When most think of island hopping Croatia, they think of yachts bobbing up and down on pure azure waters, and red-roofed Venetian buildings, with the backdrop of lush vineyards, against secluded pebble beaches and pine forests.
Whilst all Croatia’s islands encapsulate this utopian visage of the country, they also each have their own personalities worth getting to know individually. Four of the best islands in Croatia can be found in the southern part of the country. You’ll find them just off the Dalmatian coast waiting for you to start your Croatia island hopping adventure.
Read on to discover the best Croatian islands you need to add to your Balcan itinerary.
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Island Hopping Croatia - The Best Islands of Southern Croatia
If you’re thinking of doing a southern Croatia island hopping tour, and don’t have time to read the whole article, then below is a list of the islands that are covered.
Perhaps you’re travelling in Croatia for a bit longer? If so, then download this useful Croatia bucket list straight to your inbox to help you plan your itinerary.
Best Islands in the South of Croatia
Island Hopping in Croatia
There are 718 islands around Croatia, so it can be a tough call choosing which are the best ones to visit. Part of it will depend on where in the country you are based as well as the time you have. Tours range from a single day of island hopping around Croatia and will stop at several islands during the day, if you’re limited in time, this is the best way to visit them.
If you’re after a more leisurely experience then there are numerous multiple-day sailing Croatian islands tours. With these you sleep on board at night and go Croatia island hopping by boat during the day. You usually get to spend longer at each destination as you don’t have to do a transfer back to hotels every night.
Whichever travel style you opt for, one thing you’re guaranteed is the alluring blue of the sea and over 300 days of sunshine a year. Which of these five south Croatian islands are you planning to visit?
The island of Hvar has quite the reputation for being a playground for the rich. However, you don’t actually have to be rich to play there; Hvar has a little something for everyone. This is also one of the best islands to visit in Croatia from Split.
It is known for not just being the sunniest spot in all of Croatia, but of all of Europe, so you are guaranteed quality beach time all year round and there’s a wealth of pebble stone beaches, and natural pools to choose from.
If you’re after relaxation in an idyllic spot, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is one of the most beautiful islands in Croatia. Dubovica beach is without a doubt the best beach on the island, with waters so transparent that swimming there feels like flying in the air.
Hvar is also one of the best party islands in Croatia, so after spending your days relaxing, dive headfirst into the in-season party vibe of the island. Here everything revolves around Bonji beach, which plays host to the best bars, complete with four poster beds to sip your cocktails from during the day, and by night, all the best clubs host the cream of the crop of international DJs.
Besides parties and beaches, Hvar also offers culture, and the old town is a labyrinth of streets kept pleasantly sheltered from the sun by stone walls. There are restaurants, bars, Byzantine cathedrals, and 13th-century fortifications.
If you’re after something more energetic, then get the blood pumping with the long climb up to the Spanjola fortress for a breathtaking view over the town and an ancient dungeon to delve into. If your legs can take more, then outside of the town is the summit of Saint Nicholas on the third highest peak in Croatia, offering a jaw-dropping view out over the Adriatic sea.
You might like this full-day catamaran Cruise from Split to Hvar and Pakleni Islands tour.
Related Article: Visiting north Croatia? Why not island-hop over to Losinj, Croatia’s Hidden Gem
If you’re after one of the quieter islands in Croatia to visit, then check out Vis. Vis has a more chilled approach to island life thanks to its location, it’s not quite as easy to get to. This is one of the most photogenic islands in Croatia, so much so that the sequel to Mama Mia was filmed there!
For such a small island there is certainly a lot to see. Of course, there are numerous beaches: Stiniva beach is a great option, found tucked into an unspoilt cove between two rocky outcroppings. If you’re into adrenalin sport, the location is popular for cliff diving – fun to watch and even more fun to try.
The landscape of Vis is dominated by vineyards making it the ideal place to try one of Croatia’s famous wines. Vugava being the red option and Plavac the white, both go down very easily, not only are they a treat to the senses, but sipping away on a relaxing afternoon is a surefire recipe for a thoroughly worthwhile hangover.
If you want to find out more about the wine here, tours are bookable at the vineyards, but the locals are often so friendly that they show around even unannounced visitors.
Vis is also one of the top islands in Croatia for history buffs. A fascinating fact about Vis is that it was only opened to outsiders in the late 90s after the Croatian war of independence. As a consequence of this, scattered amongst the beaches and vineyards lie abandoned military tunnels, bunkers and bases open to the public. There’s even a secret submarine base!
