One of the great things about cruising is that each itinerary can take you to destinations that you may not have chosen or even known about without them being pre-determined by the cruise line. Not only does this mean you can explore some hidden gems that you may have otherwise never seen, it could also inspire you to visit more places like this in the future.
We all know about the beauty of Barcelona, the romance of Rome and the majesty of Monte Carlo, but what are some of the other ports that we should be looking out for? Here are five lesser known destinations to get excited about on your Mediterranean cruise.
This sunny Spanish city is protected by the surrounding hills and is ideal for anyone who wants to explore on foot. The city centre is not far from the cruise terminal and most of the main streets are pedestrianised.
As you wander, you’ll start to see signs of the plethora of historic empires that have left their mark here. It may have been the Carthaginians that built Cartagena, but the Romans, Byzantines, Moors and Phoenicians have all left indelible marks too. More recent history brought a love of art nouveau architecture, as shown by the many embellishments you’ll spot along the streets.
One of the most popular shore excursions is a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre. Astonishingly, this was only discovered in 1988 during renovations but has quickly become one of the region’s biggest draws. It has been restored and is accompanied by a museum displaying many other artefacts that were uncovered at the same time.
When your ship arrives in Trieste, the captain may announce that you’re in Italy, but the surroundings may make this hard to believe. Having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thanks to its position on the most north-easterly part of Italy’s coastline, the city has strong Austrian and Slovenian influences.
Having said that, the smell of pizza and the taste of delicious wine will remind you that Trieste is, indeed, proud of its Italian status. The area is perhaps most famous for a sparkling wine that takes its name from one of the city’s suburbs – just a little-known variety called Prosecco.
Other exciting activities include a trip to Miramare Castle, which will make you feel like you’re in Vienna, and a visit to the mesmerising cave at Grotta Gigante. If you want to see the real Trieste, though, away from the tourists, hop on the Opicina Tramway for a tour through the district of Villa Opicina.
Dubrovnik, Split and the islands off the coast may get much of the attention when it comes to cruise ships visiting Croatia, but Zadar is just as beautiful. Channelling Dubrovnik through its red-roofed houses, many of the most popular things to do here can be found on a peninsula right next to where your ship will dock.
This is another historical destination and one where you will find ancient relics lying around every corner. The Roman forum is joined by ornate Venetian arches and a number of quaint churches, one of which (Saint Donat) has become a recognisable symbol of Zadar.
Two of the city’s most notable attractions are some of the quirkiest you are likely to see on your cruise. The Sun Salutation and Sea Organ both make use of the elements to create a performance for the senses. The former soaks up the sun’s rays throughout the day and then turns into a light-up dancefloor at night, whist the latter consists of a series of steps that produce a harmonious tune when the waves lap over them.
When looking for interesting Mediterranean ports to explore on your next cruise, Albania may not be the first country you consider. However, destinations along its coast gained popularity after fears grew about safety in Turkey and have continued to be on the rise ever since.
Like the other ports on this list, Sarandë (also called Saranda) shows signs of the various rulers that battled their way across this part of the world in the past. A shore excursion to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint will introduce you to some of this history. This expansive archaeological site is still being excavated and experts believe the vast majority of treasures still lie underground.
Another reason why people get excited about Sarandë is the beaches. Those in close proximity to the port are nice but even more glorious sands lie further along the Albanian coast. This is where locals living in the capital of Tirana spend their summer days.
Although not the most well-known Greek destination, Chania is actually the second largest city on the island of Crete. It is regarded as one of the most picturesque places amongst the scattered Greek islands and also has its fair share of history.
After arriving at the nearby port and transferring to the city centre (a journey that takes no more than 10 minutes), the first thing you will see is the magnificent Venetian harbour. This is a great place for a romantic stroll and you’ll find many traditional Greek restaurants with views back out to sea. Set back from the historic buildings (some of the only remaining examples of Turkish and Venetian architecture in this part of the Med), you’ll find more modern areas and some pleasant green spaces to explore.
If you would like to see more of Crete, various shore excursions can take you further afield. You can discover the vineyards in the surrounding hills, visit the nearby Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery or enjoy an olive oil tasting.
If you would like us to help you find the perfect Mediterranean cruise that visits any of the ports listed above, our team is always happy to offer some advice. Call us on 0800 021 3180 or click here to contact us through the website.