Our Favourite Croatian Islands
Croatia has 1185 islands. And those odds mean that it's more than just a cliché to say that there's probably a Croatian island to suit everyone. Don't let the number daunt you though – only about 400 of them are more than a rock or reef atoll, only around 70 are inhabited and only around 20 have facilities for visitors who don't intend to camp or stay aboard their sailing vessel.
But those islands offer more varied holiday experiences than you can have across several other countries: there are sunny settled islands with long protected beaches perfect for family bucket and spade holidays, rugged rocky islands dotted with thick old forest that explorers will love, party islands, people watching islands, islands for watersports enthusiasts and verdant islands that produce food and wine that gourmets will revel in.
Sailors have always had the run of Croatia's islands, but with modern ferries and catamarans covering the short distances between many of the inhabited islands they've become very accessible.
The difficulty is still in choosing your own island idyll, but we're here to help you with a list our favourites and what you can expect on each of them.
World Weather Map - Find out what the weather's like when you're travelling.
Hvar's grace comes largely care of the architecture built by 16th Century Venetians and its glamour comes care of the stars of stage and screen who visit. Those visitors are very often also coming to take advantage of the rural interior with its heady blend of lavender, heather and rosemary. Explorers can follow the hiking of biking trails – be prepared for the sharp intake of breath you'll need when you see the views from the mountain ridge that runs along the island's spine.
The coastline dips from rocky cliffs to secluded sandy coves but the best beaches are on the Pakeleni Islands about 20 minutes from Hvar Town by water taxi, or a bit longer if you travel out to them by sea kayak.
Korčula's architecture is again Venetian, but it's been supplanted into ancient towns with walls that date back hundreds of years further: Korčula's folk history suggest it was founded by a Trojan hero in the 12thCentury BC. Much of the rest of the island is covered in pine woods, with the rest in vineyards, making it one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic. The sandy coastline is another major draw but Korčula is a historians island idyll rather than a place for beach babes.
Palagruža is a much better choice for beach lovers, especially those bringing their family. This island's beaches are covered in fine pebbles that roll out into clear, shallow bays. If that sounds perfect there is one main problem: the island's only building is a lighthouse so you can't stay here. Most people arrive on this wild and rocky island half way between Croatia and Italy via charted boat from Korčula,
Brač is a very good island for livelier beach babes. Zlatni Rat Beach on Brač isn't just one of Croatia's most photographed beaches, it's also Croatia's top windsurfing beach. It's the kind of beach with clear water off a pebbly shore, loved by scuba divers, sea kayakers, parasailors, water skiers, jet skiers and the like. Lots of visitors come over for the day from Hvar or Split, but if you stay the night you get to enjoy it after the day-tripping crowds have gone home and you'll have it almost to yourself.
Brač is big enough to have its own airport, but is also easily accessed by boat or ferry, which is probably why its also the kind of place with multi-lingual menus and a range of comfortable accommodation options. If you want to visit Zlatni Rat stay in Bol. The other main port is Supetar.
If you like to spend you time off doing a spot of mountain biking or hiking in the mornings and then maybe some windsurfing, snorkelling or parasailing in the afternoon then Rab is the Croatian island option for you. The island's terrain varies from dense forests to rocky karst cliffs ripe for climbing and open lagoons and it's a playground for active explorers.
Rab is, conversely, the island for naturists of the more naked kind. Kandarola beach isn't known for watersports, it's thought to have been Croatia's first nudist beach, and it all started when Rab island's local authorities gave permission for King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson to go skinny dipping in 1936 – which is a raunchy thing for a king to ask for permission for...
Rab Town is the island's main town, it's a collection of interesting medieval buildings arranged behind a fortified peninsular.
Long, narrow Mljet is covered in ancient forests, which hide many dramatic gorges and chasms now protected within the boundaries of National Parks. In the centre of the island are two lakes, Malo and Veliko, whose sparkling green shades are much admired by photographers as well as watersports-people
Mljet's Saplunara beach is one of the nicest along this stretch of coast. Sobra, the main port on the island, is connected to Dubrovnik-Gruž and Ston via a car ferry.
Pag is often referred to as the Croatian Ibiza, because this is the island to visit if you fancy a night out. The main drag when it comes to clubs is Zree Beach, which is where the 24 hour club licences take hold in the summer, attracting the big name DJs.
As well as nibbling at olives grown on the island's north with your pre-dancing drinks you may also want to try some sheep milk cheese, another local speciality.
If you fancy the idea of an island hopping holiday but you can't sail yet that can be remedied off the coast of Murter. On shore there's a nautical academy, the Kornati National Park and sandy Slanica beach – a popular choice for beach volleyball players. Off shore there's a reef rising out of the water in places forming an interesting marine terrain of reefs and atolls.
You can get to Murter by car – across a long drawbridge.
East from Istria in the Kvarner Gulf lies Cres, an island of contrasts, of steep rocky cliffs to verdant forests, to mountain peaks that sometimes even get a sprinkling of snow. One of the reasons Cres is such a green and pleasant place is its lake, Vransko Lake, which catches the rainwater tha fuels the abundance of growth – proof of which can also been seen in the air, the island is home of over 90 different species of bird, including owls, eagles and griffon vultures, who can be seen around the town of Beli. From this description one might get the impression that Cres is an unpopulated isle, but that's not the case, it's population stands at about three and a half thousand and it's one of the largest of Croatia's islands.
Get to Cres from Krk or the Istrian Peninsular. Cres is the largest town, but there are many small towns dotted across the island. Apart from eco-interested visitors the island attracts a lot of retirees to its scenic shores.
Until 1989 Vis was a military base, but after the last sub pulled out the island was quickly colonised by the sailing set looking for fresh territory. Since then the foodie set have also come to love Vis: around 20% of its land is laid out with vineyards, with a lot also given over to olive groves. The seafood is supposed to be amazing as well. Foodies hang out in the local 'konobes', which are taverns, and chow down on fresh sardines, mackerel and anchovies, done in a variety of local styles, paired with one of the local organic wines (the white is called Vugava and the red Mali Plavac), or Rogacica, which is the local liqueur made from wild local carob.
After you're fully sated spend some time going over the ancient Roman and Greek ruins. Vis is about two and a half hours from Split by ferry.
If you're planning to reach your island destination by ferry it's helpful to know that Croatia's largest ferry operator, Jadrolinjia, has an English speaking website though which you can pre-book your tickets - which especially important in the high season. Prices obviously vary with the operator and the distance travelled, but they're about £10 per foot passenger and £30 for a car.
It's also useful to know that most of the largest ports are right near the airports.
Comments, questions and reviews by other travellers
There are no posts. Why not be the first to have your say?