With over 1,000 islands and over 4,000 kilometres of coastline, you’re spoilt for choice when trying to choose between Croatia’s top islands or deciding where to visit. The southern coast receives a much higher number of tourists each season, but there are some gems on the northern coast of Croatia that we need to talk about.
I worked as a tour guide on sailing tours in Croatia for three summers, so I was able to explore almost every corner of Croatia and beyond. After spending endless hours swimming in the blue-hued waters, exploring hidden caves, sipping cocktails in repurposed fortresses, exploring stone old towns, and basking in the warm sunlight, this is my guide to Croatia’s top islands that you need to visit.
Travel to: Croatia
We rank Croatia’s top islands
The best time to visit Croatia is definitely in the European summer when the weather is warm and the season is in full swing. However, to avoid getting caught in the craziest summer crowds, consider travelling in May, June, and September would be the best time to visit most of these islands. If you love music festivals and jam-packed clubs, July and August may be right for you.
Pag Island is on Croatia’s northern coast and is a few hours by bus away from Zadar. Novalja is Pag’s main town, where you can find lots of shops and beach bars and many say Pag Island has a similar landscape to the moon! Much of the island is hilly, devoid of vegetation, and white, so you can decide for yourself if you agree.
Pag is home to some absolutely gorgeous remote beaches, the oldest olive tree grove in the world, and most notably one of Europe’s most famous party destinations: Zrce Beach. This hidden gem is comprised of five super-clubs right on a calm pebbly bay. These clubs have events each night over the summer, and all of them come together multiple times each season for different music festivals. Hideout, Sonus, Fresh Island, Area 4, Black Sheep, and more festivals are held among the clubs on Zrce Beach each season.
Krk is one of Croatia’s largest islands, situated on the far northern coast near the Istrian Peninsula. This area is best knows for fantastic olive oil and truffles, which you will find in many dishes. Krk is the closest to Rijeka and is most accessible from there. There’s a bridge connecting the island to the mainland, so you can take a bus or a car straight to the island. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
There are many amazing and charming old towns on Krk, so many sure to get lost in the alleyways of old ruins and walled towns. After you do that, swim in the numerous secluded bays and beaches. This is something Croatia does best!
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Hvar Island is just under an hour’s catamaran ride away from Split, and absolutely cannot be missed on a trip to Croatia. Why? Because of the amazing views, historic fortresses, old towns, and most importantly… the nightlife. Hvar is known as a nightlife capital not only of Croatia but of Europe! Meet up with loads of young partygoers in Hvar Town for daytime cocktails and swimming at Hula Hula, amazing bar scenes, and top-notch clubbing at Carpe Diem, a club on an island right off the coast.
Not into partying? You can check out the amazing old town of Stari Grad, or hike up to one of the best views in Croatia at Spanjola Fortress. Or, grab a fancy bite to eat at Dalmatino or Black Pepper!
Hvar Town is our favourite place on the island, it’s always buzzing. Jamie turned 31 there in July last year so we celebrated by renting a boat to explore the Pakleni Islands, having lunch at the amazing Tri Grede, watching the sunset at Hula Hula, drinking cocktails at Ka’Lavanda, and partying into the night at Carpe Diem Beach. It was the perfect day.
Avoid long queues in the sun by purchasing your ferry tickets in advance, online, through Kapetan Luka or Jadrolinija depending on your route. Although there are more ferries running more frequently these days, the high season is still extremely busy! – Jamie and Ivana, Wander in Two
Brač is the southern Adriatic’s largest island. Brač is visible from Split, and is a very short ferry ride away! Brač is covered in tiny, cute towns and outdoor cafe bars.
Brač is best known for a white stone that is quarried there and used all over the world. Stone from Brač has been used in the White House, Stockholm Palace, and Vienna Houses of Parliament, and is also used to build most old towns all over Croatia! You will see a light stone in photos of pretty much all old Croatian towns. That’s Brač stone!
You can purchase souvenirs of Brač stone all over the island (bracelets, trinkets, sculptures, clocks, earrings), and also locally made wine and oil.
Korčula is called the ‘mini-Dubrovnik’ because it is a small walled town. It’s accessible by ferry from both Dubrovnik and Split and is about equal distance from both.
You can find your way around this little paradise quite easily as the streets were planned out in the shape of a fishbone. This means that all streets branch off of one central street, in a certain direction in order to block a strong winter wind from reaching the centre of town.
The views all over the old town and surrounding clear blue water and rocky mountains are quite spectacular. Grab a drink with a view of a 14th-century cocktail bar at Massimo’s, or grab a bite to eat with a view of the whole old town at Kavana No. 1. Make sure to order the peka!
Vis is a bit of a longer ferry ride away from Split, but is worth visiting just the same. What makes Vis unique is that it was used for military purposes until the early 90’s, and was only opened up to tourism then. There are lots of interesting military tours to take on Vis, and even old submarine tunnels to swim in. But, the mysteries of Vis do not end there! Visit Fort George, an old fortress turned one of the most beautiful venues, in Vis Town. You can rent scooters and drive all around the mountainous island, and visit old caves and bays such as Stiniva Bay. Komiža town is lovely and gorgeous and has great nightlife if you catch the right moment.
If you stay in Vis Town, make sure to eat at Kod Paveta. Their gorgonzola gnocchi and pašticada, a traditional Croatian dish of slow-cooked beef and gnocchi, are to die for.
Bisevo is just off the coast from Vis, and is home to the famous Croatian ‘blue cave.’ You can sign up for tours to the blue cave from Split, Vis, and Hvar, and it’s quite a convenient day trip from Split if you don’t have as much time. It’s quite busy in the high season, but if you have not seen anything like it before, I would recommend to check out this natural wonder.
Mljet is a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik and is best known because the majority of the island is covered by a forested National Park. The park is defined by two saltwater lakes that are connected by a narrow channel that you can float through when the tide is coming in or out.
Mljet is fantastic for hiking, kayaking, bike riding, swimming, and taking a break from nightlife to stargaze and become one with nature for a little while. But if you just can’t wait, there are tiny bars in the villages that might stay open on a warm summer night!
9. Elaphite Islands
The Elaphite Islands are hidden gems right off the coast of Dubrovnik. You can book a tour to them from Dubrovnik, and check out Lopud, Koločep, and Šipan. Lopud is known for having one of the only sandy beaches in all of Croatia, Koločep has some small and beautiful caves that you can swim in, and Šipan has picturesque bays and some great hikes above dozens of smaller surrounding islands.
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For more details on where to go, what to do and more, take a look at the ultimate super guide to Croatia.