I always love to come back to southern Dalmatia and ever since we have Lu, already 8 years btw, we manage to squeeze in a week or two of a real “doing nothing holiday” in this part of the Adriatic almost every year. We especially like the islands and preferably visit a different one each year. Sure there are nice places in middle and northern Dalmatia too, but the south is our favourite. Here, I´m presenting all the larger and known islands, from Čiovo, Šolta, Brač, Vis, Hvar, Korčula, Lastovo, Mljet to Lopud, Šipan in Koločep. I also included Pelješac which is actually a peninsula, but it sure seems a lot like an island. So in case someone can´t decide which one to visit this year, you just might an idea in this post. Here we go.
ČIOVO | the closest island to Split airport
How to come there: with a car over the bridge at Trogir town, catamaran service Mali & Veliki Drvenik – Seget Donji – Trogir – Split
Best bigger towns: Trogir, Gornji & Donji Okrug
Best smaller towns: Žedno, Mastrinka, Arbanija, Slatine
Best beaches: Mastrinka, Krčića, Slatine, Glorija, Kava, Vela Draga, Bočići, Labadusa, Ljubljeva, Gornji Okrug,
Daytrips from Čiovo: Split, Mali & Veliki Drvenik islands
Go to Čiovo if: you want to avoid taking a ferry and explore Trogir, Split & around
There are a couple of smaller islands close to the beautiful town of Trogir (also on the Unesco World Heritage list) and Čiovo is the most known and the largest of them all. It is really easily accessible because it is connected to Trogir on the mainland with a car bridge and it is also very close to Split airport. So if you are looking for a quick getaway in this part of Croatia (especially when flying into Split) this one might be a good choice. There are also many water taxis which take to to some towns at the mainland, so you basically don´t need a car here even if you wish to explore around. It is quite a busy island with a great cultural heritage, since it has been inhabited since prehistoric times though, but it also has some awesome beach spots and bays between pine tree forests.
BRAČ | the largest island in Dalmatia
How to come there: car ferry from Split (Croatia) to Supetar and Milna, car ferry from Makarska (Croatia) to Sumartin, catamaran Split – Bol (Brač) – Jelsa (Hvar)
Best bigger towns: Supetar, Bol, Sumartin
Best smaller peaceful villages: Sutivan, Ložišća, Milna, Murvica, Povlja, Pučišća, Postira, Splitska
Best beaches: Zlatni rat, Grabov rat, Martinica, Potočine, Aquamarine, Slatina, Zahgradac, Murvica, Smrka, Milna, Osibova, Pasika, Stiniva, Justitija, Majakovac, Sutivan, Dolores, Mutnik, Supetrus, Vlačica, Babin Laz, Vela lučica, Zastup, Prja, Trstena, Dučac, Pražnica, Lučica, Povlja, Vošćica, Puntica, Sumartin
Daytrips from Brač: Hvar island, Makarska, Split
Go to Brač if: you like a little bit of everything
I cannot even recall how many times I was on Brač, but there have been many. Besides Čiovo and Šolta it is the closest to Split port, which makes it a good place for a shorter visit and even just for one day if this is all you´ve got. The island itself is the largest in Dalmatia though and I suggest you don´t stay in only one place, but explore a bit around. While we were still “young & stupid” we often stayed at Bol, which is famous for its Zlatni rat beach, but also has a very vibrant atmosphere. I´ve also been to Sutivan a couple of summers. If you want more peace head to Milna or any other small village. If you hike up to Vidova Gora you get amazing views on the neighbouring islands – with it´s almost 800m this is also the highest peak on Dalmatian islands.
So, what should you visit on Brač island? Definitely Zlatni rat beach at Bol, because it is one of the most recognizable spots in Croatia. You can also check out the Dominican monastery and hike to the remote Pustinja Blaca monastery or the interesting Dragon Cave. In Škrip village you can admire old stone houses and visit an olive oil museum. Also Supetar, Sumartin and Sutivan are nice towns with lots of restaurants and beaches. I really like Milna though and the next time we visit Brač, this will be the place I´ll look for accommodation first.
