One of the most popular sections of the Visit Croatia site is our Top 10 Destinations in Croatia guide. This part of our site no doubt helps travellers choose some of the best places to visit in Croatia! We thought we’d continue this trend of the ‘best places’ to visit, so here’s our guide to the 11 Best Islands in Croatia. And we chose eleven because we couldn’t choose just ten!
The 11 Best Islands in Croatia
Let’s start with what’s considered to be the chicest Croatian island, shall we? Hvar is as well known for its style as it is for its lavender and its sunshine; it often used to be claimed that the island was the sunniest place in Croatia. Whether it still is actually number one for sun or not, it certainly does achieve plenty of sunny hours – an average of 7.7 hours of sun per day throughout the whole year and about 2,800 hours in total.
Hvar is also pretty well known for its nightlife options – or rather, Hvar Town is, with a number of chi-chi clubs situated here. If that’s not your scene, there’s plenty else on Hvar to occupy you; consider staying in towns such as Stari Grad or Milna with their pretty harbours.
You’ll enjoy your time on Hvar, taking in the good cuisine, exploring the interior of lavender fields and perhaps partying it up at night too. Hvar is also only one hour away from Split (by catamaran) so it’s an easy hop from the mainland.
Korcula Town on Korcula is sometimes referred to as a ‘mini-Dubrovnik’ with its equally charming and very well preserved old town. It is supposedly also the birthplace of Marco Polo and you can even visit his ‘house’ there. As well as a wide variety of accommodation – some smart indeed – its lovely beaches offer up a mix of relaxation or adventure. Korcula is also well known for its wine, white wine in particular, from the Posip and Grk grape varities.
Lovely, lovely Vis has a rather different history to many of the islands featured here; for this reason, it certainly gives off a different vibe when you visit. Closed off to foreign visitors until 1989 (as it was used as a naval base after World War II), it was never part of the upsurge in foreign tourism that occurred elsewhere on Croatia’s coast and islands in the late 1970s and 1980s. The island is also the furthest away from the mainland, so perhaps isn’t considered as easy to reach as others. All of this means that Vis doesn’t have any built-up or overdeveloped tourist resorts; you’ll certainly get some tranquil time here.
You can spend a wonderfully relaxing time on Vis, exploring the coves and beaches; some of the naval/army base sights (should that be of interest!); and the flat interior of the small island. But Vis has also increased in ‘fame’ in the last few years. It was one of the filming locations for Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. (Where it ‘stood in’ for a Greek island!).
We bet you’ll have already seen part of Brac even if you’ve never been there! The famous Zlatni Rat (‘Golden Horn’) Beach in Bol is the star of many a piece of literature or advertising on Croatia with its pebbled stretch of beach jutting out into the luminous blue sea. Brac is an excellent choice for families, with a number of family-friendly resorts and hotels amongst the main towns of Bol, Supetar, Sutivan and Milna. There’s also plenty of activities on offer for the sporty – Bol, in particular, is a very suitable spot for windsurfing. Hikers will adore heading up to Vidova Gora (the highest point on the island); you will be rewarded with amazing views across to the other islands.
Brac is also famous for its white stone – a material used to not only construct buildings on the mainland such as Sibenik’s cathedral and Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
Make sure you visit the impressive Blaca Hermitage inland, an entry on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Mljet is another of Croatia’s islands to be declared one of Croatia’s eight national parks – or rather, the western third of it is. Another of Croatia’s islands to be covered in greenery, this laid-back place is the ideal spot for exploring by bike or even kayaking your way around a portion of it. Head to Veliko Jezero or Malo Jezero for calm spots for swimming and explore the Benedictine Monastery which (originally) stems from the 12th century. For those of you who like your legends, you can visit the cave (by sea) where Odysseus was supposedly trapped for seven years, having been shipwrecked here and charmed by the nymph Calypso.
Known for being an island that can offer its guests wellness and vitality, Losinj is also well known for its lush greenery. To that end, once upon a time, this place was a favoured holiday destination for Austro-Hungarian royalty. This pretty island is an excellent option for those wishing to holiday in the northern part of the Croatian coast – and on one of the less crowded islands at that. Mali Losinj is considered to have one of the prettiest harbours in the whole Croatian coastline, whilst the island as a whole is also renowned for its fragrant herbs.
