The beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea draws yachting fans from all over the world. But do you choose to sail the exotic eastern Med or the magical Western Med? Here’s some insight into the unique personality of the Western Med.
East or West, the Mediterranean Sea is a delight
The Western Mediterranean laps at the shores of Monaco, Spain and France while the Eastern Med allows you to explore ancient, exotic places like coastal Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey. Italy spans both, with the port of Rome perfect for embarking on a voyage on the Western Med and Venice an ideal hopping-on point for the Eastern part.
Both areas offer a range of awe-inspiring UNESCO-approved cultural and historic sites, places that hold a pole position on many a sailor’s bucket list, perfect for culture vultures. The entire sea is surrounded by fascinating ports of call, home to some of the world’s finest cuisine, remarkable wines, vivid cities and bustling towns, tiny fishing villages and endless views across exotic land and seascapes.
Discover the best the Western Mediterranean has to offer
For museums, try the Western ports of Barcelona, Nice, Florence and Rome. Sailing the Western Med lets you experience fine Spanish cava and Provencal wines. Italy is world famous for its marvellous luxurious leather goods, France and Spain both offer quality arts and crafts to visitors, and the big port cities feature the very best in international shopping.
If clubbing floats your boat, there’s plenty available in Valletta on the island of Malta. Palma De Mallorca off the coast of Spain, Giardini Naxos off Sicily, Alghero and Amalfi, both just off the Italian coast, Barcelona, Porto-Vecchio off Corsica and Xlendi and Gozo near the island of Malta.
As a general rule the Eastern Med is more focused on archaeology and ancient history, thanks to Greece and Turkey, often quoted as the cradles of civilisation. As far as the beaches go, the Western Med is home to more pebbly and rocky beaches than the Eastern Med, and the weather tends to be a little less predictable, more changeable. If you’re hell bent on experiencing the world’s finest beaches, the Eastern Mediterranean is your prime destination for endless pure white sand. And, being more westernised as a rule, the seashore cities and towns of the Western Med are a little bit more sophisticated.
The sea conditions in the Western Med
The Med is warm and calm, with very easy pilotage and just two types of weather: settled and unsettled. Settled weather involves sunny skies, maybe some high cloud, some periods of moderate visibility. You can expect periods of light wind in parts of the Western Med and because the sun heats the surrounding landmasses during the morning, afternoon often brings stiff afternoon sea breezes that veer to create winds along the coast. When the wind is stronger, you can get very strong gusts blowing at headlands.
When things get unsettled you’ll get lots of heavy cloud, often with major variations when you’ll get sharp, violent shifts in wind direction. You may even experience the occasional tornado, making easy and fast access to a safe harbour important. The winds rarely exceed force five in settled weather except for a few key areas:
- the Straits of Gibraltar, with common force 5 or more winds from the east or west
- The Mistral wind on the coast of France, regularly found at the Golfe du Lion, especially in winter. They can also last for days at a time in summer around north Corsica, the Bonifacio Straits, southern Sardinia and the Sicily Strait.
- The Adriatic Bora can blow hard from the north east all year round as far south as Dubrovnik
- The Greek Meltemi winds in summer, where the seasonal dramatic heating of the landmass delivers a day or two of force 7 winds from late June to the middle of September, with potentially powerful local land effects making the wind even stronger
Top cultural attractions in the Western Mediterranean region
To help you decide whether to sail the Eastern or Western Med, here are some of the best cultural attractions the Western Med has to offer:
- Antoni Gaudi’s unique mosaic and architectural work, scattered across Barcelona
- The Uffizi Museum and Open Air Museum, both in Florence
- The Matisse Museum in Nice
- Rome – the city in its entirety
- Pompeii and Herculaneum, both near Naples
- The art and architecture of Catalonia
- Marseilles, the oldest city in France
- St Tropez and Monte Carlo
- The Canary Islands
- Morocco – including Casablanca and Tangier
In a nutshell…
In a nutshell, pick the Eastern Med if you adore great sandy beaches, love the sun, are into ancient history and interested in Middle Eastern style. Choose the Western Mediterranean cruise if you’re a food lover, a history buff and love exploring sophisticated cities like Barcelona, Monaco and Florence rather than small ports and fishing villages.