ŠOLTA | honey, wine, olives and less tourists
How to come there: car ferry from Split to Rogač & catamaran to Stomorska town
Best bigger towns: Grohote near Rogač port, Nečujam
Best smaller peaceful villages: Stomorska, Gornje & Srednje & Donje Selo, Maslinica
Best beaches: Kašjun, Rogač, Podkamenica, Nečujam, Sabina, Veli Dolac, Pulenat, Gornja Krušica, Stračinska, Maslinica
Daytrips from Šolta: Split, private boat trips to surrounding islands
Go to Šolta if: you like natural products and less crowded places
I´m not sure why Šolta isn´t more popular with international tourists, it might be because it is slightly smaller (the island is less than 20km long and there are only around 1500 inhabitants) and it´s coastline is a bit more rocky and wild – but despite this there are lots of great spots and nice bays. Since it is very close to Split ferry port it also makes a great short escape or a day trip. As on many other Dalmatian islands you can buy exquisite natural products such as olive oil, wine and also honey. During your visit you should not miss walking around Grohote town, which is the largest settlement with everything you need, Stomorska, Necujam and the charming Maslinica bay.
HVAR | Croatia´s sunniest island
How to come there: car ferry from Split (Croatia), Ancona & Pescara (Italy) to Stari Grad town & Hvar town, catamaran from Split, Hvar & Korcula to Hvar town, ferry to Lastovo island
Best bigger towns: Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa, Sučuraj
Best smaller peaceful villages: Milna, Zavala, Vira, Zaraće, Vrboska, Mlaska, Ivan Dolac, Pokrvenik
Best beaches: Vira, Dijana, Sviračina, Stiniva, Brusje, Ondra, Maslinica, Trovna, Adam, Žukova, Prapatna, Zečja, Dubac, Pobij, Stara, Pogorila, Nika, Meduza, Perna, Smokvina, Bogomolje, Smarska, Kozja, Soca, Medvidina, Valva, Žučica, Petarčica, Feronja, Sveta Nedjelja, Pokonji dol
Daytrips from Hvar: Pakleni otoci islands, Lastovo island, Šćedro island, Zlatni rat beach (Brač island), Blue cave on Biševo island near Vis
Go to Hvar if: you like peace, but also nightlife & exclusive fancy parties
I have visited this famous Dalmatian island at least 3 times already and it is one of my favourites in this part of Croatia. Simply because you can find secret peaceful spots and lonely bays, but if you want party you will not be disappointed as well. Hvar is a popular spot even for big time celebrities and there are many exclusive clubs and extraordinary restaurants to choose from. Besides, it has a reputation of being the sunniest Adriatic island and is even amongst the sunniest places in the whole Europe, considering the hours of sun in the whole year. In Zavala, a smaller peaceful village we spent our first summer holidays with Lu when he was 8 months old and it was awesome.
While on Hvar I suggest you visit the following spots: Hvar town with its churches, monastery, markets, bars & restaurants (Hula Hula beach bar & Carpe Diem for example), shops and promenade, Spanjola & Napoleon fortress (great views), Stari Grad, Jelsa, Vrboska, and other villages. There are lots of possibilities for wine tastings, you can see lavander fields. For a day trip you absolutely must sail over to Pakleni islands, some tour operators also offer boat trips to Biševo island near Vis. There is a full post about Hvar on the blog, read it by clicking the button below.read more about Hvar
VIS | the furthest inhabited island
How to come there: car ferry from Split (Croatia) to Vis town, car ferry from Ancona (Italy) to Vis town
Best bigger towns: Vis, Komiža
Best smaller peaceful villages: Rukavac, Milna, Rogačić
Best beaches: Stončica (sand), Milna (sand), Zaglav, Srebrna & Tepluš in Rukavac, Travna, Stiniva, Perna, Barjoska, Pritiscina, Kamenica, Gradac
Daytrips from Vis: Mali & Veliki Budikovac island, Ravnik island (Green cave), Biševo island (Blue cave)
Go to Vis if: you like peace and quiet
Vis is the the farthest inhabited island from Croatia´s mainland. It was once a military zone, inaccessible to all foreigners, therefore it maintained its charm and can truly be called “the Mediterranean as it once was”. We like Vis because it has successfully escaped mass tourism, it is relatively small but has great beaches, pristine stone house villages and lots of smaller islands around, where you can explore sea caves and swim in clear waters. I spend one summer here in Komiža, but we visited Vis also with Lu when he was 2 years old. We stayed in Rukavac and can definitely recommend it for families with smaller kids and everyone looking for a peaceful place close to the perfect beach.
