main islands and numerous smaller ones.
The seven main islands are Corfu, Paxos, Lefkara, Kythyra, Kefalonia, Ithaca, and Zakynthos (Zante). The islands stretch along the west coast of mainland Greece from the Peloponnese to the Albanian border.
This group of Greek islands is perfect for children and less experienced sailors: The winds are not so strong and the islands are easier to navigate.
There are a number of good yacht charter companies specializing in the Ionian Islands. The Ionian islands experience more rain than other Greek Islands and as a result, are greener and lusher.
Some of them, like Corfu, are very well known, but others, like Kefalonia, only became popular because it was featured in a movie- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
They all have interesting main towns, lovely relaxing beaches, and great local cuisine. Many, like Zakynthos, have hidden treasures like the island’s successful marine turtle project, that helps protect these beautiful creatures.
Costa Tropical, Spain
by Joanna of The World in my Pocket
Costa Tropical is a beautiful area close to Malaga. Also known as the coast of Granada, what makes Costa Tropical special is its microclimate. The Sierra Nevada mountains being so close to the Alboran Sea cause the temperatures to remain high all year round. Combine that with over 300 sunny days a year, and you have the perfect climate to sail, any time of the year.
There are several points where you can start your sailing journey on Costa Tropical. Among them are the harbours in Motril and in Marina del Este.
Motril is a larger harbour, which welcomes bigger ship, including ferries to Morocco and the Spanish city of Melilla, on the African coast. Marina del Este is a small harbour, most suitable for smaller boats.
Sailing on Costa Tropical offers beautiful views over the national parks such as Cerro Gordo. And towards the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which are often covered with snow.
The towns of Salobrena and Almunecar, with their beautiful white buildings and the hilltop castles are gorgeous seen from the sea.
Also, when you are sailing on Costa Tropical there are many chances you will encounter dolphins, who usually love to play around boats.
Dodecanese Islands, Greece
By Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me
No island-hopping itinerary in the Dodecanese Islands would be complete without a stop in Astypalaia, the butterfly-shaped island of the Aegean Sea. Astypalaia is one of the most easy-going islands in Greece.
With an imposing castle built atop a hill overlooking a sea of whitewashed buildings below, delicious local cuisine and the most pristine beaches, falling in love with Astypalaia is inevitable.
West Coast of Italy
by Emma of Emma’s Roadmap
Masurian Lakes, Poland
The Great Lakes of Masuria are located in the north of Poland. Among rolling hills covered in forests, there are dotted more than 2000 lakes. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities, from sailing to kayaking, fishing and swimming.
They are dominated by Lake Śniardwy (114 sq km), the largest lake in the country and Poles’ favorite sailing spot. Part of the lakes are connected by navigable streams and canals, resulting an extensive system of waterways.
There is even a main sailing route that connects around 10 lakes. It could have been extended to the Baltic Sea, through the 19th century Masurian Canal. Unfortunately, the two world wars stopped its construction and it was never resumed.
The main towns in the lake district are Mikołajki, the summer capital of Poland, Giżycko and Węgorzewo. In any of these towns one can take a boat out by himself, rent a skipper or join a tour and enjoy a day out on the water.
They are also used as bases for extended sailing trips. For the ones that want to give sailing a go, one of the most popular routes is around Gizycko island, on Niegocin, Kisajno and Tajty lakes. It also passes through the Swing Bridge that turns to the side, rather than upwards, in order to let boats pass.
Masuria Lakeland has become a water wonderland for yachters and nature-lovers. The best time to visit is between June and September. Once on the ground, one can visit Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s headquarters during the Second World War.
James Ian from Travel Collecting
The Stockholm Archipelago is a sailor’s dream. There are thousands of tiny islands surrounding Stockholm, and many Swedes have vacation homes there. They are covered in woods, surrounded by rocky shorelines and frequently dotted with tiny picturesque red or yellow houses.
Some of the larger islands like Vaxholm can be visited by ferry (or even car over a bridge). But it is possible to arrange a day sailing trip on a small sailboat that will take you out among the islands.
There is nothing quite like heading out towards the smaller outer islands, feeling the wind in your hair and seeing the water sparkle in the sunshine. You may even have a chance help the captain steer between the islands.
Lunch is typically served on one of the uninhabited islands, where you can get off the boat and take a short hike. It is even possible to take a quick dip off the back of the boat. Though keep in mind that this is the Baltic and chances are you won’t be in there long! It is chilly, to say the least.
Sailing around the Stockholm Archipelago makes a great day trip from Stockholm. And it gives you a chance to see the incredible natural beauty of this area.
Villasimius, Southern Sardinia, Italy
by Claudia Tavani of Strictly Sardinia
Cinque Terre, Italy
One of the highlights of any northern Italy itinerary is visiting the beautiful Cinque Terre. Five old fishing villages cling to the cliffs of the Ligurian coastline, stepped wineries decorating the hills above them.
The villages gently make their way down the slope to the water, in charming, colourful terraces. Most visitors take the train between the villages or walk through the gorgeous Cinque Terre National Park, through pretty wildflowers and green vineyards.
However, fewer get to see these villages from a different perspective – sailing between them through the water.
Sailing through the Cinque Terre is an idyllic experience. High, blue skies, the silky blue Mediterranean and spectacular views of the villages tucked into the cliff.
