Croatia has more than a thousand islands, greatly varying in size, population and history – but sharing one important thing: they all preserved the true atmosphere of the Mediterranean, carefully mixing it with only some modern influences to create tourist safe heavens. But since these jewels on the Croatian crown are so numerous, picking your destination might be a bit difficult. That is why we decided to present you with a list of the five most beautiful islands of Croatia.
Vis – Once a place of a major Yugoslav military base, Vis has emerged as an attractive tourist destination in the last decade; since it’s far off the mainland, its natural landmarks were left unspoiled by the strong urbanization of the Croatian coastline, the island being described as „the Mediterranean as it once was“. And the statement is true – Vis has a number of beaches and coves ready to embrace everyone who craves for a quiet, calm holiday. Getting to know all the secret spots on Vis is an interesting task which would take months to complete, but we’ll give you a tip to get you started: the Stiniva cove on the southern side of the island shelters a hidden beach reachable only on foot. Even its off-shore entrance is guarded by two massive cliffs, leaving only a narrow corridor through which only smaller vessels can pass. Those fond of diving and cave exploration will enjoy the azure waters of the Vis seabed, as well as the famous Blue Cove located on the nearby island of Biševo. The island has a long winemaking tradition, with over twenty percent of its soil covered in vineyards; the wines of Vis are a renowned delicacy throughout Europe.
Brač – If you ever searched for pictures of Croatia on the Internet, chances are that you’ve already seen at least a part of Brač; its famous Zlatni Rat beach, internationally recognized as one of the best looking beaches in the Mediterranean. The beach is also a major watersports center, offering sea kayaking, parasailing, water skiing, windsurfing and scuba diving, to mention just some. Besides from being perfect for a classic sunbathing holiday, the island’s visitors can explore the Blaca desert, a five hundred years old monastery-hermitage turned into a museum in 1963; it is expected that the site will be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Those of adventurous spirit often climb the Vidova Gora, the highest peak on Brač and the entire Adriatic. The two main settlements on the island are the towns of Supetar and Bol, aptly adapted to modern tourist requirements but retaining a rich history of their own, so have no worries regarding transportation, accommodation or cuisine. Fun fact: Brač exports its stone, which is used throughout the world as a building material, and the locals will often tell you of a legend that the American White House was built of Brač stone.
Pag – Pag is an island of astonishing contrasts; some parts of its surface are dry, barren, almost moonlike, others rich in vegetation, with olive groves creating shady oases to rest from the sun. There are two towns on the island (along with several smaller villages), Pag and Novalja. The former still celebrates the traditional lifestyle of the island (with folklore festivals organized annually) and the traditional cuisine is held in high regard – the Pag cheese and lamb are the two of its most popular delicacies. The remains of its ancient city walls and towers, and the Renaissance Ducal Palace, stand as a proof of the town’s long history.
The other town, Novalja, is much more popular among the youth; it’s the number one party destination in the whole country! There are dozens of night clubs and beach bars, most of them located in the vicinity of Zrće beach; the clubs there are always open and the parties never end; especially during the Hideout music festival, usually held in late July.
Hvar – The sunniest island in the Adriatic (and that is official – Hvar has about 2718 hours of sunshine per year) was, somewhat like Vis, sheltered from the polluting industrialization, its surface covered with lavender fields and vineyards. That in our opinion makes it great choice for luxury vacation. The main settlement, Hvar Town, was a historical trade and cultural center of the Adriatic, and a heavily fortified naval base in the Middle Ages. Its seven centuries old walls survived to this day, and so did the many houses of local nobles and public institutions which now serve as museums and art galleries.
Excursions to the Pakleni islands, an archipelago situated just off the southwest coast of Hvar, are also a must-do; the Pakleni archipelago consists of sixteen islands where tourists enjoy diving, underwater fishing and watersports and many Hvar tourist agencies offer yacht trips for those eager to visit this little paradise. The Hvar tourist offer is finally completed with its nightlife (with several exclusive beach bars) and its fish-based local cuisine. One final thing – its mild climate turned the island into a health resort with some of the best quality spa and wellness centers in this part of Europe.
Murter – The final island on our list is also the one closest to the mainland – only twenty meters of sea divide Murter from the rest of Croatia, so it’s no wonder that a drawbridge was built long ago to make the island more accessible. There are four settlements on the island – Murter Town, Jezera, Tisno and Betina, and their inhabitants used to lead hardworking lives, depending mostly on fishing. Now, most of the population is in some way involved in tourism, as Murter wisely used its natural beauties to establish itself as a major tourist safe heaven.
Olive-growing and fishing are still popular, though, and the locals, who grew fond of tourists, often take them fishing, enabling them to experience this ancient Dalmatian tradition. The main event on the island is the annual Latin Sail regatta, when the entire island and its guests are celebrating this unique mix of sports and entertainment. We must also mention the Kornati archipelago, situated westwards of Murter, a stunning cluster of ninety-odd islands, almost entirely devoid of life, with their distinctive, harsh yet beautiful environment; the area was proclaimed a National Park, and, since there are many local companies offering trips and one day excursions to these islands, we strongly advise you to pay them a visit.