While on Vis you should not miss taking a few boat trips and discover the island with either your car or bicycle. For a great view you can hike up Hum hill. Also make sure you visit Biševo island, where you enter an awesome sea cave with a smaller boat – if you are there at the right time of the day (and you will be if you are on an organised day trip) the sunlight shines at the right angle and the water colour is just amazing. There are lots of other caves too, check out Budikovac and Ravnik island (Green cave).There is a full post about Vis on the blog, read it by clicking the button below.
KORČULA | supposedly the birth place of the great Marco Polo
How to come there: car ferry from Split (Croatia) to Vela Luka town, car ferry from Orebič (Pelješac) to Dominče (Korčula), Split – Hvar – Korčula catamaran
Best bigger towns: Korčula, Vela Luka, Blato, Smokvica, Pupnat, Žrnovo
Best smaller peaceful villages: Lumbarda, Pupnatska Luka, Zavalatica, Prižba, Prigradica, Babina, Račišće, Kneža
Best beaches: Tatinja, Bilin Žal, Vela Prižna (sand), Pavja Luka, Bratinja Luka, Bavča, Pupnat, Vela Prižba, Izmeta, Gradačica, Slatina, Tri Luke, Poplat, Lučica, Levant, Pičena, Gabrica, Fuža, Strašinčica, Meja, Punta, Prapatna, Garbin, Kokoš, Spiliška, Rasoha, Babina, Samograd, Vaja, Piske, Vela Vrbovica
Daytrips from Korčula: Lastovo archipelago
Go to Korčula if: you like a little bit of everything and exploring with your car
Besides Brač, Korčula is the one Dalmatian island I have visited the most times. I even spent two summers in a row camping for 3 weeks in Lombarda and exploring the island. Good times, definitely. After that I´ve visited it one more time with family, the last time I was there with Lu was in 2018 (in Vela Luka). I really like Korčula, it is quite big and it has everything for anyone. From party, bars and restaurants to history, natural caves, sandy beaches, FKK beaches, tasty local food, summer festivals, beautiful bays and pristine nature.
While on Korčula, you should not miss the folowing things: Korčula (old) town which resembles Dubrovnik a little bit and is believed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. Check out the beautiful old city gates, tower (stunning views), cathedrals and more. The second larger town on the complete other side of the island is Vela Luka (also has a port) and in between these two towns you can discover many charming villages in the interior as well as at the shore. There are also many good restaurants, eco farms and locals selling home produced olive oil and wine.
LASTOVO | Lastovo archipelago Nature Park
How to come there: car ferry from Split (Croatia) to Ubli via Korčula, catamaran from Korčula
Best smaller peaceful villages: Zaklopatica, Skrivena Luka
Best bigger towns: Ubli
Best beaches: Krucica, Korita, Mihajla, Barje, Mali žal
Daytrips from Lastovo: Korčula island, other islands of the archipelago
Go to Lastovo if: you are looking for hidden gems, remote places and sailing
The island of Lastovo and its archipelago with around 45 islands & islets is a wonderful Nature Park called Lastovsko Otočje. Most people visit the main island on a day trip from Korčula or other places, but if you are looking for a peaceful environment and pure nature you should definitely spend a couple of nights here. There are a few bays where you can swim, otherwise you can wander between the stone houses with their significant chimneys and the many churches in the main village (which is called Lastovo as well), cycle around the island (there are many marked trails), kayak around the islands, climb up to the top of Hum for the best views and much more. Lastovo remained untouched for many years and is only opened to the public since the last 30 years therefore it still has a lot of the old days charm. Definitely a great choice for anyone looking for hidden gems and off the grid destinations.
MLJET | the greenest Croatian island
How to come there: car ferry from Praprotno (Pelješac) to Sobra or Trstenik (Pelješac) to Polače, catamaran Dubrovnik – Šipan – Sobra – Polače
Best bigger towns: Sobra, Polače, Pomena
Best smaller peaceful villages: Soline, Kozarica, Ropa, Prožurska Luka, Okuklje, Saplunara
Best beaches: Limuni (sand), Saplunara (sand), Sutmiljhoska, Prožurska Luka
Daytrips from Mljet: explore the old town in Dubrovnik, take a ferry to Pelješac for wine tasting, take a ferry to Korčula old town
Go to Mljet if: you like peace & quiet, you are a nature lover, you like cycling
Mljet is the most southern & eastern of the larger Adriatic islands in Dalmatia and also the greenest and most forested of them all. A big part of the island is also a National Park with 2 lakes (Malo & Veliko jezero). Many come here for the amazing nature and are seeking peace, recreation and good food. Some are only coming over on a day trip from other islands around, like Korčula, and visit the main attraction – the Mljet NP. We were lucky enough to spend 10 days in a rented house with a pool in Sobra when Lu was 3 years old, just at the beach. But of course we had enough time to explore the whole island and I can really say it is one of my favourites, besides Vis, Lastovo, Korčula and Hvar.