What’s that Rab, you say you have some sandy beaches? Yes, it’s true! We know that sandy beaches are a big must for many holidaymakers, something that’s few and far between in Croatia. But if it’s really a major item on your wishlist, then consider Rab. Best known is Paradise Beach in the town of Lopar, with its wide expanse of sand dipping down into shallow waters – very suitable for those with young families. If that’s only of slight interest to you, can get your cultural fix in Rab Town with a number of historic sights from centuries past. Activity sports lovers will delight in the numerous hikes and bike paths available, especially through the forested parts of the island.
Pag is one of those places that has an unusual, rather eclectic mix of items that draw in visitors. Of course, we first have to mention its epic nightlife in the Zrce Beach area near Novalja. If you’re after nights (and days) filled with clubbing and some of the best festivals in Croatia, it’s here you should head to.
But if you’re not after any of that, there’s still plenty for you on this island. With its very unusual landscape – rather rocky and, unusual for a Croatian island, with little vegetation – it’s often described as ‘moon-like’. This makes it fascinating to explore. The island is also connected to the mainland by a bridge at its southern point so it’s easy to reach. (There’s also a ferry from the mainland to the north part of the island.)
The island is also famed for its lace-making and its sheep’s cheese (and also its salt production!). See, all rather eclectic, but all rather wonderful too!
I supposed we would cheat if you included the Elafiti Islands in this list seeing as they include multiple islands, right? So let us pick one island out of this group and do so by choosing Lopud. With a population of only 250 people, this tiny island close to Dubrovnik is entirely car-free. If you don’t feel like navigating your way around the forested island on foot (although, taking your time, this would be a chilled way of exploring), you can rent bikes or golf carts. Sunj Bay on the south-eastern side of the island provides a rare thing around these parts – a sandy beach; there’s a number of little eateries and cafes dotted around.
The imposing Franciscan Monastery is one of the first sights you see as you approach Lopud; these days, having been fully restored, it is now possible to rent this out for a private, rather luxurious, stay.
Off the coast of northern Dalmatia, close to Zadar, Dugi Otok is another island with a small population that makes for a relaxing trip. This island is ideal for visiting as a day trip from Zadar, or for longer; if you have your own set of wheels, you can really explore to your heart’s content, particularly the beaches. Saharun Beach with its shallow, stunningly shimmering waters, is the top draw around these parts. Telascica Nature Park at the southern part of the island will be of interest to nature lovers; there’s an abundance of animal and plant life here, as well as the salt-water Lake Mir.
Lastovo is one of the smallest and quietest islands featured on this list. Like Vis, the island was also closed off to foreigners until 1988 as it was used as an army base. Its slightly distant position in the Adriatic – it takes 3 hours by catamaran or 4+ hours by ferry from Split, or 3/4 hours from Dubrovnik – and its size means it’s quite an ‘off the beaten track’ kind of island, with fewer amenities, accommodation, restaurants than others. That, of course, may be a big plus for you! Lastovo and its surrounding islands make up the Lastovo Islands Nature Park, one of eleven nature parks in Croatia; it is also covered in gorgeous green forests. The island is also known for having one of the most beautiful starry skies in the whole of Europe.
Which is the best island for me?
Having read the above, you may have decided which of the best islands in Croatia is perfect for you. However, in reality, you’d probably like to visit one or two…or all of them? We’re sure that you’d like to experience a mix of what the above islands can offer and, really, combining several islands into your holiday in Croatia is one of the best ways of really getting a feel for the country.
So why not base yourself on one of the above islands for your trip to Croatia; then explore others in the local area on day trips? For example, if you’re staying on Hvar you could easily visit Brac and/or Vis.
Then, save the other islands for a future holiday to Croatia!
More on the Best Islands in Croatia
We have a full guide to all of the islands mentioned above – and more besides – in our Croatian Islands section. Give it a read to find the Croatian island that fits the bill for you!
If you’re after some more visual inspiration of the best islands in Croatia, take a look at our albums