Made up from a dozen different seas, hundreds of gorgeous beaches and thousands of picturesque towns, Europe offers some of the most exquisite sailing in the world, especially in summer. From May to October, holidaymakers take to the high seas to enjoy the continent’s incredibly diverse scenery, some of the most spectacular of which is only visible from the water. Whether you’re debating between yachting along the dramatic coastline of Mallorca, boating around the sun-drenched Greek Isles, touring lesser-known gems of the French Atlantic shores or docking in at the colorful towns of the Amalfi Coast, we can sail off into the sunset together thanks to these great insider tips on where to go, where to stay and which yachts to take.


Balearic Islands – Spain

Spain’s Balearic Islands provide some of the Mediterranean’s best sailing. Mary Vaira of El Sol Villas recommends using the island of Mallorca as your base. For centuries, it has been the maritime crossroads of civilizations from the Greeks and Romans to the crusading French knights and the conquering Moors. The island features gorgeous crystal waters and scores of beautiful beaches that are only accessible by sea. Sail along its western coast to discover secluded bays, peaceful coves and quite possibly the island’s most stunning landscape.

El Sol Villas has access to this incredible yacht that sails out of Mallorca. A Mangusta 108, the stylish 33.50m (109′ 10″) yacht is both sleek and powerful. It accommodates six to eight guests in three en-suite double cabins, plus a fold-out double bed in a day cabin ideally suited to children/nanny. Each cabin is equipped with TV, DVD player and sound system, the master cabin offering large flat screen TV. The main salon has a comfortable seating area equipped with a flat screen Sky TV and DVD player and leads to a further dining area with removable roof section. The large aft deck is perfect for sunbathing or outdoor dining.

El Sol Villas can also organize yachts that depart from Ibiza and along the Costa del Sol in Marbella. For more information regarding any of these options, contact El Sol Villas here.

Five Star Greece Yacht

The Greek Isles – Greece

One of the most breathtaking places to sail the European waters is touring around some of Greece’s thousands of islands. Many popular sailing routes circle the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Sporades, the Saronic Islands and the Ionian Islands. Cruising the Aegean’s deep blue waters, you’ll pass phenomenal rocky cliffs, hilltop monasteries, olive groves and ancient Greek temples. Coming into port you’ll find yourself wandering through charming fishing villages with their whitewashed houses, narrow cobbled streets, and tiny churches. At the end of the day take in the awe-inspiring sunsets on the deck of your yacht or villa with a glass of local wine or ouzo.

If you want to cruise the Greek Isles in the utmost style and comfort, Ileana von Hirsh of Five Star Greece has several yachts in her repertoire; one of the newest is the fabulous O’Leanna. The 44m (144’ 3”) craft which sleeps 12 is run by a ferocious manager who controls every last detail to sheer perfection. Its huge, bright salon is large enough for an elegant lounge and dining area decorated in classy beige tones and sophisticated furnishings. It offers the ultimate in relaxation with a massage room, spa shower and a Jacuzzi on the sundeck. But what is Ileana’s favorite feature? The design of the master cabin with sliding walls that open onto its own private deck, making fluid indoor/outdoor living that is a rare find on a yacht.

In addition to this and other opulent yachts, Five Star Greece has a vast range of luxury villas dotting the Greek Isles. Contact them to learn more about their repertoire at this link.


For an alternative “on the waters” experience in Greece, Elena Fotiadi of White Key Villas suggests combining a villa rental with a rib boat (pictured above). Spending your summer holiday in a luxury villa allows you to unwind and enjoy life at your own pace and schedule. Due to Greece’s endless coastlines and islands, adding a luxury rib to your villa rental actually allows you to have your own private summer realm, as well as the option to privately explore the myriad coves and neighboring islands.

