Island Hopping in Croatia
Croatia is a popular tourist destination for a reason. Visiting Croatia’s islands is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most popular adventures but with islands to choose from it can be difficult to decide where to begin your explorations.
This Croatia island hopping overview will provide you with all of the information you need to know about island hopping throughout Croatia in addition to providing information on the best Croatian islands to visit including island hopping routes, itinerary suggestions, and ticket information.
Island Hopping Starting Points
The location of your starting point is largely determined by the location of the airport to which you are flying. There are numerous incoming flights to the Split airport (SPU) which is located in the heart of Dalmatia. Split is also home to the largest ferry port in the Adriatic sea which serves many of the region’s most popular tourist destinations including the islands of Hvar, Brac, Vis, and Korcula.
Due to the availability of fast catamaran services, Dubrovnik ferry port is also a convenient starting point for trips to the islands of Mljet (National Park), Korcula, Hvar, and Lastovo. Another important entry point is the northern dalmatian port of Zadar and Zadar airport (ZAD) which has its own collection of laid-back island getaways. The northern cities Rijeka and Pula also provide access to a diverse group of islands in the Kvarner gulf (in the northern Adriatic).
Ferry System and Ticketing
If you are visiting Croatia’s mainland and would like to visit the islands the ferry system is surprisingly simple and reasonably priced in comparison to other European countries even during the summer.
You can purchase a ferry ticket in any port and immediately board the ferry. Or, you can buy your ticket in advance online, as most of the tickets are available for online purchase. Another available option is to travel from island to island and see how many or as few as you desire.
Several car ferries operated by the state-owned Jadrolinija ferry company transport passengers and cars between the main islands. They provide public transportation for the locals and ensure the long-term viability of island tourism.
Passenger Ferries (Catamarans)
In addition to car ferries, faster and slightly more expensive than car ferries are passenger-only catamarans operated by TP Line, Krilo Kapetan Luka, and Jadrolinija whisk passengers across the water to a variety of destinations, greatly expanding the number of ferry routes that were previously available.
They have a fleet of fast and comfortable speedy vessels from Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, and Split that sail to destinations such as the islands in the Kvarner archipelago, Zadar Archipelago, Split, and Dubrovnik islands.
When is the best time for island hopping?
While island hopping is possible throughout the year, during the winter months sailings to specific islands may be limited to only one per day. Due to the high volume of passengers in order to benefit from the full range of options you should wait until the summer timetables are implemented typically between June and September (see what to wear on the ferry).
Note that some routes such as the Hvar to Dubrovnik ferry catamaran are only available during the summer months and that some other routes are only available during certain times of the year.
It can be extremely hot in July and August which is great for splashing around in the Adriatic but exhausting if you are planning on doing a lot of sightseeing in the islands let alone hiking or cycling.
While some catamaran sailings can sell out months in advance, during peak season the likelihood of being stranded at least once during your journey is increased significantly at the height of the summer season when also hotel rates soar to dizzying heights.
The best time to travel is late spring or early autumn when you will find that you will get a better deal on almost everything.
What does the classic island circuit look like? Traveling from Split to Dubrovnik via Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Mljet is the most popular island-hopping itinerary in Croatia. The most popular ferry line is Split to Hvar. It is also the most time-consuming. This allows you to see some of the most beautiful parts of Dalmatia while remaining relatively simple to complete.
Split to Supetar on Brac island is served by a plethora of ferries from which you can cross the island to Bol where you can visit the fabulous but overcrowded Zlatni Rat beach, which is located on the island’s southern tip.
For Hvar island hopping, a daily catamaran service runs from Bol to Jelsa and from Hvar town to Vis. From Jelsa, you can take regular buses to the town of Hvar which is a lovely combination of renaissance architecture and cocktail-fueled evenings.
Another seductive blend of ancient glory and contemporary hedonism is Korcula, easily reached by catamaran from Hvar town or Dubrovnik on a regular basis. From here you’ll take a catamaran or a bus to Dubrovnik where the trip’s conclusion will be a fittingly spectacular conclusion to your travels in Croatia.
The classic island circuit
Occasionally the classic island circuit can appear to be an overcrowded exercise in box ticking. However in order to get the most out of the experience it is necessary to give each island sufficient time to be able to appreciate it in its entirety.
Take a side trip to the sleepy understated island of Solta which is the closest island to Split and is home to olive groves with dry stone walls as well as the picture-perfect harbor village of Stomorska. If you have the opportunity stay overnight on the island.
Stay away from the popular Zlatni Rat beach on Brac and instead visit Postira bay or the rocky shores in and around the bike-friendly town of Sutivan which are both less crowded.
Avoid spending all of your time in Hvar’s main town instead take the time to explore the equally historic but decidedly more laid-back villages nearby. Check also this new ferry route.
The wonderful place to experience Croatia island hopping is also starting from Dubrovnik and hopping around its islands of Lokrum, Mljet, Lopud, Sipan, and Kolocep, all the way to Korcula and Lastovo.
Is it worth journeying north?
To put it succinctly yes it is possible that the islands of the northern Adriatic will be just as rewarding in terms of natural beauty as the islands of the southern Adriatic.
Catamaran services from Rijeka and Pula (also with the busy airport) allow you to visit some of the Adriatic’s most unique and under-visited islands all the way to Dubrovnik, as well as the increasingly sophisticated Losinj which is fast becoming a rising star on the Adriatic fashion scene. (see map)
The island of Susak with its pristine sandy beaches should be your first stop followed by the bustling town of Mali Losinj with its chic spa hotels and palm fringe promenades which should be your second stop.
Continuing your journey from here you can make your way to Silba island, a secret island for independent travel in which automobiles are not permitted, the lovely traffic-free zone.
To get to Zadar take a catamaran or ferry south to the historic port of Zadar which serves as a gateway to another group of undeveloped islands in its archipelago with plenty of ferry connections.
Alternatively, take a bus down the coast to Split where you’ll be ready to start your island-hopping adventures all over again.
People who plan to visit Croatia are likely to envision beautiful beaches with unspoiled nature, plenty of sunshine, and breathtaking islands that dot the country’s coastline. There is one thing to keep in mind – there are not many sandy beaches in Croatia on the islands or anywhere else. They are mostly pebble beaches but they are still breathtakingly beautiful. Beach chairs are typically rented for added comfort and people may also visit beach clubs or sun themselves on a boat/ferry deck (see ferry travel tips).
Hopefully, this overview has provided you with some useful information to assist you in planning the most amazing Croatia vacation possible. What do you think about our list, have you already had the opportunity to explore Croatia’s islands, let us know – please share your thoughts and experiences.