Tiny and secluded, verdant and traditional or trendy and glamorous, the islands of Europe have always been a magnet for tourists in search of an authentic beach holiday. Although not as famous as those of Italy or Spain, the Croatian coastline is peppered with dozens of glorious islands, from the rugged and remote to genuine tourist meccas. Here are 5 of the most beautiful islands in Croatia:
- Hvar Island Croatia
- Vis Island Croatia
- Brac Island Croatia
- Mijet Island Croatia
- Korcula Island Croatia
- Best Islands off Dubrovnik
- Lovers Island, Croatia
- Pag Island Croatia
- Red Island Croatia
- Island of Solta Croatia
- Krk Island
- Silba Island
- Ugljan Island Croatia
- Bol, Island of Brac Croatia
- Bisevo Island Croatia
- Visovac Island Croatia
Hvar Island Croatia
With a privileged location just off the Dalmatian coast, a vibrant nightlife and a series of spectacular beaches, Hvar is without doubt the most fashionable island in Croatia. Also famed for its lush greenery, scenic hilltop vineyards and gorgeous Venetian-era style that adorns its main town, it comes as no surprise that Hvar is such a sought-after destination for the European jetsetters. The most attractive place on the island is the dynamic Hvar Town with its picturesque medieval streets, vibrant atmosphere and stunning yacht-studded port, but the enchanting villages of Stari Grad and Jelsa are well worth a visit for their lovely landscapes and beautiful historic sites.
Vis Island Croatia
If you’re a nature lover or a nostalgic traveler looking for “the Mediterranean as it was once” (Croatia’s slogan), the fascinating island of Vis is certainly the right place to find it. This magnificent patch of land in the Adriatic Sea is one of the few remaining places that still retain their old-fashion charm. It stands out due to its laid-back atmosphere, authentic cuisine and the unspoilt natural beauty that almost takes your breath away. Highlights include the ancient, yet lively Vis town, the picture-perfect fishing village of Komiza and the pristine sandy beaches speckled around the island’s southern coast. Last but not least, thanks to its crystal clear waters and rich marine life, the magnificent Vis Island is an ideal destination for scuba diving.
Brac Island Croatia
Conveniently situated just off the coast of Split, Brac is not only the biggest island in the Adriatic, but also a popular tourist destination, offering something for everyone. Famous especially for the abundance water sports available, Brac prides itself with one of the most spectacular and photographed beaches in Croatia – Zlatni Rat. In addition to this natural wonder, the island boasts a variety of interesting sights, including the awe-inspiring Dragon’s cave, the pulsating town of Bol, as well as the idyllic villages of Skrip, Dol and Mirca.
Brac Island Map
Mijet Island Croatia
Perfect for a quiet vacation, Mijet is the greenest and most enthralling of the Croatian islands. With dense forests and luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation covering most of its territory and emerald waters fringing its superb untouched beaches, Mijet can easily be consider a nature’s paradise. It boasts two wonderful salt lakes – Veliko and Malo Jezero, an outstanding natural park (Mljet National Park) and a lovely collection of quaint villages, each one more attractive than the other.
Korcula Island Croatia
Korkula lies in central Dalmatian archipelago as the perfect fusion of natural beauty, long-lasting traditions and contemporary development. The entire island is brimming with picturesque secluded beaches and revolves around the walled medieval town with the same name. Dubbed “Little Dubrovnik”, Korkula town resembles not only the charm of Croatia’s most beautiful city, but also the exquisite architecture of its mind-blowing Old Town with narrow cobbled streets and red-roofed houses. Popular activities on this beautiful island full of art and culture include sightseeing, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing and wine tourism. The mouth-watering traditional food, the excellent local wines and the gorgeous museums are all part of Korkula’s charm.
Best Islands off Dubrovnik
If you are only staying in the Dubrovnik area and want to do day trips to some islands, here are some of the best:
Lokrum is only 15 minutes away from Dubrovnik and it is amazing! Just head down to the old port and Jump on a ferry and spend the day there. Lokrum is a nature reserve so you cannot stay the night. You can easily explore the left hand section of the island from Lokrum port, but not the whole island on a hot day.
Lopud can be seen on the the island hoping trips offered by many companies, you can usually see 3 in a day.
