Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is dotted with hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of unspoiled, magnificent, otherworldly islands that will leave you in awe. I had the incredible opportunity to sail down the Dalmatian Coast for seven days, hopping off on different islands on the Adriatic Sea and getting a taste of each destination.
From kayaking to peacock-watching to shopping for lavender goods, there is something for everyone on the islands of the Dalmatian Coast. My sailing experience left me mesmerized, and I’m already planning my return to the islands of Croatia. I want to explore as much of the Dalmatian Coast as possible. If you have your heart set on island hopping in this idyllic Mediterranean country, here are five stunning islands to visit in Croatia.
When the sailboat docked on the port of Korčula, pronounced (Kor-chu-lah), I knew I had found a special place. I remember getting off the boat and immediately doing a photoshoot at the harbor, spinning, twirling, and feeling inspired by the charming surroundings.
Located on the southern Dalmatian Coast, Korčula was founded by the Greeks in the 13th century and became part of the Venetian Empire in the 15th century. It is one of the smaller Croatian islands, about a two-hour ferry ride north of Dubrovnik. One of the first things you hear when you do a tour of Korcula is that Marco Polo was born there. The locals take pride in their history, their traditions, and the fact that their Old Town is shaped like a fishbone. This was an intentional design to protect the city from the strong winds of Southern Dalmatia.
Korcula is my favorite of all the Croatian islands I’ve visited so far and the most scenic (but I might be biased). The entire island looks like something out of a painting, and I spent hours just meandering through the long streets of the Old Town, taking hundreds of photos and admiring the beautiful flowers lined against the ancient walls. Korčula felt somewhat like a smaller, more picturesque version of Dubrovnik but with fewer crowds.
Points of Interests
The Old Town
Every city and town in Croatia has an Old Town, but Korcula’s Old Town is extra special, from the design of the streets to the bell tower that seems to toll randomly to the cats that greet you when you arrive at the entrance. This medieval, walled city sits on an oval-shaped plot of land – I guess you could say it’s the head section of the fishbone. As of the time of writing this post, the Old Town has a population of only 215 people out of the 3,500 people who inhabit the town of Korcula. The tour guide mentioned that all the streets on the right of the Old Town are closed to keep the winds out, in keeping with the architectural design that’s meant to protect inhabitants from the elements.
There is a row of shops right in front of the Old Town where you can buy beautiful, flowy dresses and hats, perfect for a Mediterranean getaway. The best part? You can get them at a fraction of the price of a typical online retailer. One of the girls on my trip bought a dress that looked like something straight out of Farm Rio, which typically retails for $200+, for $60.
Besides the picture-perfect Old Town, the best part of Korčula is the winery region called Lumbarda. I did a wine-tasting tour during my visit, which was one of the trip’s highlights. I spent a few hours at both Vitis Winery and Popic Winery, tasting Croatian wines that are grown in the region – Grk, Plavac Mali, and Rose. The sommeliers at both wineries, located right next to each other, explained how the grapes for the wines are grown, and I took lots of notes. Other wineries in the area worth exploring include Lovrić, Tasovac, and Grošić.
The wineries are about a 15-minute drive from the Old Town. You can take a taxi there, taking a scenic route past vineyards and farms against the backdrop of the Adriatic Sea. You can make a reservation at any of the wineries for a wine-tasting experience. They’ll typically offer you three rounds of wine tasting, and you can also order a charcuterie board and other finger foods to go along with the wines.
St Mark’s Church
I’ve visited more churches in Europe than I can count. However, St. Mark’s Church, located in the Old Town, instantly caught my attention when I spotted it at the entrance. As I walked in, I was struck by the vivid blue interior. Built in the 15th century, this Cathedral is the main place of worship in Korcula Old Town and is regarded as one of the most important sites on the island.
Luka Korculanska Beach
I chose wine tasting over the beach, but some of the other ladies on my sailing adventure headed to Luka Korculanska Beach, more commonly known as Luka Beach. It is one of the dozens of beaches on Korcula Island, about a 15-minute walk from the Old Town. You can also take a water taxi to this sandy beach, whose location in the Luka Korculanska Bay keeps it nice and warm all year round. This is a great place to unwind after a day of exploring the town. There are a few cafes, bars, and restaurants in the area where you can enjoy the local cuisine.
