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15 Best Croatian Islands

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15 Best Croatian Islands

Croatia is celebrated for its soaring summer temperatures and the warm turquoise waters of the Adriatic. But with its national parks, secret caves, pebbled coves, and hilltop medieval architecture, Croatia has so much more to offer than a simple fly and flop beach holiday. Just off the coast, you will find a stunning array of beautiful islands in Croatia, each offering its own unique array of attractions and sights.

Take your time wandering the streets of ancient towns, scuba diving to discover thousand-year-old submerged shipwrecks, hiking through national parks, and tasting the produce of these fertile islands, from locally-produced wine and cheese to homegrown olive oil, spicy gingerbread, and homemade honey.

Map of the best islands in Croatia

Croatian Islands© OpenStreetMap contributors © MapTiler © Touropia

15. Lastovo

Lastovodreamstime/© Marcelkudla

One of the most remote islands in the Adriatic, Lastovo is not at all touristy. Unlike many of the busier neighboring islands, it has only one hotel and less than a thousand residents, but it’s this seclusion that’s all part of its charm. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and star-gazing are the order of the day here – Lastovo is believed to boast the starriest skies in Europe!

Located in the Central Dalmatian archipelago, the forested Lastovo is a protected nature park, and many well-worn forest hiking and cycling trails wind their way throughout the island. A series of swimming spots and pebbled beaches can be found along the shoreline, including the ones at Mali Zal, Pionir, and Jurjeva Luka.

With a long history of Roman Catholicism, churches of every shape and size dot the wooded landscape of Lastovo, the most famous being the Church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, also known as Lastovo Cathedral. Discover the island’s 15th-century Venetian architecture and sample the local wine – the Lastovo Maraština is one of the region’s best.

The major highlight on Lastovo’s social calendar is the August Poklade folk carnival that’s been held since the 16th-century, an annual tribute to the island’s victory over Catalan pirates.

14. Solta

Soltadreamstime/© Josip Salecic

Just 45 minutes by ferry (or 15 by speedboat), Solta is the closest island to Split – so close it’s practically considered part of it. Dating back to Neolithic times, this island is known for its traditional fishing villages, local farms, seasonal bays and coves, and some of the best sunsets in Croatia.

Solta is a great destination for foodies. With a collection of family-run farms, the island is home to some of Croatia’s oldest traditions – the olive oil, wine, ‘Olintio’ honey, and 500-year-old gingerbread-making industries.

Stroll through centuries-old olive groves, learn about the island’s viticulture – best known for the local Dobričić wine – visit a beekeeper’s farm, and taste it all for yourself with an authentic olive oil, honey, and wine-tasting tour.

Food aside, the island is home to several towns and villages worth exploring. Visiting Nečujam, one of Solta’s coastal towns, is a must. Its home to the longest beach on the island, made up of several blissful bays. Hiring a boat is one of the best ways to see some of Solta’s out-of-the-way beaches and coves.

Other activities include hiking Vela Straža (the island’s highest peak), mountain biking through olive groves, scuba diving shipwrecks, and medieval archery.

13. Elaphite Islands

Elaphite Islandsdreamstime/© Catia Silva

The Elaphite Islands, located to the west of Dubrovnik, form one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the Adriatic. Out of a total of 14 picturesque isles, just three main islands are permanently inhabited.

Kolocep is the greenest of the Elaphites, covered in hundred-year-old pine forests, olive groves, and fruit orchards laden with oranges and lemons. Once a prominent shipbuilding site, it boasts several pre-Romanesque churches dating back to the 9th-century.

Lopud is about as Mediterranean as it gets, with beautiful sandy beaches and fruit-filled gardens. Probably one of Dubrovnik’s most touristy islands, it features medieval churches, monasteries, and once-impressive private residences.

Despite being the largest island in the Elaphite archipelago, Sipan offers a quieter alternative, with scenic bays, cypress groves, and historic churches. All three major Elaphite islands can be visited on a boat trip from Dubrovnik.

