Croatia has over 1000 islands in total, around 48 of which are inhabited. But when it comes to the crunch, which Croatian islands are the most beautiful?
In all honesty, there’s no such thing as an ugly Croatia island, so this is a completely subjective list designed to give you a taste of their variety and highlights.
These 10 islands deliver on the sumptuous scenery, crystal waters, pristine nature, and architecture that will take you back in time.
The gorgeous island of Mljet is one of the greenest and most beautiful in the Med. With its unique saltwater lakes, rolling hills and bays swathed with dense vegetation, it has a quiet and seductive beauty.
Most of the island is a national park which has protected it from development. Mljet is the perfect place to get away from it all. It’s a short hop from Dubrovnik on the ferry, and once there it’s just you and the sounds of nature.
Dugi Otok (which means ‘long island’) is one of Croatia’s lesser-known islands, it somehow remains on the down-low. Located off the coast of Zadar, it is indeed long and spindly. Hardly any tourists end up here so it’s perfect if you’re trying to escape the summer crowds on the more popular islands.
The pretty village of Sali is the main place to stay. The western end of the island is remote and empty. And it has one of Croatia’s best beaches in Saharun
It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring the Kornati Archipelago National Park with its hundreds of uninhabited islets.
Not so long ago Vis was a little-known Croatian destination, favoured by island purists, visiting yachts, and a boho crowd willing to make the 2-3 hour ferry journey (this is long, in Croatian ferry terms) for its tranquil charms.
It’s comparatively remote location and military history slowed population growth and tourism development until the 90s.
Then it was location scouts for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, who used it as a stand-in for imaginary Greek island Kalokairi in the popular sequel. And suddenly photogenic Vis was on the map. It’s still an unspoiled idyll though.
The Dalmatian island of Korčula is notable for its beautiful walled old town, which is almost like a miniature Dubrovnik with its belltowers and orange tiled roofs. It’s also known for being (maybe) the birthplace of Marco Polo, for its dense dark pine forests, and for its excellent wine.
In fact, Korčula is starting to market itself as Croatia’s Wine Island – you’ll find some unique grape varieties, and cycling around the island’s vineyards and beaches is arguably the best way to experience it.
Hvar is Croatia’s blockbuster island, known for its nightlife, well-preserved medieval towns Hvar Town and Stari Grad, and fragrant lavender fields.
The young and the beautiful flock here on yachts to enjoy the evening scene. It’s by far the most buzzing of the islands – although don’t expect anything as wild as Ibiza or Mykonos.
Once you’re done admiring the Renaissance cathedral, Franciscan monasteries, and immaculate cobbled streets of Hvar Town, the rest of the island has a dreamy romantic air. Don’t miss a boat trip to the secluded coves of the nearby Pakleni Islands.
Talking of romance, we couldn’t leave a heart-shaped island off this list.
Galešnjak, or ‘Love Island’, is a small uninhabited island, home nothing but rocky shrub and wild beauty. But it has unsurprisingly become a sensation thanks to its distinctive shape. If you want to visit you’ll have to rent a boat and acquire permission. Best bring a picnic as there are no facilities. Better yet – take your beloved on a romantic sailing trip and drop anchor nearby.
(Cheaper options can be found in nearby Pašman or Zadar.)
Lastovo is a magical little island. Quiet and remote, it’s located beyond Korčula and has isolated feel – sitting out in the Adriatic on its own.
Here is a place to get away from the world and enjoy the simple things in life. Including the local wine, which is very good. And it’s one of the best places in Croatia for snorkelling and diving.
Lastovo has been designated a natural park to help preserve nature and the traditional way of life. There’s just one hotel, one campsite, and a lighthouse that you can rent.
One of the northern-most islands in the Kvarner Gulf, close to the equally overlooked city of Rijeka, Lošinj is something of a treasure hidden in plain sight.
It was once a ritzy area, popular with royalty (it was a favourite of the Austro-Hungarian elite) and wealthy from its shipping fortune. Its glory days have left two particularly attractive Italianate towns – Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj, which are painted in muted pastels.
These days it is known for its herbs and wellness holidays attracting a quiet upmarket crowd.
The island of Brač is most famous for Zlatni Rat beach, which graces postcards across Croatia. It has a beautiful forested interior, the highest peak in the islands (Vidova Fora), and is also famous for its marble which is used extensively in Split’s ancient buildings.
Not far from Split, Brač is one of the most popular islands for vacationing families thanks to its beaches – although it’s noticeably quieter and sleepier than nearby Hvar, which is just 20 minutes away.
The Kvarner island of Rab is home to one of the finest walled medieval old towns in Croatia (and that’s saying something, in a country that is literally swimming in them). The four campaniles dominate the skyline.
It’s green and sunny with a handful of picturesque villages, protected waters, and some of Croatia’s best sandy beaches – no wonder the Italians are so fond of it here. The Romans called it felix arba, ‘the happy island’.
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Hvar: © Evgeniya Moroz / Shutterstock
Mljet: © novak.elcic / Shutterstock
Dugi Otok: © bigguns / Adobe Stock
Vis: © xbrchx / Shutterstock
Korcula: © kite_rin / Adobe Stock
Hvar – Stari Grad: © andras_csontos / Adobe Stock
Galesnjak: © ventura / Adobe Stock
Lastovo: © Simun Ascic / Adobe Stock
Veli Losinj: © Pablo Debat / Shutterstock
Brac: © Dreamer4787 / Shutterstock
Rab: © Peter Adams/Danita Delimont / Adobe Stock