The glistening Adriatic Sea that surrounds Croatia has more than 1,200 islands and islets, which makes it perfect for a Croatia island hopping adventure.
I know, as I have seen most of them in my 20+ years traveling Croatia. This guide shows you how to island hop just a few of the 48 Croatian islands that are inhabited.
There are many islands to choose from for exploration, especially since each one packs a heck of a lot of charm, boasts unique summer festivals, and has stunning baroque architecture and Renaissance churches.
Choosing which Croatian islands to visit can be complicated when you factor in ferry schedules, businesses closing in the off-season, and local festival dates; it can seem that creating a Croatia island hopping itinerary is impossible. But it is not with this guide.
My guide will help you determine which are the best Croatian islands for your wants and needs and provide you with three very different itineraries to inspire you about island hopping around Croatia like a local!
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
3 Day Island Hopping In Croatia Itinerary
This short itinerary designed for a weekend island hopping around Croatia will take you to some of the top islands to visit in Croatia – Krk, Cres, and Lošinj.
All three islands on this short island-hopping itinerary were ruled by the Greeks, followed by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Austro-Hungarians! Their common history gives them shared features, though each island is indisputably unique.
Forget about island hopping Croatia by boat this time, and rent a car to make the most of your short trip! When most people start to think about how to island-hop Croatia, ferries come to mind, but they forget that a lot of the islands in the Kvarner Gulf are connected by bridges.
Day 1 – Krk
Bustling Island With Lots Of Locals
Krk is one of the busiest islands in the Adriatic, with almost 20,000 inhabitants. If you’re looking to get a real sense of what island life is like for the Croatians that call the Adriatic Sea home, Krk is the place to go.
Some towns worth looking into as potential places to stay are Vrbnik, Malinska (which is a city for any foodies out there!), Baška, which is super popular in the summer months thanks to all the gorgeous beaches that surround the town, and Krk town, which is nestled behind a fortified wall!
A little further out of the way is one of the lesser-known spots, the 1100-year-old Romanesque Catholic Church of St. Lucy near the charming old town of Jurandvor. The checkerboard pattern carved on the church’s bell tower is suspected to be one of the first examples of the Croatian Coat of Arms.
If you consider yourself a fan of everything history-related, you’ll also be a fan of the old Frankopan castle in the town of Krk that once belonged to one of the richest families in Croatia.
There are a few ways to get to Krk Island. You can actually take a small aircraft from Split Airport and land directly on the island at Krk Airport, and the flights aren’t super expensive either! This is a good idea if you’re already traveling in Croatia and you want to save time.
But, assuming you’re renting a car as suggested, it’s about a 45-minute drive away. Krk is linked to the mainland by a large bridge, so you can get there from Rijeka even by bus, taxi, or bike! Alternatively, you could use the local ferry system.
To get off the island of Krk and continue your island hop in Croatia to Cres, take the ferry line 332 (cars are allowed on board!).
Day 2 – Cres
Quaint Towns & Excellent Cuisine
Cres is known for its quaint towns and vast stretches of oak forest. It’s also home to a population of griffon vultures that nest on the cliffs around the town of Beli.
If you want to sample some of the island’s finest gastronomy, try the different lamb dishes on offer and enjoy the fresh seafood. You might also notice that in Cres, the locals speak a dialect that sounds kind of Italian, which sounds very different from the Croatian spoken on the mainland.
Towns worth visiting include Cres town and Madrač, which are decorated with pastel-colored mansions left behind by the Italians that were there from the 15th century onwards.
Next stop? Lošinj! Cres and Lošinj actually used to be the same island, but they are now separated by an 11-meter-wide canal that was dug out by the ancient Liburni tribe near the town of Osor. Thankfully there’s a little bridge connecting the two, so it’ll take you just minutes to get from one top Croatian island to the next!
Day 3 – Lošinj
Known For Sunshine & Clear Waters
The island of Lośinj was designated a health resort in 1892 thanks to the vast amounts of sunlight the island gets each year, the refreshing sea breeze, and clear blue waters.
Once you’re on the island of Lošinj, visit the two most iconic towns – Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj.
In Mali Lošinj, it’s worth visiting the Kvarner Palace, which is home to the Apoksimen Men, an ancient Greek statue that is over 2000 years old and carved out of bronze.
Botanists are going to especially fall in love with Lošinj. There are more than 1100 plant species and 230 medicinal herbs on the island. If you want to see some of the coolest, visit the Garden of Fine Scents.
Other top attractions on the island include the protected area that’s home to a large dolphin population. Keep a lookout for these playful animals as you stroll along the shore!
