We've hand-picked the seven finest islands on the Croatian coastline. Some are hard to get to, but they are all hard to leave…
From the highland capital of Zagreb, to the seaside flavours of Split, to the Old City greatness of Dubrovnik, there are lots of cool places to visit in Croatia.
But, beyond the mainland, the country is speckled with more than a thousand islands, big and small, just waiting to be explored. To save you the trouble and expense, here are the most magnificent seven that you simply must visit.
Ever wondered where modern beach nudism originated? Where else but in the wonderfully named North Adriatic Island of Rab?!
Legend has it that Great Britain’s King Edward VIII holidayed on the island in 1936 with his then-secret lover Mrs Wallis Simpson, and forced the local authorities to pass a law granting them access to swim and swoon on Kandarola beach in the buff.
But there’s more to Rab than no-knickers fun. Head into the eponymous isle capital to see one of Croatia’s most unrivalled heritage sites, featuring bell-towers, forts and castles all from the medieval era.
If you’re looking to chase the sun rays and ride the high waves, there’s no better beach in Croatia than Brač’s windy Zlatni rat. Protruding like a lizard’s tongue (only smoother) the windy mile-long strip at the bottom end of the island is a marvel of nature. Take a look at our featured image to get the full picture…
Water sports are offered here aplenty, with surfing, paragliding, scuba-diving, jet skis and pedalos in these crystal azure waters all on the menu. Refuge from the sun and sport is offered by the luscious subtropical gardens that rest along the coastline, and the breezy 20-minute walk to the provincial village of Bol features many spots for a fresh-fish supper.
One of the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Kvarner Gulf, Lošinj looks like a picture-perfect Mediterranean postcard.
While most people head for the big town of Mali Lošinj, it’s the neighbouring village of Veli Lošinj that will melt your heart. Sure, there’s only a handful of restaurants, bars and boutique stores to keep you busy, but a stroll along the marina – with its pastel coloured villas, cheery locals and exotic vegetation – is a delight.
Head out on a small boat tour and you might even spot a pod of dolphins gliding through the bay. This is Croatia island hopping at its finest!
With a total population of one thousand people, it seems that even the Croats know very little of this untamed southerly oasis, which is arguably the best of the Dubrovnik islands. Behind the mystery is one of the Mediterranean’s most glorious nature sites, best explored by bicycle.
Once you’ve ventured through the dense forests, swam in the salt lakes and played in the sand dunes, head south of Babino Polje village where Odysseus’ cave awaits you.
Oh yes, even the roving Greek king himself rested here after being lured to the island by the temptress Calypso. Well, that’s how the story goes, but we think that Mljet’s natural charm was impossible to resist for the ancient romantics. They spent seven years together here, but we suggest a one-day trip will suffice.
An hour’s boat ride away from Split, the first thing that greets you at this popular and extremely sunny Hvar Island is the inviting aroma of fresh lavender, heather and rosemary.
Then, there are the celebrities. It’s been known for many years now that Hvar is a fashionable spot for those living the high-life; cruising up on private yachts to soak up the sun, cocktail bars and secluded beach raves.
You can canoodle with Jay-Z and Beyoncé down on the Hvar Town promenade, of course, but we suggest you spend your time in Hvar elsewhere – from wandering through the capital city’s lush stone housing grounds, to kayaking through the western Paklini archipelago, or hiring a car and heading eastward for the serene beaches of the cruelly overlooked town of Jelsa.
Pag is famous for its two extremes. First and foremost, the island is renowned for the production of Paški sir, a pricey-but-delicious cheese churned from the milk of sheep local to the spot. Now the the island next to the Zadar mainland is a hotspot for European youngsters looking to get their dance rave on alongside the crystal clear beachfronts.
But there’s a lot more to do in Pag than eat cheese and throw shapes. Learn about the island’s rich embroidery history at the Page Lace Museum in the city centre, visit the unspoilt village of Zubovići, or mount one of the trusty steeds local here and gallivant across the bay side Novalja city on horseback.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Croatia is a favourite for foodies, especially those looking for the tastes of the sea.
If shellfish is your thing, then look no further than Lastovo. Lobsters, oysters, clams and even more unfamiliar crustaceans can be found in the taverns across the island coastline, all served in traditional Serbo-Croatian styles.
Encircled by a 46-islet archipelago, it might be the smallest of our recommended islands, but this southern Adriatic spot is certainly not short on life. Wash down the seafood with local wine, a ramble through the Renaissance-era architecture and, if you happen to be visiting in the spring, you can experience the dancing delights of the traditional Croatian carnival, Lastovo Poklad.