It is getting closer and closer to summer - THE time to explore beaches, enjoy the sun and jump into the clear, blue Adriatic sea. If you're craving salt in the air and sand in the hair, put Croatia on your road trip itinerary and explore this beautiful country with our campervan.
Croatia has an impressive coastline and some of the most magnificent spots in the Adriatic Sea. In our previous blogs you can read all about the scenic roads leading trough this country and camping rules in Croatia, but this time we'll jump on to the islands. Better yet, we will show you the hidden ones, islands that are often overlooked and listed on the bottom of the ˝most popular˝ charts, if even.
The Croatian coast is mainly rocky (karst topography). Coral reefs, underwater caves and a few sandy beaches can also be found, which makes Croatian road trip suitable for any taste and preference.
There are exactly 1,246 islands in Croatia, 47 of which permanently inhabited, others are smaller islands and inlets. This huge number also includes rocks of all sizes, with some emerging only at low tide, completely unsuitable for living. We can find most of them in the South of Croatia - in South Dalmatia. South Dalamtia is a region also rated as the most beautiful part of the country´s coastline. The biggest islands in Croatia are Cres and Krk, the tallest is Brač and the most crowded ones are Krk and Korčula.
When you'll start researching your new vacation destination, you will quickly find that quite a few of Croatian islands were crowned as most beautiful or popular.
Top five of the famous Croatian islands are the ´glamorous´ Hvar, ´historic´ Korčula, ´party´ Pag, ´always popular´ Brač and Lošinj ´the island of vitality´. All of these islands are most certainly worth a visit.
But if you want to explore Croatian coastal beauty in a different way, off the beaten track and away from the crowds, the list below is exactly what you're looking for.
The island of Brač is known for its beautiful pebble beach Zlatni rat in the town of Bol.
It is known as the greenest of Croatia`s islands and, some say, the purest of them all. It lies south of the Pelješac peninsula, it is the southernmost and easternmost of the larger Adriatic islands of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. With its rich history, legends of Odysseus and a national park, it is one definitely worth a visit.
Mljet is of volcanic origins which makes its relief full of chasms and gorges. Over 84% of the island is covered with forest, mainly pine. With a soothing Mediterranean climate this island is perfect for the production of high quality red and white wine, olives and goat´s cheese. Long and thin, Mljet is around 37 kilometres long and has an average width of only 3 kilometres (total surface is approximately 100 km2).
The greenest Croatian island!
The main reason for a visit is the islands very own national park. It covers the western third part and offers a great way to spend your vacation exploring the natures best. There are many ways to explore the island and the national park - trekking, cycling, kayaking or canoeing.The park is located 25km from the port of Mljet, with plenty of parking options and is easily accessible.
In the National Park Mljet, you'll find two saltwater lakes, Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, connected by a channel of water. In the middle of Veliko Jezero, there is the Isle of St. Mary, occupied by a church and a 12th century monastery. Around the lakes there are plenty hiking paths, passing little stone-house settlements of Babine Kuće and Soline, a true fairytale sight. If you are up for a bit more sweat, make your way up to the high point of Montokuc and be amazed by the views of Korčula and Pelješac. Highly recommended!
Island Mljet has two saltwater lakes.
An Isle of St. Mary in the middle of Veliko Jezero.
Another attraction of the island is the Odysseus Cave, located on the south coast. The legend says this was the hideout place, where the nymph Calypso has held Odysseus captive as her lover for seven years. If you feel fit, you can walk the hiking trail, which can be quite difficult, if not, a relaxing boat trip can be a better idea. If you find yourself on the island of Mljet in the summer, you should go to the cave around noon because then the sunlight creates a spectrum of colours in the sea. Photographers will love this natural phenomenon.
Odysseus Cave can be reached from the mainland by steep stairs or with a boat from the sea.
When you are finished with exploring the island it´s time to relax on the beach. There are three beautiful sandy beaches on the islands eastern tip. The biggest one is usually more crowded, but the smaller two are perfect for a restful escape.
How to get there?
