croatia island guide
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Croatia island guide: 7 stunning spots to visit in the Mediterranean archipelago

27 Jun 2024 | |By Annie Lewis

Discover the ‘land of a thousand islands’ in true style with our guide to the places to see and be seen

Small in size, but rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty and historical gastronomy, Croatia offers a refreshing taste of the Mediterranean from its balmy slice of southeastern Europe. While the mainland offers bustling tourist destinations such as Dubrovnik and Split, venture to the coast to discover why this country earned its nickname ‘the land of a thousand islands’ – and the undiscovered havens where well-heeled travellers can beat the crowds this summer

Boasting roughly 1,246 pine-fringed islands, pebble-coved islets, and beautiful reefs, only 48 of Croatia’s islands are inhabited and can only be reached via the charming coastal towns of Pula, Šibenik, Zadar, or the bigger aforementioned cities. You may have heard of the party paradise of Hvar and the natural gem that is Brač, but what about Krk, Lošinj and Dugi Otok? One for the nomadic traveller, these largely undiscovered islands offer a unique intersection of culture and climate, where rich gastronomy comes to life with island-grown olive oil, fresh fish and local wine to form star dishes featuring Istrian truffles, Kvarner scampi, Zagorje pastry and Slavonian kulen (sausage). So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the azure waters of the Adriatic with our Croatia island guide and discover the finest villas and hotels to book while you’re there. 


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How to get there: 50 minute ferry from Split

Famous for Zlatni Rat beach – Croatia’s top windsurfing destination – in the small harbour town of Bol, those in the know will be the first to tell you that there’s much more to Brač than just beaches. The island was under Roman rule for seven centuries, so is naturally a haven for history buffs looking to get their fix of archeological ruins dotted throughout the olive groves and pine forests. Supetar is the island’s buzzy centre, built around a crescent harbour in the Bay of Vlacica and filled with cobbled medieval streets lined with local taverns and boutiques. More adventurous travellers, however, should take advantage of Brač’s well-trodden hiking and cycling paths, especially the route to Vidova: the highest point on the Croatian islands, at roughly 780m, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views. 

Where to stay: Tender Luxuries

tender luxuries brac croatia

Live like royalty with your very own estate just outside of Supetar when you book Tender Luxuries. This 12-person, six-bed villa is complete with its own private pool, hot tub and sauna, but those who want to venture into the sparkling waters lapping at Supetar’s shore can go for a spin on the villa’s speedboat, which is at your disposal for the duration of your stay. Relax on the sun loungers, enjoy an al fresco dinner on the terrace – prepared in the fully-equipped kitchen, barbecue, or even by a private chef – and dine in the romantic covered courtyard. After a busy day of lounging in the sun at the villa or bathing at the nearby Vela Luka beach, the home cinema is perfect for a movie night with all the family.

From £2,114 per night. 


How to get there: 50 minute ferry from Split

Croatia’s chicest island getaway – with an up-and-coming party scene set to rival the likes of Mykonos and Ibiza – Hvar is the place to go for both substance and style. Its model town lines the yacht-filled harbour, and features gothic palaces, preserved 13th-century walls, and a kaleidoscope of terracotta rooftops, best seen from the Spanish fortress which overlooks the island’s sprawling centre. Head into the cobbled streets to discover seafood restaurants serving freshly-caught lobster, tuna and sea bass with champagne on tap, as well as designer boutiques, cocktail bars and nightclubs galore. Hvar isn’t famous for its beaches so we’d recommend booking a boat to take you across the water to the Pakleni Islands: a group of largely uninhabited islets hugged by secluded sandy coves, providing some of the best snorkelling spots in the Adriatic. 

Where to stay: Rigadora

Nestled on the northern side of the island, the four-bedroom Rigadora villa spotlights a secluded side of Hvar with show-stopping vistas towards Brač and beyond. The property has been designed with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout to show off those aforementioned views, but we love the fun indoor pool located in the living room for those post-dinner dips, and the choice of a second outdoor pool draped under a white cabana for when the sun hits its peak. Marble bathrooms, neutral, pine-clad double bedrooms and an open-plan kitchen all make for a comfortable stay – especially if you’re looking to escape the nightlife of Hvar Town once dusk descends. 

From £1,264 per night. 


losinj croatia
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How to get there: Fly into Krk and drive two hours via the mainland bridge, or take the ferry from Rijeka, Pula or Zadar on the mainland

Lošinj is an island rooted in nature. The birthplace of more than a thousand aromatic and healing herbs, boasting more than 2,600 sunny hours per year and a crystal clear sea home to a colony of 120 bottlenose dolphins, the island has been a Climate Health Resort since 1982. Must-see natural attractions include the Aromatic Garden, featuring large shrubs of lavender, sage, and rosemary to create a feast for the senses, dolphin watching excursions organised by the Blue World Institute, and the Ancient Greek bronze sculpture of an athlete, which washed up in 1996 and is now displayed at the Apoxyomenos Museum. The main town of Mali Lošinj is fringed by boutique hotels and 19th-century properties on one side and yachts in the bay on the other. Across Lošinj’s rugged coastline, there are a variety of rural inlets and bays to be explored, however the most popular is Čikat Bay, featuring fragrant forests, upmarket restaurants and luxurious hotels and villas in abundance. 

Hotel Bellevue

One of the best spa hotels in Europe, Hotel Bellevue blends local tradition with modern luxury just moments from the healing waters of Lošinj’s Čikat Bay. Pick from an array of bedrooms – from the eight-person Presidential Suite with a wraparound terrace to the romantic Superior Sea Side suite perfect for couples – before enjoying traditional Croatian cuisine at a la carte restaurants Bava and Matsunoki, where herbs and spices are cut from the hotel's garden. Don’t miss the aforementioned spa, offering a complete wellness ecosystem using the cleansing and detoxifying properties of Lošinj’s sea. For example, the Sea-Tox Programme – available to guests on three, seven and 14-day packages – is an immersive detox that uses the purification properties of Lošinj's seawater, while the ‘swim-in-the-sea’ floating massage takes place on a specially-designed aqua cushion that lulls the body into a state of deep relaxation as it floats on warm water. Aaaand relax. 

