12 Best Croatian Islands - It's as Beautiful on the Inside, as on the Outside

I’ll admit it, every time I scroll down my Instagram feed and I see a picture of Croatia, I am mighty tempted to visit this medieval country. This idea was further fuelled when I ended up watching the ‘Game of Thrones’ marathon over the weekend (House Lannister is my favourite btw 😉 Do let me know your favourite house in the comments below). Every time I think about Croatia, I see myself sitting on a balcony that overlooks the rippling blue sea, sipping on some red wine and reading my favourite book, maybe Harry Potter. Croatia is perfectly nestled between the Central Europe and the Balkans, taking the best of both the regions. Over the years, this country has been ruled by many competing empires who have left behind their rich legacy in the form of labyrinthine building and structures along with many fascinating stories.

Island of Rab Croatia

Image Source: Pixabay

Located along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia today is a popular tourist destination. It is easily accessible, with flights connecting the Croatian capital of Zagreb to most of the cities of Europe. Croatia is a perfect destination for a relaxing holiday, with picturesque nature reserves, unspoilt marine areas, and extremely hospitable people. Before we proceed, why not take a look at 5 fun facts about Croatia?

  • The world’s smallest and Europe’s oldest city is located here – The town of ‘Hum’ has an average population of 20 while the town of Vinkovci has been inhabited for the past 8,000 years.

  • Nikola Tesla was Croatian by birth.

  • The island of Hvar receives the most hours of sunshine in Europe.

  • Necktie was invented in Croatia.

  • According to Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world’

The Republic of Croatia has more than a thousand islands, and most of these islands are extremely small and uninhabited. With only 15 islands that have a population of over 1000, we have come with a list of best islands in Croatia for you to visit on your next holiday.

  • Mljet – Land of Lakes, Vineyards and Quaint Villages

Image Source: flickr/Yacht Rent

How about taking a ride across the most beautiful sea in the world to reach an island that is filled with lush-vegetation and tall pine forests? The island of Mljet is located at 2 hours ride from Dubrovnik and is one of the most tranquil places on the planet. This island has a lovely, yet a twisted history to it. The island was called "Melita" or "honey" because the nymph Calypso kept Odysseus, a legendary Greek King, captive here after he was ship wrecked on the Mljet Island. That too for 7 long years! Perfect for a day trip; you can hike through the Mljet National Park, cycle through the olive-green forests, kayak through the Odysseus cave, and walk through the many vineyards on this island.

How to reach Mljet: Catamaran services are available from Dubrovnik to Sobra and Polace.

Check Out: Best Islands in Europe

  • Hvar – A crowing jewel of the Croatian Dalmatian islands

Image Source: wikimedia commons

Hvar is a perfect place for you to lounge on a beach chair and watch many beautiful boats sail through the shimmering, soft waves of the sea. The history of this tiny island dates back to 3500 to 2500 B.C when Greeks built a large settlement here and called it ‘Pharos’. Today, one of the most loved islands of Croatia, Hvar is perfect for an island getaway in Croatia. Hvar is swarming with swanky restaurants, legendary beach bars and young partygoers. Spending anything less than 2 days would be like doing an injustice to this idyllic holiday destination. On day 1, you can go island hopping on the Pakleni islands. A group of 20, these islands are covered with many aromatic herbs. The following day, you can explore the historical monuments of Hvar; like the Fortress Fortica (Španjola), Hvar Cathedral, Franciscan monastery and a few more. The town that never sleeps, Hvar has some of the best nightlife in this area.

How to reach Hvar: Scheduled ferries are available from Split.

  • Brač – Home to the Bol beach and lustrous white stones

Image Source: wikimedia commons

Imagine walking across many sleepy villages along the cobble stoned pathways with a cup of coffee in your hands. Or maybe get that beach towel, splash on some sunscreen and head out to sunbathe on a beautiful pebbly beach. The island of Brač has it all! The island’s landscape is majorly dominated by limestone and dolomite. The largest of the Dalmatia islands, Brač is one of the sunniest places on earth with more than 2,700 hours of sun annually. Tour the island, exploring its monuments; go beach-hopping; gorge on some delicious lamb meat, sheep cheese, olive oil, and mandarins; visit the olive oil museum; hike through pine forests; things to do in Brač are many. Oh! And remember to by yourself the famous Brac stone, which was also used to the White House in Washington D.C (yes!)

How to reach Brač: Catamaran services are available from Split.