While on Mljet you should visit the following spots: Saplunara with its 3 sandy bays hidden between pine forests and the largest remaining coastal sand habitat in Croatia (also some very nice restaurants here), Mljet National Park where you can rent bicycles, kayak, swim in two lakes and visit a monastery on an island, hike to Odysseus cave, the laid back Prožurska luka bay, discover Blatina lakes and more. There is a full post about Mljet on the blog, read it by clicking the button below.read mroe about Mljet
ŠIPAN, LOPUD, KOLOČEP | Elaphiti islands near Dubrovnik
How to come there: car ferry from Dubrovnik to all 3 islands, ferry from Lopud to Šipan and Koločep
Best towns: Lopud, Koločep, Šipanska Luka, Suđurađ
Daytrips from the islands: explore the old town in Dubrovnik and take a ferry to the other islands of the archipelago
Go to there if: you like peace & quiet, you are a nature lover
Elaphiti islands is a small archipelago not far from Dubrovnik at the very southern tip of Croatia. The archipelago consists of several islands but only 3 of them are permanently inhabited – Šipan, Lopud and Koločep. On these three islands, which are also the largest ones, only around 850 people have their homes – this makes them a very unique place, perfect for everyone looking for peace and quiet. Šipan is the farthest and largest one, with two settlements. Second largest and with a more developed tourism infrastructure is Lopud, situated in the middle of the other two. Koločep is the closest to Dubrovnik, has rich history and several interesting old churches. It is also the southernmost permanently inhabited Croatian island, just before the border with Montenegro. There are ferry connections between the three islands so you can visit them at the same time or as day trips from Dubrovnik.
PELJEŠAC | Croatia´s largest peninsula
How to come there: Pelješac is actually a peninsula but there are also ferry connections: car ferry from Ploče to Trpanj (Pelješac), from Sobra (Mljet) to Praprotno (Pelješac), from Polače (Mljet) to Trstenik (Pečješac), from Korčula to Orebič (Pelješac), from SDobra (Mljet) to Orebič (Pelješac)
Best bigger towns: Ston, Orebič, Trpanj
Best smaller peaceful villages: Praprotno, Žuljana, Duba Stonska, Brijesta, Trstenik, Sreser, Duba, Viganj, Lovište
Best beaches: Praprotno, Vučine, Žuljana, Podobuće, Jezero, Divna, Lovište, Mokalo, Viganj
Daytrips from Pelješac: Korčula & Mljet islands
Go to Pelješac if: you like water sports, good food & wine, would like to avoid taking a ferry
Technically not an island but I´m including it in this post as well. As the largest peninsula in the whole country (65km long) it does feel pretty much like an island actually. I´ve visited a couple of times but never stayed longer than a couple of days at one time. There are more ways how to get to Peljeüac and from here you can continue or make day trips to Korčula and Mljet islands. This makes it a great stop on the way as well – even if you don´t intend to visit some of the islands but are driving along the Dalmatian coast I suggest you at least make a turn to Ston town and check out its magnificent city walls.
What else can you do here besides discovering the town of Ston? After walking on the city walls you can treat yourselves with tasty oysters which are grown here in the area and go for a wine or live oil tasting as well. You can also visit the salt pans and buy some salt. Pelješac has a reputation of being a windy place therefore it is also great for water sports like wind surfing, especially around Viganj. There are also some really great climbing opportunities and hikes – the most known mountain is almost 1000m high and it´s called Sv. Ilija. Pelješac is so big and diverse you can really keep yourselves busy, but also find peaceful bays to relax on the beach.
I hope this post helps some of you decide which islands to visit. If you have enough time and you study the ferry schedule you can even pull of a great island hopping holiday. Especially for the larger islands I do suggest you have your own car though. It would be a shame not to drive around and find little bays on your own and the interior of the islands is usually equally interesting and nice as are their beaches. Can´t wait to go south again!