12. Murter

Murterdreamstime/© Xbrchx

Tucked away in the North Dalmatia, Murter is linked to the mainland by a bridge. Inhabited since prehistory, it’s home to just over 5,000 permanent residents. With a charming old town and some excellent beaches, it’s a popular holiday hotspot in Croatia.

Situated close to the entrance of the Kornati Islands National Park, it’s not surprising that many of Murter’s activities are nature-based. Wander through the two nature parks and enjoy activities like seaside cycling, spearfishing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, windsurfing, and relaxing on family-friendly Slanica beach.

For history buffs, there’s the age-old St. Rock’s Chapel, St. Michael’s Church, and the Church of Our Lady of Gradina. Take a stroll along the promenade, discover Betina’s shipbuilding traditions, and visit Jezera – the island’s tiniest traditional Dalmatian town. Don’t miss the old World War II hilltop military base – one of the lesser-known attractions in Murter – boasting a network of bunkers and tunnels that are believed to be haunted.

11. Pag

Pag

In the northern Adriatic, you’ll find Pag, home to Croatia’s longest stretch of coastline. Part of the Dalmatian archipelago, Pag consists of two contrasting towns – the quieter Pag Town and the party-town of Novalja, as well as several smaller, lesser-known villages.

Interestingly, Pag is the only Croatian island divided between two counties. But the two sections are not just administratively different; they’re also physically different: the northwest is steep and rocky, while the southeast boasts two beautiful karst lakes. You may recognize the island’s dramatic lunar-like landscape from Ridley Scott’s The Terror or the BBC’s The Grand Tour.

Pag is known for its famous sheep’s cheese, Pag lamb, lace-making, and salt that was panned here until the 20th-century. Thanks to the Solana Pag salt factory, Pag is Croatia’s largest salt producer. The fertile coastal valleys are dotted with vineyards, olive groves, and wind turbines – all of which make a great setting for a quad biking adventure.

While you’re here, visit Novalja with its original Roman aqueduct, known as the Talijanova Buža (the ‘Italian hole’) that once supplied the town’s water. Today, you can walk through these eerie passageways on an aqueduct tour. Other attractions include Pag’s Bermuda Triangle and the summer carnival in July.

10. Losinj

Losinjdreamstime/© Paul Prescott

Losinj is nearly a Croatian cliché with its gorgeous turquoise ocean frequented by turtles and dolphins. The island has three main claims to fame: its 19th-century shipbuilding industry, the summer residence of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, Franz-Josef, and now as a destination for health and wellness.

Losinj is home to hundreds of medicinal plants. With its warm microclimate and fresh sea air, it was used during the 19th-century as a place to recover from respiratory issues and was officially declared a climatic health resort in 1892.

On top of its wellness-orientated hotels and spas, Losinj boasts photogenic Venetian fishing villages, picturesque harbors, and historic churches spread across the largest resort of Mali Losinj and quieter Veli Losinj.

Sights include the 18th-century Baroque Church of St Anthony, the Gothic Church of St Nicholas, the Church of St Martin (the oldest building in Mali Losinj), and the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin with its well-known artwork. Don’t miss the chance to dive the Historical Underwater Park in Cikat Bay with its submerged replicas of World War II weapons.

9. Rab

Rabdreamstime/© Valery Shanin

Nicknamed the ‘Happy Island,’ Rab has all the ingredients of a Croatian paradise: a collection of sandy beaches and picturesque coves that get very busy during the summer months. Designated a geopark, the island is characterized by dramatic cliffs, pine and oak forests, olive groves, vineyards, and orchards.

You’ll find the best beaches here, including Rajska Plaža (Paradise Beach), that was included in CNN’s Top 100 best beaches list. Sunbathing on Pudarica beach is a must as it boasts some unbelievably clear water, while the town beach, located beneath a classical music school, serenades you while you swim.

Beaches are not the only attraction in Rab though, there’s plenty of history and culture too. Explore the stone streets of the old town with its iconic red roofs, ancient churches, and bell towers. Browse the ancient artifacts within the Franciscan Monastery of St. Bernardin, admire the best views from Kamenjak – a restaurant located at the island’s highest point – and learn about the town’s history at the Rab Medieval Festival in July.