To finish up your holiday, hop back in the car and make your way backward until you get to Rijeka!
5 Day Island Hopping In Croatia Itinerary
To keep it simple, for a 5-day island hopping expedition in Croatia, I’d recommend you extend the 3-day itinerary and keep exploring the Kvarner Gulf. Unfortunately, the car isn’t going to be much use from now on as Rab and Pag, the next islands on the itinerary, are connected by foot passenger-only ferries.
Return the car in Rijeka, then hop on the ferry to Rab; it takes just under 2 hours, and Jadrolinija and G&V Iadera offer services. Be sure to time everything well, as there’s only one ferry per day!
Since you’ve got everything planned for the first three days, let’s jump straight to day 4.
Day 4 – Rab
Friendly Locals, Quaint Towns
The towns dotted across the island of Rab are quaint and cute, made of up rows of terracotta-roofed houses and rising church towers! The locals are friendly and easygoing, and in summer, there are plenty of festivities you can get involved in too.
Popularized after the visit of King Edward VII and his wife Wallis Simpson, this island is known for its nudist beaches, a trend that is rumored to have been kickstarted by the king himself!
One of the best times to visit Rab is between the 25th and the 27th of July when the island comes alive in celebration of Rapska Fjera, the oldest and largest medieval festival in Croatia. Everyone gets dressed up in medieval attire, and there are craft stalls and workshops on every street. The wine is never scarce, either!
From Rab to Pag, there’s a foot passenger ferry that arrives in Novalja and is run by Jadrolinija. Again, there’s only one a day, so don’t miss it!
Day 5 – Pag
Mountainous, Narrow, Party Island
Pag is mountainous and narrow. Most of the island is made up of sleepy fishing villages, but even Pag has a wild side. The town of Novalja, where your ferry will arrive, is on the bucket list for anyone in Croatia to do some party island hopping!
Zrće Beach is just a short bus ride away, and it’s club-central! If you want to let loose and party Croatia-style, you won’t be short of options.
On the other hand, Pag also has a lot to offer in terms of culture and history. It’s fascinating watching the women sit outside on their porches and patiently stitch Pag lace, and the Gothic cathedral in Pag town is a charm.
Once you’ve explored Pag, you can catch a bus over the bridge that connects the island to Zadar, bringing your island hopping tour to an end in one of the coolest and lesser-known cities of Croatia!
7 Day Island Hopping In Croatia Itinerary
For your 7 day island hopping tour in Croatia, I propose exploring the Dalmatian coast route that starts in cities of Split and ends in Dubrovnik, or doing it the other way round and traveling from Dubrovnik to Split – island hopping style.
This itinerary will take you to some of the best Croatian islands that attract large crowds in the high season, like Hvar, and to lots of smaller islands that aren’t as famous, like Brač, Korčula, and Mljet, with the bonus of a day on Vis Island.
This 7 day itinerary will allow you to explore the islands off the coast of Dubrovnik and make your way along the Croatian islands accessible from Split. You’ll be doing everything by boat too, which only adds to the adventure!
Day 1 – Vis
Island For Nature Lovers
Between 1950 and 1989, Vis served as the Yugoslav National Army base, and no foreigners were allowed on the island. Now it’s open to all!
Just off the shore of Vis is the incredible blue cave of Biševo. Make sure you take a boat tour to this remote cave that lights up in bright blue hues before you leave the island!
There are some cute towns on the island too, but it’s really the cave that draws visitors in. Towns worth staying in include Vis Town (which is where ferries from Split arrive) or Komiža.
Getting from Split to Vis isn’t too complicated. There are a few options from the ferry terminal to Vis Town. Jadrolinija runs a year-round ferry, and the company Krilo runs a year-round catamaran. Bear in mind it’ll be the longest of your ferry rides – it takes two and a half hours!
The biggest problem you’ll have is leaving the island. In the peak summer season, there is just one ferry per day in the afternoon from the Vis ferry port to Bol on Brač Island. TP Line runs it, but off-season, there aren’t any ferries at all, so your only option is to ferry back to Split and then catch another ferry from there to Brač Island.
Day 2 – Brač
Elevated Island That’s Less Touristy
Inhabited since the Neolithic age, this long and narrow island is less touristy than a lot of the other islands, despite being the largest of the central Dalmatian Islands, which makes it a great destination for less social travelers.
It’s home to the highest mountain of any of the Adriatic islands, the Vidova Gora (which stands just 780 meters above sea level and can be climbed in a short hike) and it even has its own airport! But it’s still less fancy than Hvar.
