More than a thousand islands are located off Croatia's picturesque coastline within the Adriatic Sea, covering a total area of more than 1,300 square miles. The islands, which have been inhabited since at least the era of Ancient Greece, have long been known as a resort tourism destination in Eastern Europe, home to luxurious villas and summer homes dating back to the Roman era. Today, many islands are home to some of the world's hippest nightlife destinations and luxurious four-star resorts, attracting celebrities such as Britain's royal family and pop stars like Jay-Z and Beyonce. Local agriculture focuses on viticulture and olive growing, making the islands a top destination for wine enthusiasts.
Brac is the third-largest island within the Adriatic Sea, known throughout the world for the production of its famed Brac stone, which has been used to build internationally-recognized landmarks such as Washington, D.C.'s White House and Berlin's Reichstag. It receives over 2,700 annual hours of sunshine, making it a popular resort destination for European visitors looking to relax on gorgeous beachfront stretches throughout the year. The island's famed Golden Horn shingle beach is located within the lovely city of Bol, which is home to the only private airport within Croatia's islands. Ferry and catamaran services also travel from the mainland to the cities of Split and Dubrovnik throughout the day. Unique landmarks include the historic Branislav Deskovic Fine Art Gallery, the 15th-century Dominican Monastery, and Vidova Gora, the highest peak within the islands, reaching a height of 778 meters.
Cres is a charming island within the Cres-Losinj group of islands, which encompasses 30 islands across an area of more than 193 miles within the Adriatic Sea. The island, which is the Adriatic's second-largest island, is home to the quaint resort town of Cres Town, which showcases gorgeous preserved Venetian architecture and cultural structures dating back to the 15th century. Visitors can explore landmarks like the Venetian Tower, the Church of St. Mary, and the Municipal Loggia, all located within the city's lovely walled town center. Other popular destinations on the island include the quaint village of Valun, known for its 11th-century inscribed Valun Tablet, and the city of Martinscica, located along a stunning bay on the island's western side.
Dugi Otok is named for a Croatian term meaning "long island," located close to the town of Zadar on the mainland. The island is best known for its lovely natural wonders and high-quality vineyards, making it a great choice for a weekend getaway destination within the Croatian islands. Spacious Telascica Nature Park stretches across the southern part of the island, home to stunning natural landmarks like Telascica Bay and Lake Mir, while secluded beachfront areas like famed Saharun Beach draw tourists throughout the year to its crystal-clear waters. Native wildlife abounds, ranging from coastal dolphin populations to a small donkey sanctuary located within the nature park's boundaries.
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Hvar is a gorgeous Croatian island receiving more than 2,800 hours of sunshine each year, known for its fragrant, picturesque fields of lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme and marjoram that grow throughout its lands. The island is a top destination for international celebrities like Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Prince Harry, home to upscale resorts in beautiful cities like Hvar Town and Stari Grad. Yachts fill Hvar Town's harbor throughout the summer months, parked alongside ferries transporting visitors to the nearby Pakleni Islands. Gorgeous secluded beaches line Ždrilca Bay, which is home to rocky coves and pine forests. Hip nightlife abounds at Hula and Stipanska Beaches on nearby Marinkovac Island, which is known for its bars and nightclubs.
Korcula is one of the Adriatic Sea's most populous islands, located just off the Dalmatian coast. The island is known for its densely-forested areas, earning it the name "Black Korcula" during the days of ancient Greece. Korcula Town is home to gorgeous Medieval-era town squares and beautiful historic churches and palaces, many of which date back to the 13th century. The island is home to several sites connected to former famous resident Marco Polo, including an historic home that may have been the explorer's residence. Other lovely landmarks include St. Mark's Cathedral, which features artwork by Tintoretto, and the 17th-century Abbey Treasury, which houses a collection of significant historic church manuscripts and artifacts. Smaller towns like Vela Luka and Lumbarda make for great secluded vacation destinations.