8. Kornati

Kornati

Made up of 140 uninhabited islands and secluded reefs, the Kornati archipelago is one of the most dramatic in Croatia. It’s also the largest in the Adriatic. Home to hundreds of coves, olive groves, orchards, vineyards, and ancient rock formations, the scenery here is truly unforgettable.

The Kornati islands – also known as the Stomorski islands – don’t have any permanent residents that call them home. Instead, the locals who work the farmlands stay in seasonal houses during the agricultural season only. The largest island, Kornati, is, therefore, home to just a few holiday rentals for visitors looking to get away from it all.

Swimming, snorkeling, diving, and hiking the forested cliffs are standard practice here. Attractions in Kornati include the 6th-century Byzantine Tureta Fortress and the Church of Our Lady of Tarac.

7. Krk

Krkdreamstime/© Palamarchuk

Krk is the largest island in the Adriatic and the closest to Western Europe. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, it’s the most accessible, and therefore the busiest island. Visitors can explore thousand-year-old towns, stroll through authentic rural villages, swim in secluded bays, and sunbathe on popular city beaches.

While the northern end of the island is almost barren, the southern tip of the island offers gentle bays. In the inland area, rocky hills and fertile fields provide the ideal backdrop for cultivating grapes.

Krk Town, the island’s central town, is cloaked by two-thousand-year-old walls and impressive historical buildings, including the 13th-century Frankopan Castle, the Kosljun Monastery Museum, and the 16th-century City Hall.

Visit the harbor town of Voz for a fantastic view of Krk Bridge, and Baska resort town for its 11th-century Church of St John the Baptist. The Church of St Lucy is also nearby, where the Baskm Tablet – containing the oldest example of the written Croatian language – was found.

Other attractions include the Biserujka Cave in the clifftop town of Omisalj, the church and monastery in Glavotok village, and the medieval Vrbnik, another clifftop village surrounded by vineyards.

6. Mljet

Mljet

Made up of beautiful Mediterranean forests, the north-western side of Mijet island has been a national park since 1960. Largely unspoiled, it’s one of the greenest islands in Croatia and boasts fresh sea air, a sandy coastline, two salt lakes, and some enchanting marine life.

Apart from its gorgeous scenery of caves, clifftops, and beaches – which are some of the best in Croatia – Mijet is known for its excellent wines, homegrown olives, and goat’s cheese. It’s ideal for water lovers, with the option to dive off the coast to see thousand-year-old shipwrecks.

The island contains two salt lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero, that are located at the western end of the island. In the middle of Veliko Jezero, there is a small island with an old Benedictine monastery.

5. Cres

Cres

Cres is the second-largest island in the Adriatic and one of the largest in the Kvarner Gulf. It was once part of Losinj and formed one main island, but today, the two islands are separated by a channel and linked via a bridge at the town of Osar.

Having been inhabited since the Paleolithic period, Cres boasts a collection of medieval hilltop towns, forests, hidden coves, and beaches of all shapes and sizes – sandy, pebbly, or shingle, you’ll find them all here.

Discover Cres Town with its Venetian-style buildings. A large part of the town dates back to the 15th-century, and you can trace its history with a walking tour. Highlights include the 15th-century Venetian Tower, the Roman Bridge, the Church of St Mary, the Museum of Cres, the Franciscan Convent, and the town walls that date back to the Middle Ages.

Other highlights include the 11th-century Valun Tablet in Valun village and the stone houses of the old fort city Lubenice.

4. Brac

Bracdreamstime/© Mareticd

The third-largest island in the Adriatic and the largest in Dalmatia, Brac is celebrated for its quiet fishing villages, hiking trails, fresh seafood, and the curious triangular Zlatni Rat beach. The white-pebbled Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) beach in Bol is the perfect place to spend a day under the Croatian sun. Named one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia – and even Europe – this pure paradise boasts a peninsula that’s constantly shifted by the wind and tides. Along with an inflatable water park, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and banana boating are also popular.