Just be aware that most views are from the water. As the Cinque Terre is a marine protected area, most boats aren’t allowed to dock in the small ports of the villages.
Usually it’s possible to anchor in front of Vernazza and Monterosso and use a dingy to visit these villages. Both Vernazza and Monterosso have excellent restaurants for lunch. Otherwise, just enjoy lunch on board your boat, in this remarkably beautiful location.
You can also usually swim from the boat and snorkel in the marine protected area.
Island Hopping in Croatia
by Ella of Many More Maps
If you’re looking for one of the best sailing spots in Europe you can’t go far wrong with island hopping off the coast of Croatia! With 718 islands to choose from, your sailing adventure will be filled with gorgeous pebble beaches, crystal clear waters and tropical temperatures.
One of the most popular islands for sailing holidays in Croatia is Hvar, and in particular the port of Hvar Town. Hvar Town has been an up-and-coming destination for international travellers for a few years now. It has amazing local wine, a thriving party scene, and also some historical buildings to explore, such as the Hvar fortress.
Many people visit Hvar on a day trip from Split, which takes around 50 minutes on the ferry. If you’ve hired a boat though, there’s nothing stopping you from sailing to Hvar by yourself!
Hvar is also a stop of the hugely popular 5-Islands group tours which run from Split. This is a full day speedboat tour, taking in some of the most popular islands, the Blue Lagoon of Croatia and the famous Blue Cave.
On an island hopping trip to Croatia, and especially to Hvar, you need to pack your swimsuit and towel! The ocean in Croatia is simply irresistible, and is the bluest and clearest you’ll ever see.
Calanques National Park, France
by Nadine of Le Long Weekend
The Aeolian Islands, Italy
By Emily from Wander-Lush
With seven picturesque islands – each totally unique in its landscape and cultural offerings – there are few places as perfect for a sailing holiday in Europe than the Aeolian Archipelago.
Located off the north-west coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea, this volcanic chain is one of the less-touristy spots on the Italian coastline.
Day sailing tours are a great way to hop between the islands and typically combine two in one. For example, a morning on Panarea and an evening on Stromboli. If you incorporate a couple of day trips into your Aeolian itinerary, you can feasibly cover all seven islands in a week.
Each island has an individual character and offers something for every type of traveller. Lipari, the largest island, is perfect for families and sightseeing, with its terrific archaeological museum, castle and churches.
Vulcano boasts open-air mud baths and hiking trails. Stromboli is for lounging on black sand beaches and trekking up to the crater.
Panarea is known for its chic cafes and shopping. Salina for its vineyards and caper farms.
And finally on the more remote islands of Filicudi and Alicudi, you can find a totally off-the-beaten-track travel experience in the quiet villages.
In between, the open seas offer mesmerising views and geological treasures, including smaller islands, sea arches and grottoes.
When it’s time to trade the water for land, each island has a lush interior. And at least a couple of charming villages filled with traditional restaurants and appeterif bars.
The Aeolian Islands are easily accessible from the Sicilian mainland by hydrofoil from Messina or Milazzo.
by Tiffany of A Girl and Her Passport
Sailing the Cycladic islands is one of the best sailing experiences you can have on a vacation. The winds are usually good and it is easy to island-hop in the Cyclades.
Many sailing will leave from Athens, Mykonos or Ios. The trips can range from seven days to a full two-week sail. Depending on what kind of sailboat you have booked, you can have a skipper and a hostess or supply your own crew. You can choose from a monohull sailboat or a catamaran.
Most of the Cycladic islands are close to each other. So you can hit one or two islands a day and then sleep in a harbor or at anchor in a secluded bay.
A few itineraries could be Kea, Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos, and Ios. Or you could do Andros, Tinos, Syros, Mykonos, and the ancient site of Delos. There are tons of options and you can always decide the day before. That’s because most sails are only a few hours from each other.
Enjoy a swim stop along the way at pristine beaches, stop in a harbor for lunch and explore each island for a few hours. There is never a hurry to be anywhere on a Greek island.
Ria Formosa Nature Park, Portugal
Ria Formosa is a protected natural park in Portugal’s famous Algarve region. Also christened as one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, Ria Formosa Nature Park stretches 60kms of Algarve coast covering over 18000 hectares.
A patch of mudflat and salt marshes punctuated with sandy beaches, the park consists of two peninsulas and five barrier islands. The unique coastal lagoon is constantly changing its landscape due to the wind movement of winds and tides.
Faro is one of the best base location to explore Ria Formosa Nature Park and to begin the boat tours.
Ria Formosa is a treasure trove waiting to be explored full of rich flora and fauna. Due to its diversity, the park is also a breeding ground for coastal birds like Ibis, flamingos.
One of the best ways to exploring Ria Formosa Nature Park is by taking the boat trips. These boat trips run for either 3 hours or 5 hours focusing on bird watching, photography or island hopping.
Alternatively, there are boat cruise that takes you through the barrier islands as well, which makes for a perfect day trip from Faro.
Navigate through the water channels. Explore the barrier islands. Soak in the pristine beaches and do bird watching. A boat trip to exploring Ria Formosa will never disappoint you.
Final thoughts Best Sailling Spots in Europe
Hopefully this compilation gave you some new inspiration for your next sailing trip. Or, if you have never tried sailing, awoken the desire to experience Europe from the water side.
If you have any sailling destinations to add to this list or questions about the above, leave a comment!