Hvar is to Croatia, what Ibiza is to Spain. It’s the party island. Yacht parties and clubbing are big here, attracting the young and wealthy from across Europe – and the world. But even if you’re not into yachting or clubbing, Hvar is brimming with activities for all sorts of people.
Located just north of Korcula on the southern Dalmatian Coast, Hvar (pronounced Var by some and Hah-Var by others) has historically been one of the most important centers for trade in the Adriatic Sea. The Greeks founded the town, which was conquered by the Romans and ruled by the Venetians. That’s why you’ll see all those cultural influences in everything from the cuisine to the architecture.
We can’t talk about Hvar without talking about lavender. It’s sometimes called the “Lavender Island” due to the abundance of lavender fields there. It’s comparable to Provence in France – just not as famous. You’ll find loads of lavender goods in the markets and paintings of lavender in the Old Town. There’s even a two-day Lavender Festival in the village of Velo Grablje.
Beyond the nightclubs and lavender fields, Hvar is home to a number of prominent historic sites, from the imposing Spanish Fortress to the Franciscan Monastery. As you can see, there’s much more to do here than clubbing and yachting.
Points of Interest
This 16th-century fortress, also known as Fortica Fortress, Fortiza, or Spanjola, is perched on top of a 300-foot hill overlooking the island of Hvar. It almost has an imposing presence, making it hard to miss. Getting up here requires about a 30-minute trek, but the panoramic views alone are worth the trip. Upon arriving at the fortress, I found out that you can also access it by car if you’re not a fan of walking up the narrow, steep hill.
Although it’s known as the Spanish fortress, the Venetians built this structure when they ruled the island. There is a Spanish link, though – the structure was designed by Spanish engineers. Hence the name. Besides having the best views of Hvar, this fortress also houses artifacts from the Middle Ages. You’ll even find an eerie dungeon where prisoners were held.
The Beach Club of Hvar is one of the best I’ve seen in Croatia, a country with hundreds of beach clubs. It is located along the marina, just a short walk from the Old Town. Upon arriving here, I was instantly hooked on the incredibly relaxing and luxurious atmosphere. I sat here for a few hours just having a chat with friends and ordering every kind of drink from the menu. You can swim, sunbathe, play beach volleyball, and dine at the restaurant.
There aren’t any restaurants on this list, but I had to make an exception and include Dva Ribara. Two words: Black Risotto. The Black Risotto at this restaurant, located right along the marina next to the Old Town, is probably the best I’ve ever eaten. It is cooked. There are also a number of other delicious seafood dishes, from octopus to mussels, to a massive house special fish that feeds 10+ people.
The island of Mljet (pronounced Mil-yet), a haven for people who love outdoor activities, was never on my radar. In fact, before my second trip to Croatia, I had never even heard of it. However, Mljet has become one of my favorite islands in Croatia – right up there with Korcula. It’s home to the sprawling Mljet National Park, which looks like a cross between Canada’s Banff National Park and Slovenia’s Lake Bled. This island has the most awe-inspiring natural surroundings – with turquoise lakes and lush greenery for miles. The beauty alone makes it worth a visit.
Mljet, located on the southeast of the Dalmatian Coast, is one of the largest islands on the Adriatic Sea. Its history is as fascinating as the legends that have been passed down for generations. There is one particular legend that sites Mljet as the place where
Upon arriving at Mljet by boat, I was struck by how quieter it is compared to the other islands. Even during the peak travel season of July, the island was surprisingly calm. The hordes of tourists in places like Hvar and Dubrovnik were nowhere to be seen. It seemed almost as if the island was a well-kept secret.
That illusion changed quickly once we arrived at Mljet National Park, the main attraction on the island. The lakes, ferries, and trails were brimming with visitors. I had been wondering where everyone was, and I got my answer. That said, the national park is spacious enough, occupying a third of the entire island. It is truly massive, so you’ll never have to worry about the place getting too crowded.
In addition to the national park, you’ll find a Benedictine monastery, pristine beaches, and a cave with a dark history, among a number of outdoor attractions.
