The Islands of Croatia are becoming more famous with every summer that passes. Once a destination for the more adventurous tourists or those who could afford a boat to land on their shores, these islands are now increasingly a place in Croatia where you meet travellers of all kinds.
The reason is soon unveiled: Croatia's islands are numerous and all different, so it is impossible not to find the one that will make us fall in love. They go from the islands with a rougher face, made of rocks and dirt, which softens in the small coves on the sea, to others that host music festivals of European level and beaches with all the equipment that families need. Two examples? Mljet and Pag, different but equally fascinating. And then there are Lokrum looking at the ramparts of Dubrovnik, where your Costa ship awaits you in port, Brijuni with its fascinating history, the vineyards of Hvar, the cycling paths in Murter, Croatia's most photographed beach in Brač, the Mediterranean scrubland of Krk, the salt lake of Long Island... there is even a heart-shaped island!
Get ready to discover some of the most beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Here are the islands of Croatia that you can't miss.
The most beautiful islands in Croatia
There are no inhabitants on the island of Lokrum: it hosts for wonderful nature park, at just 700 metres from the coast of Dubrovnik, from whose walls and beaches you can admire the’s island profile on the horizon. Here shortly after the year 1000, a Benedictine monastery was built, which was also recently one of the sets of the TV series "Game of Thrones"! Lokrum was also the summer residence of Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg, who became the owner of the island in the mid-1800s.
2 kilometres long and 300 metres wide, Lokrum is now home to a Museum of Natural Sciences and a large population of peacocks, brought here from the Canary Islands, which can be safely approached by tourists. The most famous glimpse of the island is the Dead Sea, a small salt lake connected to the sea by underground caves, in which it is very easy to float due to the high salinity of the water. Arriving here with your Costa excursion, you will forget about the city noises: in Lokrum there are no cars!
Off the coast of Dalmatia there is the longest island of this stretch of sea, Hvar, whose coasts are littered with an alternation of coves of all sizes. There are those who call Hvar "Madeira of Croatia": it is considered to be the most chic of the Croatian islands, thanks to its exclusive hotels and the nightlife in the summer, and it is a must-see for wine lovers, whoh will be able to discover the Croatian wines here.
At Hvar you'll also find amazing views, of lavender and herb fields, mountains, expanses of Mediterranean scrub and trees with a long history, like the legendary olive tree over 2500 years old. And of course you'll find beaches for all tastesgravel and secluded like in Lucisca, or sandy and family-friendly like Mina and Mlaska. Do you love diving? In Zarach, a village near the town of Hvar, there are two deep bays guarded by high cliffs. Dive in and discover the Croatian seabed!
Pag is synonymous with party! This island in the archipelago Southern Liburnians in fact, hosts electronic music festivals with great international DJs in the summer, attracting young people from all over Europe: Zrie's beach is a real Croatian Ibiza.
But it's not just the under-30s who come to Pag. On the fifth island of Croatia in size, there is in fact for much more: the local gastronomy, with its strong sheep’s cheese, Pashiki sir, and the sweet wines,the Venetian-like villages like Pag, the limestone cliffs by the sea... The same sea that spectacular beaches like Beritnica touch, with its lunar landscape dominated by three boulders that seem to have been put there by an artist, or the more famous Rucheh, a lovely bay a short walk from Beritnica, one of Pag's most beloved.
Tourists come to Krk because it's easy to reach (just walk over the bridge that joins the mainland) but then they can't help but fall in love with this island scented by the Mediterranean scrub, on which it is not uncommon to come across sheep walking freely along the less frequented streets.
Pearls like Vrbnik, a charming village on a cliff of almost 50 metres where it is a pleasure to get lost in the alleys and be attracted by the scent of fish restaurants, or Baška, a town overlooking a wonderful pebble beach, would be enough to explain why Krk is one of Croatia's most beloved islands. Add to this the paths to go trekking,the boat trips to nearby islands, its vibrant towns... and much more.
If you love nature walks, the Kornati Islands will make you feel over the moon: the largest archipelago in Mediterranean by number of islands is located off the coast of Dalmatia, Croatia. There are 147 islands, islets and reefsthat make up the Kornati, mostly uninhabited, and they form a National Park.
