With over 1,200 islands scattered off the coast throughout the Adriatic Sea, most holidays to Croatia will include at least one of them. With magnificent unspoilt landscapes (only around 50 of them are actually inhabited), incredible beaches and scenery so beautiful it hurts your eyes, you can choose which one to explore next from a delightful smorgasbord. These islands are tiny time capsules of the country's storied culture, borne out through medieval ruins, remnants of Venetian rule and time-honoured traditions that are all their own. |
Whether your holidays to Croatia are for just a few days or longer, these insider tips will give you a head start if you're planning to explore the islands.
The largest of all the islands, Krk is all rugged hilly beauty embraced by wide, inviting beaches. Part of the Kvarner archipelago, in the north, it's famous for its production of the excellent Zlatina wine and its wonderfully-preserved medieval city, also called Krk. Baska beach is one of the finest in the country, and there are a number of other smaller towns that are well worth a visit, including Malinski, Vrbnik and Punat.
Great for beaches and history
Home to the highest peak of all the islands - the 780m Vidova Gora - Brac is also quite large, but it's not as popular, which means it's relatively crowd-free. It sits on the junction of the Hvar and Brac channels, and one of its main highlights is the renowned and very beautiful Zlatni Rt beach, at Bols. For adventurous history buffs, a visit to Dragon's Cave reveals some fantastic reliefs and murals created by monks in the 15th century.
Quiet, authentic and good for hiking and sightseeing
Locals claim that this verdant island is the birthplace of Marco Polo, but whether that's true or not, its landscape is spectacular and its ambience is utterly charming. The vineyards and olive groves of Lumbarda are the perfect complement to the unique architecture created by the island's legendary stonemasons. For romantics, a boat trip to the enchanting island monastery of Badja is a must; take a bottle of wine and watch the sunset to create memories to last a lifetime.
Superb for a romantic getaway
The jewel of the Dalmatian Islands, Hvar is blessed with non-stop sunshine and a lively culture to match. The influence of the Venetians is obvious, and it's a delight to wander the winding streets down to the harbour. If you're a history and nature lover after my own heart, you must explore the UNESCO-designated cultural landscape of Stari Grad Plain, which dates back to 385BC. There are also some quaint traditional fishing villages to visit, including Vrboska and Jelsa, and the stunning old hill town of Velo Grablje is a local secret I'm happy to share.
Perfect for history lovers and outdoor enthusiasts
The last island on my list is the absolutely gorgeous Mljet – an area considered so important that part of it is designated a national park. The lush wooded terrain also includes a couple of inland salt-water lakes, one of which is home to a former Benedictine monastery, now serving as a restaurant. It's an absolutely fantastic place to enjoy a peaceful cycle or paddle, followed by a quiet lunch and a bottle of wine. There's plenty of myth and history associated with Mljet, but possibly the most whimsical is the cave where legend has it Odysseus fell so in love with the island he could not bear to leave.
Excellent for history lovers and exploring the great outdoors
While I know it's not nice to play favourites, after so many years organising holidays to Croatia for my clients, there are some islands off the Croatian coast that have worked their way into my heart just a little more than others...
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing luxury holidays to Croatia, Bermuda, Sicily and many other destinations around the globe. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and stay up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts, history and culture.
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