Island hopping is one of the most popular things to do in Croatia. There are more than 1, 000 in total, of which 48 are inhabited. Deciding which islands to visit can be a minefield with so many to choose from, especially if you only have a week to play with.
So, we’ve chosen six of the best that each offer something different to inspire your next adventure to Croatia, from the most remote to the most luxurious. Where will you go first?
Sunny Hvar is famed for its boundless clubbing scene, 5* luxury and offering of stylish restaurants, bars and hotels. The yacht lined harbour in Hvar Town is a major focal point for visitors, but you’ll also find sweeping vineyards, fragrant lavender fields and some of the best red wine around the island.
Hvar is also home to Stari Grad Plain – an agricultural landscape that was set up by the ancient Greek colonists named a UNESCO World Heritage in 2008. If beaches are your thing, you’ll find a thriving beach bar and party scene with some natural sand and pebble beaches. For a quieter atmosphere, head to nearby Jelsa. The small town has a beautiful old harbour and a handful of fresh seafood restaurants.
We recommend: Fortica (Spanjola) – a Venetian fort with panoramic views over Hvar and the Pakleni Islands.
The rugged coastline of Cres is a great location for hiking and outdoor adventure, and is home to the rare griffon vultures. As the largest of the islands, cyclists will love the scenic trails and hilly landscape full of wild herbs and pine forests.
Cres is a laidback island and with around 3, 000 inhabitants. You’ll find little more than a handful of café’s, fishing boats and ancient landmarks. In Beli in the north, you can soar high above the trees on a zipwire or head to its unspoilt beach that is postcard perfect, or venture further south to the ancient towns of Lubenice and Valun.
We recommend: Zip Line Beli – soar 35 m above sea level, through the olive groves and over to the cliff tops on the other side.
Near to Croatia’s second largest city of Split, Brac is home to Croatia’s most photogenic beach Zlatni rat (Golden Cape) in Bol. It has a unique ever-changing horn shape that protrudes out into the sea – the sand made up of fine pebbles and shingles. It’s a great family beach for watersports such as kayaking and windsurfing.
One of Brac’s two specialities is olive oil. The cultivation of buhavica olives has been in place since the 1600’s and there are over 500, 000 olive trees, plus a museum in the village of Skrip. The second famous export is its white stone, which was used in the construction of the White House and Diocletian’s Palace. For sightseeing, the highest peak of all Croatia’s islands is at Vidova Gora (measuring 778m) and is a must see when on Brac island. Elsewhere, there are a few small towns and fishing villages including Sumartin, Milna and Povlja.
We recommend: get off the beaten track on a hike from Bol to Vidova Gora.
If you want a remote escape from the hustle and bustle of Hvar, then head to Vis. Famed for it’s abundance of fresh seafood (especially lobster, sardines and mackerel) and excellent local wine, Vis is a great location for foodies. From seafront restaurants serving mouth watering fish, to stone baked pizza, there is no shortage of places to indulge. But Vis also has a fascinating history too.
After years of isolation as a military base under political leader Jospi Broz Tito during World War II, Vis now welcomes tourists to experience an authentic experience with local people living simply. But all over the island you will see remnants of history. Tito’s Cave is a must see – the place where Tito and his Partisans would hide out under attack. It’s not easy to get to nor well sign posted, but worth the effort.
We recommend: visit the Blue Grotto, Green Grotto and Stiniva Bay in Vis – wonderful sea caves with clear waters perfect for snorkeling.
More than 70% of this island is covered in pine forest, part of the national park on the western tip. Walkers will love Mljet for its lush vegetation, salt water lakes (Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero), hiking trails and cycling opportunities. It really is an island of unspoilt natural beauty.
The island is also known for its red wine, olive oil and goats cheese, while restaurants and café’s serve fresh seafood and other Mediterranean fare. For sightseeing, hop on a boat from Malo Jezero to Sv Marija, home of the 12th century Benedictine Monastery.
We recommend: dive off Odysseus Cave cliffs, close to the village of Babino Polje.
Rab in the Kvarner region of Croatia has two distinctively different sides: the northeast is largely barren and the southwest is awash with pine forests. For this reason, it’s known as one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic.
Rab has a beautiful coastline too, with a mix of sand and pebble beaches and small coves. Pudarica Beach in Barbat is one of the most special, a sandy beach with a lagoon and great views of the Old Town. Sahara Beach, north of Lapar, is a remote crescent-shaped beach for those wanting somewhere off the beaten track.
Elsewhere, you can visit the popular churches in Rab including the Church of St Andrew and the Church of St. John the Evangelist. If you prefer being in nature, the leafy Komrcar Park is a great place for stroll in good weather. Full of Cypress trees and Aleppo pines, it stretches along the coast to the marina at Palit and has a children’s playground too.
We recommend: fisherman’s nights during the summer months where you can sample local seafood and music in most of Rab’s villages.