From £240 per night. 


korcula croatia
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How to get there: Two-hour ferry from Split

If you’re looking for a laid-back break, rest assured that Korčula will give you an all-out horizontal holiday. Sleepy but by no means tired, this island is a world away from the buzzy vibes of Hvar and Brač and is a small but mighty destination definitely worth a Croatian traveller’s time. Measuring just 276km, and with many taxis and buses on hand to whizz you around the island in 45 minutes, highlights of Korčula include the UNESCO fortified medieval old town – squished into a tiny walled peninsula that holds many foodie and retail nooks and crannies to be explored – before heading to the hills to discover family-run wineries, agrotourism spots and more age-old villas than you can shake a stick at. 

Where to stay: Touch the Sea

A plush home just four kilometres from the untouched Old Town of Korčula, Touch the Sea is designed to host holidays filled with memories. From sunsets by the infinity pool to hot-tub soaks under the stars, the six-bedroom villa boasts a series of sun-lit terraces, a gym and a sauna while light and breezy air-conned bedrooms welcome an afternoon nap. A pebble beach is just a stone’s throw away (ahem) or hop in the car for 15 minutes to be greeted by a handful of bays perfect for snorkelling, rafting or sunbathing by crystal clear waters.

From £970 per night. 


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How to get there: Fly into Rijeka International Airport on the island of Krk

Krk is Croatia’s largest island and can be one of the busiest, namely because it is serviced by a large bridge connecting it to the mainland and an international airport. But that shouldn’t put you off. Another haven for history buffs, don’t miss the 5th-century Krk Cathedral in the main town and the Frankopan Castle, which overlooks the sea. Alongside the main town, the areas of Malinska, Omisalj, Vrbnik, Punat and Baska are set up to host travellers with their traditional tavernas serving northern Croatian cuisine, and local wineries. 

Where to stay: Aegean Overture

Aegean Overture krk

Surrounded by manicured lawns at every turn, this modern villa makes for a relaxing break. Immerse yourself in nature thanks to the extravagant plants and shrubs fringing the garden, while the large saltwater pool calls for a morning dip. Inside, a cosy lounge and bright kitchen provide enough space to cook up a family-style feast, while the bungalow design features four air-conditioned bedrooms with en suite shower bathrooms. Aegean Overture also boasts underfloor heating for cooler months and plenty of bicycles so guests can get out and explore the local area.

From £1,313 per night. 

Dugi Otok

dugi otok croatia
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How to get there: Two-hour ferry from Zadar

For those after a more under-the-radar island, Dugi Otok is your best bet (just don’t tell anyone). Its name means ‘long island’ in Croatian, stemming from the fact it measures 45km in length but is only 4km wide – and considering there’s little in the way of tourism here, there’s plenty of room to share between locals and travellers. That said, don’t expect the height of civilisation, but rustic roads, authentic tavernas, and sleepy fishing villages. Take in the views at Telašćica Nature Park and squeeze in a visit to the Saharun pebble beach but, in all honesty, this is an island primed for hitting a sunbed and not moving for a week. Happy holidays!

Villa Nai 3.3

villa nai dugi otok

If you love olive oil, you’ll love Villa Nai 3.3. Designed by famous Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, this eight-key boutique hotel is one of the most luxurious, not only on Dugi Otok, but on the Croatian archipelago. Bašić constructed this property around the ancient family-owned olive grove that still stands here – and whose award-winning olive oil is available to buy on-site or sample at tasting sessions. Rooms overlook the olive grove or Adriatic, and are steps away from the 23-metre saltwater infinity pool, but venture further afield to discover the hotel’s private beach with a jetty. Elsewhere, at the spa, choose a scent for your Finnish-style sauna session, relax in the sunken saltwater pool or book a treatment reaping the benefits of the olive oil and paste made from the fruits of the grove outside. 

From £780 per night. 


mljet croatia

How to get there: Two-hour ferry from Dubrovnik

WWF named this island one of the last untouched paradises of the Mediterranean – and if that doesn’t succinctly describe the idyllic island of Mljet I don’t know what will. The majority of the landscape is made up of the Mljet National Park, featuring the picture-perfect Odisej Lakes where two interconnected turquoise saltwater lakes are contrasted against dense woodland. Just a 15-minute walk from the entrance to the park is Pomena, a small fishing village peppered with restaurants, bars and B&Bs perfect for an overnight stay. In essence, Mljet’s beauty is its isolated nature, so don’t expect much here except Croatian island life at its finest. 

Where to stay: Hotel Odisej Mljet

Hotel Odisej Mljet is the only island outpost from Dubrovnik-based Adriatic Luxury Hotels (ALH), whose range of properties in the city have set the standard for well-heeled travellers throughout Croatia. They’ll be pleased to hear, then, that a two-hour ferry will take them to the island of Mljet, where Hotel Odisej was added to the ALH portfolio in 2016. Nestled on Pomena Bay on the outskirts of the national park, this property is embedded in beautiful hiking and biking paths, a world-class boating scene, and surrounded by Roman ruins. There are 57 neutral-hued rooms to choose from, all boasting views of the azure waters below and air-conditioned spaces that feature elegant ensuites. Dine at the chic seaside bistro, Levanat Pizzeria, for your fill of fresh Italian classics and homemade gelato. 

From £130 per night. 

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