Best of the rest
Lovers Island, Croatia
Lovers Island is a pretty big deal among, uh, lovers. Its traditional name is Galesnjak, but many know it by the former, a moniker the island – also dubbed Love Island or Isle of Love – got from its unique heart shape, a resemblance that is nothing short of uncanny.
It sprang to the world’s attention in 2009 after photos of Google Earth captured its unique shape, and since then, it has become a lovers’ delight.
The private and uninhabited Lovers Island has a surface area of 0.132 sq/km, with a coastline stretching 1.55 km in length. There isn’t much to it really, considering its relative newness as a travel destination and the desire to keep it untamed.
Much of it is still virgin land, covered by shrubs upon a mostly rocky terrain, with no notable manmade features, other than the small chapel used to host weddings. It is this raw atmosphere that makes it such a big draw for love birds looking for an idyllic spot to enjoy some alone time. Its unspoiled pebble beach makes for a great place to chill out, and the azure-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea are perfect for a romantic dip.
Other notable activities include camping, picnics and boat rides, and couples looking to stay the night have to bring their own boat and moor up at the jetty.
Lovers Island is tacked between the Pasman islands and the town of Turanj on mainland Croatia, and getting there involves renting a boat at Pasman or Zadar. The alternative is to hop on a cruise that makes a stopover on the island.
Pag Island Croatia
Measuring 60km long, Pag Island is the fifth-largest island in Croatia and boasts one of the longest coastlines.
It is an island of contrasts this.
The landscape itself is as barren as they come, a fact that has led some to liken it to the moon’s landscape: dry and relatively barren.
It is the last place you would expect to make for a nice party atmosphere, thus, but do not be fooled. Nice is actually an understatement; this North Dalmatian Island is the ultimate party island in Croatia, such that it has even earned itself the nickname Croatian Ibiza.
Pag Island is home to numerous gorgeous beaches, most of which are relatively untouristed, with each its own unique destination.
For instance, Simun beach is a great camping spot, and one of the best beaches on the island thanks to its calm, shallow cove. Families will love it on Strasko, a two-km-long sandy beach dotted with pine trees, Dalmatian oaks and olive trees, and best known as a child-friendly camping ground.
Zrce beach, on the other hand, is a nightlife haven where the party goes down hard, with multiple summer events and music festivals, including the legendary Hideout Festival.
Besides partying and camping, there is a whopping lot to engage in on this must-visit island which is home to about 10 thousand inhabitants who live here across the year. Deep-seated history. Bird watching. Rock climbing. Fishing. Wine tasting. Local cuisine. Village expeditions. Quad biking. Cruising and much, much more.
Whatever you do, make it a point of sampling the Paski lamb, one of the best in the country, and the special Paski Sir, a cheese made from sheep milk.
Pag is easy to reach, with plenty of low-cost flights from all over Europe. Whichever part of the country you land, all you have to do is catch a bus (or ferry) to the nearby towns of Zadar (an hour’s drive) or Rijeka. Alternatives include a bus from Zagreb, the capital, and Split.
Red Island Croatia
Red Island, also known as Crveni otok, is an island made up of two islets – St. Andrew’s Island (Sveti Andrija) and Maskin – which have been artificially linked together. There is nothing red about it, save for its red earth, although this can be found throughout the Istria peninsula. The name is said to have been coined by British tourists due to the influx of Russian tourists on the island.
This historical island is home to a large number of beaches, mostly stony with coves. The Sveti Andrija side has a shallow drop-off ideal for kids. Other activities here including windsurfing, sailing and diving (lessons are offered), as well as golfing on the miniature courses. It is on this islet that the most frequented beaches are also nestled, albeit on the south side of the island near the hotel and annex.
Maskin features an indented coast speckled with rocky coves and paths that lead to the woods. Its main activities include swimming and snorkelling, with restaurants and plenty of spaces to picnic.
Getting to Red Island is easy as there are plenty of day trips both on and off season. Catch a boat at Rovinj, a picturesque town on the Istria peninsula famed for its pastel houses. You can do so either from the town centre or from Zlatni Rt (Golden Cape) near the Hotel Park.
Island of Solta Croatia
With a total size of 58 sq/km, Solta (pronounced Sholta) is the 13th largest island in Croatia, with a coastline that stretches 80 km. It is home to about 1,500 people, with eight settlements scattered both inland and along the shore. The summer months do witness a flurry of tourists, though, and as far as attractions go, Necujam is the most famous (and youngest) of the eight – and understandably so considering it sits the island’s longest and biggest beach.
