From rocky coastlines to lovely beaches, the beautiful islands of Croatia that dot the Adriatic Sea appeal to a wide range of travelers. Some of the islands are well populated with plenty of activities, while others have few residents and are notable for their gorgeous scenery. You can find just about anything you like, whether that's boating, hiking, dining, shopping or just relaxing.
With more than a thousand islands along the Croatian coast, it's hard to touch on everything you can find. Some of Croatia's most notable islands for travelers include:
Greeks, pirates, Venetians and even Napoleon have put their mark on this 42-mile long island off the southern coast of Croatia. Hvar is known for its maritime history and its picturesque harbor -- as well as its nightlife, especially in summer when the island is packed with well-to-do visitors. Start with a walk around the harbor, filled with yachts from around the world and funky restaurants and bars.
You'll also want to visit the remains of the fortress, a steep but worthwhile 20-minute walk up the hill from the main town center. The best views are to be found from the gardens surrounding the fort, but a short tour is valuable to see the interior, including the dungeon and a small museum.
For the more adventurous, Hvar offers frequent boat tours to explore the smaller surrounding islands, as well as kayaking and skydiving opportunities.
With the largest population of any Croatian island, Korcula is a good stop for both shoppers and history buffs. Greek, Roman and Byzantine influences are seen throughout Korcula's Old Town in art and architecture. The island was home to famed explorer Marco Polo -- whether he was actually born here or not is disputed -- and a somewhat touristy museum can give you an overview of his life and accomplishments. Another well-known Mark, St. Mark, is the namesake of the town's 15th-century cathedral, built from nearby limestone and sculpted with Biblical scenes. Climb the tower for excellent views of the island, then come back down for a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants.
Outside the main town, the island boasts a variety of agriculture, including vineyards that produce posip grapes for the region's famous white wines. Book a wine tasting tour that lets you see the small wineries by bicycle.
Most beaches in Korcula are lovely but lined with bright white rocks rather than sand. For one of the few sandy beaches, complete with lovely calm blue waters, try Przina Beach in Lumbarda, just outside Korcula Town.
Lush, green and more sparsely populated than either Korcula or Hvar, Mljet is a haven for nature lovers and water aficionados. A huge national park takes up the western part of the island, and most of the rest of the land is covered by forest. At the park, rent bikes to quickly see more of the island, including two salt water lakes for swimming, kayaking or canoeing.
Some scholars say that Mljet, rather than Malta, was the island where St. Paul was shipwrecked. There's a harbor here named after him and part of a 16th-century monastery that has served as a hotel and is now part of the bishopric again.
Restaurants on Mljet offer local goat cheese that is considered a delicacy of the island; look for dishes that incorporate it if you enjoy lunch or dinner here.
As one of the largest islands off Croatia, Brac has a significant population and even an airport, but the atmosphere is more down-to-earth than Hvar and has less fertile ground that Korcula or Mljet. Olive trees do grow on the island and high-end olive oil is one of the island's notable products. Wine tasting and olive grove tours are available, or you can visit the Muzej Uja (Museum of Olive Oil) for an in-depth look at how the oil is made.
Most visitors to Brac will enjoy the unique geography, with the Vidova Gora (Mount St. Vid) mountain that can be hiked in a couple hours to the rocky beaches. Don't want the hike but covet the views? You can hire a car to take you up to the highest point in the Adriatic Sea.
Krk is further north than the other islands, and is roughly equal in size to its neighbor Cres; together, they are the largest islands off Croatia. The city of Krk is one of the oldest in the Adriatic and there are both Roman ruins and traces of medieval buildings, including the Frankopan Castle, nearby.
Vrbnik, situated on the eastern part of the island, is a must-see old village with great views of the sea below and a short walk from a lovely beach. Its medieval town wall and narrow streets -- in fact, the narrowest street in the world is located here -- give you the ambiance of an earlier time. Wines have been a big part of the local economy for centuries, and both old and new winemakers have tasting rooms at their wineries outside the city walls.
Farthest of the islands from the mainland of Croatia, Vis was once the base for the Yugoslavian Army and completely closed to visitors. Today, it's best known for its beautiful caves and coves. The nearby isle of Bisevo is a brief boat ride away and is home to the Blue Cave, and Vis itself has a Green Cave, both of which are amazing natural sights.
Rent a car and drive up Mount Hum -- or if you're ready for a hike, walk -- and see the highest point on the island. The ruins of a small chapel add to the remote beauty. Or sample the island's fantastic wines and seafood dishes at one of the small restaurants tucked into the villages of Vis or Komiza.
This northern island boasts plenty of greenery, a superb climate and a history that dates back 12,000 years. Ruins of Roman villas show that those ancient Italians enjoyed vacationing on Losinj just as much as modern-day visitors.
On Losinj, a funky art museum draws rave reviews from visitors. The Muzej Apoksiomena focuses on a Greek statue found more than two decades ago in local waters, and the setup tells its story in a unique way. Other activities are more recreational in nature: walking, hiking and cycling.
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