By Amanda Little
If you're looking to get away from Croatia's mainland as well as the crowds clogging popular beaches and beautiful waters, try these smaller islands that have beauty all their own.
Come to sleepy Silba for a day of long, lazy walks along tranquil coastline. There are no cars or hotels and during the summer, no bicycles permitted on this island. The only way to partake in this truly unwound island is like the locals do, at a leisurely pace that will be the bane to anyone who hates slow walkers. Unfurl under the sun, take a dip to go snorkeling, and wander along the beautifully scenic eastern shores. Those who truly seek adventure can scale Toreta, the tiny island’s viewing tower, or join in a rousing game of volleyball on Sotorisce Beach.
An hour boat ride from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik will take you into the heart of lofty mountains and rich blue waters. Explore the car-free island and interact with its locals, enjoying waterside restaurants, charming boutiques, delicious ice cream parlors, and of course exploring the beautiful coastline. Hike to the south side of the island to Sinj Bay, where silky sand melts away into gorgeous surf. Staying the night brings out the true life of the island, after all the daytrippers have left and Lopud comes into its own.
Kornati is not just an island getaway, it is a getaway legion. Composed of over 130 reef, islets, and islands, the Kornati islands have an amazing variety of beauty ranging from vineyards to olive trees to chalk limestone, massive cliffs, and Mediterranean scrubs. Explore human remains left from the Neolithic Age, go scuba diving in the amazingly clear waters and hike through amazing trails. Bear in mind this area is heavily protected, as may cost up to $40 a day to visit the pristine waters and incredibly well-preserved natural beauty.
From a ring of crystal clear coastline to a swatch of pine forests, Sveti Nikola makes for an excellent stay. Entirely uninhabited except for a single hotel that went up in 2015, the northernmost island can be reached by a free, hourly shuttle boat from Porec Old Town. Keep an eye out for dolphins in July and August, go snorkeling through the beautiful water, visit the magnificent 14th-century castle and lighthouse built by the Venetian family that once owned the island, and enjoy the Blue Flag pebbled beaches. Fascinated by the hidden islands of Croatia, you'll enjoy unlocking the most wonderful secrets on your journey.
Hop on a 20-minute ferry ride from Fazana to the beautiful island of Veliki Brijun, dubbed a national park after the death of the Yugoslav president, Josip Broz Tito. Rolling fields and thick forests spread across the island, shading secluded coves and hiding amazing discoveries from passersby. Here visitors can find dinosaur footprints, botanical gardens, a century-old 18-course golf course, Roman ruins, an ornithological park, a safari, and more. This wonderland also hosts a variety of exotic animals that were gifted to former President Tito.
Ditch the crowds and the excessively wealthy on Hvar and take the 5-minute trip to Sveti Klement, a sleepy little island transformed into a magical garden. Botanist Eugen Meneghello secretly turned the island into his own garden in 1906, planting lavender, rosemary, lilies, and more. Now the island sports a series of bungalows owned by his great grandchildren available to rent. This island is car free, and absolutely pristine. Visitors can enjoy dining on the fresh seafood at Toto’s beach restaurant, or explore their pick of any of the 20 clothing-optional coves along the shores of the island.
Wander across the soft sand trails that zigzag across the tiny island of Susak, home to only 150 people. Wander along these trails and pay close attention to the incredibly aromatic bushes that tend to edge them. The island is named after the herb that grows wild all across it: Greek oregano. The biennial Susak Expo is also held on this sandy island, offering an interesting event to those who come to visit during the summer.
This tiny island that is the furthest from the mainland has an incredible claim to fame. It's here that anyone can see the Modra Spilja, or Blue Cave, which is only accessible by boat through a small sea entrance. Let the sunshine bouncing off the limestone interior and running along veins of silver and cobalt mesmerize you as you bob along through completely clear water. Once you’ve had that quiet moment of ethereal beauty, take the rest of the day to explore monastic ruins, meander among the isolated cove ring of Bisevo, and play with the colonies of dolphins and sea turtles that call the surrounding waters home.
Spirit away from Split to enjoy the solitude and serenity of Solta. Enjoy the pretty town of Maslinica, a fishing village turned foodie destination. Stay at the 18th-century castle, which has been turned into a luxurious hotel, and enjoy the delicious marvels that dot the island. Pick up a bottle of island-pressed extra virgin Levantinka olive oil, or indulge in the local Dobricic wine. Bring home a jar of syrupy wildflower honey, or meander along through the beautiful pine forests that add a little shade to the sunny slice of paradise.
Escape to the entirely uninhabited Prozid island, ideal for escaping the summer crowds found on popular nearby islands like Korcula. Hike through beautiful sun-dappled trails, wander along paths dotted with fragrant maquis, picnic on the uncrowded white-pebble beaches, and snorkel for urchins and octopus on this naturally beautiful island. Those looking for a little taste of island life during the summer can make their way to the south side near the tiny port and stop in at Ozujsko to enjoy a bottle of their signature beer.