The Adventurer's Guide
11 Best Islands in Croatia
So you’re going to Croatia and plan on doing a little island-hopping. It can be an overwhelming proposition when you consider the country has some 1,200 islands scattered across the Adriatic Sea. But fret not! We’ve narrowed it down to the 11 must-see islands in Croatia, so you can spend more time enjoying beautiful beaches and charming towns and less time scratching your noggin!
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If the Great Gatsby had taken place in Croatia, it would’ve been here. Hvar began as a Greek settlement in the 4th-century BCE, its name derived from the Greek word, pharos, meaning lighthouse. Today, this swanky island is known for its upscale accommodation, high-end shopping, and unforgettable nightlife.
Yacht-enthusiasts are probably already well-acquainted with Hvar’s reputation, but even budget travellers can enjoy this sun-kissed paradise by taking trips to the coastal towns of Stari Grad and Jelsa, and roaming among the historic buildings of Hvar’s town center.
Because it’s one of the country’s bigger islands (and its longest), you can easily find everything you’re looking for: from history and tradition, to the rich and famous. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the island boasts some 2,700 hours of sunshine per year! You may be wondering if that’s actually – let’s just say it’s the most in all of Europe.
Villa Miranda is an expansive estate situated on the island of Hvar in middle Dalmatia. Lounge by the refreshing pool, enjoying the relaxing sounds of nature as there are neither neighbors nor roads to disturb your tranquility. The rustic two-storey house is surrounded by many large gardens and fruit trees, offering a variety of delicious local fruits and vegetables to sample.
Just 40 miles long, Pag is known as “moon island” or “island of rock,” as 80% of its surface is made up of stone. The island itself is comprised of two parallel mountain ranges, with sleepy fishing villages dotting its rugged coastline.
The island is protected under UNESCO for its centuries-old traditions of cheese production and salt mining. In fact, during the last thousand years, most of Croatia’s salt has been coming from Pag! Because the island is so saturated in salt, even the grass growing in the fields is rich in saline. The island’s infamous cheese and lamb meat is produced from the sheep who eat this saline-rich grass. The unique flavours have garnered international praise.
The island’s eponymous town center is rife with cultural heritage and historic monuments; stroll through ancient stone streets between fortified Medieval walls in search of the 15th-century Gothic cathedral. For accommodation, head to Novalja, the island’s resort district.
Although much of this islands exudes tranquil and idyllic charm, let’s not forget that this is Croatia after all; if you’re in the mood to party, head to Zrće beach, known as “Croatia’s Ibiza” — need I say more?
House Srećko is a two-storey beach house in the town of Miškovići, on the island of Pag. It’s a traditional cottage, surrounded by lovely homes and the turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea. You’ll adore the large stone terrace offering sweeping views of the sea below, plenty of lounge chairs, and an outdoor grill and shower.
Located in Gulf of Kvarner, the “golden island” features one of Croatia’s oldest settlements and has a rich literary tradition. Wine-connoisseurs, listen up! The island’s many wineries and wine-tasting tours are an absolute must-sip. The local specialty, known as Žlahtina wine, is a dry white wine produced from Vrbnik’s grapes.
History-buffs should check out the 5th-century cathedral, as well as the Frankopan castle, which features a bell tower overlooking the Adriatic Sea. There’s also a Franciscan monastery built on a little island some 300 meters in diameter. And, if you’re up for a little adventure, why not visit Biserujka cave!
Villa Mare is located on the island of Krk, in the town of Vrh. It’s a paradise for those who love the outdoors, with so many hiking and cycling trails to choose from. Villa Mare is on a quiet road, surrounded by nature and a handful of traditional Croatian homes. The back courtyard is massive, boasting a swimming pool, shaded dining area, rustic shed, and manicured lawn.
This island’s claim-to-fame is its Zlatni rat beach in the town of Bol, considered one of the world’s best beaches. Zlatni rat roughly translates to “golden horn” or “golden cape,” named after its unique shape. Since most of Croatia’s beaches are pebble beaches, Zlatni rat seduces beach-goers with its sandy shores.
If you get bored of beach life, why not head to Purple Bay for some of Croatia’s best diving? You might even get to see a spotted shark! To learn more about diving in Croatia, check out our article, A Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Croatia.
For an island of roughly 14,000 people, Brač sees a lot of summer tourism and even has its own airport that you can fly into. With so much to see and do on the island, Brač is a good option for those looking for an extended stay, as opposed to a day trip.
House Andrej Brac is located in the village of Nerežišća, on the island Brač. This property boasts a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by a stone fence and hedges to provide you with extra privacy. This Croatian vacation rental accommodates up to eight guests with three bedrooms, and has additional space in the living room.
The title for Croatia’s biggest island goes to Cres. But size isn’t everything: Cres is the perfect specimen of a Croatian island, boasting sun-dappled, red-roofed towns, crumbling cliffside views of the Adriatic, and shady evergreen forests.
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to visit Lake Varna, a freshwater lake home to carp and algae. And keep your eyes peeled for scavenging griffons as they swoop down in search of prey. These Old World vultures have wingspans of up to ten feet!
House Erika is found in Porozina on the island of Cres. Its traditional red terracotta roof and white facade is complemented by its clean, bright, and modern interior. The highlight of the open-concept living room is the working fireplace, perfect to relax around on a chilly summer evening. Outside, the spacious stone yard offers seating for you and your guests, with beautiful views of the town.