Perfect for adventurers, Brac boasts Vidova Gora – the highest peak in the Adriatic – which overlooks the famous beach, the coastline, and as far as Italy on a clear day. Other highlights include a visit to the Stonemasonry School in Pucisca, the 15th-century reliefs in the Dragon’s Cave in Bol, the marina and cemetery in Supetar, and the colorful fishing village of Sumartin.

Don’t miss the historical village of Skrip, where you’ll find the Brac Museum and the Olive Oil Museum with its tempting tasting menu.

3. Vis

Visdreamstime/© Xbrchx

A filming location for Mamma Mia II, Vis is one of those quintessential Croatian islands. The furthest inhabited island from the mainland, is known for its long history of winegrowing. Vis isolation has retained the charm and style of life characteristic of the 1950s and attracts tourists looking for “the Mediterranean as it once was”. The beautiful crystal clear waters, breathtaking isolated beaches, and historical sights on Vis are certain to delight visitors.

Once a Yugoslav army base, Vis island boasts a series of landmarks that tell the tale of its military history. Explore old cannons, tunnels, and bunkers at the Stupisce Point rocket base, the military tunnel at ARK Vela Glava, and Tito’s Cave used as the World War II headquarters for Josip Tito’s partisan army.

Inside Vis Town’s ancient walls, you’ll find the Issa necropolis, the Perast tower, and the former homes of famous poets. Other attractions include the Levaman Fortress – home to the Archaeological Museum – and the hilltop St. Jerome’s Church and Monastery built over an ancient Roman theatre.

Outside of the capital, the island can be explored by bike, scooter, or boat – the latter provides access to remote coves and bays like Morda Spilja (Croatia’s Blue Cave). Explore the hundred-year-old settlement of Talez, climb Mount Hum, go pub crawling in Skor, and laze on Stiniva Beach, one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches.

2. Korcula

Korcula

Known for its dense forests, olive groves, vineyards, and small villages, Korcula is as traditional as Croatia gets. Most notable for its spectacular walled old town, the island has contrasting coastlines, with steep sandy beaches to the south and flat pebble beaches in the north.

Korcula Town is the main resort on the island of Korcula, lovingly referred to as ‘Little Dubrovnik’ because of its crumbling walls and medieval architecture. Highlights in Korcula Town include the 14th-century St Mark’s Abbey Treasury, Marco Polo’s alleged house, and the Korčula Town Museum. The most beautiful building of Korcula is the Cathedral of St. Marco, built in Gothic-Renaissance style and completed in the 15th century.

Vela Luka and Lumbarda are two more popular towns to visit on Korcula Island, while several smaller villages dot the surrounds. Easily discovered by bike, one of the island highlights is a cycling wine tour through Lumbarda’s countryside.

If it’s beach bliss you’re after, take a bike or scooter to the beautiful pebbled beach of Pupnatska Luka just outside of Korcula Town. Spend your days snorkeling, swimming, and chasing sunsets – Korcula has some of the best.

1. Hvar

#1 of Best Croatian Islands

With its lavender fields, lush vineyards, and dramatic cliffs, the island of Hvar is undeniably picture-perfect. Easily Croatia’s most luxurious beach destination, this hip-and-happening island is a popular hotspot for celebs seeking a secluded beach getaway.

The island’s central hub, Hvar Town, has a reputation as a party destination because of its beach bars and lively day parties. Head to Hula Hula Beach Bar – famous for its spectacular sunset views – and explore the streets of the blissfully traffic-free old town.

Amongst its iconic red roofs, Hvar Town boasts several noteworthy buildings. Visit the Franciscan Monastery with its Renaissance art (including a portrayal of the Last Supper) and the 1500s Spanjola Fortress, which offers incredible views over Hvar Town and its coastline. Don’t miss the historic theatre and arsenal (one of the oldest in Europe).

Hvar Town may be the most stunning town on the island but Starigrad, the oldest village on the island, and Jelsa, as well as a number of small villages, dotting the coast or nestled in the lush interior are well worth a visit. If you’re looking for adventure, consider taking a water taxi to the Pakleni archipelago near Hvar Town or take a walk to the southern cliffs for a lunch at the local winery. Hanging out at the family-friendly Dubovica Beach on the island’s southern coast is a firm favorite.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hvar