So you’re thinking about sailing in Croatia, but want to know more about the weather you’re likely to encounter?
The most frequent winds in the area are the Maestral (NW), Bura (NE) and Jugo (SE).
The Adriatic Coast is renowned as an easy-going and relaxing place to cruise for a week or two in the summer, but it does have some interesting wind patterns that are worth knowing about. Some can provide great sailing conditions, while others provide challenges for even the most capable skippers.
Here’s our definitive guide to all the winds you’re likely to encounter in Croatia, and some you’ll probably never see.
Blowing south from mainland Europe, these coastal slope winds share characteristics with the katabics. Usually materialises as a northerly, curving slightly to the west along the Adriatic coast. A great wind for yacht sailing.
A classic katabatic or etesian wind driven by thermal effects, it is usually constant in direction and moderate in strength. It is easy to see why the Maestral is the local sailors’ favourite wind.
Almost like the 'clockwork' sea breezes of the Ionian, this refreshing breeze tends to pick up around noon, and fades just before sunset. However, it can sometimes be a lot stronger, especially in narrow channels like Brac and Peljesac, and has been known to sometimes blow for up to 3 days.
The Bura (or Bora) is thought of locally as something of a cleansing wind, wiping away and lingering clouds or haze and bringing sustained periods of clear skies, with good visibility and calmer weather. There is a local legend that if the Bura blows three times in March, it will be a warm and stable summer season. According to legend, the Bura takes 3 days to grow, 3 days to flower and 3 days to die.
Usually found in the northern Adriatic, especially in the shoulder seasons and in the winter. A classic katabatic wind caused by temperature and air pressure differences, It is a cold, strong, north-easterly that is actually quite revered by the locals. The Bura blows down the Adriatic coast’s mountains, gaining speed due to the weight of the cold air, before scattering as it reaches sea level, creating unpredictable and gusty weather for sailors.
The Bura plays an important part in Dalmatian life, especially when it comes to the food and drink. Because it is a strong, dry, and cool wind, it is perfect for drying out Prsut, the region’s famous cured ham. A strong Bura also whips up salty spray on the coast of Pag, an island renowned for its incredible salty sheep’s milk cheese. Once the sheep have grazed on the salt-flecked grass, their milk is enriched with the depth and flavour that gives Pag cheese its distinctive taste.
Oddly, the Bura is usually softer in the middle of the day – the locals say it takes a lunch break. If the Bura is blowing, it may be worth making the most of the lighter mid-afternoon breezes to get some sailing done – perhaps adjust your own lunchtimes accordingly!
A gentle breeze that blows from the north in the summer, blowing out to sea at night. It shares etymology and direction with the Bura, but very rarely reaches the same speed, doesn’t last long, and only extends about 5 miles offshore.
A south easterly wind also known as Cirocco and universally cursed across the Adriatic, the wet, warm Jugo is stronger than the Maestral, but more consistent than the Bura. The summer Jugo is generally lighter, and great for sailors - it allows you to stretch your sea legs, but isn’t as gusty, cold and unforgiving as the Bura.
The late season, autumn Jugo, however, is a different beast, and can be quite ferocious, reaching speeds of up to 50 knots. The Jugo generally strengthens as it blows, getting to its strongest after two or three days. It can stir the seas up to very uncomfortable levels, especially in narrow channels.
The cyclonal and anti-cyclonal Jugos, caused by a cyclone movements across the wider Mediterranean, bring heavy clouds and rainfall, and can whip up waves up to 5m high in the autumn. The cyclonal Jugo is easy to spot as the cloud base builds, air pressure falls and the currents strengthen.
Similar to the Maestral in temperature and strength, the Pulenat is another thermal wind, that blows from the west and can be very pleasant for sailing.
Tramontana (N to NW)
A rare and sudden dry northerly wind driven by a cold front, that can get pretty strong in the northern Adriatic. Tends to drag high pressure and good weather along behind it and pass within a day.
Bad news. A sudden westerly that blows in from the open Adriatic Sea, it’s usually quite violent, but thankfully pretty rare. If you can, seek shelter in the lee of the larger islands.
A gentle breeze from the south, the Ostro is supposed to ‘folow the sun’, and often arrives before a stronger Maestral.
Very rare and caused by the advance of low pressure and a cold front, the libeccio is rough, short and sharp, causing high tides, poor visibility and bucketloads of rain. Can create a short but powerful burst of gale-force wind.
Usually found in the northern Adriatic, the ponente is a storm-force wind that can be spotted before it arrives. A gradual curtain of cloud advances eastwards from the coast, growing thick and heavy as it goes, bringing short gusts, before a brief lull. After the lull, there is a very strong and consistent wind, which whips up large waves – channel passages become very difficult to navigate.