The main port of Mljet is Sobra. The international ferry lines run from Dubrovnik (Prapratno - Sobra) several times per day, all year round. The car ferry will take about 2.5h from Dubrovnik, with the cost of 28kn per person and 248kn for your campervan (prices of the ferry vary between low and high season).
Ugljan is a green island with more than 20 km of coast, amazing sandy beaches and even some hidden coves, if you want to have more peace and quiet. With clear blue sea, great climate and full Mediterranean vegetation, it has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It is located on Archipelago of Zadar and inhabited only on its north-eastern side. The west side is mostly very steep and unsuitable for living.
Ugljan has a strong fishing culture and a 2000 years old tradition of olive growing. Beside olives, mostly figs and vineyards are grown here, making the island a proper culinary delight.
The island offers lots of different activities from visiting the archaeological findings, fishing, hiking and exploring the nature on the land or even under the water. There are plenty sites to rent bikes, kayaks, canoes or diving equipment - this island will keep your itinerary full.
As already said, the history of the island dates back to the Stone Age, with a few caves hiding even older remains.For the history lovers, besides the caves and ruins, the Monastery of St. Jerome, St. Michael Fort and Villa Rustica are a must see.
For beach lovers, this island is a paradise. The sea is clear and nature untouched, with many sandy and pebble beaches. A few best ones are Mostir beach, Luka cove, Cinta cove, Suha cove, Gaj in Batalaza, Garmina and Tratica in Susica, Pavlesina and more. You can definitely find one for any mood you are in.
The lovely small fishing ports are a place to experience the fishermen’s nights and the traditional public festivities, concerts in churches and live music. If you crave some high-quality and super fresh seafood, take time and enjoy the freshest daily catch and of course a glass of the islands finest wine. Can't get much better than that!
How to get there?
When you are deciding how to reach Ugljan, you have two options to choose from - a bridge or a car ferry.
- FERRY: If you take a short 25 min car ferry from the port Zadar to port Preko, with a cost of 18kn per person and 160kn for your campervan.
- BRIDGE: If you decide to take the Ždrelac Bridge, you need to follow the regional road running along the Pašman Island. You'll need to take a ferry to get to Pašman island nonetheless.
Ždrelac bridge connecting island Pašman and island Ugljan
We advise you to take both options and see both sides of the island, plus island Pašman is just as amazing as island Ugljan - do not miss on that one if you're in the area!
This is a lovely, lush island with a total of 22,82km2. It is located on the north of Zadar Archipelago, southeast from island Ist. It is similar to Ugljan island, full of pine trees, inhabited since Stone Age, but today far less populated than the bigger brother. Its relief is characterized by two limestone ridges, separated other by the Zapuntel Field. On the southwest the island is really steep, but on the northeast the terrain is low with plenty of coves and bays.
There are three main villages on the island - Molat, Zapuntel and Brgunje -which developed around their small harbors. Main industries are farming, sheep breeding, fishing and tourism. With only 200 residents Molat island is for those who seek peaceful and quiet vacation, but not by any means boring!
Blue lagoon on Molat island
photo credit: https://www.apartmanija.hr/apartmani/plaza-jazi-molat
The archeological evidence found on Zaputelsko polje show records of inhabitation since the Stone Age. Over the history, the island has changed owners' numerous times, which has created a library with over 6600 members and books. Absolutely worth a visit! The history of the island can be explored by walking or even kayaking. It is a place where you can be active - kayak, canoe, hike, cycle, swim, sail and more!
Even the size of the island is perfect - park your campervan and go for a walk. Stop at the central square of Molat, where locals gather regularly and tell stories of the times long past. Before dinner, stroll along the waterfront and eat some beautiful fish dishes freshly prepared by traditional recipes.
For all of who love the underwater world, you are in for a treat. Swimm with rays, discover red coral site or enjoy a leisure tour to see the dolphins and relax on the sandy beach.
Hidden beaches of Molat island.
How to get there?
To embark on Molat Island you will have to take the car ferry from port Zadar to port Molat on the island Molat. The ferry runs twice a day in high season (1-2 in low season) and it takes from 45 min to 3 h to complete. The times vary on the route taken, so be aware of that when buying the ferry ticket. This journey will cost you 318kn for your campervan and 28kn per person (prices of the ferry vary between low and high season).
