Compiling a list of top 10 Croatian islands was a hard task, especially if you take into consideration that the country has over a thousand. Still, from a tourist point of view, some are better than other. Here is what we think.
Best for history lovers. The island’s main settlement, Hvar Town, is built around the old core hundreds of years old; many of its old buildings, fortifications and walls are still in place and are frequented by tourists. It’s actually a well-rounded place as it has exciting clubs, a lot of history, and decent beaches. It’s also a kind of place where stump into a celebrity every now and then. If you don’t like that, however, move to the island’s interior, and explore the lavender fields and idyllic vineyards on a bike
Best for nature-lovers. The Croatia’s greenest island got the nickname for its large forests; the entire western part of the island is actually a national park, with plenty of natural beauties, animals, plants and breathtaking sights. Most come to Mljet to enjoy its climbing, swimming, hiking and cycling potentials; the latter being the best way to travel while on the island, as the road infrastructure is not quite developed. Be sure to visit Saplunara beach in the east of the island, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia.
Best for watersports. The capital of watersports attracts swarms of tourists due to its waterskiing, parasailing, kayaking, jet skiing and windsurfing potential. The Zlatni Rat beach, the beach you will find on every Croatian tourist brochure, is the focal point where most of these happen, especially windsurfing, thanks to the beach’s arrangement and sea currents. The other popular activity is climbing – and you can do a lot of climbing at Brač as the mount of St. Vid in the islands interior is the highest peak of the Adriatic (778 meters).
Best for exploring local lifestyle. People of Vis have two strong traditions: fishing and winemaking, so it would be a sin to visit and not try wines like Vugava or Mali Plavac at the nearest ‘konoba’ (a Dalmatian tavern). As for the fishing, there are actually organized tours where you can learn how to catch and clean fish from the local masters themselves. Besides that, Vis offers many romantic walks for couples and as many hidden bays and coves.
Best for one-day excursion. Located just off Dubrovnik, Lopud was the place where the local aristocracy used to spend their vacations. It has a population of about 300, and cars are actually banned from the island to prevent pollution and unnecessary noise; which is why many who stay in Dubrovnik visit Lopud for an afternoon of quiet and relaxation, exploring the green surroundings or the well-known Sunj beach. It can be reached by a 30-minute ferry ride, and there are several small, family-run hotels if you wish to spend the night.
Best if you can’t stand crowds. Almost halfway between Italy and Croatia lies the islet of Palagruža: no buildings, no tourist facilities, no crowds, just an old 19th century lighthouse and its keeper. The lighthouse is the only place you can stay at; it has two two-bedroom apartments and you’ll have to bring your own supplies as there are no shops on Palagruža. If you wish to escape the crowdy beaches and towns of summertime Croatia, at Palagruža you’ll have all the peace and quiet in the world, plus the two beautiful pebble beaches, Stara Vlaka and Veli Žal.
Best for an environmentally friendly holiday. Well, technically, not an island: Kornati is an archipelago consisting of 140 islands scattered in an area of 320 square kilometers, which makes it the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean. The islands hold the status of a national park due to natural beauties and diverse wildlife. There are no hotels or anything like it, just old stone cottages built by the local shepherds. These became available for rent as the authorities developed the concept of environmentally friendly, sustainable tourism. Still, if the idea of spending your holiday on dry, unpopulated islands don’t appeal to you, you can still visit the archipelago by embarking on an excursion, which are organized by many local tourist agencies on an everyday basis.
Best for partying. Croatia’s hottest partying destination attracts thousands of young party-eager tourists, as its night clubs are open 24/7. The center of it all is Zrće beach near Novalja, dotted with beach bars hosting world-famous DJs. But the island has its other side as well: its folklore tradition is still strong and its delicacies such as Pag cheese and lamb are often enjoyed by visitors. Excursions to the island’s interior can also be interesting, as the barren landscapes are often compared to the surface of the moon!
Best for nudists. Its locals like to say that Rab is a destination fit for kings, a statement which is actually historically accurate; one of the first tourists who visited the island was the British king Edward VIII with his spouse in 1936. They asked the local authorities if they could take a naked swim at Kandarola beach, and thus Rab became Croatia’s number one nudist resort. But it has more than that; Rab Town’s old city core will enchant you with its walls and ancient architecture, while the sand beaches in the north of the island are the best in the Adriatic.
Best for sailing. Only twenty meters of sea divide the island of Murter and the mainland; distance which is gapped by a drawbridge, giving this islet extra charm and making it more accessible at the same time. It’s located in the North Dalmatian island cluster, the densest archipelago in the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean. This makes it a popular yachting resort; the traditional boat race ‘Latin sail’, the highlight of the island’s tourist season, is held late September. Murter is only twenty meters away from the main land, so the distance was bridged by a drawbridge, making the island more accessible and giving it extra charm. There are four settlements on the island: the town of Murter, Jezera, Tisno and Betina. Much of the island is covered with ancient olive and fig trees, which are the traditional crops grown by the local population.