Necujam also happens to hold the longest tourism history tracing numerous centuries back, as well the largest bay on the island. However, the mantle of largest settlement goes to Grohote, an agricultural area located in the middle of the island.
Stomorska is the second most important in terms of tourism, and the summer months witness a number of fishing activities. This is the go-to place for nightlife in Solta, and here you’ll find the largest concentration of cafes on the island.
What makes this island the treasure it is today is that it remained unaffected by the mass tourism during socialism which has seen it largely retain its natural and cultural heritage to this day.
Solta may not be on the list of most glamorous Dalmatian islands, but if you are not one for large crowds, you will fall in love with this island that remains sufficiently undiscovered. The island is also a feast for the history lover, with attractions and traditions waiting to be discovered.
There are multiple car ferry trips between the city of Split and Rogac, Solta’s main port, and this takes 50 minutes on average.
You can also get to Solta via a catamaran from Split to Rogac, which also plies the Stomorska route on certain departures. From the ferry harbor, there are buses to all villages on the island.
Krk Island, along with Cres, are the two biggest islands in Croatia, coincidentally measuring 405.78 sq/km each. Krk is the northernmost island in the Adriatic Sea. Its southern section is more forested and home to one of Croatia’s rare sandy beaches in Baska (pronounced Bashka). The northwestern part experiences some fierce winds, a fact that contributes to its barren look. Krk Town sits in between these two, and it is here that most of the tourism on the island happens.
Attractions range from historic towns to rural villages, where the authentic spirit of the old world is still very much alive, as well as secluded bays and crowded city beaches, family-friendly restaurants, and night bars.
This is not the go-to island for anyone looking for some peace and quiet for the simple reason that it is the most visited island in Croatia.
Krk is also the most accessible island in the country.
Most people get here by car because it is linked to the mainland by causeway. There is also an abundance of buses from Rijeka, best known as the gateway to the islands of Croatia, with stops in all the towns on the island.
Silba, also known as the Gates of Dalmatia, is a largely secluded island – farthest from the shore in Zadar archipelago actually – and one of the most beautiful Croatian islands hands-down.
If Lovers Island resembles the heart, then the 15 sq/km Silba looks more like a kidney. Heck, its no-car policy (and lack of hotels – tourists stay in apartments and private houses) means it even maintains the purification aspect, a fact emphasised by its unspoilt, soothing nature that easily makes it one of the leading eco-islands in Croatia.
Bicycles are also banned on the island (at least between mid-July and late-August) meaning all activity is kept at pedestrian pace. Even the only settlement on the island – Silba Town – has an air of calming luxury about it, with its walled gardens and palm-shaded houses a constant reminder of the island’s once commercial affluence.
Silba Island features some breathtaking natural sights, and its roughly 300 residents charm visitors with tantalizing delicacies and interesting events organized by the island’s Tourist Association.
Other activities to engage in include skirting the serene bays on the northern and eastern parts of the shore, snorkelling, beach volleyball and more. Scaling Toreta, the panoramic viewing tower, is a must. You can get to Silba by boat or ferry from Zadar, the closest city on the mainland. A trip by catamaran takes 1.5 hours while the ferry will take you 4.5 hours. The alternative route is from Pula or the Island of Mali Losinj.
Ugljan Island Croatia
Nestled opposite the town of Zadar is the island of Ugljan, one of the most charming islands on the Zadar archipelago. The whole lot of it is covered in green, with Mediterranean plantation – pine trees, olive and vine groves, dense bushes etc. – dotting its landscape. Little wonder it’s nicknamed the green island.
The eastern side facing Zadar is gentler and more populous compared to its steeper and rugged western counterpart which remains uninhabited. Ugljan Island has a rustic feel to it which makes it the perfect escape from the bustling Zadar – or an alternative place of accommodation.
Its population of 6,000 (should be more considering the last count was in 2011) has been agricultural and fishing oriented since centuries gone by. However, tourism is, understandably, becoming a main feature.
Ugljan is an island made up of seven settlements, the largest of which goes by the same name.
Kali is more popular with fishermen on the Adriatic, while Kukljica is a fishing-turn-recent-tourist hotspot, especially for families with children, yachtsmen and excursionists.
