Gulet cruising guide

Descendants of the traditional fishing vessels that for centuries plied their trade in the Mediterranean, modern gulets originated from the Turkish city of Bodrum in the Gulf of Gökova. The reason for their popularity is their compact size. Gulets can explore parts of the coast that larger boats cannot – like tiny, floating, boutique hotels.
Often known as ‘Blue Cruises’ in a nod to the sea and the sky which surround you, gulet cruises are a tantalising mix of tradition, luxury and sublime relaxation.
Ideal for couples, families and solo travelers, from the Turkish and Greek Aegean to Sicily and the Maldives you can make your gulet cruise as active or as relaxed as you prefer. Boats dispense kayaks, paddle boards and snorkelling gear as they sail from bay to bay where you can roam deserted beaches, discover ancient ruins or feast in sedate fishing harbours. Find out more in our gulet cruising vacations guide.

What does a gulet cruise vacation entail?

Why take a gulet cruise?

Chances are your first gulet cruise vacation won’t be your last; these wooden schooners bring plenty of style to the open seas. To travel aboard a gulet is to be supremely relaxed. Long lunches in the sunshine, card games beneath the deck canopy, snorkelling over coral reefs or underwater ruins in the warm water – you may be tempted to stage a mutiny when it’s time to return to port.
Because of their small size (with space for around 16 guests), gulets can access bays and inlets that are out of reach to larger vessels, and when you cruise rather than daytrip, you can overnight in these places enjoying glorious seclusion. Island hopping for a week around the Aegean Sea or the Med, dining on fresh regional cuisine in peaceful fishing villages, takes some beating.
You might discover the legends behind ancient sites such as Cleopatra Island or the Museum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum, swim alongside turtles, rays and white tip sharks in the Maldives, or spend quality time with the kids on a family cruise, as they live it up with activities from stand up paddle boarding to scuba diving, even water skiing.

Life aboard ship

Gulet cruises can get pretty luxurious. You’ll have a private cabin with an en suite bathroom and shower, though some passengers prefer to sleep on deck when the weather is warm. Depending on the vessel you may also have adjustable aircon, orthopaedic beds dressed with fine cotton linen, Wifi and a stereo docking system. Communal areas will be reasonably spacious and comfortable, and many gulets provide charging stations for your devices, as well as the essentials such as bedding and fluffy towels, and a bar.

A typical cruise lasts for around eight days, so you could add on a few days at the beginning or end to spend a little more time on an island, or explore the mainland. Shorter cruises, two to three nights, are frequently tied on to the end of longer cultural tours in destinations such as Turkey. Most modern gulets travel on diesel engine power; however, some do still have sails they will hoist when conditions are right. Boats usually stick fairly close to the coast, traveling from place to place and mooring up for the night either in a secluded bay or at a harbour.

Some tours will have a cruise manager aboard to ensure that the itinerary runs smoothly, who can answer questions about a region’s history, culture and wildlife, and lead shore excursions. In some places, such as the Maldives, local experts may even be invited aboard to give talks on topics such as marine biology.

Meals are prepared onboard by professional chefs, and with enough notice they will be able to cope with most dietary requirements. Expect plenty of delicious seafood, often caught from the boat itself!

Our top Gulet cruises Vacation

Kotor Bay and Montenegro gulet cruise

Kotor Bay and Montenegro gulet cruise

Cruise in spectacular Kotor Bay and the coast of Montenegro

From £1605 to £1785 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 12 Jun, 19 Jun, 24 Jul, 31 Jul, 7 Aug, 14 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Gulet cruises or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Social cruising

Our gulet cruises are all small group tours, with most boats carrying a maximum of 16-17 passengers who will all know each other quite well by the end of a week at sea. And it’s certainly not just an activity for couples; solo passengers looking for a sociable vacation find this kind of trip very rewarding. Gulet cruising vacations are also fantastic for families, especially those with teenagers able to swim confidently and happy to be on a small boat for a lot of the time. They can lend a hand on deck with the crew, or have fun with the onboard ‘toys’ such as kayaks and snorkelling equipment.

What will I be doing each day?

Gulet cruising is a pleasingly languid affair. You’ll normally travel for between three and five hours each day, pausing for a swim or snorkel here and there, perhaps anchoring up to visit an uninhabited island or tour some ancient ruins. Breakfasts and lunches are cordial occasions, usually taken on deck, and the evenings depend on where you are moored. While the gulet is on the move, there’s little to do beyond sunbathing, relaxing under a canopy and getting to know your fellow passengers. Sounds absolutely hellish, right?

Responsible cruising

One of the great joys of gulet cruising is either having your meals prepared for you by an onboard chef, often using locally sourced ingredients, or stopping off to eat in various little fishing harbours. Either way, traveling by gulet is a great way to spread the financial benefits of tourism around communities that don’t see great numbers of visitors. Gulets tend to be locally owned and operated too, hired out by the season to different operators.

Unfortunately, due to cost, most gulets are not actually rigged for sailing, and use diesel engines instead. Opting for a trip that does put the sails up whenever possible helps reduce pollution and if you feel comfortable with slightly bigger waves, consider traveling at a windy time of year.

Gulet cruising is a very stylish way to explore the Maldives, which faces numerous environmental challenges. Island communities have difficulties managing waste, so anything you can do to minimise your own, such as bringing a reusable water bottle, will help. The beautiful coral reefs found in this archipelago are like many others suffering from bleaching. Packing eco-friendly sun cream is one way to reduce damaging chemicals in the water.

Best time to go on a gulet cruise

In June and July in the Aegean, strong winds known as meltem can appear from nowhere on a clear day, a boon for experienced captains that have sails to raise.
Modern gulet cruising has its roots in the Turkish tourism industry, when schooners were hired from Bodrum and Marmaris to explore the picturesque Aegean bays. Summer is naturally the busiest time, when you can see dozens at a time out on the water, but mainly day tripping. Gulets on longer voyages can often find moorings that are completely deserted. The best time to go on a gulet cruise, in Europe or further afield, is late spring. You avoid the summer crowds, and the prices, but the water is pleasantly warm and the scenery magnificent. Autumn is enjoyable for the same reasons, but restaurants and other attractions on some Aegean islands may be closed in advance of winter.

Bodrum Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

Gulet cruises, month by month

Turkey’s main gulet cruising season is from April to October, and this is one of the most popular destinations to set out on a trip, with over 1,000 vessels of varying quality in these waters. Gulet cruising is fantastic fun for families too, with most trips departing through late July, August and September. If your gulet has sails, then the meltem winds of June and July are ideal for moving at a fair clip. Although they’re not considered hazardous, the seas can be rough when they are very strong. In Sicily the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are still warmish but damp. By spring the temperature is warming up, but until May both the sea and the wind can be a little on the chilly side. Gulet cruises run during dry season in the Maldives, which typically spans November and December all the way to April, and sees these idyllic islands are at their finest. Humidity is lower, and there is less rain about. March is the hottest month of the year, with averages of around 29°C, but even January and February, the coolest months, average around 27°C, so it’s consistently very warm.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Joselu Blanco] [Gulet sailing: Nevit Dilmen] [Social cruising: Joselu Blanco] [Best time to go: Peter Cooke]