The Thousand Islands of the Croatian Adriatic

There are more than one thousand islands scattered along the Croatian coast, each unique, the vast majority uninhabited. Each has its own exceptional story and place in history. Battles were waged for them. Great rulers surrendered to them. Powerful potentates were seduced by them. They have left poets speechless and artists agog. You too, will be stunned by their beauty, intoxicated by their tranquility, and left yearning to return over and over again. They say we all have one weakness. Those who have tasted the Croatian islands have a thousand.

The first journey to the Adriatic is always an adventure, a trip into the unknown. Subsequently, familiarity distils the hidden depths of beauty, personal recognition enhances sights and sounds. Don’t rush it. Like good wine or a first love affair, true fulfillment comes only after anticipation, cultivation and dedication. You will know it when you feel it. It is like an emotional longing which has suddenly been satisfied.

A place where the search for yourself comes to an end and you love what you have found. Somewhere you will return to gladly and will be as gladly welcomed back.

Those who are used to saying good-bye truly rejoice in the arrival of every friend. Whatever you expect on your arrival, you will be unprepared for the warmth of the welcome in Croatia. Whatever you expect from a holiday, you will be unable to forget Croatia. Whether you sail, swim, walk, ride or simply observe, you will do them differently in Croatia. If you are not prepared to be changed forever, keep away.
For those who love exploring monuments, wandering on solitary beaches, or jostling amid the liveliness of a Mediterranean town, then Croatia will delight you. It is a land of discoveries, of pristine nature, of a brilliant new dawn and of a lifestyle so often imagined, so rarely attained.
Here, the tensions of life seem to fade into insignificance. In the rays of the setting sun as your lighthouse throws its lengthening shadow across the beach towards the sea, you will look towards the coastline and wish for nowhere else.

Croatia has 1,777 km of mainland Adriatic shoreline and no fewer than 1,185 islands, islets and reefs. Only 66 of them are inhabited. Any of the others could be yours.

Croatia Krk IslandThe largest island on the Adriatic and the one closest to the shore is Krk. The north shore is rugged and has very little vegetation, resembling the colossal cliffs of Velebit on the continent while the south side is more gentle, greener, and rich in gravel and sandy coves. It is here in Baška that the oldest evidence of Croatian writing was found – the BašÄanska ploča (Baška plate), it is here in the wall of the little church of St. Lucy in Jurandvor that the relief was chiselled with the oldest known motif of chequered fields, still present in the Croatian national coat of arms. It is here, finally, that the church of St. Donat near Punat is located. This construction is the best example of the modest architecture of the old Croatian builders, the architecture of quiet piety and simplicity. One should definitely visit Vrbnik and try the “Zlahtina”, an indigenous sort of white wine, swirling it gently in the glass on one of Vrbnik’s melancholic spots on a tall sea cliff. And finally, visit the Franciscan monastery in Košljun and see the rare example of the reproduction of Ptolemy’s Atlas.

To sail out from Krk in the early dawn towards Cres, means to dedicate at least one day to touring this elongated island which, at the town of Osor , draws gently close to the neighbouring island of Lošinj . In the coalescence of the two islands, it seems as if there is a hidden herald of what every traveller can expect to find, should he or she head out east of Istria down the Adriatic. Due to its vicinity to the shore, Krk may be considered part of the mainland, which by its nature and culture Krk truly is, while Cres and Lošinj are indeed the beginning of the magnificent row of the Adriatic islands, those small diverse and countless specks of land in the middle of the sea that make it so special. This unique Adriatic island “scene”, namely its peculiarities, begin on Cres with one natural phenomenon- in the middle of the island is Vransko Lake, whose bottom is 68 meters beneath sea level.

Unlike Cres, Lošinj is an island that was inhabited only in the New Era when it gained fame for its exceptionally mild climate, and its companions, Unije and Susak, enjoy the same benefits. These islands as well, have their Adriatic peculiarities: while Lošinj is proud of its nautical and fishing traditions, Susak is a natural and cultural phenomenon composed of almost a hundred meters of sand deposited on top of a limestone plate, such the entire island is one great vineyard where the hundred year old customs and the tradition of the old Croatian language are still preserved today.

Rab Croatia islandIsland of Rab. The peninsula on which the old part of the town of Rab is situated spreads out into the sea like a stone ship, and its polished paving stones preserve the memory of bygone centuries in the hot summer air.
Rab is not only peculiar for its monuments of the cultural history, the island is also well-endowed with nature: with the unique helm-oak forest and the evergreen shrubs on the peninsula of Kalifront, and with the rare springs of fresh water, over two hundred on this island, and as much as thirty on the peninsula of Lopar alone. On this peninsula, famous for its long sandy beach, the stonemason Marin was born, later the founder of the Republic of San Marino . Or, according to the legend at least.

