If your idea of a perfect trip is relaxed atmosfere with a blend of beach time, local cuisine and exploring cultural and natural heritage, holiday on Croatian islands is just the right option. We must all make peace with the fact that Croatia stopped being a hidden gem long time ago. However, if you are on a family holiday or are looking for a perfect couple getaway islands are ideal setting – you will encounter far less crowds than on the mainland and you have better chances of experiencing a true local life.
“Croatian island formula” is basically quite similar for all of the islands – untouched nature, centuries old cultural heritage, crystal clear water and delicious Croatian food. Some islands stand out with additional features so we have Pag and Hvar as places with the best nightlife on Croatian coast and Mljet, Kornati and Brijuni which are stunning National parks.
With more than thousand islands, making a list of the best Croatian islands is a difficult task and can never be objective enough. With that in mind, here is my list of top 5 Croatian islands to visit in 2019.
We start the list of best Croatian islands with island of Hvar which is suitable for every type of holiday and for that reason it is one of the most visited Croatian islands.
In the last several years Hvar emerged as popular party and luxury travel destination. However, there are numerous things to do on Hvar even if you are not a fan of nightlife and are not a yacht owner.
Hvar is an island with one of the longest histories in Croatian archipelago. Due to its significant location at the crossroad of the main Adriatic pathways Hvar has been inhabited since the pre-historic times. History of Hvar is marked by many different influences – from Greek and Roman to Venetian and Austrian. Remains of all this civilisations as well as spectacular natural characteristics make Hvar an island of exceptional beauty.
If you are looking for a party holiday city of Hvar is the ideal option. It has plenty of events, nightclubs and restaurants and parties last all day long. Be prepared that it is one of the most expensive cities in Croatia and can get pretty crowded during July and August.
I’ve read many people saying to skip Hvar during peek of the season if you want to avoid big crowds but that is not completely true. I do recommend avoiding city of Hvar as your base and opting for other beautiful towns like Stari Hvar, Jelsa or Vrbovska. This three are a perfect location for a leisure holiday with plenty sightseeing and beach options.
Things to see on the island of Hvar include Renaissance cathedral of St. Stephan, 16th Century Franciscan Monastery, Venetian Fort Fortica, Renaissance Tvrdalj Castle, Dominican Monastery holding a painting of one of the most famous Venetian 16th Century painters Tintoretto and Grapčeva Cave which is the most significant pre-historic site in Adriatic.
Besides sightseeing of cultural heritage one of the best thing to do on Hvar is renting a scooter, bike or taxi and exploring the island. You will discover small villages, beautiful landscapes, vineyards and beaches.
Rocky island of Vis is the farthest inhabited island from the Croatian mainland. It is an island of unspoiled nature, beautiful beaches and bays and rich history.
For long, Vis has been overlooked by tourists but in the recent years it is becoming more and more popular due to its unique cultural heritage and natural beauties.
Vis has been inhabited since 3000 BC. During history it was under rule of Greek, Roman Empire, Venetians, Austrians and in Yugoslavia it served as military base. Today it is possible to see remains of ancient town (thermae, necropolis, theatre), churches dating from various times from pre-romanic to baroque, residences of noble families and several forts built in the time of Venetians and Austrians.
On this island of fisherman and winegrowers you can experience best preserved authentic Mediterranean environment. Isolation turned out to be an advantage of Vis – it resulted in preserved unique Mediterranean architecture, local cuisine and way of life.
Even though it is a small remote island you won’t lack restaurant and accommodation choices. You will find a wide variety of charming restaurants with „homey“ feeling offering fresh local food.
Vis is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe – Stiniva Beach. It is a pretty small beach situated in a narrow bay surrounded by steep cliffs. This unique setting and crystal clear water make Stiniva stand out among other Croatian beaches.
One of the top things to do on Vis is visit to Blue Cave. The cave is located on the small island of Biševo, five kilometers from Vis. It is unique for the magical blue light which appears on a certain time of day when sun is on its peak. However, Blue Cave stopped being a secret treasure long time ago so you might have to wait in line to enter it. On the other hand there is another cave – Green Cave situated on the small inslet of Ravnik. Green Cave maybe is a little less fascinating but there are no lines and you can swim in it what is a truly unique experience.
