The 10 Best Islands in Croatia
So, you're wondering about the best islands in Croatia, eh? It's not an easy pick – there are more than 1,000 options speckling the glinting Adriatic Sea as its runs from Dubrovnik in the south to the ports of Rijeka in the north. But we've managed to whittle all those down to 10 top choices. Cue this guide, which lists isles for the rakija-hungry party animals, hotspots for dedicated beach bums, and even remote rocks encompassed by nature reserves. Let's set sail…
No list of the best islands in Croatia could possibly skip out on Hvar. This is the jewel in the crown of the Dalmatian Islands; a vacation mecca to match Ibiza and Mykonos. From May to August every year, it pumps with life, as cohorts of Gucci-clad yachters collide with beer-guzzling backpackers in venues like Hula Hula. There are two main towns, Hvar Town and Stari Grad. The first is a chic mix of marina-side cocktail venues while the latter is an ancient web of stony lanes enfolded by monasteries and vineyards. Need to cure the hangover? No worries: Coves like Velo Borce and Malo Zarace have pebbly swimming spots, and there's a rejuvenating backcountry topped with wild thyme and oleander to wander.
Brac is a land of superlatives. It's not only the largest island in the Dalmatian region, but it's actually the largest in the whole of the Adriatic Sea. It also happens to lay claim to what many consider to be the finest beach in Croatia: Zlatni Rat. It's hard to disagree with them – just wait until you lay eyes on that shimmering horn of ivory-tinged pebble and sand backed by aromatic stone pines. The northern shores are a tumble of old citrus orchards and coves that anchors on the town of Supetar, a fine place for people watching on a palm-threaded marina.
Nope, that's not the moon. That's Pag. Floating out into the northern Adriatic like the branch of a stone pine, this island is a strange yet fascinating place. You could spend hours and hours gazing at the horizon, watching the sunlight dapple on the copper-colored rocks and the mirror-like surface of the various bays and inlets. More barren than just about anywhere in the country, Pag is known for its rustic Pag cheese and – perhaps a little surprisingly – the hedonistic techno clubs of Zrce Beach.
Korcula is an S-bend of an island that wiggles its way through the middle of the Dalmatian archipelago just south of Hvar. It's one of our absolute favourite places to be on a scorching summer's day, because the south coast is a medley of practically deserted coves – Žitna, Prižba, Orlanduša – that beckon yachters with uber-clear waters. The other highlight has to be Korcula Town, a symphony of church towers and red-tiled roofs that follows a unique herringbone urban plan. Oh, and then there's the wine, which is some of the crispest white going this side of the Adriatic!
Vis is the largest of the outlying Dalmatian Islands, sitting some 32 miles south of Split. But it's more than just the geography that means it has the feel of somewhere truly cut off from Croatia proper. The isle was totally out of bounds for much of the 20th century, and you can still spy out the strange remnants of its epoch as a base for the Yugoslav People's Army. The upshot? Vis is generally quieter than many of the other spots on this list, with hardly a big hotel resort in sight, traditional konoba taverns serving seafood on its shores, and bijou beaches like Srebrna where you can find yourself almost entirely alone.
Mljet is a world of emerald forests and ink-blue lakes. Partly covered by the only national park in Croatia to sit on an island, it's perhaps the wildest of the places listed here. Most cruise into the salt-washed harbor of Pomena in the west. From there, you can walk into the national reserve to hike between the spear-like pines, scrambling up to lookouts across the Veliko Jezero lake, which is backed by an evocative Benedictine monastery that dates to the late 12th century.
Sipan rises just over 200 meters above the Adriatic in the midst of the Elaphites chain that speckles the sea-like jewels dangling from Dubrovnik. This is a great place to go if you're keen to escape the hubbub of the UNESCO city in the south. The moment you step off the ferry – which takes about 45 minutes from the port in Dubrovnik – you'll feel the pace of life slow. On the menu are walks around the boat-bobbing promenades of Sudurad harbor and wine- and olive oil-tasting excursions into the central hills.
Krk is more like a fragment of the Croatian mainland than a separate island. For starters, it's huge – the biggest isle in the whole country, no less. What's more, it has a direct road link that connects it to the highways running past Rijeka and up to Zagreb. So, it's hardly a surprise that it brims with vacationers from the first signs of sun in May until the very end of the summer. There's enough space for all, though. Most will aim for the curve of sun-splashed pebbles at Baška, but the craggy east coast is our fav, with towns like Vrbnik and Šilo offering sleepy harbors and wooded swimming coves.
Lastovo is one of the best islands in Croatia for those seeking rest, relaxation, and a taste of nature. Roughly midway between Split and Dubrovnik, it's over 34 miles from the coast and only linked up by a couple of ferry providers. There's a permanent population of around about 1,000 people, who mainly get by making wines and cultivating olives. The whole isle is encompassed by the Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park, which protects the bird-rich cliffs of the west coast, 44 smaller islands off the shore, and pockets of fish-teeming rock reefs.
Flanked by headlands clad in moss-green pine woods, Lopud is another of the Elaphites chain that lies to the north of Dubrovnik. It's shaped like a butterfly, with west and east coasts that are totally empty, unfolding in a string of jagged stone reefs that fall straight into the sea. The south shore has the best beach: Sunj, a honey-hued arc of a sand bay that's prime sunbathing territory. The north shore has the only town, where a clutch of arty workshops and galleries sit in the shadow of a lovely Franciscan Monastery.
This guide to the best islands in Croatia showcases just a few of the eye-wateringly wonderful destinations that are on the menu when you set sail in this corner of the Med. For more info and inspiration, get in touch about our island-hopping adventures right now!