To get here, a must would be to use a sailboat that takes advantage of the winds blowing over the Adriatic, but a ferry from Zara is a valid solution too! The stone houses dotting the Kornati Islands in summer are filled with tourists in search of peace and relaxation. What about dinner? All on the hunt for a seaside restaurant, to enjoy the local seafood specialities.
There are those who call Murter "the gate to the Kornati Isles", because it is located south of this beautiful archipelago. Many people know this island littered with pines, vineyards and olive trees because it is cyclist-friendly: with its 12 kilometres of length by 2 wide, it can be entirely covered by cycling, maybe to venture onto the paths of the shepherds who cross it and climb its hills to see the sea.
Murter is more or less halfway between Zara and Split, and is connected by a mobile bridge to the mainland. Fans of kayaking find their ideal location in Murter, and explore its rugged shores in search of the most intimate beaches.
Small villages that look down at the sea from above, paths that lead to lovely coves: in Cres there are few inhabitants, but there is so much natural beauty. Considered "wild" for its lack in population, Cres is part of the Kvarner archipelago, close to Istria. Strolling through the city centre of Cres, amongst its pastel-coloured houses overlooking the harbour, you'll notice its Venetian style! Think that even the typical local dish has a Venetian name: "subioti", a word that identifies a kind of pasta in Venetian dialect.
Cres is hit by the bora on its east-facing side. For this reason its inhabited centres are mostly located facing west. The island is the home of griffins, birds that are the symbol of Croatia, living here in a nature reserve.
Fourteen islands make up the Brijuni Archipelago, which was once a Roman settlement. Here, in fact, you can also see two Roman villas and a Byzantine castle. But the archipelago is particularly famous for its National Park, created to protect the species of exotic plants that grow here and many animals.
There are two largest islands in the archipelago, Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun, while the other twelve are small islets. The peculiarity of a holiday here is that you can intersperse your days at the beach (of course there are some beautiful ones) with cultural pastimes like a visit to the Cretaceous Park.
If you are a lover of sports in contact with nature, know that on the island of Rab you will find 157 kilometres of cycling paths and 144 kilometres of trails to trek on. Do you prefer sea sports? There's no shortage of diving centres in Rab, which is located off the town of Stinica in the archipelago of Kvarner.
There is another number that will interest you for sure: Rab has 130 beaches. In the north of the island you will find several protected by the rocks, while the Lopar Peninsula hosts some of the Croatian shorelines that are best suited to families and children. The most famous? The Rajska Plaza, whose name means "Paradise Beach".
The name Elafiti Islands comes from Greek, and means "deer islands": in total there are 13, but the three largest are the only inhabited ones, and they reach by ferry from Dubrovnik. Their names are Sipan, Lopud and Kolpcep (or Kalamota). Sipan is the largest, but it is still sparsely populated: in the locality of Sudurad there are numerous restaurants where fish is an art, while the fishing village of Sipanska Luka has a picturesque harbour, where many cats live, waiting for those returning from fishing trips.
In the Elafiti Islands, travellers search for relaxation amidst the wild nature, and the silence of the olive groves vineyards and the orchards, for a restorative holiday just a short walk from Dubrovnik.
The most famous image of Brač? Definitely the beach of Zlatni Rat which means "golden horn": a strip of sand that creeps into the Adriatic, perpendicular to the coast, and that changes shape according to the blowing of the winds, and is amongst the most photographed in Croatia. Lovers of kite surfing especially come here, while those looking for more traditional attractions are not disappointed by the old town of Supetar with its abandoned hermitage of Blaca or the nature surrounding the small centre of Bol, the liveliest on the island.
Brais is the largest island in Dalmatia. It is just south of Split, from where you can comfortably arrive by ferry to enjoy an island also known for its unique product: The White Stone of Brach, which was even used in building the White House in Washington.
It gives its name to a small archipelago, Vis, consisting of three small islands off Dalmatia: the island of Vis, in particular, is the furthest from the coast. That's why it is also the last of Croatia's islands to be opened to international tourism: Until 1989 it was not possible to enter this military centre in the former Yugoslavia.
Result? Today you won't find big hotels here yet. On the other hand, there is no shortage of historical sites, such as the Greek necropolis, the Roman baths and a church from the 1500s. Around Vis there are also other small islands: one of them, Budikovac, Italy, is home to a lagoon with turquoise waters, a small paradise for diving.