Rab is a quiet and unassuming island off Croatia’s northern coast in the tranquil Bay of Kvarner. The island is a postcard scene of red terracotta roofs and rising church steeples, surrounded by crystal clear Adriatic waters. The city center is enclosed by medieval walls and there are four prominent church bells worth visiting.
For beach-dwellers, Paradise Beach in Lopar is a local favourite for its horse-shoe shape and two kilometers of sandy goodness. In fact, this beach is rated as one of the country’s best. Nudists are also in luck; head to Sahara Beach or FKK Kandarola Beach to enjoy nature in the buff. Check out this article for more info on nudist beaches in Croatia.
House Kalla is located in the town of Rab on the island of the same name, in the very tranquil Supetarska Draga suburb. This is the perfect retreat for those looking to escape the hustle, bustle, and all around noisiness of urban life! Built by the property owner’s grandfather over a hundred years ago, this Croatian vacation rental is a work of love and a testament to hard-work!
While Vis boasts both natural beauty and cultural richness, this idyllic island’s primary tourist draw is Biševo cave, a six kilometer long cave renowned for its Blue Grotto (Modra Spilja) where, between 11AM and 1PM on a bright, clear day, the sun casts the grotto in an ethereal ultramarine glow. While the effect is certainly memorable, high season crowds can create three hour long line-ups, so consider visiting in low season.
Because Vis is so far from Croatia’s mainland, it was used as a Yugoslav Army Base between 1950 and 1989. Tourists were only welcome on the island in the 90s, giving it a certain unspoiled feel unique amongst most of the country’s heavily trafficked islands. Today, Vis’ two main cities are Komiža, in the southwest, and Vis Town, in the northeast.
The lush, idyllic island of Mljet has been drawing crowds for as long as recorded history. In fact, legend has it that Odysseus’ ship was wrecked on the shores of Mljet, forcing him to take refuge in a cave there for some seven years! Once you visit this little slice of paradise, you’ll understand why he didn’t leave sooner.
If you’re a foodie, be sure to taste the local goat cheese, a renowned island specialty! For outdoors people, head to the incredible Mljet National Park, which boasts acres of lush wilderness, a sparkling blue lake, and a medieval monastery. If you’re just looking to unwind and go for a swim, visit Malo Jezero and Veliko, salt lakes that invite you to take a dip in their warm, tranquil waters.
House Ana is located on the South Dalmatian island of Mljet, in the town of Sobra. It’s a traditional stone and terracotta house that sits at the foot of a rugged mountain. The home features a gorgeous outdoor pool facing the Adriatic Sea just feet away! There is plenty of room to lounge here, either in sun or shade and, because the property is fenced, you’ll have absolute privacy.
Affectionately known as, “Little Dubrovnik,” for its ancient medieval walls encircling the town, Korčula is the country’s second most densely populated island. The name dates back to ancient times, when early Greeks discovered the island and christened it Black Korčula for its dense, dark forests (something outdoors-lovers are sure to find alluring even now).
Today, the island’s notoriety is tied to its white wine and white sand beaches. The wine, grown and produced locally, uses the island’s ubiquitous pošip grape to create an intensely aromatic and flavourful white — connoisseurs are definitely advised to take a wine tour or two while visiting. Also worth visiting is the nearby island of Badija, a small uninhabited place that features a stunning 14th-century Franciscan monastery and gorgeous hilltop views of the surrounding islands and Adriatic Sea.
Villa Lighthouse Korkyra is situated on a small islet near the southern Dalmatian island of Korčula. If you are looking for a restorative vacation, away from the crowded cities and with a touch of luxury, this villa is the right choice for you. Escape the daily grind and experience the uniqueness of this lighthouse vacation rental in Croatia, surrounded by the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea and idyllic nature.
10. DUGI OTOK
West of Zadar, along the Dalmatian coast, is Dugi Otok. Literally meaning, “Long Island,” Dugi Otok is true to its name; this 45 km stretch of land attains a measly width of 4.8 km at its widest and 1 km at its most narrow. Asides from being geographically interesting, Dugi Otok is perhaps most known for its sheer cliffs and sandy beaches.
The dramatic landscape draws adventurers from all over the world, inviting them to scuba dive, hike, cycle, and climb throughout its majestic terrain. Most of the towns are concentrated along the island’s eastern side, while much of the west remains wild and rugged. The southeastern part of the island is a designated National Park, and Telascica Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Adriatic.
This choice may seem a bit strange, but hear us out! Silba is a north Dalmatian island that is both tranquil and idyllic, with a humble population of just under 300 souls. Coming here is a retreat back to nature: The island has no cars, no hotels, and no bicycles (after high season, that is). A visit to Silba is the perfect way to vacation from your vacation, giving you some much-needed peace of mind before heading back to the daily grind of working life. Enjoy the fresh air and visit the island’s numerous beaches and coves — you’re almost sure to find one all to yourself (and maybe even find yourself)!
Your perfect island itinerary is waiting! To book your vacation getaway today, check out THE STELLA’s curated collection of Croatian vacation rentals, with properties all throughout the Adriatic islands! For more great information to help plan your trip to Croatia, check out the Croatia National Tourist Board‘s official website.
Next, read up on these five Croatian hidden gems!