Check Out: Best Places to Visit in Europe in October

  • Krk – The biggest, most diverse and the most visited islands of Croatia

Image Source: maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

The biggest island of the Adriatic Sea, Krk offers its visitors the best-secluded swimming bays, old towns, high-spirited bars and clubs, beautiful roadside cafes and patisseries, and boutique hotels. The landscaped of this island are quite varied, from rocky mountains to relaxing beaches, Krk has it all! Take a day trip to Krk’s wine region and enjoy wine-tasting along with devouring some delicious sheep’s cheese with squid. The hilltop, seaside town of Krk is quite charming with many winding lanes and luminous cafes and restaurants. While touring this island, you can take a quick stop for a swim in the aqua-blue waters.

How to reach Krk: Domestic flights fly to the Rijeka's airport from major cities of Croatia.

  • Vis – Lazy towns and fabulous wines

Image Source: flickr/Yacht Rent

Adorning the open sea, Vis has been untouched. The island has served as a military base for many years that prompted its citizens to move out to the Americas and Australia. Vis attracts many tourists today who wish to touch upon the unharmed natural beauty while soaking in the island’s rich cultural heritage. Visit the island of Vis on your next trip to Croatia and go island hopping on its many archipelagic islands like Ravnik, Budikovac, Bisevo, Svetac, Jabuka, Brusnik and Palagruza. With a Mediterranean feel to it, Vis has been a favourite among the tourists.

How to reach Vis: Car-ferries and catamaran are available from Split.

  • Pag – Party on the Croatia’s ‘hottest’ island

Image Source: pixabay.com

Croatia’s premier party islands, Pag is a venue for several music and summer festivals. This Ibiza-like island is most famous for its lively party scenes. The dramatic looking landscapes add to the charm of this island. Pag is connected to the mainland Croatia by a bridge which makes this island very accessible. The island’s top sights include The Rector’s Palace, Benedictine Monastery, Old Town Walls, Skrivanat Tower, and Pag Lace Museum among a few others. Chug a pitcher of beer and head out to party all night long. Pag will not disappoint!

How to reach Pag: Scheduled ferries and buses are available from Zadar.

Check Out: Best Party Cities in Europe

  • Brijuni – Placid blue waters with abundant

Image Source: flickr/Carole Raddato

Located off the coast of Istria, The Brijuni is a group of many islands and islets. The island’s spectacular coastline is overloaded with many beautiful beaches and one of the finest national parks in Croatia. Island hopping in Croatia is one of the most loved tourist activities and what better place than the island of Brijuni. With vast meadows, washed by the cerulean sea waters; this island is a living testament to this planet’s natural history. Located on the island of Veliki, Brijuni National Park is the most visited attraction here. A tour through the park will take you via the remains of Roman villas into the safari park where you can witness many animals like zebra, Somali sheep, zebu, llama and elephant.

How to reach Brijuni: Regular ferries are available from Pula.

  • Cres – Intoxicating Natural Beauty 

Image Source: flickr/Miroslav Vajdic

One of the largest islands of Croatia, Cres is indeed the best-kept secret of this island country. With very distinct landscaped, Cres has some of the best beaches in Croatia. The grass-covered North and the barren South makes this island one of a kind. This island is said to have been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era and was subsequently ruled by Romans and Byzantines. In between its two extreme points, Cres is loaded with cobble-laid villages, meadows of short grasses, trees laden with apples and ripe grapes, and wondrous blue sea water beaches. Hike up to a village to watch the sun set from the cliff as the gentle and salty sea breeze brushes past you.

How to reach Cres: Scheduled ferries are available from Rijeka

  • Korčula – Virgin forests and medieval squares

Image Source: pixabay.com

Even though the evidence of humans inhabiting the island of Korčula dates back to the Stone Age, it was Prince Antenor of Troy who first founded the main settlement on this island. The island of Korčula is bustling with many harbour towns, olive groves, pine forests and has some of the lovliest beaches in Croatia. The Old Town of Korčula is aptly called “mini-Dubrovnik” with its slant orange rooftops and crystal clear luscious blue sea. Alive and kicking, Korčula is a paradise for wine lovers. The famous pošip grapes are grown only in Korčula.

How to reach Korčula: Ferries and catamarans are available from Split.

  • Dugi Otok – Wild and Isolated

Image Source: wikimedia commons

Dugi Otok literally means ‘long island’. This longish island has many small towns and villages that still carry the essence of a true Croatian culture. An island perfect for sailors, Dugi Otok is wild and isolated. The island’s first mention came from the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the mid-10th century. Since then Dugi Otok has successfully preserved its natural landscapes and is today an idealist holiday destination that will let you experience spiritual relaxation at its best. The island’s shimmering turquoise sea beaches and mystical landscapes can be reached by narrow dirt roads making you holiday nothing less of an adventure.

How to reach Dugi Otok: Ferries and catamarans are available from Zadar.

