Off the coast of Croatia are 1,000 islands, so many that no one has yet to count them properly. Some, such as party-focused Hvar, attract high-spending visitors. Others, such as Kornati, provide a unique look at the natural world. Here are 11 of Croatia’s best island escapes.
Brijuni may not be the prettiest group of islands off the Croatian coast, but they are certainly the most unusual. And it’s not just the original dinosaur footprints, though obviously they add to the intrigue. Here, off the coast of Pula, Brijuni was where Yugoslav leader Tito entertained visiting world leaders and celebrities. They, in turn, brought him exotic animals, some of which still form part of a unique menagerie here. Now a national park, Veliki Brijuni can be toured by a little tourist train.
One of Croatia’s offbeat national parks, Kornati is an archipelago of some 150 islands, serving as the domain of occasional fishermen and an unspoiled array of bird and sea life. Best observed as part of a boat tour, Kornati feels like a lost world, somewhere at the edge of civilisation. Nevertheless, it even has its own dining scene, floating restaurants that operate in high season.
Located in no-man’s-land, beyond Korčula and Mljet, Lastovo is a world away from the busy tourist hubs of Hvar and Brač. Known mainly for its bizarre Poklad carnival, Lastovo caters to the more adventurous visitors by completely letting them be. Accessed by ferry or catamaran from Split, it offers a handful of restaurants where lobster is the speciality, any number of beaches, and reasonably basic but comfortable accommodation. The rest is up to you.
One-third national park, two-thirds the forest domain of a bizarre colony of mongooses, Mljet almost personifies the word ‘idyllic’. With little human settlement – one main hotel, a few private lodgings on the far eastern tip, a restaurant or two – Mljet is ideally explored by hikers and cyclists, and those who row around Veliko Jezero, a seawater lake centred by an abandoned monastery. There are plenty of beaches, too, not least around those private lodgings at the far end of the island, where finding a secluded cove is almost as easy as when the Ancient Greeks settled upon Mljet some 2,500 years ago.
A typical boat excursion from Dubrovnik to the three main Elafiti islands nearby places Šipan as a last resort, literally, the stopover at the end of the day when everyone is tired. A shame, because Šipan by far has the best attractions in terms of Roman remains, noblemen’s villas and age-old churches, and best of the produce – with figs and melons being the staple crops here. Two or three of the restaurants in Šipanska Luka and Suđurađ are excellent, and attract many a Dubrovnik foodie to sail over by private boat.