Off The Beaten Track: Secret Mediterranean Cruise Locations

Old Town with a cruise ship in port Kotor Montenegro

The Mediterranean, with its blending together of different cultures, wealth of history, and crystal-clear waters, is among one of the most-visited bodies of water in the world. But with such popularity comes disadvantages – overcrowding caused by tourists, increased prices, and difficulty finding affordable accommodation, particularly during peak season.

But this shouldn’t put you off – it’s still more than possible to have a less-crowded visit to the Mediterranean that encompasses all of those key features that make it so unique. One of the best ways to do this is by opting to see the area through a luxury cruise.

The Mediterranean’s many cities are perhaps best viewed from the water. As a sea that rose to prominence due to the incredible amount of trading that it enabled, many of its greatest cities are ports. In this article, I’m going to explore some of the hidden jewels that are sprinkled along the Mediterranean’s beautiful coastline.

Pula, Croatia

The Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

In recent years, Croatia’s tourist industry has boomed, driven by a combination of music festivals, excellent food, and the increasing visibility of its historic attractions. Pula, tucked away in the North West corner of Croatia (and just a short cruise from Venice), has managed to remain off the radar of many travellers coming to the country, retaining a small-city atmosphere that’s equal parts charming and authentic.

What really sets Pula apart from the other less visited cities in Croatia is its phenomenal Roman ruins, which include a first-century amphitheatre.  There are more recent historical attractions too, such as the Zerostrasse, an underground tunnel complex that was built to shelter the town’s population from bombing during WWII. Culture and food-wise, the city offers fantastic seafood and unaltered traditional dishes, and the Pula Film Festival, now in its 63rd year (it occurs every July), provides the opportunity to watch a film under the stars in the amphitheatre itself.

Cap de Favártix, Menorca, Spain

Sol i aigua a Cala Pregonda

Mallorca, Menorca’s flashier neighbour, is the Balearic island that tends to get the majority of press in the area. Menorca, however, offers all the best of the rugged Balearic scenery without the club-seeking crowds, making it “more birdsong than Pete Tong”. If you’re looking for a quieter Spanish island experience, this is the place to visit.

Menorca has two major cities – Maó, which has a distinctly Anglo-Spanish vibe, and Ciutadella, a city originally governed by the Moors. The coastline of the island is also famed for its fantastic clear waters, which are perfect for snorkelling.

Cala Gonone, Sardinia, Italy

Cala Gonone's Port

If you’re travelling with your family and looking for a quiet gem of a spot, you should seriously consider the town of Cala Gonone, which is perched on the east coast of Sardinia. Visiting the area by cruise gives you a particularly breathtaking experience – the coastline around Cala Gonone is sprinkled with beautiful beaches that are best accessed by boat. The town’s inaccessibility is a very large part of its charm – it’s kept it out of the way of the majority of the tourist trade on the island. The town is excellently positioned to allow visitors to visit some of Sardinia’s best Nuragic archaeological sites, in addition to boasting excellent scuba diving and snorkelling.

Luštica Peninsula, Montenegro

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Heading further east, Montenegro provides an incredible slice of Adriatic paradise. Since featuring in Casino Royale, the small Eastern European country’s tourist profile has risen, but it still remains relatively undiscovered by your average European tourist. The Luštica Peninsula, which lies to the south of the country next to neighbouring Albania, has some of the country’s most beautiful coastlines. Featuring luscious greenery, breathtaking landscapes, clear turquoise waters, and a rustic charm, the coast here is scattered with small villages, home to the most incredible Montenegrin cuisine.

The peninsula also has more developed towns, such as Krtoli and Tivat. Both destinations offer a real glimpse into some 007-style glitz and glamour, while also allowing you to easily access the smaller fishing villages that lay beyond them, such as Bjelila, which offers a far more relaxed pace of life.

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