Named by the fruit of the oak tree, this 15,43km2 sized island is located around 22km southwest of Šibenik and its the most remote permanently inhabited island in archipelago of Šibenik.
The relief of the island is composed by two limestone ridges with fertile land in between. Good land and sea rich with fish are the reasons for main industries being agriculture and fishing. With only 50 permanent residents, tourism never truly developed on the island, so this is a perfect choice for the ones wishing a quiet vacation, experiencing the traditional ways of living on a rural island.
Island Žirje offers Robinson houses and remote cottages - ever wondered how it feels like to completely disconnect?
History lovers, this is a place for you! For islands remote location, it has an unexpectedly long, rich history, with the first fortress dating back to 6th Century. The military remaints and monuments are still here - a reminder that this island was once a very important strategic point in this part of the sea. The most interesting of them are the bunkers at Zvizdulja, hilltop fortress of Gustirna, the Byzantine fortress, Samograd complex, military complex Vela Glava and last but not least the church of Velika Gospa.
After learning about all the history facts, more than 20kms of arranged cycling paths and even more walking paths are perfect to stretch your legs and stay active.
Wine, olives, figs and plums are all locally grown and a must-try! A real treat for the taste buds :)
How to get there?
To jump on the Island of Žirje you will have to reach the port in Šibenik. As the car ferry has a limited space, you will need to book it in advance if traveling in high season. The ferry takes almost 2 hours to complete the route and it costs 23kn per person and additional 318kn for campervan.
Before we introduce our last overlooked Croatian island, there is something you need to be aware of when island-hopping in Croatia in one of our awesome campervans.
Some of the smaller islands introduced and established a no-car policy.
This means the island and its nature are of most importance to the locals and they have decided they will protect it and forbade the use of vehicles. The islands are still reachable, but only for foot passengers.
There are many islands on the no-car policy list well worth a visit, but the one we will introduce to you below, is one of the few of its kind in the world.
Galešnjak Island is better known as ´The Island of Love´, ´Lovers Island´ or the ´Love Island´. The intriguing name comes from islands naturally occurring shape of a heart. The first one to notice that was Napoleon´s cartographer Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré, but Google Earth made it famous all over the globe.
This tiny island with the total surface area of 0.132km2 is located between island of Pašman and the town of Turanj on mainland Croatia in the Pašman Canal of the Adriatic Sea.
Galešnjak island is one of four heart-shaped islands in the world.
The terrain is rocky and the nature untouched by any man-made structures. It is very isolated, quiet and private; the pebble beaches are still raw and surrounded with emerald blue sea, perfect for a private swim. Paradise!
The lovers island is privately owned by family Jureško. It is not inhabited and has no accommodations for the tourist to stay overnight, unless you wish to camp. In this case you must seek permission from the owners.
Heart shaped Galešnjak, with its romantic atmosphere, provides amenities for small wedding parties, engagements and the most romantic Valentines Days or couples trips you can imagine.
It is one of a kind and a must-visit island in Croatia. It is a perfect place to relax and enjoy some uninterrupted moments with your significant other or simply by yourself. Ideal to camp, swim and chill out on a place almost unspoiled by man. This is a rare opportunity in our modern world and we encourage you to experience it.
How to get there?
If you want to visit this lovely islan with your significant other or simply by yourself, there are many ways to do so from town Zadar or Pašman island.
There are many water taxis departing from of the marinas closest to the island (Marina Kornati, Sangulin, Sukostan , Preko and ACI Marina Zut). There are also many private operators or charter services, which are quite popular as they provide also other means of transportation you can choose from. If you wish to indulge a bit more, you can take a full day cruise to the island and several other places.
The price depends on the experience you choose, the number of locations you'l visit besides the Love Island and the number of people involved.
There you have it - a list of Croatian islands that are usually overlooked, but still easy to reach and different is so many ways.There is much to learn and explore on each of them, but something is the same - the chance to really connect with the local nature, culture and people.
Give it a try and visit at least one. We assure you, you will fall in love!