European summer is just around the corner, and the Mediterranean region in particular is a great place to spend your next vacation. Century old cities, beautiful beaches and great food – if you want it all and more, then a cruise is just the right way to explore not just one country at a time but a whole region.
Both the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea are perfect destinations if you want to mix culture with pleasure, with bordering countries Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Greece all competing for a spot in your traveller’s heart. Here is the run-down of my four most favourite cruise ports in this part of the Mediterranean region.
Beautiful Venice is also know as La Serenissima, the Most Serene. While you might think that this hot tourism spot is no longer offering quiet corners for a little bit of romance, you might be surprised to find how easy it still is to just drift and get lost in the maze of tiny laneways and quiet canals.
A shuttle or a public vaporetto will take you from the port right to the centre of Venice, St. Mark’s Square. From here you have easy access to all the major sights.
For something different, take a ferry to the islands of Burano and Murano – the first to see the unique multi-coloured houses, the second to learn about the century-old glass manufactures. For lunch, try a dish of squid in black ink, or pan-seared calf liver with onions.
Kotor, Montenegro, is one of the hidden gems of the Mediterranean, probably much better known among cruise guests than anyone else. And it’s no surprise: the entrance to the harbour is just stunning. Resembling a Norwegian fjord, this natural harbour is deeply indented and surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.
Kotor is a tiny city right on the harbour which you can reach by tender boat – step through the ancient Sea Gate and wander the lonely streets for a history kick without the tourist crowds. Then enjoy a cappuccino on one of the sunny squares and marvel at the charming old architecture.
For a little bit of an adventure climb the city walls that zigzag up the mountain to St. John Castle. The views from here after the long climb are indeed very rewarding. If you are looking for something off the beaten path in the most literal sense, check if you can find the hole in the wall halfway up the mountain which will lead you to a 1,000 year old chapel on the other side of the city walls, St. John’s Church.
Pretty Dubrovnik can look back at a long history of tourism, only briefly interrupted by civil war around two decades ago.
Currently it is undergoing yet another revival thanks to the popularity of HBO hit show Game of Thrones. Many of the city’s beautiful landmarks are used as backdrops for location shoots, and it is really easy to make out certain locations that have been used in the series.
If you are not a big fan of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik still has a lot to offer. A visit to one of the many churches is highly recommended, and so is a walk on the imposing city walls that offer the best views of the city as well as some intimate glimpses into people’s backyards. Shuttle buses will get you to Dubrovnik from port in no time at all, making it the perfect destination for a day of exploration and fun.
For a cool afternoon drink, see if you can find your way to one of the handful of cliff-side cafes that have been built into the rock overlooking the Mediterranean. The beers might be pricey but the views and the atmosphere, tucked away in the shadow of the ancient city walls, are one-of-a-kind.
The Greek island of Corfu has so much to offer, it is really hard to point you in just one direction. From beautiful beaches to ancient culture, you will soon realise that one day in Corfu simply isn’t enough.
If you would like to explore a little bit more of the cultural and historic side of the island, join an excursion to the Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin. This monastery is perched on a cliff and has some fantastic views, showcasing Corfu’s full palette of blue hues perfectly. Inside, the colourful flowers of the garden and the tiny church with its icons and incense sticks is a worthwhile destination to explore.
If you are keen to explore the beaches of Corfu, head to the famous Canal d’Amour, where the sea water has cut deep into the soft limestone for over hundreds of years.
Corfu Town is a charming city that flaunts elegant decay in every corner. Numerous restaurants offer a range of fantastic Greek dishes, from fresh fish and seafood to hearty slow-cooked meals. Most excursions to other parts of the island will give you the option to stroll the city streets before returning you to the ship, so make sure you use the last hours on the island to just enjoy the atmosphere of this historic city.
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