Korčula is the island of dense pine forest, vineyards and olive groves. Famous for the exquisite Croatian wine, crystal clear sea, tradition and historic settlements Korčula offers a unique traveller experience.
Through history, Korčula was part of Greek and Roman Empire, Venetian, Austrians, French, Russians and even Britons. All this rulers left a glorious mark on the history and architecture of Korčula.
One of the most famous and best preserved architectural features is Old Town of Korčula. It is a small medieval walled town consisted of narrow streets and architecture influenced by Venetian Renaissance. The most notable building inside the city walls is 15th and 16th Century St. Mark Cathedral. Climb to the top of the bell tower will give you the most amazing views.
Locals often brag that Korčula ih hometown of Marko Polo and you can even visit Marko Polo House on the island. I must disappoint you and say that there are no scientific proofs Marko Polo was ever on Korčula.
One of the best things to do on Korčula is cycling. Rent a bike and paddle through the island discovering small villages, vineyards and beautiful coastal scenery.
Most beaches on Korčula are pebbled but you will find two beautiful sady beaches in the village of Lumbarda.
Even though most used boat connections are the ones from Split or Dubrovnik, city of Korčula is a short boat ride from Pelješac peninsula. If you decide to base on Korčula day trip the most famous Croatian wine region is a great option.
Island of Lopud is a perfect getaway for couples, adventurists and families who want to escape the rush of the city.
Lopud is part of southernmost Croatian archipelago together with islands of Koločep and Šipan. What makes Lopud special among other islands on this list is that it is completely pedestrian island.
Situated northwest of Dubrovnik, Lopud is a popular day trip destination. However, island has much to offer if you decide to spend more than couple of hours there.
Lopud is hope to one of the most beautiful beaches in Dubrovnik region – Beach Šunj. It is a white sand beach with knee deep water backed by green hills. During summer months it can get quite busy but walking around the island you will discover many small private bays.
Art lovers will enjoy visiting Franciscan and Dominican Monastery as well as Modern Art Pavillion and remains of Grand Hotel which is a masterpiece of modernist architecture in Croatia today sadly abandoned.
With long and interesting history Lopud has remains of more than 30 historic churches. Together with the lush Mediterranean greenery this is the ideal setting for wondering around the island. Walk through forest pathways will take you to do highest peak of the island where Sutvrač Fort is located. The amazing view of Elaphites archipelago is definitely worth a climb especially if you arrive in sunset.
After you’ve explored the island by foot one of the best things to do on Lopud is renting a kayak or joining a kayak tour. Depending of you experience you can kayak around the island or even visit several islands in Elaphiti archipelago.
Evenings on the island are reserved for walks along the promenade and trying local specialities in charming restaurants by the sea.
Rab is the northernmost island on this list. It is located just off the northern part of Croatian coast between islands of Krk and Pag. Rich history, preserved traditions and beautiful nature is what attracts tourists to this island since the begging of the last century.
This is the island with the most valuable historic and cultural sites. Due to the change of rulers since ancient times Rab offers a great diversity in art and architecture – from early Christian period church of St Eufemia, gothic paintings, Romanesque cathedral to gothic and Renaissance towers.
The most recognisable atribut of Rab are four church bell towers. The oldest bell tower of the church of St. Andrew the Apostle, Romanesque bell towers of the cathedral and of the church of St. John the Evangelist and 17th Century bell tower of the church of St. Justine create a memorable panorama layout.
On the other hand Rab also has much to offer for those seeking an active holiday. Island has more than 100 kilometers of hiking trails and biking paths. You can walk through the pine forest and the evergreen oak forest which is the only holm oak forest preserved in the Mediterranean. Your wandering around the island will probably lead you to discovery of hidden coves and bays surrounded by lush greenery.
The most famous beach on island of Pag is Rajska plaža or Paradise Beach. Listed on world’s top 100 beaches by CNN, this large sandy beach is best suitable for kids. As every famous beach this one also can get very busy. However, you can always find a more private beach with an amazing view on the ancient walls and bell towers.
PHOTO: Pixabay, Flickr, Yacht-Rent