The Best Islands to Visit From Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik boasts a delightful array of islands to discover just off its coast
Dubrovnik boasts a delightful array of islands to discover just off its coast | © Daria Andraczko / Unsplash
Justin McDonnell

Dubrovnik is the ideal base for island hopping in Croatia, thanks to the archipelago that lies beyond the pristine coastline of this ancient city. There’s nothing quite like seeing the shoreline fall into focus from your ferry, or gliding past secluded islets on a sailboat, feeling the salt-breeze on your cheeks. Read on for Culture Trip’s guide to the best islands to visit off Dubrovnik.

Escape the crowds by hiring a boat from SamBoat to explore these secluded islands. Alternatively, book a multi-day sailing holiday with Dream Yacht Charter to venture further afield.

1. Lokrum

Natural Feature

Swimmers paddle in a small inlet on the rocky coastline of Lokrum Island, near Dubrovnik.
© / Christopher Hill Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo
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 Ferdinand Maximilian 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.

2. Kolocep

Natural Feature

A ruggy, hilly stretch of coastline on Koločep island, with a small, terracotta-roofed house in the foreground that has its own small jetty.
© Photempor / Alamy Stock Photo

Only 20 minutes by boat from Dubrovnik, Kolocep 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 Celo and Donje Celo, each with its own pint-sized beach. Donje Celo offers a few cafe-bars for a cooling refresher, and a naturist beach if you want to bare it all.

3. Mljet

Natural Feature

Benedictine monastery and church on tiny St Marys island, in the middle of Big Lake in Mljet National Park, Croatia.
© Edoardo Nicolino / Alamy Stock Photo
Lush with pines, swaying palms and cypress trees, Mljet is the southernmost of Dalmatia’s larger islands. Beautifully unspoilt and undeveloped, this is the closest you’ll get to having your own personal island; it’s a great pitstop on an island-hopping tour from Dubrovnik. The 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 saltwater lakes – Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, meaning Great Lake and Small Lake – and Soline Bay.

4. Korcula

Natural Feature

Aerial view over terracotta-roofed old buildings in the town of Korcula, with other small islands and the Croatian mainland visible in the distance.
© Dalibor Brlek / Alamy
Korcula regularly invites comparisons with Dubrovnik. Just over the narrow Strait of Peljesac from mainland Croatia, it was ruled from Venice for much of its history. The Venetians built its fortified main town – also named Korcula – its herringbone street pattern designed to protect citizens from the bura 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. Korcula is scattered with vineyards; much of the wine you’ll be sipping in Dubrovnik will come from here.

5. Sipan

Natural Feature

A woman in a blue sundress strolls along the seafront promenade in Šipan, past small boats and traditional stone houses with shuttered windows.
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

The largest and most developed of the Elafiti Islands, Sipan contains two settlements – Sudurad, on the southeastern cap, and Sipanska Luka, located on the western side of the island. Unlike its island neighbours, Kolocep and Lopud, Sipan 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. Sipan is a two-hour ferry ride from Dubrovnik.

6. Lopud

Natural Feature

Šunj bay, in Lopud, boasts a small sandy beach and calm sheltered waters where several small boats are moored.
© kevin snelling / Alamy Stock Photo

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 Sunj, a half-moon bay where a small bar serves grilled fish. From Dubrovnik, the journey time is just an hour – perfect day-tripping distance. Travellers often combine the three Elafiti Islands into one itinerary, as you can easily see all three in a day.

7. Hvar

Natural Feature

Views of sailing boats moored in the clear water in front of the island of Hvar, with a small hill covered in red-roofed houses in the background.
© Philip Berryman / Alamy

This is an island for the haves and the have-yachts. Long geared up for accommodating international visitors, Hvar remains at the crest of Croatia’s current tourist wave, with 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.

8. Lastovo

Natural Feature

A small, rocky cove with clear water and a dinghy in Lastovo, Croatia.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Tucked behind Mljet, beautifully undeveloped Lastovo is one of the most peaceful Croatian islands. 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. 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).

Island-hop in style by chartering a yacht through SamBoat, or book a multi-day sailing adventure with Dream Yacht Charter – no experience necessary.

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