Should you choose to holiday in a beautiful villa in Mykonos, Elena recommends spending time cruising the southern coast of the island which will allow you to visit the most popular, fun beaches and end up on the uninhabited island of Dragonisi for your own castaway experience. For a calmer ambiance, she suggests exploring the mystical island of Delos, which you can first tour with a professional guide then spend the afternoon snorkeling in the nearby coves of Rhenia island. For the more adventurous, embark on your own private “island safari” by visiting Syros and Tinos or Heraklia, Schinoussa, and Koufonissia or Paros and Antiparos.

To learn more about arranging your Greek villa and rib boat, contact White Key Villas at this link.


The Atlantic Coast – France

While the French Riviera on France’s Mediterranean coast usually attracts most holidayers in search of the beach or for sailing, Annie Flogaus of Just France suggests the country’s west coast as a unique alternative. The area combines pristine sandy beaches, charming towns, lovely scenery and fabulous seafood; the best way to take all of these in is by sailing along the Atlantic coast and stopping in at its dozens of islands and picturesque ports. Dock in at Ile de Ré for some fresh oysters, tour the dramatic coastline of Belle-Ile or moor off of Ile d’Yeu to sunbathe in a secret cove.

Just France has the ideal base for exploring the region. Located in the refined seaside resort of Biarritz, their luxury Atlantique apartment is right above the Miramar beach and a two minutes walk from the famous Hotel du Palais. The elegant and bright four bedroom duplex is part of a private villa. It is decorated in a fresh contemporary way with marine tones and has spectacular ocean views from every room as well as a spacious terrace to enjoy a meal en plein air.

For further information on this apartment or their many other apartments and villas close to the French coast, contact Just France here.

The Amalfi Coast – Italy

With its hidden coves, small islands and colorful towns clinging to the hillsides, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a splendid jewel of the Mediterranean and best appreciated from the sea.

A sail along the coast will take in the beautiful cities of Sorrento and Salerno, however, you can enjoy a great few days at sea visiting the neighboring islands. The most famous is undoubtedly Capri, a holiday destination dating back to Roman times; today it attracts a star-studded crowd of Hollywood actors and billionaire businessmen. The smallest island in the Bay of Naples, Procida has remained relatively untouched by mass tourism. Here you’ll be seduced by its pink, blue and lime green houses, quaint villages and fragrant lemon groves. Circle around the volcanic outcrop of Ischia to admire its graceful vineyards, chestnut forests and rocky hills, then lower your anchor to spend the day picking through ancient necropolises or merely relaxing at its thermal hot springs.

You can take one-day or multi-day sailing trips while having a longer stay in one of the exceptional villas along the Amalfi Coast. View some of the options from our Italy experts on this page.

Offering one of the most unique ways to taste and tour your way through France and other destinations, barge cruising is the best European vacation you’ve never heard of. Plying the exquisite inland waterways, barges function as floating boutique hotels, usually carrying just two to twelve guests. We find out more about this unique holiday experience by spending the day cruising with UltraVilla experts Ellen Sack and Stephanie Sack of The Barge Lady Cruises, the world’s top experts on canal barge vacations.

day on a barge saroche in burgundy

Since 1985, the Barge Ladies, who now include both of Ellen’s daughters, Caroline Sack Klein and Stephanie Sack, have offered guests expert insight into the dynamic world of barge cruising. Barging is like any other kind of cruise: there are lots of choices as to level of luxury, location, and on board ambiance. But the true charm of barge cruising lies in its intimate view into the European countryside, through which the barges float at five miles per hour! “Guests are immersed into the culture and daily life through guided excursions to working vineyards, local markets, and family-owned chateaux,” says Ellen. Life on board also reflects a genteel lifestyle, as passengers are pampered by English-speaking crew, including their own private chef, who creates seasonally-inspired continental cuisine.

day on a barge breakfast on deck

So welcome to your barge cruise! Here is how a day on the French canals might unfold, hour by delicious hour:

8:00 a.m. Wake up to breakfast – and do not even TRY to resist the chocolate croissants!