Vis is also the closest island for an excursion via boat to the ´blue caves. ´ As the name suggests, the cave is illuminated with an ethereal blue light by sun rays passing through an underwater opening and reflecting off the limestone floor of the cavern. Awesome by the true definition of the word!
Related Article: 6 Great Small Group Tours to Croatia, (Even for Solo Travellers!)
Another worthwhile stop when sailing Croatia islands is the island of Korcula. Like the others I’ve already mentioned, it’s no surprise that yet again, this is a stunningly beautiful island. It’s also the most populous island that’s not connected to the mainland, however, it often gets overlooked by tourists in favour of bigger islands like Hvar. This is also an easy day trip from Dubrovnik.
Don’t make the mistake of skipping Korcula, as its crystal-clear waters have earned it the moniker the ´Emerald Isle´. It even houses the odd sandy beach which is a rarity in Croatia. It’s also where you’ll find the cavernous Vela Spila cave: a neolithic archaeological site with an accompanying museum.
Korcula´s old town is a Croatian delight, and if you’ve managed to visit Dubrovnik already, you’ll draw some parallels here. It’s even earned the nickname “little Dubrovnik” because of its signature red-roofed Venetian houses.
The old town features narrow alleyways and surrounding walls have the odd feature of forming the shape of a fish bone. It was constructed this way to keep the strong sea winds at bay.
The locals make the controversial claim that the famous explorer and writer Marco Polo was born here, and indeed his house has been made into a museum for visitors to the isle. Some contest Marco was in fact from Korcula, but it’s well worth a visit to make up your own mind.
A tradition not to be missed on Korcula is the Moreska sword dance, taking place weekly on an open-air stage near the old town. This distinctive dance tells the tale of two sides battling it out with swords as a mysterious veiled woman looks on and is reminiscent of the battles between Moors and Christians. Bagpipes add to the rising drama, and if you’re keeping a sharp eye, you can unnervingly see actual sparks fly as the swords meet!
Check Availability: Korčula and Pelješac Wine Tasting – Day Tour from Dubrovnik
If you’re after green spaces and action on your Croatian Island hopping trip, then Mljet is the smallest but greenest of the islands with dense Mediterranean forests making up most of its surface. Like with Korcula, it’s easy to do a day trip from Dubrovnik to Mljet Island.
Consequently, Mljet is one of the best islands of south Croatia for adventure. Half of it is actually a national park and it´s the best of the islands for any avid hiker. Trails crisscross through the thick pine forests that occasionally part for amazing views of the ocean, or one of the two huge saltwater lakes in the island’s centre.
No trip to Mljet is complete without taking the boat into the centre of the largest lake, Velio Jezero, to investigate the insides of a Benedictine monastery sitting upon an islet.
It’s also worth noting that the ocean surrounding Mljet is abundant with sea life which makes it a wonderful place for swimming or snorkelling.
With all this adventure, you’re going to need to fill that empty stomach. Mljet is renowned for its exceptional wine and pungent goat’s cheese. A great combination to try before, and why not after, a busy day exploring this lost kingdom?
You might like this full day tour from Dubrovnik to Mljet National Park and 3 islands
If you’re really pressed for time but desperate to visit one of the southern Croatian islands, then Lokrum can be visited in a matter of minutes from the city of Dubrovnik.
This is a great little break from the bustle of Dubrovnik where you can escape to the shady grassy areas surrounded by pine trees and secluded bays where you can sunbathe or swim. There’s also a nudist beach here. This is one of the easiest Croatia islands to visit, with the small ferry boats making the 500m journey from the Old Harbor in Dubrovnik several times a day.
The island is a natural park, and no one can stay on the island overnight. It’s small enough to get around in half a day, and find tranquillity. In the centre of the island are the Botanical Gardens as well as ruins of the Fort Royal, as well as a Benedictine Monastery.
Related Article: Your Complete Dubrovnik 2 Day Itinerary
How’s Your Croatia Island Vacation Shaping Up?
I mentioned earlier that there are over 700 islands off the Croatian coast. Which of these must see islands in Croatia are you going to be adding to your Croatian island itinerary?
Whether you’re on a weekend break to Croatia, or you’re staying longer in the country, I 100% recommend visiting at least one island, you won’t regret it. If you’re planing your trip, then download this FREE Croatia bucket list to help.
If you’re travelling around Croatia, then take a look at these other inspirational articles.
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