Preko provides basic tourist offerings like shops, restaurants, bars, and also a bank and gas station. Ugljan, for its part, features attractive sandy beaches, the most beautiful of which can be found in Cinta and Mostir coves.
Ugljan Island can be reached by the multiple regular lines from Zadar.
Bol, Island of Brac Croatia
Bol is an old town (oldest settlement in Croatia in fact) located on the southern part of the island Brac. It sits in perfect solitude at the bottom of Vidova Mountain and is the highest point in the Adriatic Sea.
You cannot help but marvel at its beauty on the map. As well, in real life, it so happens to be home to a beach widely considered the prettiest in Croatia, the Zlatni Rat beach. This is a beach that many esteemed Top 10 lists have also voted one of the most beautiful in the world.
The island, also known as Golden Horn beach, juts 500 metres out into the Adriatic Sea in a unique V-shape. It is covered in pebbles, with turquoise waters surrounding it which transform into a deep azure the farther away you move from the shore. Even the shape itself is not permanent as it’s subject to change from wind and water currents.
Major activities to engage in include swimming and sunbathing, windsurfing, scuba diving, boat excursions, biking, hiking, discovering nearby beaches, ball games and much more. If you’re looking for beaches to visit in Croatia, slot Zlatni Rat beach (and Bol as a whole) right at the top of your list.
The island of Brac has four ferry ports – Bol, Milna, Supetar and Sumartin – so getting there is convenient. You can do so through car ferry or the faster catamaran.
You can also reach Brac by road, but you’ll first have to make your way to Split (there are multiple paths depending on where you are). From Split, take a ferry to Supetar on the island Brac, from where you will go another 39 km by car to get to Bol. If you’re coming from the south of Croatia, take a ferry from Makarska to Sumartin on Brac, then do another 29 km from Sumartin to Bol by car.
Bisevo Island Croatia
Bisevo Island is more of an islet that only covers 6 sq/km. It is the remotest inhabited island in Croatia. Bisevo would rarely be on the news were it not for a few treasures holed up on the tiny island.
Most notable is the famous Modra Spilja (the Blue Grotto), an incredibly beautiful blue cave that lies at the Balun Cove on the island’s eastern side. The Blue Cave (its more popular name) had always been known to ancient Croatian fishermen, but it was not until 1884 when its side wall was blasted with dynamite to make a relatively easier entrance.
Before then, the only way you could gain access was to dive under the rock wall at just the precise spot. The cave emits a bright blue glowing effect which is as a result of the sun’s rays penetrating the water and reflecting off the cave’s limestone floor. It makes for quite a spectacle, and it’s at its most beautiful between 11 am and noon on any given sunny, peaceful day.
Bisevo Island is also home to about 10 caves strewn around its coast, but none like the Blue Cave.
The best way to get to the island is to hire a boat in Komiza and take all the time in the world to tour the island. Otherwise, there are plenty of summer excursion boats linking Komiza and Bisevo.
A regular passenger ferry service is also not too bad an idea, considering it departs Komiza at 8 a.m. You can have the island to your own until 3.30 p.m. when the return trip from Porat on Bisevo is scheduled.
Visovac Island Croatia
Visovac Island, located in the middle of Visovac Lake in Krka National Park, is one of Croatia’s most treasured natural and cultural resources. Reason is because one of the most magnificently located monasteries in the world sits here, if not the most magnificently located.
The Franciscan monastery traces its roots back to 1576, long after Visovac Island had assumed a de facto status as a religious hermit.
Think of the monastery complex – which also houses the Church of Our Lady of Visovac – as a tiny island within the larger island of Visovac. It is completely detached from the main island, sitting smack in the middle of the water, with a cypress ring palisading it. It’s one of the most beautiful natural settings you will come across.
In the centuries that followed, particularly between the 16th and 19th centuries, the monastery amassed an exquisite collection of reliquaries, paintings and folk costumes. These treasures are available for show in a small museum often tended by 10 monks in residence.
You can get to Visovac Island by taking a boat from Bristane village on the mainland. Sunday mass is a must every week, and the monastery assumes the responsibility of ferrying worshippers to and from Bristane for mass. Miss that, and you have to head to Skradin in Krka National Park to take an excursion boat.