Points of Interest
Mljet National Park
Upon arriving at Mljet National Park, an oasis of lush vegetation and sparkling lakes, I was instantly reminded of Banff National Park in Canada. There’s a striking resemblance, with the exception of the snow-covered mountains in Banff.
Mljet National Park occupies a third of the entire island of Mljet and is the main attraction there. This is the place for outdoor adventures, with plenty of places to swim, kayak, canoe, or enjoy a nice picnic. I went kayaking at Mljet National Park for the first time ever, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my visit! You rent a kayak and life vest for 150 kuna (around $22) for one hour. The lakes and natural surroundings are absolutely stunning, and kayaking is probably the best way to experience it.
The Church and Benedictine Monastery
Within Mljet National Park, there’s a small island called St. Mary’s Island. You can take a 20-minute ferry ride from the main park area to this island to explore the main attraction, The Church and Benedictine Monastery. This 13th-century complex, which looks absolutely breathtaking perched right in the middle of the lake, is one of the oldest places of worship on the Adriatic Sea. You can walk around this Romanesque structure’s interior and the outside, where you’ll find dozens of olive groves. A path leading to the lake is lined with flowers, making a stunning backdrop for photos.
Odysseus Cave is the location of one of the great legends from Greek mythology. The story goes that while returning from a journey, Odysseus was seduced by a nymph named Calypso, who resided in this cave and was held captive for seven years. This limestone cave is located in the center of the island of Mljet, in a town called Bobino Polje. With the deep blue water set against the rock formations, it is no surprise why Odysseus stayed here for seven years. Besides Mljet National Park, Odysseus Cave is one of the must-see places on Mljet Island. You can go diving, swimming, or even canoeing here. Just make sure you go on a day that isn’t too windy.
Brac (pronounced Bratch) is the beach capital of Croatia, located in Central Dalmatia. At over 150 square miles, it is the largest island on the Dalmatian Coast. In virtually any port town or city in Croatia, particularly Split and Dubrovnik, you will see tour companies advertising getaways to Brac. This island has long been a famous holiday spot for Europeans due to its pristine pebble beaches and miles of coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
Perhaps the most popular attraction on Brac Island is a pebble beach called Bol, located in a resort town of the same name. I spent a few hours here and, while it is more expensive and crowded than other beaches I visited, it’s definitely worth a visit. There is almost a Tulum-like atmosphere, minus the white sand. I didn’t spend nearly enough time in Brac during my sailing adventure, so I barely scratched the surface of what the island has to offer. There’s more to do in Brac beyond lounging on the beach, like hiking up the highest peak in the Adriatic Sea or going wine and olive oil tasting (yes, olive oil tasting is a thing!)
Points of Interest
Zlatni Rat Beach
Also known as the Golden Horn due to its shape, Zlatni Rat Beach is widely regarded as the top beach in all of Croatia. So, of course, I had to go and see it for myself. The verdict: it’s absolutely stunning, although a bit overcrowded and overpriced. But that’s to be expected considering this place’s popularity and how much even the locals rave about it. Renting a cabana here will set you back around 400 kuna (almost $60) during the peak summer season.
The turquoise water set against the white pebble beach is breathtaking and provides a wonderful backdrop for photos. In addition, there’s a wooden hand-shaped structure by the main restaurant at the beach, which looks like something straight out of Tulum. Zlatni Rat Beach is a wonderful place to spend a few hours and take many photos.
At 2,550 feet, Vidova Gora is the highest peak in all of the Adriatic islands. This makes it a haven for hikers who want to make the 90-minute journey up the mountain and get a glorious view of the islands. I’m not exactly a hiker, so I passed (for now), but that view from the tempting is tempting. Vidova Gora is located near the town of Bol, so you can easily take an Uber to and from the base of the mountain.
Nerežišća is a quaint little village on the southwest of the island of Brac, just 17 miles from Bol. So why is this town of 900 people on the list? It’s home to an old stone house where a local family has been offering olive oil and wine tasting for decades. This is as traditional as it gets. It’s like you’re being invited right into a Croatian home to learn about their food and heritage. You can make a booking online for this experience.