Speckled with olive groves that were planted by the Greeks hundreds of years ago, the island produces a large amount of olive oil and has a quintessentially Mediterranean feel to it.
The main town is Supetar, which will also be your entry and leaving point to and from the island. It’s a convenient place to stay the night, too, so you don’t have to move all your luggage around. But try and check out the medieval town of Skrip, too if you get the time!
More in a beach lounging mood? Head to the Zlatni Rat beach, it gets a little crowded in high season, but it’s one of Croatia’s best sandy beaches, and there’s some great snorkeling just off the shore.
Another great thing about stopping over in Brač for a night is that you’re just a 30-minute ferry ride the next day to your next destination, the famous island of Hvar!
Day 3 and 4 – Hvar Island
One Of The Biggest, Most Popular Islands
One of the bigger islands, the island of Hvar has a great deal on offer which is why it’s worth spending two days here to get a real sense of the different facets of this awesome island.
Throughout its history the island was ruled by the Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Croatians, Venetians, Austrians, French, and Italians – so its culture and heritage are very diverse.
The local islanders are super friendly and welcoming, which makes everything more fun!
If you’re in Croatia to party, stay in Hvar Town. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other popular towns, like Stari Grad, and Jelsa, but it’s also bigger and busier so there is way more atmosphere!
Some of the most famous clubs on the island include Carpe Diem, Splash, Hula Hula Beach Bar, and Falko Beach Bar – get ready to boogie the night away!
On the other hand, if you’re trying to get away from the crowds then head to one of the small fishing villages on the island and enjoy some solitude. Top choices include Vrboska, Milna, and Sveta. You might need to take a taxi to get there once you arrive at the port, but the great thing about islands is that nothing is ever too far away!
Nature lovers, be sure to check out one of the lavender fields and go on a hike up to the Spanjola Fortress.
Wherever you decide to stay it’s worth visiting the main historic sites, like the Stari Grad plains, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Hvar theatre which was constructed in 1612.
From Hvar to the next island on your Croatian island hopping itinerary, is the island of Korcula, it’s just a one-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Hvar Town.
Day 5 – Korčula
Popular Island Known As Little Dubrovnik
Korčula Town has old city walls running along the edge of the Croatian coast and is somewhat reminiscent of Dubrovnik, earning it the nickname “little Dubrovnik,” but thankfully there are considerably fewer people around!
There are cute medieval squares, rows of terracotta-roofed houses, and quaint churches all over the old town. Oh, and did you know it’s rumored to be the birthplace of none other than Marco Polo?
If you’re visiting in high-season see if you can get a Korcula Yellow Taxi ticket; that way, you can hop on and off at four of the main attractions with ease and save time and money!
The next day, catch a quick half hour ferry from Korčula port to the Pomena port on Mljet island. Warning: there are no ferries in winter, and in high season, there is just one per day! So don’t miss it if you need to stay on schedule.
Day 6 – Mljet Island
Small Island – 1000 Inhabitants
The little island of Mljet is home to as few as 1,000 people. It’s tranquil and ideal for nature lovers and avid hikers that want to check out one of the less done-up islands and hike to the famous Odysseus Cave.
Half of the island is a National Park, which encompasses two inland saltwater lakes (Veliko and Malo Jezero) as well as dense Mediterranean vegetation.
On Mljet, the toughest decision will be whether you spend the day hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, or reading and sunbathing on a sandy island beach!
The next day, wake up early and catch the ferry from the Sobra port in Mljet to Dubrovnik, it takes just an hour to an hour and a half which will be a relief if you tend to get seasick!
Day 7 – Dubrovnik and Lokrum Island
Croatian Hub + Uninhabited Island
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular cities in Croatia, it has a long history that dates as far back as the 7th century so history buffs will be especially enchanted by the old city walls (which you can tick off your UNESCO World Heritage Site checklist!) lined with restaurants and points of historical interest.
Dubrovnik gets very busy in the summer, as cruise ships loaded with passengers and tourists flock in, but there’s a good reason people come to Dubrovnik – it’s gorgeous.
You have a few options on your last day – you can take the cable car up Mount Srd for great views, chill out in the city and catch your breath, or if you’re determined to see as many islands as possible then we have a treat in store for you.
Just a 15 minute ferry ride away from Dubrovnik’s port and you’re on Lokrum Island! It’s one of the many uninhabited islands in the Adriatic Sea, which reeled me in because of the inland saltwater lake and nudist beach! There are also the crumbled ruins of an old Benedictine Monastery you can explore.