For all those who love sailing, a special attraction is the island of Pag , elongated and irregular in shape, and about fifty kilometres of length from its most western cape Lun to its most eastern point Fortica. The biggest part of the island’s surface is covered in barren rocky pastures grazed by the sheep, whose milk is used to make the famous cheese. In the cheese from Pag, nature has made a full circle and in its intense salty taste one can distinctly feel the salt risen from the sea surface by the bura wind, spreading the salt throughout the entire region under Velebit including onto the rocky terrain of Pag. And this dark grey shield of the island and its complex structure seem to have received their natural counterpart in Pag’s famous lace. However, while wild Mediterranean nature created order hidden in chaos on Pag’s surface, Pag lace is truly orderly, a geometrical ornament which strongly expresses the desire for the creation of a well-adapted environment in an environment not overly friendly to man. The town of Pag as it is today, also arose in the fifteenth century from that very desire for the implementation of order, according to the urban and architectural plan of the architect and sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac who consciously transferred the memory of ancient town plans from the majority of the Adriatic towns, to found the new city of Pag.

Kornati, a archipelago of 125 islets and reefs forming an elongated wall of sheer cliffs facing the open sea, the tallest of which is more than a hundred meters tall. This geo-morphological phenomenon may be experienced almost as a primordial place, since apart from the two small settlements on the largest islet, the remaining islets in the archipelago are uninhabited. Many of the reefs and cliffs on Kornati are nameless, but some have unusual names that match their appearance: Klobučar (jellyfish), Balun (ball), Košara (basket), Mrtvac (dead man).
Kocula Croatian Island

Visit Stari Grad on the island of Hvar and feel the zest of humanism in Hektorovics tvrdalj, or in the town of Hvar itself, visit the theatre opened at the beginning of the seventeenth century and set up in the Arsenal building. It is equally wonderful to visit Jelsa or Vrboska on the island of Hvar, to be present at the public processions with singing on the evening of Good Friday on the islands of Hvar, Šolta, or Brac, attend the traditional burning of the “gajeta” (sailboat) in celebration of the holiday of St. Nicholas in Komiza, or head out to Biševo from Vis and enjoy the Modra Cave, a unique natural phenomenon. Whoever sails around the water territory of Split , will not fail to visit the almost hundred meter tall vertical black cliffs of the island of Jabuka . In addition to all this, to remember that Diocletian’s Palace was built using stone from the island Brac, and that the theater in Hvar was erected at the beginning of the seventeen century, and to remember the verses of the Renaissance poet Hektorovic who celebrated life on the sea, these are sufficient elements for the reconstruction of the culture of living on the central Dalmatian islands.

The islands, Korcula in particular, may boast of strong and dry wines, but also of the thick coniferous forests that could not be destroyed even by the fire that broke out some ten years ago. It is to this dark green cover growing on pure stone, that Korčula owes its original name, according to the legend. Moreška in Korčula and Kumpanjija in Blato are a part of the historical heritage included in the folklore of the local people.

The town of Lastovo on the island of the same name, bears witness in a different way of this centuries long tradition of life in the Mediterranean environment. Situated in a landscape that gently ascends up a hill, so have the houses been built tightly against each other for centuries in the long process of conquering space. However, space is maximally utilized such that every house rises above the next, has its own view, its own sun and air. The additional charm of Lastovo is also in its numerous surrounding islets under which the hundred meters deep sea has a dark blue glow which simply challenges to a sailing adventure.

On the neighboring island of Mljet , on the other hand, everything is full of history and the landscape is such that it always evokes the legendary myth that, in his wanderings about the Mediterranean , Odysseus himself visited Mljet. It is difficult to confirm whether this legend is true, but the fact is that there is an abundance of cultural remnants on the island, starting with the numerous Illyrian castle ruins, to the medieval churches, and the greatest attraction of all – the Benedictine monastery situated on an islet in the middle of Vransko Lake, dating as early as the 12 th century.

Naturally, those who love small picturesque islands will not fail to visit the Elaphite islands that stretch from Pelješac to Dubrovnik , to be able to reach, to some degree, the present day mystery of the place in which the gentry of Dubrovnik used to spend their vacation in their luxurious summer residences. And here, despite modern tourism facilities, it is possible to feel the magnificence of life and culture of the Republic of Dubrovnik and its mightiest inhabitants. In order to get the most out of the experience, one should visit the Renaissance park – Arboretum in Trsteno, built at the beginning of the 16 th century around the Gucetic summer residence which, even after damage sustained in the war and in fires, still impressively speaks of the level of the culture of life in Dubrovnik in the past.