The lunar-like landscape of the Kornati Archipelago in Croatia, encompasses the densest group of islands in the Mediterranean. It comprises 152 islands, islets and rocks, and the National Park itself protects 89 of them. Sheep, and all but the hardiest of permanent residents, have long since gone, but the islands spring to life in the summer with seasonal shops, restaurants and anchorages catering for ever-increasing numbers of nautical visitors. Here we reveal the best way to explore this string of islands by boat on a seven-day itinerary.
Pick up your yacht at Marina Zaton and sail down the Krka River to the historic waterfront town of Šibenik, where you can moor up along the harbour wall. Stock up on provisions at a supermarket close by, indulge yourself at one of the artisan bakeries or watch the world go by at a seafront cafe. If you have time, grab a table for lunch on the front terrace of the Michelin-starred Pelegrini restaurant, and take in the views of the Unesco World Heritage cathedral, with its unique vaulted roof. From Šibenik it’s just a short sail, through Kanal Sv Ante, to Zlarin town, on the island of Zlarin, which has a small port and all the essential facilities.
Grab a meat or cheese burek (baked or fried, filled pastry) at the bakery and find out about Zlarin’s coral diving traditions, before heading off towards Uvala Potkućina on Kakan island. Check your charts and look carefully for the islets and rocks as you weave through the other islands in the Šibenik archipelago, perhaps stopping for a swim in one of the inviting bays. Your destination, protected by two islets, is a shimmering, multi-hued lagoon, where you’ll find mooring buoys and a handful of rustic dining options serving seafood and other local specialities. After a gentle introduction to island life on Zlarin, Kakan takes you a step closer to the wilderness of Kornati.
Today you enter the Kornati National Park and your overnight stop is amid the relative luxury of ACI Marina Piškera on the small islet of Panitula Vela, off Piškera island. Here you’ll find comfortable berths, toilets and showers, a grocery store, restaurant and a cash point. On your way, you’ll start to experience the unique landscape that is Kornati, and as you amble through this very special wilderness, take the time to appreciate the unique flora and fauna. You’ll perhaps be tempted to stop for lunch at Konoba Zakan, on Zakan island, offering a modern take on traditional Dalmatian cuisine, or you can have a meal at the marina restaurant when you arrive.
Continue your exploration of the Kornati National Park as you head towards your night stop – Luka Telašćica on Dugi Otok. If you’re lucky you may encounter some dolphin guides. On the way, visit the only real settlement of any size on the archipelago – Kornat, at the end of Vrulje Bay – where you’ll find a choice of eateries, a National Park reception, a shop and a supply boat. Climb up Vrulje Hill to the lookout point and admire the otherworldly views. In peak season it pays to arrive early at Luka Telašćica, one of the most popular bays in the area, especially with super-yachts. Buoys have been placed in different parts of this enormous and indented bay, giving shelter from winds from different directions, and often close to a seasonal restaurant. Walk to Mir, the saltwater lake, or through pine forests to the vertiginous cliffs. A designated Nature Park in its own right, you’ll need to pay a fee to enter Luka Telašćica.
Now’s the time to head slowly back to civilisation, so drink your fill of nature’s cup as you head towards Murter, past Žut, Pašman and Vrgada islands. On the mainland, the mountains take a step back here, returning to meet you further south. Murter is a thriving, traditional seaside town. The National Park headquarters are located here and the island’s inhabitants own many of the Kornati islands. Nearby, in Betina, is the Museum Of Wooden Shipbuilding, with classic old boats moored in the harbour. Berth at either Marina Hramina or Marina Betina, and give yourself plenty of time to wander round and soak up the atmosphere.
Heading southeast along the southwest coast of Murter island, and then the mainland, you might want to stop at Tribunj or Prvić Luka for lunch. Otherwise, save your time on-shore for when you get to Skradin, and concentrate on your passage through Kanal Sv Ante and up the Krka estuary. If you were too busy getting to know your boat on the way down, look out for all the forts and submarine tunnels on your journey.
You will pass Marina Zaton on the way, but doubling back is worth it for the treat in store: the town of Skradin, and Krka National Park. You can berth or pick up a mooring buoy here and then you’ll need to get on an organised boat to head to the spectacular Krka waterfalls. You could spend a whole day here without getting bored so perhaps have a wander around Skradin tomorrow before returning your vessel to Marina Zaton
A town rich in history, Skradin was the capital of Liburnia and the base of the Croatian navy in the 13th century. Bribir, 15km (9mi) away, is home to one of Croatia’s most important archaeological sites, “Bribirska Glavica”, locally nicknamed “the Croatian Troy”. If you get a chance while you are in Skradin, sample the local risotto, slow-cooked for hours and usually ordered well in advance. If you have even more time, book a tour of the Bibich winery, and climb up to the medieval fortress of Turina for more history and some spectacular views. Then head back downstream to Marina Zaton to round up your trip.
This is an itinerary for nature lovers who generally want to avoid the crowds. The Kornati islands themselves are a bit like Marmite – if you love them you will want to spend your whole time exploring all the safe bays, stopping for swims, investigating the flora and fauna, eating well but simply, and generally getting away from it all. If you yearn for a bit more life, then the mainland is close at hand, as are the more populated islands of the Šibenik archipelago.
You’ll need the appropriate qualifications to skipper a charter boat yourself, and even experienced qualified skippers sometimes find they get more out of their trip by using a local skipper.
There’s less of a choice of marinas and town ports in this area than elsewhere along the Croatian coast. Most anchorages are now run by a concession, and you’ll usually have to pay a fee and use mooring buoys rather than drop your anchor. The National Parks also charge an entrance fee.
In nearly all marinas and most of the quays and ports that regularly accommodate nautical visitors, berthing is stern- or bows-to on “lazylines” (lines attached to the shore at one end, which you pick up with a boat hook, and which run to a concrete block underwater behind where your stern will end up once you have moored) – a version of Mediterranean mooring.
Whilst tides are negligible, currents can be strong in some areas, particularly in narrow channels, and with all the islands, islets and reefs about it’s particularly important to navigate carefully. Pay regular attention to the weather forecasts and particularly look out for the bora wind from the northeast, which, though rare in summer, can arise suddenly without warning and blow fiercely. We’ve chosen the best-protected bays and marinas as overnight stops, but if you’re trying somewhere else for lunch or a swim, it’s best to avoid bays exposed to northeasterly winds.