Krk is the Adriatic Sea's largest island, stretching across 157 square miles near Croatia's mainland. The island, which is connected to the mainland via bridge, is also accessible via Rijeka Airport and is known as one of the Adriatic's top resort destinations. Beautiful Krk Town is home to the famed St. Mary's Cathedral, constructed in the 12th century. Resort towns like Baska, Malinska, and Vrbnik are home to popular beachfront stretches and attractions like the waterfront Frankopan Castle, dating back to the 12th century. Historic churches include the 11th-century Church of St. Quirinus and the Church of St. John the Baptist, which features a gorgeous bell tower dating back to 1431. Luxurious accommodations line the island's shores, making it a popular holiday getaway destination.
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Lastovo is a quaint island located just nine miles south of Korcula, offering an off-the-beaten-track vacation alternative to some of Croatia's more heavily-touristed islands. The 18-square-mile island once served as a site for Yugoslavian military bases, closed off to the public until 1988. Today, it and its surrounding islands make up beautiful Lastovo Islands Nature Park, one of Croatia's 11 national parks, which is known as one of Europe's most beautiful starry night sky viewing destinations. Hiking and cycling routes meander through the island's forested areas, offering stunning natural views. Secluded hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations populate towns like Ubli and Lastovo, which are also home to quaint dining destinations.
Losinj is one of the most popular resort islands in the Croatian Islands, famed for its lush natural areas and stunning beachfront areas, including lively Cikat Bay, a year-round destination for windsurfing. The island's history dates back to prehistory, home archaeological remains dating back to the Liburnian era and the Roman Empire. Families can explore the interactive exhibits of the Losinj Marine Educational Center, which also hosts workshops, lectures, and other public special events throughout the year. Stunning historic churches dot the towns of Mali Losinj and Veli Losinj, including the 15th-century Church of St. Martin and the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, which highlights paintings by famed Venetian artist Vivarini. Four-star hotels abound in areas like Mali Losinj and Nezerine.
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Mljet is the southernmost of the larger islands within the Adriatic, known for its beautiful famed lakes Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero. The island, which is located approximately 23 miles off the coast of Dubrovnik, has been called the "most seductive island in the Adriatic Sea" by Lonely Planet and is a frequent tourist destination for international celebrities like Prince Charles. According to legend, the island is purported to be the location of the mythical island of Ogygia, where Calypso kept Odysseus captive. Today, it is covered in large part by a heavily-forested national park, which can be explored on foot or on bike throughout the year. Tourist accommodations are offered in cities like Pomena, including luxurious hotels and rental accommodations.
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Pag has become one of Croatia's premiere nightlife destinations over the past few decades, home to the hip resort town of Novalja, located on the island's northern end. The island, which is connected to the mainland via bridge at its southern tip, is the second-longest island in the Adriatic Sea, stretching for 37 miles. Its rich cultural history is showcased in its famed folk traditions, including its famed lace-making techniques, local paski sir sheep's milk cheese, and popular Pasko kolo folk dance. Visitors looking for lively travel adventures can enjoy live music performances at Novalja's many open-air clubs or stay in gorgeous luxury accommodations at areas like Pag Town, which features architecture designed by famed Croatian Renaissance builder Juraj Dalmatinac.
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Rab is a lushly-forested island known for its beautiful sandy beaches and year-round temperate climate, which give it a reputation as a green paradise within the Adriatic. The island is protected by three ridges that keep away cold winds from the nearby Velebit Mountains, making it a perfect choice for visitors looking for nature tourism opportunities. Its main resort area, Rab Town, is full of beautiful buildings dating back to the Medieval era, including its stunning 1509 Town Loggia, which features a 26-meter bell tower offering unparalleled panoramic views of the nearby coastline. Fine visitor beaches include Paradise Beach, an ideal spot for families traveling with young children due to its shallow sea waters.
