Croatia has emerged as a top Mediterranean destination over the last two centuries, and guests now come here to enjoy the perfect blend of serene beaches, historic towns, great food and luxurious resorts. Away from the more developed sites, however, you can still find places that offer glimpses of a different time, where life moves at a much slower pace. The large archipelago of islands that is nestled along Croatia’s coast in the Adriatic Sea, is full of such delightful and relaxing pockets.
Whether you are staying on the mainland, or even on one of the many islands themselves, you can easily travel to and between some of the more remote islands that will give you a glimpse of a more serene part of the Mediterranean, away from the tourists and the developed seafronts.
One of the main islands along the Dalmatian Coast, Hvar has steadily increased in popularity over the last decade and is today arguably the most famous of all the Croatian islands. A delightful medley of old buildings, modern hotels and picturesque coastlines make Hvar a great place either to visit on a day trip from Split or as a holiday destination in its own right. Stroll around the narrow streets and the scenic harbourfront of Stari Grad, explore the rugged interior of the island, and then retreat to one of the many pristine bays and beaches that abound on this elongated island. Hvar is a great starter island for your further discovery of Croatia’s Dalmatian archipelago and through water taxis and ferries, it is easy to continue to the next plot of land in the sparkling sea.
A smattering of small islands just next to Hvar, the Paklinski Islands offer a tranquil escape away from the mainland and even the bustling Stari Grad of Hvar. Water taxis run frequently to these islands, where small coves, lagoons and secluded beaches make this a true Dalmatian paradise. Ironically, the name Paklinski or Pakleni means “Hellish” in Croatian but fear not, the name actually derives from the old word for tar, which the island used to produce to waterproof the ships being built in Hvar and Split.
A quaint little island just off the coast of Dubrovnik, Lokrum is a unique spot in the Adriatic. Although it is barely populated today, there are three main things to visit here, in addition to the stunningly beautiful beaches. The tallest point on the island is found on the northern side, where the towering Royal Castle overlooks Dubrovnik and the calm waters in between. On the southern tip of the island, you’ll find an old Benedictine monastery and a botanical garden, which was laid out by the Austrian prince Maximilian, whose wife owned the island for a couple of years. Immediately next to the gardens, you’ll come across a small salt lake, which is colloquially known as the Dead Sea. Just as the more famous body of water in the Middle East, this small pool is easy to swim in and is said to have healing powers.
A part of Croatia’s Dalmatian archipelago, Korcula takes its name from the Greek settlers who came here in the th century B.C. and named it Black Corcyra, after their native land of Corfu and the dark pine forests that cover the island. The main city of the island, also named Korcula, links to the mainland via ferry and offers numerous glimpses into the island’s ancient past, where not only Greeks held the island, but Venetians, Hungarians and even the Byzantine Empire have been its rulers. Visitors to Korcula can wander through the city’s old town, where its cathedral, fortifications and narrow streets make it seem like you’ve travelled back in time for a brief while, or simply relax and enjoy the slow pace of life that makes Korcula an enchanting island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Closed to foreign travellers for almost 50 years, the island of Lastovo appears as an almost unspoilt gem in the Adriatic Sea. The size of the island means that it features both large hills, a number of villages, numerous vineyards and lots and lots of scenic beaches and quiet coves. Reachable from Split and Korčula, the island is perfect for people wanting to hike and explore the wild nature and experience true Mediterranean tranquillity. In the cities of Uble, Pasadur and Lastovo you’ll find a quiet and calm atmosphere, interspersed with the occasional restaurant and café, and only really interrupted once a year, when the annual festival takes place. A celebration of when the island successfully withstood a pirate attack, the Lastovo Poklad Festival happens every Ash Wednesday. Here, locals will dress up in colourful attire and come together to celebrate. The main feature of this event is the Poklad puppet, which will travel down a 300m long rope, while fireworks are being fired by the cheering crowds.
Sail from Split to Vis -the most remote populated island along the Dalmatian Coast. The location of this enchanting little island in the middle of the Adriatic means that throughout centuries it has been coveted by all the main empires that surround it. Remnants of previous rulers, such as the Venetians and Greeks are still visible in the two main settlements that dominate the island -Vis on the eastern coast and Komiza in the west. The island served as a naval base for the Yugoslavian navy for over 50 years, which left the island isolated from outside visitors, and today, you can explore a place that at times seems like it was left behind by time. Stroll along the charming old harbour-fronts of the two towns, sample the local cuisine, which is heavily focused on locally sourced fish, and try the grape that is solely grown on Vis. The Vugava is grown widely across the island and produces a crisp and delicious white wine.
Situated just off the Dalmatian Coast, the large island of Brač is easy to get to, regardless of where you’re holidaying in Croatia. It’s predominantly known for its beautiful white beaches around the cape of Zlatni Rat and the charming city of Bol along the southern side of the island. The interior of Brač is dotted with vineyards and olive groves, the produce of which you can sample in copious amounts in the cosy little villages that encircle Brač. Near the small town of Pučišća, you’ll find the large quarry, from which the great pride of the island, the precious white stone is cut. The stunning Diocletian Palace, found in the heart of Split’s Old Town, was constructed from stones from Brač. If you speak to locals they will also claim that the White House in Washington DC was built using stones from the island. Although unsubstantiated, it is probably best just to nod and agree.