Where to go on a Croatia
small ship cruise

If counting sheep doesn’t help you drop off, then look at the map of Croatia’s coastline and start to count the islands. You are unlikely to find them all before slipping into the dreamiest of sleeps. And they are seriously dreamy – all 1,200 of them. Divided into different groups, such as the Northern Islands, including Krk, Croatia’s largest, up near the Istrian Peninsula. Or the Zadar archipelago, home to low lying islands like Olib and Molat. The Central Dalmatian archipelago has Brac, with the highest peak of all the islands, and Hvar, with the highest disposable income per visitor as this has long been land of the posh and plenty. And then there is the island of Vis, which is a microcosm of all the islands… and aptly rhyming with bliss.
Brac Island

1. Brac Island

Brac is the largest island in the Dalmatian archipelago and has the highest peak in the Adriatic, Mount St. Vid (780m). Hiking here is a treat, heading through villages dating back to Roman times. You can get a stunning view of the island’s biggest attraction, too – the white limestone pebbled peninsular beach at Zlatni Rat. The small fishing town of Bol is also great.

2. Dubrovnik

One of the most exciting ways to see this magnificent medieval city is from the water, as far away as possible from the obscenely large cruise liners that take over the port. Our specialists can also organise a stay at the top or tail of your trip, so you can explore Dubrovnik's marbled streets and the cable car up to Mount Srd at your own pace.
Hvar Island

3. Hvar Island

As well as being the longest island in the Adriatic, Hvar has the largest collection of wallets, having been the sought after holiday island for the uber wealthy for many years. Go beyond the main town for natural, ‘unworked’ beauty: tiny fishing towns like Stari Grad or Vrboska. Hire a bike to explore, or enjoy the historic highlights of its Renaissance cathedral and 17th-century community theatre.
Korcula Island

4. Korcula Island

Part of the Central Dalmatian archipelago, and just off the Peljesac peninsula, Korcula Town not only has a fortified centre, ancient tiny streets and traditional houses but also a Gothic-Renaissance cathedral bang in the middle of it. It is said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo and, inspired by him, you should explore away from the busy centre and go out to the pine forests, secret coves and vineyards.
Krk Island

5. Krk Island

Adjoined to the mainland by a bridge, Krk has a strong north-south divide, as the north is pretty barren, laid waste by the ‘bura’ wind, and the south is green and grapevine-filled. With rich woodland, there is also a plethora of pathways for taking a walk that leads you to an idyllic waterfront. Or just enjoy the island’s tavernas where the local Vrbnicka Zlahtina white wine is always flowing.
Losinj Island

6. Losinj Island

It sounds like a lozenge and it feels like a tonic too. With healing powers that include the prolific pine trees, extraordinary clear waters and, everyone’s favourite form of therapy, bottlenose dolphins, Losinj is a place to lose yourself. There are also over 1,000 wild herbs growing here, which you can sample at the Aromatic Garden. Hard to get to without a boat, Losinj gets less crowded than other islands.
Mljet Island

7. Mljet Island

Mljet has been settled by everyone from the Romans and Byzantines to the Austrians over the centuries. It is now almost wholly protected by national park status, thanks to its eco eclectic landscapes, including two seawater lakes in its interior, created by monks who lived on an islet in the lake and built a tunnel out to the sea. Visit this former monastery at Melita – a perfect lunch spot.
Rab Island

8. Rab Island

Rab Island is famous for having been the skinny dipping shores of romantic runaways King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and it is still a naturist heaven, with 22 beaches in all (not all nudies, so don’t worry). It is all round heavenly, a green and pine tree laden idyll in Kvarner Bay between the Istrian Peninsula and the mainland. Rab Town is another stunning medieval walled town, with boutique and café filled alleys.
Sipan Island

9. Sipan Island

The largest of the Elaphiti Islands, Sipan was much favoured by Dubrovnik’s great and good of the 14th century who built stunning villas among its fecund hills bedecked with olives, figs, vines, oranges and almond trees. A wonderful island for walking, follow the route between the island’s two villages of Sudjuradj and Sipanska Luka, looking out for ancient churches along the way. And a few of those old villas too.

10. Split

Split might be a start and end point for many Dalmatian small ship cruises, but it is definitely worth taking time to explore the second largest city in Croatia. Ancient marvels remain, such as Emperor Diocletian's Palace, now a hive of café and consumer activity. But there are also quieter areas such as Getski vrtal Park, the traditional fishermen’s area Varos, and Marjan Hill that overlooks the city.
Vis Island

11. Vis Island

Vis was closed to visitors for years as it was an important naval harbour, and therefore maintained its traditions and unspoilt rural landscapes. Vineyards still thrive (the local red is Plavac) and ancient ‘villae rusticae’ still thrill. Roman remains such as the thermal palace are worth visiting, but the best thing to do here, apart from savouring the swimming bliss, is to eat. The slow food scene is exemplary.
Zadar Archipelago

12. Zadar Archipelago

Only 20 of these hundreds of islands are inhabited, with stupendously tranquil spots such as Molat Island perfect for hiking through maquis and pine forests. Or the Kornati Islands National Park, where karst limestone islands and islets are sparse in terms of people. The mainland town of Zadar is Croatia’s oldest, with a Roman forum and pre-Romanesque St. Donat’s church.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Croatia cruising or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anrie Papp] [Brac Island: Arno Senoner] [Dubrovnik: Spencer Davis] [Hvar: Cody Black] [Korcula: Hilthart Pedersen] [Krk Island: Norbert Eder] [Losinj: Matteo Grassi] [Mljet Island: Jose Miguel] [Rab Island: Kunstee] [Sipan Island: munksynz] [Split: Fred Romero] [Vis: Josh Berendes] [Zadar Archipelago: Sam Barber]