Island-hopping in Croatia: a practical guide

updated 9/16/2021
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The Croatian Adriatic is one of Europe's most compelling seascapes. And it's something of an island-hopper’s paradise. Considering a trip? Find what you need to know about island hopping in Croatia here. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Croatia, your essential guide for visiting Croatia.

Where should I start island hopping in Croatia?

This depends on which airport you fly into. The city of Split has the largest number of incoming flights. It's also the Adriatic's largest ferry port. Serves many popular islands. And has crossings to Šolta, Hvar, Brač, Korčula and Vis.

Dubrovnik is another useful gateway. Catamaran services to Mljet, Lastovo, Korčula and Hvar sail from here. The northern city of Rijeka is another entry point. This offers sailings to islands in the Kvarner Gulf. Or you could consider the north Dalmatian port of Zadar. It has ferries to several other laid-back island getaways.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Croatia or Croatia Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Tours can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Croatia expert.

The Croatian Adriatic is made for island hopping © xbrchx/Shutterstock

What's the easiest way to get around?

Jadrolinija car ferries serve the main islands. And state-owned Jadrolinija provides transport for locals as well.

Passenger-only catamarans are faster but more expensive. Both Jadrolinija and Krilo Jet operate catamaran services.

European Coastal Airline seaplanes offer another option. They fly from Pula, Rijeka and Split to Lošinj, Hvar, Korčula and Lastovo.

Go island hopping in Croatia to visit Hvar Town © Xenia Chowaniec / Shutterstock

When is a good time for island hopping?

Island hopping in Croatia is possible year round. However, some ferry sailings might be more limited in winter. And certain routes only operate during summer. Look out for summer timetables. These offer a full range of sailing options. Summer timetables normally cover June to September.

July and August can be hot in Croatia. Ideal if you're splashing around in the Adriatic. But exhausting weather for urban sightseeing, hiking or cycling.

Popular catamaran sailings often sell out in high season. So getting stranded during your trip is a possibility.

Costs for everything are highest in midsummer. So late spring or early autumn travel are almost always better value.

Mljet National Park is a popular island hop from Dubrovnik © OPIS Zagreb / Shutterstock

What does the classic island circuit look like?

Split to Dubrovnik is the most popular island hopping itinerary. Go via Brač, Hvar and Korčula for easiest travel. This is also a good route to see the best of Dalmatia.

A number of ferries sail from Split to Supetar on Brač. Travel across Brač to famous Zlatni Rat beach at Bol. There are also daily catamaran crossings from Bol to Jelsa on Hvar island. Once on Hvar, catch a bus from Jelsa to Hvar Town for its mix of Renaissance architecture and cocktail-fuelled nights.

For another seductive blend of past and present, cross by catamaran from Hvar Town to Korčula. Then from Korčula, sail or take a bus to Dubrovnik. Either journey is a spectacular end to your trip.

Brač Island, Croatia, home to legendary Zlatni Rat beach © xbrchx / Shutterstock

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Beyond the classic island circuit

The classic island circuit can feel like a box-ticking exercise. Especially if you want to give each island the time it deserves.

So consider a side-trip to sleepy, understated Šolta. The nearest island to Split, it's known for walled olive groves and pretty harbour villages. Don't miss Maslinica and Stomorska.

On Brač, avoid over-hyped Zlatni Rat beach. Instead, make for quieter Lovrečina Bay. Or head to the rocky shores around bike-friendly Sutivan.

Don’t just stick to the main town on Hvar. Make time for equally historic, but more mellow, Stari Grad as well - consider a stay at Hotel Antica.

A visit to Proizd on Korčula is another must. It's the alluring rocky islet off the port of Vela Luka.

If you prefer the idea of a tailor made island hopping trip, get in touch and we can connect you with a local expert to plan and book your ideal holiday.

Stari Grad waterfront on Hvar Island, Croatia © xbrchx / Shutterstock

Vis island is the independent traveller’s favourite. It lacks package hotels, has a reputation for bohemian cool, and its rugged scenery, individual cuisine and stunning beaches invite superlatives.

However, Vis is notoriously difficult for island hopping. A weekly catamaran service to Hvar Town is the sole direct island link. All other ferries are via Split. Meaning you have to backtrack to the mainland for onward travel. But, plan carefully, and a Croatian island cruise to Vis is always worth the effort.

If you plan to stay on Vis, The Sea House Apartments are just a short walk from either Tepluš or Srebrna beach.

Is the north worth island hopping in Croatia?

In short, yes. The northern Croatian islands can be as rewarding as those in the south. Sail from Rijeka by catamaran to Lošinj island. Or choose lesser known islands - also with catamaran crossings from Rijeka.

Make the uniquely sandy island of Susak your first stop. Follow up with bustling Mali Lošinj for spa hotels and palm-fringed promenades. Then travel on to Silba. This snoozy Shangri-la for independent travel has banned both cars and bikes.

From Silba, head south by catamaran or ferry to historic Zadar. Zadar port is the gateway to another group of low-key islands. Or return to Lošinj. From here, European Coastal Airlines’ seaplanes whisk you to Split. And you can start island hopping all over again.

Ready for a trip to Croatia? Check out the snapshot Rough Guide to Croatia. Read more about the best time to go to Croatia, the best places to visit and best things to do in Croatia. For inspiration use the Croatia Itineraries from The Rough Guide to Croatia and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

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updated 9/16/2021
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