Barge breakfasts are informal affairs, taken in the salon, dining room, or perhaps al fresco on deck. A selection of cereal, yoghurt, fruit, cheese, and juice await. But the real point of breakfast might be the village-baked croissants, just warm from the oven. Your choice: One or two chocolate croissants? Finish off with hot coffee or a perhaps selection of herbal teas. Now you are ready to begin another delightful day floating, bicycling, tasting, and sightseeing in the French countryside.

9:00 a.m. Begin to cruise, relax, and explore

Barges in France cruise on historic man-made canals, built in the 17th, 18th and 19th century to carry cargo. Now these vintage waterways have been renewed as routes for vacationers. Today your barge will cover approximately 10 miles, heading towards the next port. At such a relaxed cruising pace, you can WALK faster than the barge can cruise! So what to do this morning? Well, there’s relaxing on deck and watch the gorgeous scenery drift by. Or, take out a bicycle and explore the passing villages. So many ways to immerse yourself into the passing countryside – and then return to the comforts of your floating home away from home!

passenger_working_the_lock copy

10:00 a.m. The lockkeeper needs help – doesn’t he (or she)?

Canals are bisected by locks, which raise or lower the barge to the water level of the next section of the canal. Although many of these are now operated electronically, along certain sections of the canal, lockkeepers still manually open and shut the system. On certain routes, lockkeepers still live in petite houses right on the canal and will often welcome your barge with wine and fresh produce for sale. Ask the Captain: Can you jump on shore and help turn the cranks to raise or lower your barge? Many guests enjoy playing lockkeeper – an adventure they could have nowhere else!

11:00 a.m.  Hang out with the Captain – maybe he’ll let you steer the barge!

In the always-open wheelhouse, you’ll be welcome to join your Captain for a chat. He knows local lifestyle and personalities (aka gossip) and will introduce you to the intricacies of operating the barge.   Try steering – it’s fun but a LOT harder than it looks!

Noon. It’s time for lunch and introduction of wine

Already?! The barge has moored now and everyone gathers in the dining room or on the deck for lunch.  Many barges offer a lavish buffet, featuring a different daily selection of salads, main dishes, quiches, and cheeses, paired with a selection of light local wines. At each meal, the accompanying wines are introduced by the crew, and during your week on board you’ll be offered 22 different vintages.

1:30 p.m. Sightseeing – a special introduction to the landmarks, lifestyles, and even secrets along your cruise route

It’s a private chauffeured and guided tour showcasing those special experiences that can be found only on a barge cruise. Accompany the Chef to market – meet the vendors and perhaps pick out tonight’s cheese selection. Or delve into the history of a preserved family-owned chateau, with the owner as your guide. What about a private introduction to a local artist, going truffle hunting, or perhaps a VIP tasting at an olive oil cooperative? Meet local craftsman or shop in enchanting cobblestoned streets. Sip the local wines at historic cellars which have produced and stored varietals for generations. Other choices, depending on your region, may include chocolate samplings, champagne tastings, enchanting villages, ancient churches, and local museums.

4:30 p.m. Back on board – relax and rejuvenate

Does your barge have a hot tub? Or a petite swimming pool? Many do, especially the newly-built vessels. Late afternoon is a wonderful time to relax in the water and enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif. Or, take a nap…or curl up with a book in the salon…or stroll the towpath next to the canal and snap pictures of the adorable lockhouses.

cheese board1

7:30 p.m. Dinner is served!

Glistening glasses, starched linen napkins, and flower displays set the scene for a dinner party with friends…and you’re invited! Light and flavorful cuisine showcases local ingredients and variety in the four-course menus. Dinner’s plating and presentation are partnered with the nightly wine pairings, which are expertly introduced and generously poured by the crew. A cheese platter and a decadent dessert round out the day’s edible adventures. As with the wine, each cheese is specifically introduced. You’ll taste at least 18 different cheeses – and maybe more – during your cruise.

10:00 p.m. Under the stars…a last enchantment!

End your day with liqueurs served on deck as the stars come out over the canal.

Article written by Ellen Sack and Stephanie Sack.  Photographs by Kelly Weiss. To experience your own day, or rather week, on a barge cruise contact Barge Lady Cruises here.