The Best Islands to Visit Near Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik boasts a delightful array of islands to discover just off its coast | © Daria Andraczko / Unsplash
Dubrovnik is the ideal base from which to go island hopping, thanks to the string of stunning islands and islets that lie beyond the pristine coastline of this ancient city. The closest of these is less than a kilometre from Dubrovnik’s Old Port – Lokrum, a verdant oasis covered with fragrant pine trees.
Lapped by the waves of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, swimming and sunbathing. But if you’re looking to explore hidden coves and secluded beaches, there’s a handsome array of islands to discover just off its coast. There’s nothing quite like seeing the shoreline fall into focus from your ferry, or gliding by karst-rock islets on a sailboat, feeling the salt-breeze on your cheeks. Read on for our guide to the best islands to visit near the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.
Lokrum Island is a stone’s throw away from Dubrovnik, making it an ideal day out for those on a short city break. An uninhabited island teeming with lush vegetation and crumbling ruins, its focal point is an old Napoleonic fort and botanical gardens built by Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg in 1859. Another key attraction is the Salt Lake, located at the southern end of the island. Taxi boats leave every half hour, and you can be relaxing under the pines in less than 20 minutes from Dubrovnik’s Old Town
Only 20 minutes by boat from Dubrovnik, Koločep is the nearest of the Elafiti Islands, making it a convenient day trip from Dubrovnik. The island is covered in swathes of dense pine forests and dotted with sun-drenched vineyards, olive groves and citrus plantations. There are just two villages on the island, Gornje and Donje
Čelo, each with its own pint-sized beach. Donje
Čelo offers a few café-bars for a cooling refresher, and a naturist beach if you want to strip off.
Lush with pines, swaying palms and cypress trees, Mljet is the southernmost of Dalmatia’s larger islands. Beautifully unspoiled and undeveloped, this is the closest you’ll get to having your own personal island. The stunningly beautiful national park is the main attraction – a thick expanse of forest with hidden sea coves, located on the western side of the island. Here, you’ll also find two salt water lakes – Veliko jezero and Malo jezero, meaning Great Lake and Small Lake – and Soline Bay.
Korčula regularly invites comparisons with Dubrovnik. Just over the narrow Strait of Pelješac from mainland Croatia, Korčula
was ruled from Venice for much of its history. Venetians built its fortified namesake main town, its herring-bone street pattern designed to protect citizens from the Bura
(Bora) wind and searing heat of summer. The bulk of the island’s best hotels, restaurants and must-see landmarks are located here, most notably St Mark’s Cathedral. At the opposite, western end of Korčula island, the town of Vela Luka is actually bigger but more prosaic. Korčula is scattered with olive groves and vineyards, and much of the wine
you’ll be sipping in Dubrovnik’s bars will come from here or from the nearby Pelješac peninsula. The ferry takes between 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on the route, with three or four journeys a day operating from Dubrovnik’s port.
The largest and most developed of the Elafiti islands, Šipan contains two settlements – Suđurađ, on the southeastern cape; and Šipanska Luka, located on the western side of the island. Unlike its island neighbours Koločep and Lopud, Šipan isn’t car-free, but still offers peace and tranquillity in droves. There are several notable churches on the island; St Peter’s Church and the Church of the Holy Spirit, built in 1569, are recognised for their architectural splendour. Šipan is a two-hour ferry from Dubrovnik.
The car-free Lopud is arguably the most stunning of the Elafiti islands, with handsome stone settlements surrounded by exotic gardens, and crumbling fortresses rising up from its forested hilltops. The town of Lopud offers a modest beach, but most visitors prefer to trek across the island to reach the beautifully sandy Šunj, a half-moon bay where a small bar serves grilled fish. From Dubrovnik, the journey time is just an hour – a perfect day-tripping distance. Travellers often combine the three Elafiti islands into one itinerary, as you can easily see all three in a day.
This is an island for the haves, and the have-yachts. Long geared to accommodating international visitors, Hvar remains at the crest of Croatia’s current tourist wave, unveiling a string of design-forward hotels and VIP nightspots. Elite partygoers also gather on the super-yachts of oligarchs and film stars, moored within reach of shore. The rest of the island is given over to vineyards and lavender fields, its coast sheltering the odd reclusive boutique hotel or picturesque eatery. The journey time is usually around 3.5 hours depending on the route, meaning it’s best experienced as an overnight excursion from Dubrovnik.
Tucked behind Mljet, the beautifully undeveloped Lastovo is one of the most peaceful islands on the Adriatic. Lastovo enjoys minimal light pollution, which explains its slogan – the “island of bright stars” – as there’s really no better place to observe the night sky than this southerly island. The pleasingly bucolic Lastovo isn’t entirely devoid of modern infrastructure, though – there’s plenty of homely accommodation to choose from, and a cluster of traditional konobas serving Dalmatian specialities
like peka, slow-roasted squid cooked under a terracotta lid for several hours.
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These recommendations were updated on June 25, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.