  • Lopud – Peaceful and soothing sunshine break

Image Source: flickr/Karlnorling

One of the best islands near Dubrovnik, Lopud is a perfect blend of Mediterranean and Adriatic landscapes. This car-free island is a perfect place for someone who is looking for some private time. 14th-century monuments, lazy sun beds, crumbling churches, fishermen’s cottages, refurbished galleons, sea-front cafes, boutique hotels and sumptuous seafood, Lopud is nothing short of a paradise. Perfect for honeymooners, this island is easily accessible from Dubrovnik. The island is extremely slow-paced and ideal for someone looking for a relaxing break.

How to reach Lopud: Scheduled ferries are available from Dubrovnik

  • Rab – The one for the adventure enthusiast

Image Source:maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

With 150 perfectly sunny days per year, Rab is a great place to be if you want to sunbathe by the beautiful coasts of Croatia. Rab island got its name from a Latin word Arba that mean dark. Dark here refers to the impenetrable and the lush green vegetation that this island is blessed with. Rab is becoming increasingly popular among the sea-adventure lovers and is a great place for sailing, jet skiing, sea kayaking, banana boat rides, paragliding and under-water sea walks. The island resembles a tip of a sail boat with towns surrounded by medieval walls that protect its palaces, churches and bell towers. A coastal spa, Rab is truly a must visit.

How to reach Rab: Ferries are available from Rijeka and Zadar.

Cities of Croatia

The cities of Croatia are known for their tall bell towers, enjoyable sunny climate, alluring beaches, and medieval stone structures. If you are flying into Croatia, chances are you will land in one of its major cities. Now before you go island hopping on Croatia’s “Aww-my” lovely islands, do check out a few cities that are worth a visit while you are in Croatia.

  • Dubrovnik

With its awe-inspiring location overlooking the magnificent Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is one of most beautiful walled cities in the world. A major trade port throughout the history, today the opulent city of Dubrovnik attracts numerous tourists. A popular filming location for series like Game of Thrones, Robin Hood: Origins and Star Wars: Episode VIII, Dubrovnik is a must visit. Attractions here include: The City Walls, Rector’s Palace and Cultural History Museum, Maritime Museum and Dubrovnik Cable Car among a few others. Nightlife and shopping are two very popular tourist activities here with many bars, wineries and breweries located here.

  • Zagreb

Dominated by Austro-Hungarian architecture, Zagreb is Croatia’s north-western capital city. This vibrant and cultural city is famous for its culture, arts, music, and gastronomy scenes. Favourite tourist activities in Zagreb include exploring its museums and galleries, catching a show at one of its theatres, strolling its streets, reading a book at one of its roadside cafes and enjoying a delicious meal at one of its swanky restaurants.

  • Split

The most famous city off Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Split is worth the stop. The coastal mountains form a picturesque backdrop against the white-stoned houses. The Romans built the famous Diocletian's Palace here in the 4th century which is today termed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With many interesting bars, restaurants and cafes, Split is an interesting mix of old and modern.

  • Zadar

Zadar is a coastal Croatian city and relatively less crowded. Zadar is the island getaway in Croatia with many islands located just an hour’s ferry ride from here. Three of Croatia’s best national parks; Paklenica, Plitvice Lakes and Krka are located an hour’s drive from of Zadar. With many music festivals all through the year, Zadar is quite popular among the young crowd. Visit the “Monument to the Sun,” a solar-powered public dance-floor in Zadar that was built to celebrate the famed sunsets of the city.

Croatia island hopping itinerary:

Depending on your travel duration and pursuit, you can combine two or more islands and see Croatia the way it is meant to be seen – by island hopping. Now, if you are too lazy to do that, here are a few sample Croatia islands hopping itineraries:

  • Split > Brac > Hvar > Korcula > Dubrovnik

  • Dubrovnik > Mljet > Korcula > Hvar > Brac > Dubrovnik

  • Zagreb > Rijeka > Cres > Krk > Mali Losinj > Rijeka > Zagreb

Croatia Fact File:

  • Capital: Zagreb

  • Population: 4.28 million

  • Currency: Kuna (1 USD = 6.35 HRK)

  • Visa: Yes

  • Language: Croatian, English

  • Time Zone: Central European Time: UTC+1. Croatia observes DST (Central European Summer Time: UTC+2)

 

Sun, Sea, Sailing, Seafood, Skinny-dipping; it’s all here at the exquisite islands of Croatia!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AADITEE KULKARNI AADITEE KULKARNI

Ever since my first trip at the age of 4, I’ve been fascinated to explore places around the world. Lover of world cultures, food, souls and all things blue; I spend most part of my day writing about travel. I also travel with my buddies when my boss approves my leaves.

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