The Adventurer's Guide
5 Hidden Gems of Croatia: Sea, Islands, and Lakes
When THE STELLA opened for business, we earmarked three Central European countries surrounding the Adriatic Sea. This trifecta of countries could provide our guests something we couldn’t quite find anywhere else. What stood out? The ability to find a hidden slice of paradise in a world that is increasingly oversaturated with crowds and hashtagged landmarks. Not here. In Slovenia’s postcard-worthy Bohinj and at the high ankle of Italy’s boot, you can find the oft-missed. Today, we focus on Croatia in all its aquatic, but hidden (shh!), glory.
First stop: Lastovo, an end-of-the-world style island municipality deep into the Adriatic Sea off Croatia’s coast between Split and Dubrovnik. A trip to Lastovo is a chance to disconnect; the islands are without WiFi, and even a phone signal is hard to come by. It is the only Croatian island to be declared a nature park in its entirety. Don’t worry if your ferry ride over is packed — most of those people are going to Korčula. By the time you reach Lastovo, you’ll discover this place really is an off-the-beaten path paradise. Discover quiet coves and rocky shores that feed into the sea. And most importantly, find yourself.
2. Dugi Otok
The often overlooked Dugi Otok is known to many as Long Island for its lengthy 45-kilometre body. Despite its size, it’s mostly free of traffic and noise. Part of the Dalmatian Coast’s Zadar archipelago, this island has several national parks from which to enjoy your surroundings. Head to Telašćica, on the southeastern portion of the island, to revel in the still, clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. From Kornati National Park, you can make day trips to small islets like Taljurić or Vela Proversa. Inland, Dugi Otok has 12 small, charming villages to discover.
So, no one actually lives on Badija Island. But it is home to a 14th-century Franciscan monastery and several swimmable rocky beaches. Both scenic and quaint, the island is sparsely populated. Don’t be surprised though to see a wandering deer minding its own business. Beginning from the taxi boat ride over stunningly blue waters, the Badija experience is magical. Once you reach the island, the water doesn’t stop calling you to jump in. (Go for it!) The island is walkable in just short of two hours along pine tree-lined paths. There are no accommodations on the island, but THE STELLA has several properties on nearby islands on the Dalmatian Coast.
4. Lover’s Island
This one you’ve got to see to believe. Noticed by Google Earth in 2009, the Croatian island known as Galesnjak is truly shaped just like a heart. It’s small. It’s uninhabited. And there are no natural attractions. Yet it’s quickly becoming one of the country’s most popular attractions, for lovebirds especially. (Can you imagine a proposal, or even a wedding on this island?) The island just off the coast of the small city of Turanj is isolated and private — for now, that is — not to mention untamed and without man-made structures. This could change, and soon. Follow your heart to Galesnjak, the Lover’s Island. Now.
Looking for something a little less vast than the Adriatic Sea? Check out Croatia’s Kordun region, where rivers criss-cross and waterfalls, well, fall. Rastoke, a small suburb north of Slunj town, is rustic, and best of all, unheralded despite being just 25-kilometres from the popular Plitvice Lakes National Park. At Rastoke, rafting, kayaking, and off-roading are all the rage. For the brave, cliff-jumping raises the adrenaline before the relaxation of Rastoke takes you over. The town crescendos at the intersection of the Slunjcica and Korana rivers, where a population of roughly 100 take residence under wood shingles.
Alright, you’ve found our hidden gems in Croatia — just don’t tell too many people. With Croatia top-of-mind as your next vacation destination, check out all the Croatian vacation rentals THE STELLA has to offer near to these well-kept secrets. But not too close!