Croatia is a country that has it all and in recent years, an increasing number of tourists are discovering the many delights it has to offer: the lovely cities of Split (with its Roman ruins) and Dubrovnik, popular for the sites that appear in Game of Thrones and its ancient walls; the beautiful waterfalls found in Plitvice National Park and Krka National Park, among others; the stunning coastline with mountains rising dramatically from the sea; and of course, the more than 1200 islands dotted like jewels in the Adriatic.
The islands of Croatia, many of which are uninhabited, are so varied: from large, bustling and populous to tiny, remote and peaceful; from barren and rocky to lush and green. One could island hop for years and not experience everything these gems have to offer. Many of these islands have mountain ranges that offer up spectacular hiking, with views across the Adriatic. Let’s explore some of the best Croatian islands for hiking:
DALMATIAN COAST ISLANDS – islands off the coast of the Dalmatia region of Croatia
Korčula – Lying close to the Peljesac peninsula, this forested island is quite populous and easy for hikers to access, although less crowded compared to other islands in this region. There are plenty of trails here, including up to the highest peaks of Klupca (568 m) and Kom (510 m).
Brač – A large island with lots of hiking trails to explore. It contains the highest point in the Adriatic, Vidova Gora (780 m), which has a popular hike to the summit. The island also features a new multi-day trail, Via Bettina, a 135 km route connecting twelve historical sites on the island.
Hvar – Known for attracting jet setters and high fliers to its summer resorts, including its fabulous beaches, this island is quite well known amongst travellers. Hvar town in particular, draws visitors to its beauty, food, wine and nightlife. But venture away from crowds and there are some hiking trails to explore, including up its highest peak, Sveti Nikola, at 628 m.
Mljet – Dubbed the ‘Green Island’, Mljet is a long, skinny island with Mljet National Park covering the majority of the island. There are hiking trails here including a 43 km long trail that is well sign-posted and can be done in shorter routes.
Lastovo – If you’re looking to get away from it all, Lastovo (which is actually a collection of 46 islands) is the place to go, as it sits farther away from the central Dalmatian coast. The majority of the hiking trails here are concentrated on the small main island, also called Lastovo. The Lastovo Nature Park covers the majority of the island, and the highest point is Hum, at 415 m.
Vis – The far flung island of Vis is small and hilly, with some peaks. It is famous for the Blue Cave, and also the site of one of the Mamma Mia! movies that was filmed here.
KVARNER GULF ISLANDS – islands in the northern Adriatic
Lošinj – Known as the ‘island of vitality’ due to its abundant vegetation (many believed to provide healing properties), there are over 200 km of hiking trails here, including the hike up to Televrin (557 m), its highest peak.
Cres – This sparsely populated island is known for the dense woods of the Tramuntana, the secluded coves ideal for snorkeling and the griffon vultures that like to nest on the cliffs. As well as its mountains where there are about 300 km of hiking trails, including up the highest point of Sis (639 m).
Krk – The most northerly and largest island of the Adriatic, it is a busy island due to its proximity to the mainland and ease of access via a bridge connecting to the mainland. There are more than 300 km of marked trails on the island, including the Camino Krk, a 150 km route that is part of the pilgrimage route to St. James. The town of Baška makes a good base.
Rab – A popular island, there are numerous sandy beaches to soak up the sun on, when not hiking its mountains, including the hike up to Kamenjak (408 m), the highest peak. You can also explore the charming town of Rab.
HONORABLE MENTIONS – these islands don’t quite make the cut for mountain hiking, but included them here for their special characteristics:
Pag – Known as ‘Moon Island’ due to its barren and rocky landscape, there are very low mountains to explore, with the highest point being Sveti Vid (349 m). There are three trails that together are known as the ‘Other side of the moon’.
Dugi Otok – A small island with the spectacular green Mir Lake, along with one of the best beaches in Croatia and cliffs rising up from the sea. Very low mountains with the highest point being Vela Straza (338 m).
Kornati Islands National Park – Don’t miss this archipelago of 89 islands considered a nautical paradise.
There are so many beautiful islands in Croatia with plenty of hiking trails to explore. May, June and September can be great months to do so as summer months are very hot and crowded on some of the islands.