In the south of Dalmatia, a short distance from the Peljesac Peninsula, lies the island of Korcula, which in Croatian tradition is said to have even given birth to Mark Polo! The legend has been disproved, but this has not affected the charm of Korcula, which can already be felt on arriving in this town’s port of the same name, a delightful example of mediaeval architecture surrounded by walls.
Korcula is covered by a central mountain range that slopes towards the sea, where you will find wonderful sandy beaches to the south and pebbles to the north. Przina Sail, for example, is a family beach with a Caribbean-coloured sea, while the peninsula of Raznjic, Inc. is a strip of rock and green stretched out to the sea. Look for a wilder and more secluded place? Move to the islet of Badija, Ali, not far from Korcula, and enjoy its rocky shores.
The island of Losinj in Croatia is separated from Cres by a canal excavated in Roman times: to reach it just take a short walk along the mobile bridge. It is also a member of the archipelago Kvarner, in the upper Adriatic. This elongated island is entirely travelled by a single road and even its southernmost stretch is separated from the rest of Lussino by an artificial canal. At this point, the island is only 100 metres wide.
Junipers, mythisis, holly oaks, sea pines, agave trees, olive trees... In Lussino the vegetation is lush, and in the Cikat Forest Park you can walk amongst nature along such beautiful paths. And these paths lead to the best-concealled bays and coves on the island of Lussino, often reachable via dirt roads or on a nice walk. There is no shortage comfortable and well-equipped beaches for families as well as bars and restaurants in the major tourist resorts, Lussingrande and Lussinpiccolo. Don't be fooled by the name, the second is wider and richer in attractions than the first! Just outside the centre, there is even an water park where children can have fun.
A Croatian legend has it that the island of Mljet is the mythological Ogigia, home of the nymph Calypso and her desperate love for Ulysses. And the beauty of Mljet is also legendary, whose far western part is occupied by a green National Park. It will seem almost strange to meet the inhabited villages and villages of the island in the midst of the hills and vegetation: you'll see caves, mountains and even two great salt lakes, Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, sea basins kept in the heart of Mjiet. Of course, if you love trekking, don't miss this pearl of Croatia! And remember: in the Park no cars or motorbikes allowed.
There is no island in Croatia without dream beaches, and Mljet is no exception: here are the famous sandy beaches of Saplunara Bay, to the southeast, which have particularly warm waters and seabeds suitable for even the smallest. But there are also romantic marinas to dockin if you arrive by boat, to stop at a typical eatery, exploring the local gastronomy as well.
The Croatian name of Long Island is Dugi Otok: It is located north of the Kornati Islands, and is part of the Zara archipelago. The southern part of the island is occupied by a quiet and lovely Nature Park, which also includes the Bay of Telašćica, dotted with islets, and the Mir salt lake.
The road through the centre of Dugi Otok was built in 1995 and now connects its 12 towns: in some places it runs to the top of the hills of the island, giving you an amazing view of the sea. At Dugi Otok you can choose between rocky beaches, which are mostly on its west side, and other gentler beaches, such as the photographed Bay of Sakarun with its crystal clear waters.
Galesnjak is the island of love. If you saw it from above, in fact, you would notice that it is heart-shaped! This islet is little more than a 130-square-metre rock, but since Napoleon's cartographer in the early 1800s revealed its form, it has become a real celebrity.
What do you see in Galesnjak? Essentially the sea of Croatia, the local vegetation and some rocks. Unfortunately for the romantics, however, this island is inaccessible: it's uninhabited and private, so only come here if you have been invited by the owners.
The island of Pasman is part of the Zaratino archipelago, and rises not far from the mainland. If we exclude the paved road that runs along its east coast, the rest of the island can be reached via trails or dirt roads. Don't think of a particularly wild island, though: In Pasman you'll find pretty sandy beaches with shallow waters, which attract families of tourists for their tranquillity and transparent waters, and nearby there are trattorias and bars.
The southern part of Pasman is rocky, so it's uninhabited. Here the inhabitants have started to grow olive trees, to produce the oil that you can buy in the population centres.
Discover Croatia with Costa Cruises
The Islands of Croatia are a unique heritage of beauty and diversity. After exploring several of them, you always end up falling in love with one in particular, whether it is the wildest or the most worldly, the greenest or the best equipped. What about you? do you already have an island of Croatia in your heart?