Island Hopping: Croatia

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

From the endless vistas of sun-drenched Adriatic sculpting the Golden Horn of Brač to the rare white wines of Korčula and endlessly tranquil Mljet, these are the islands to visit when travelling in Croatia.

Mljet: For Nature Lovers

Sultry Mljet is a small and highly explorable gem of an island that looks like it’s been dropped like a moss-covered stone into deep azure waters. Most visit Mljet for the national park and disappear back to Dubrovnik come sundown, making it perfect for travellers in search of a quiet retreat away from the crowds. Pomena is best used as a gateway to the national park but the harbour is a good spot for a bite to eat with views of the boats.

The Mljet National Park’s best features are its two stunning lakes (Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero) that are shrouded by forests, connected by a narrow canal and home to an idyllic islet with a 12th-century monastery perched atop. Once you’ve seen the lakes, the island is your oyster. Find the three sandy beaches on Mljet in the southeastern reaches but stick with rustic Blaće if you want to avoid the crowds that flock to Saplunara for its amenities. Swim, or take a boat into the echo chamber that is the Ulysses Cave or simply immerse yourself in Mljet’s abundance of Adriatic calm.

Mljet Island in Croatia

Photographer: Simun Ascic

Korčula: White Wine & White Beaches

Korčula is lush with olive groves, pine forests and vineyards full of Grk and Pošip grapes. Its coast is dotted with sleepy fishing villages that leer out over white beaches to dreamy vistas of the Adriatic. Languid Lumbarda on the easternmost tip of the island offers the best access to Korčula’s Grk-producing vineyards as well as its only sandy beaches, while picturesque Račišće is one of the quieter spots, with a small bay perfect for boating and a couple of good seafood restaurants with immersive views of the locals. 

Though the sun-loving Pošip is one of Dalmatia’s best-known wines, on Korčula you’ll find a deeper love for the local Grk variety, which is grown almost exclusively on the hills around Lumbarda. Try it at the excellent Popic-Cebalo or at Zure’s atmospheric vine-covered restaurant. With its towering defensive walls and iconic terracotta roofs, Korčula Town looks very much like Dubrovnik. Take an afternoon to explore its aesthetics of stone streets, gothic church towers, and boisterous piazzas, before taking a sunset stroll along the old defensive walls for breathtaking views of the Pelješac Peninsula. 

Korčula Island in Croatia

Photographer: Kite_rin

Vis: The (formerly) Best Kept Secret In Croatia

For much of the 20th century, Vis was a naval base for the Yugoslavian navy and tourism was prohibited, leaving it isolated and dare we say… preserved? Travellers now flock to the island mostly to see the stoney charms of Komiza and to sample the boozy fruits of the indigenous Vugava grape. But the rugged coastline, the undeniably dilapidated charms of Vis Town and the superb seafood is reason enough to stay long after the last ferry has left for the mainland. The much loved Blue Cave, a curious natural cave formed in such a way as to allow streams of sapphire blue light to fill it, is easily accessible by boat from Vis (it’s on the nearby island of Biševo).

Stiniva is a naturally formed cove, accessible only from the sea that has a rocky white beach with a lush mountain backdrop to complete the paradisiacal aesthetic. If you prefer to keep your feet dry then head up to the summit of Hum, Vis’s highest point, for unbroken vistas of the breathtaking mirror of azures that is the seemingly endless sea, as it floats off towards Italy. 

Many of Vis’s other sights can be broken up by the milestones of its history: a Greek Cemetery, an Austrian fortress, and the remains of Roman baths can be found in and around Vis town. Pebbly beaches decorated with colourful fishing boats and rustic Konobas with wooden interiors abound in Komiza and epicurean delights are popping up all around Vis’s harbours in response to the growing need of yachters who drop anchor each evening in search of a perfect plate of lobster.

Vis Island in Croatia

Photographer: Xbrchx

Brač: Where Ancient History meets World-Class Beaches

The Golden Horn (Zlatni Rat), a beach of undeniable beauty and just a touch of suggestion, is easily one of Croatia’s best known natural landmarks. But along Brač’s sun-kissed coast there are secluded coves protected by towering cliffs, sandy beaches and quaint fishing villages fringed by rocky bays and leafy creeks. 

Everyone flocks to Bol in the warmer months thanks to its proximity to Zlatni Rat but if its beautifully manicured, palm-lined promenades, and yacht furnished marina isn’t enough, then head onwards to Supetar which has magnificent views of Split from its beaches and the surprisingly ornate Supetar Cemetery, full of sculptural monuments like the Petrinovic mausoleum. 

7km east of Supetar lies tranquil Splitska which has an active population of about 400 and is surrounded by lush Mediterranean flora, vineyards and quiet pebbly beaches. Pustinja Blaca is a monastery built into the cliffs on the southern side of the island, while Skrip is an ancient village home to a Roman Temple, a 16th-century castle and a baroque church. View hunters should ascend to the rocky peak of Vidova Gora Mountain for fascinating vistas of the island. On clear days it's possible to look out to Hvar and even as far as Italy.

Brač Island in Croatia

Photographer: Pawel Kazmierczak

Hvar - Hedonistic Nightlife Under Picture-Perfect Sunsets

Hidden coves lost to modernity (nothing’s lost to Instagram), hills painted with pines, terracotta rooftops contrasting with blue skies and even bluer water. Decadent nightlife, world-class restaurants, and fantastic yachting. Marble streets, ancient city walls, boutique shopping and fabulous wine. Wildlife, chocolate box villages and views of the Pakleni Islands! Hvar is the island with a little bit of everything. Hvar’s eponymous old town is encircled by 13th-century walls and filled with grand palaces, sand-coloured townhouses and ornate renaissance churches. 

At dusk the streets take on an ambient amber glow as they become the stage for some of Croatia’s ultimate al fresco dining experiences, while elsewhere the abandoned and ever so slightly ghostly Malo Grablje village comes to life with the smell of smoke and wine as Konoba Stori Komin (the only functioning business/building in the village) opens its doors for the evening. 

Hvar’s bucolic countryside is as steeped in history as the old town, with vineyards first planted by the Greeks 2000 years ago mingling with ruined homes poking from fields of luscious lavender. Stunning beaches are everywhere on Hvar, but Malo Zaraće and its translucent turquoise water are especially beautiful. Milna is a little more conveniently located, perched on a rocky protected cove just outside of Hvar Town, while Stari Grad has a couple of rustic beaches just beyond its pretty horseshoe-shaped harbour.

Hvar Island in Croatia

Photographer: Xbrchx

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