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Top 10 islands to visit in Croatia

The 1,246 islands and islets that dot Croatia’s Adriatic coast come in all shapes, sizes, and topographies, and each has a unique atmosphere. Some have been firmly stationed on the tourist circuit for decades, while others are less visited and offer a quieter scene. With the growing number of tourists, many increasingly cater to luxury travelers and offer ’boutique’ experiences, while others remain delightfully low-key, with few fancy resorts and high-end hotels, and a more authentic atmosphere.

There is certainly much to attract visitors: neat pebble and sandy beaches lapped by clear turquoise waters, fascinating historic towns and rustic villages, some of the best boating routes, miles of walking and biking trails, and excellent local cuisine, wine and olive oil. The difficult journey is part of the draw: since most Croatian islands can only be reached by boat or ferry, there is a feeling that Robinson Crusoe is embarking on a great adventure. Not sure which island is for you? Here are the top 10 islands to visit in Croatia.


With an average of 2718 hours of sunshine per year, Hvar is the sunniest of the islands on the Dalmatian coast. It is also the most stylish and a magnet for Hollywood stars: Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jodie Foster, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson have all vacationed here. Hvar Town has also become a party destination, attracting many international revelers thanks to its large number of trendy bars and clubs located in the harbor area. For a quieter scene, head to the picturesque port towns of Jelsa and Stari Grad.


Brač is best known for its magnificent Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) beach that looks like a long jutting finger stretching out to the sea. Don’t expect sand: you will find fine stones and it is difficult to resist diving into the aquamarine waters. Along with beach goers, this is a popular destination with wind surfers, and the island’s proximity to the mainland makes it popular with hikers. At 2,552 feet, Vidova Gora is the highest peak of all the Adriatic islands. A climb to the top is rewarded with incomparable views over the entire island and nearby Hvar.


The charming town of Korčula is a great attraction for visitors. The exceptionally well-preserved 15th- century walls surround the compact old town made up of herringbone-shaped narrow streets lined with medieval stone buildings. The interior of the island hides quiet and picturesque villages surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and wineries run by local producers where you can taste the island’s Grk, Pošip and Rukatac varieties of white wine. For beach lovers, there are many pebble and sandy beaches: Vela Pržina, Bilin Zal and Tatinja at the eastern end of the island have fine sandy beaches.


The arid and rocky Pag is one of the few Croatian islands that is connected to the mainland via a bridge, but there are ferry services to the nearby island of Rab and to Rijeka further north on the mainland. Most of Pag’s inhabitants are of the sheep variety that feed on the island’s wild herbs and provide the distinctive cheese that Pag is known for. Sea salt and a dry white wine from Žutica are also produced here. Meanwhile, Zrce Beach and its open-air nightclubs and summer music festivals are a huge draw for the party crowd.


This remote island is one of the most remote from mainland Croatia and was completely closed to visitors when it served as a military base until 1983. Today, it is one of the least explored and least developed islands in terms of tourist infrastructure, which makes it particularly worth visiting. Nature lovers will be amazed by the stunning natural landscapes: the cliffs surrounding the cove and Stiniva beach create a surreal setting, and a popular attraction is the Blue Cave on the nearby islet of Biševo. Every day just before noon, the sun’s rays enter the cave and reflect off its limestone walls, creating a bright and mysterious blue light. Vis Town has a pleasant promenade and is the first settlement on the island, while picturesque Komiža is a fishing village of stone houses in a secluded bay.


The lush and unspoiled Mljet doesn’t draw the crowds from some of the more well-known Dalmatian islands. The island has only 19 settlements, most of which are small but picturesque fishing villages. 15th Okuklje seventeenth century is in a horseshoe shaped bay and is the oldest coastal settlement in Croatia. Occupying the western section of the island is the Mljet National Park, which covers an area of 20 square miles and is mostly covered in Aleppo oak and pine forests. Most notable are two sparkling blue seawater lakes, Malo Jezero (Small Lake) and Veliko Jezero (Large Lake) connected by a narrow channel. The 12th century Benedictine monastery and the church of Santa Maria is located in Veliko Jezero are the most visited attractions of the park.


“On the last day of creation, God wished to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati islands with tears, stars, and breath.” Here’s what George Bernard Shaw had to say about this group of islands after a visit in 1929. Covering an area of 124 square miles, this is a dense archipelago of 140 mostly arid islands and islets, 89 of which make up the Kornati National Park. The only way to explore this spectacular maze of islands and reefs is, of course, on a sailboat, which can easily be rented together with a captain. The park office also organizes daily tours during the tourist season that include lunch and a guide. For sailing, diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, it’s the closest you can get to paradise.


Located in the north of the Adriatic, Rab is a relatively small island that covers only 36 square miles, but it is very attractive to outdoor enthusiasts. Its northern ridge is marked by hiking trails that lead to vantage points with panoramic views over neighboring islands and the Velebit mountain range on the mainland. The forested peninsula of Dundo offers a number of marked trails for cyclists, while the golden sandy beaches of the Lopar peninsula on the northeast tip of the island are a great draw for sun worshipers. The aptly named Paradise Beach is especially popular with families, but there are many secluded coves, some of which are optional clothing. Atmospheric Rab Town and its pedestrian paths are a delight to explore – climb the 85-foot-tall bell tower of St Mary’s Church for stunning 360-degree views over its terra-cotta rooftops.

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You won’t find boutique retreats or luxury resorts in Cres, but you will come across diverse and unspoiled landscapes of rocky mountains and oak and pine forests, as well as charming port and hilltop towns. With few inhabitants, medieval Beli and Lubenice are ghost towns of yesteryear – the spectacular sea views from here have definitely not changed, while their stone facades and cobbled streets have been preserved for years to come. In contrast, the cheerful port towns of Valun and Cres Town are painted with colorful facades and their cafe-lined boardwalks, while picturesque Osor is filled with beautiful rose gardens, hidden courtyards, and stone cottages. Be sure to try the island’s excellent olive oil which has EU protected status.


The motto of the local tourist office is ‘Island of Vitality’ and there is no shortage of hotels here offering spas and treatments as part of their wellness packages. The many resorts that date back to communist times are receiving facelifts and upgrades, as the island is rebranded as a luxury wellness destination. The best way to explore the island is on foot or by bike – there are over 150 miles of marked trails to choose from. The highlight is the 1929 foot climb to the top of Osoršćica Mountain from where there are panoramic views over neighboring islands, and even as far as the Slovenian Alps. The colorful port cities of Veli Lošinj and Mali Lošinj are must-sees for their laid-back atmosphere and many waterside cafes.

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