Unlike the other islands on this list, you probably won’t see Lokrum Island on the list of Croatia’s best islands to visit. First, it’s an uninhabited island. All humans must vacate the island by 8 pm every day. Secondly, you won’t find a medieval Old Town or a supermarket here. You will find a flock of peacocks roaming everywhere and a Game of Thrones filming location.
Lokrum Island is the smallest island on this list, a place you can explore in just a few hours. It is located just 2,000 feet from the Old Town of Dubrovnik and makes for a great day trip. The island is just a 15-minute ferry ride from the port of Dubrovnik, known as Porporela, and ferries leave every 30 minutes during the peak summer travel season.
Points of Interest
Pigeon’s Cave is an underwater cave located right in the middle of Lokrum Island. Getting here wasn’t straightforward, so we had to ask the locals for directions. Thai cave has a mysterious aura, with deep blue water surrounded by limestone rock formations. You can swim inside the cave, sit, and relax by the rocks.
Besides its otherworldly beauty, the Botanical Garden is also a Game of Thrones filming location. It is where the city of Qarth was filmed in season two of the hit series. You find hundreds of species of flora here as you wander through the x-acre garden.
Benedictine Monastery of St. Mary
This 15th-century Benedictine Monastery is another Game of Thrones filming location on Lokrum Island. There is even an exhibition here all about the filming of Game of Thrones in Croatia. Beyond the Game of Thrones connection, the monastery is a sprawling complex with a basilica, a garden, and a summer residence belonging to Maximillian Habsburg, an Austrian archduke.
What is the prettiest island in Croatia?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? All the islands of Croatia are beautiful in their own unique way. If you asked me, though, I would say the most beautiful island I visited was Korcula. I fell head over heels in love with the quaint Old Town, the picturesque vineyards, and just the overall vibe of the island.
Where is it worth visiting in Croatia?
Everywhere! Go as far and wide as you can. I believe you can discover something unique in every Croatian island, town, or city. So far, I have visited Split, Dubrovnik, Makarska, Lokrum Island, Korcula, Brac, Hvar, Mljet, Plitvice, Krka, and a few small towns in between. I plan to visit Vis, Sibenik, and Istria in the near future.
Which is the best Dalmatian island to visit?
Why stop at one island? I think it’s best to do a sailing adventure and visit multiple islands on the Dalmatian Coast and the Adriatic Sea. The five islands listed in this post – Korcula, Hvar, Mljet, Brac, and Lokrum Island – are a good place to start. As I visit other islands in Croatia, I will create more content to showcase even more islands to add to your Croatia bucket list.
Can you island hop in Croatia?
Which of these Croatian islands do you plan to add to your bucket list? Share it in the comments section.
Travel Essentials I Can’t Live Without
The CabinZero 36L Backpack – this trusty backpack has been my go-to luggage for domestic and international trips since 2018. I’ve used dozens of backpacks over the years and keep coming back to this one. I almost never check-in luggage, so I need a carry-on bag that is spacious, sturdy, and comfortable, with a laptop compartment. The Cabin Zero 36 L fits the bill. The size makes it small enough for a weekend getaway and big enough for a month of backpacking in Europe. The bag also comes with a tracker in case it gets lost. How convenient! Check out my complete review of the backpack.
Travelwifi Portable Hotspot Device
Travel WiFI Pocket WIFI Device – With portable WiFi, you can say goodbye to ridiculous roaming charges and SIM cards for good. I’ve been using the Travel WiFi Portable Hotspot device for years and love the peace of mind it gives me. The device provides 3G-4G WiFi for at least 6 hours and works in 100+ countries. In my experience, it lasts 9 hours. It also works in a variety of landscapes and terrains. Using my device, I even filmed a Facebook Live from a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. I can also use Google Maps, request an Uber, call my mom, and do many other things I couldn’t do before. A quick tip: turn off the device when you’re not using it so the battery can last longer.
Booking.com – Booking.com is my go-to website for booking discounted accommodations around the world. What I love most about Booking.com is the variety of properties you can find, from luxury apartments to treehouses to university housing. It’s hard to beat the insanely low prices. The website also has a flexible cancellation policy, which is great if things come up or you change your mind.
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