Solta is one of the lesser-known of the Croatian islands, making it a great choice for visitors looking for an off-the-beaten-path travel destination. It is easily accessible from the mainland via ferry at the town of Rogac, which also connects to a bus route that links the mainland city of Split with the picturesque harbor towns of Stomorska and Maslinica. Stunning secluded bays and coves line the island's shores, including the gorgeous beachfront of the city of Necujam, which was once home to a popular resort hotel at the turn of the 20th century. Luxurious accommodations like the Heritage Hotel Martinis Marchi offer unique guest rooms and suites within historic buildings with waterfront views. The island is also a great biking destination, with bike rentals available in Maslinica and Stomorska.
13.The Brijuni Islands
The Brijuni Islands are a collection of 14 charming islands located within Istria, within the northern region of the Croatian coastline. The island chain's prehistory dates back to the Roman Empire era, when its islands were used as summer getaway destinations for rich Roman citizens. During the region's Yugoslavian rule, international celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida were frequent visitors of the country's ruler, President Tito, at his private summer residence on the island. Today, the islands are protected as one of Croatia's national parks, home to famed historic attractions such as the Ulysses Theatre, which was co-founded by noted Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija. Visitors can explore the islands as part of guided tours throughout the year, ranging from safari park tours to explorations of Roman villa remains from the first century B.C.
14.The Elafiti Islands
The Elafiti Islands are an archipelago of six islands located just northwest of Dubrovnik, easily accessible from the mainland via public ferry or catamaran service each day. The islands, which are named for the Greek word for "deer," are home to a population of less than 1,000 residents in total and are largely car-free, making them an excellent choice for visitors looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life for a day or a weekend. Organized group tours explore the main islands of Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan throughout the year and explore their gorgeous historic sites, dating back to the rule of the Republic of Dubrovnik in the 13th century. Unique island cruises also explore the waters surrounding the islands in historic 16th-century-style replica galleons.
15.The Kornati Islands
The Kornati Islands are a lovely archipelago of more than 140 islands off the coast of Croatia, best known as the home of stunning Kornati National Park, one of Europe's most beautiful natural wonders. The island chain was immortalized by playwright George Bernard Shaw, who famously wrote that "on the last day of Creation God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars and breath." It is often referred to as a nautical paradise, offering amazing opportunities for sailing and watersports throughout the year on its amazing crystal-clear blue waters. Much of the island's lands are tended to by its local population on Murter Island, which cultivate lush orchards, olive groves, and vineyards throughout harvest areas. Primitive beach-style cottages can be rented for overnight stay through national park services.
Vis is one of the larger inhabited Croatian islands, located approximately 35 miles from the country's mainland. The island has only recently been opened to the public as a tourist destination after years of military use by both British and Yugoslavian forces since World War II. Today, it is known as a top winemaking destination in the region, home to lovely exclusive boutique wineries in cities like Plavac and Vugava. Historic sites on the island include preserved WWII sites and the lovely Archaeological Museum of the city of Vis Town, which showcases artifacts dating back to the island's ancient Greek colony of Issa. Luxurious hotels are located in Komiza and Vis Town, along with many private villas that can be rented along the island's beachfront. Nearby, the adjacent island of Bisevo is home to the famed natural wonder Modra Spilja, or "Blue Grotto."
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16 of the Best Croatian Islands
- Brac, Photo: xbrchx/stock.adobe.com
- Cres, Photo: ilijaa/stock.adobe.com
- Dugi Otok, Photo: shinedawn/stock.adobe.com
- Hvar, Photo: Simun Ascic/stock.adobe.com
- Korcula, Photo: igorp1976/stock.adobe.com
- Krk, Photo: kasto/stock.adobe.com
- Lastovo, Photo: Simun Ascic/stock.adobe.com
- Losinj, Photo: fottoo/stock.adobe.com
- Mljet, Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/stock.adobe.com
- Pag, Photo: and.one/stock.adobe.com
- Rab, Photo: Zsolnai Gergely/stock.adobe.com
- Solta, Photo: dreamer4787/stock.adobe.com
- The Brijuni Islands, Photo: Mizio70/stock.adobe.com
- The Elafiti Islands, Photo: Riccardo/stock.adobe.com
- The Kornati Islands, Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com
- Vis, Photo: meryll/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: daliu/stock.adobe.com