Found at the crossroads of central and south-eastern Europe, Croatia is a country featuring unspoiled coastlines just waiting to be explored. In fact, Croatia is undoubtedly best explored by boat, as there are more than a thousand islands boasting a rich history, beautiful beaches, fabulous food and an epic nightlife scene.
Therefore, sailing tours are a great option for visiting this incredible destination. They provide an authentic experience and allow you to easily visit Croatia’s various picturesque bays, cute cobbled towns, ancient walled cities, and stunning national parks.
The balmy air of the Adriatic acts as a pleasant antidote for the warm climate, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Before you dance the night away, there’s nothing quite like watching the colours of the sunset splashing over the Adriatic sea after a fun day of exploring.
Understandably, it can be hard to narrow down the options when considering which islands to visit in Croatia. To help you out, here’s our list of the five best Croatian islands!
Hvar, with its bobbing army of million-dollar super yachts, has become a playground for the rich and famous in recent years. However, it’s not an out-of-reach destination for the average traveller thanks to affordable ferry departures from Split on the mainland.
Hvar Town is Croatia’s trendiest island destination, featuring a yacht-dotted harbour, central piazza with baroque cathedral, and a palm-lined seafront promenade. Lazily wander your way through the cobbled alleyways to uncover rustic-chic seafood restaurants, cool cocktail bars, and little boutiques selling handmade jewellery and designer labels.
Alternatively, venture beyond Hvar’s hub and you’ll encounter a haze of lavender fields, vineyards, and secret coves without a tourist in sight. If you fancy yourself as a wine connoisseur, call in at the Tomić winery in Jelsa to taste their produce made from three local grape varieties!
Brač is another island easily reached by ferry from Split. Blessed with the iconic Zlatni Rat beach near the harbour town of Bol, this island is Croatia’s top windsurfing destination.
Furthermore, the island features an excellent array of other water sports facilities and well-marked hiking and cycling paths too.
Rising up behind Bol is Vidova Gora (780m), the highest point on the Croatian islands. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with astounding 360-degree views.
Korčula is one of the closest islands to the mainland, making it the perfect choice for the easiest island day trip. Its capital, also christened as Korčula, is known as Little Dubrovnik due to its terracotta roofs and photogenic location sitting on a medieval-walled peninsula.
The stunning renaissance architecture is a wonder to behold, especially the Cathedral of St. Marco which is an absolute must-see. Additionally, enjoy a spot of kayaking off the coast of Korčula’s sandy shores, or watch a performance of the moreška sword dance before you head to a local konoba to sample some authentic Dalmatian cuisine.
While Korčula is Croatia’s most settled island, Mljet in comparison is wild, untamed, and probably the greenest isle on the Dalmatian Coast. A few villages cling to the coast and there are a couple of vineyards further inland, but a lot of the island comprises Mljet National Park.
Pomena, the entrance to the national park, is reached from Dubrovnik via an 80-minute catamaran ride. There are two incredibly beautiful salt lakes, and there’s even a tiny Benedictine monastery in the middle of one of them which can be visited by boat. Unsurprisingly, the World Wide Fund for Nature has named Mljet National Park as one of the last paradises in the Mediterranean. This is real bucket list stuff!
Vis is one of Croatia’s more mysterious islands. In fact, it’s one of the furthest islands from the mainland, and as a former Yugoslav military base it couldn’t be visited by foreigners until 1989. As a result of this, Vis has thankfully escaped a lot of modern development and is one of the country’s most unspoiled paradises.
Also, Vis hit headlines in recent years when it was announced as the filming location for the popular movie Mamma Mia 2, a fact which has attracted more visitors to its shores. If you’re wanting to explore the crystal clear waters and intriguing coastline made famous by the film in more depth, visit the Blue Grotto, kayak to the Green Cave, or uncover sunken wrecks at a renowned diving site.
Additionally, Vis arguably has some of the most authentic and tastiest food on the Dalmatian Coast. Ispod peke, a specific method of cooking native to Dalmatia, is common here. Octopus, veal, or lamb is slow-cooked for several hours in a peka, a long-handled pan with a dome-shaped lid which is placed into a mound of fiery coals and hot ashes. The best place to sample this specialty is at Konoba Roki’s, a short drive south of Vis town.
Are Croatia’s islands calling your name? Check out our fantastic Croatia sailing tours here.