Island hopping in Croatia is one of my favorite travel experiences because, not only is it easy and inexpensive, but easy to do spontaneously. I recently finished my third trip to Croatia because I am so in love with the beautiful islands and friendly people. With over 1000 islands off the south-west coast of Croatia, there is so much to see.
These islands are easy to hop via inexpensive ferries that run often every day. Or, if you want to take a more stylish approach you can rent a sailboat and make the journey yourself.
Expect an easy-breezy travel experience here without too much planning. We literally just showed up to islands like Hvar in mid-July without any reservations and found a great apartment for under $100 USD a night. If you want to stay at a luxurious hotel, I do suggest booking a week in advance.
In this itinerary, we start in Dubrovnik and work our way up – a route that can easily be reversed. This way you can choose to fly into Dubrovnik and out of Split or vice versa. This is key because Dubrovnik, Split, (and Zagreb) are the biggest international airports there.
Check Croatia Ferries for a clear timetable for your journey. Or better yet – just go to the agency when you are there and book a day or two before you want to leave just to be safe. Jadrolinjia is a popular company that runs through this entire route. The agencies are easy to find and can be walked to in any of the main cities or islands.
Dubrovnik lies on the mainland of Croatia towards the southern tip of the coast. The walled city is perched up above the glowing blue Adriatic as its characteristic grey stone architecture compliments bright orange rooftops. Although this color palate is characteristic throughout all of Croatia, Dubrovnik (as well as each island and city in Croatia) is unique with it's own twist. For example, Vis is known for its wineries and vast rolling hills of vineyards.
First Stop: Dubrovnik To Mljet (Polace) – “The Greenest Island”
Get off in Polace to see the famous lakes at the Mljet (pronounced Mil-Yet) National Park. Stay 2-3 days in this vibrantly green sanctuary to explore the unique island. Mljet has an inland sea, or 2 salt-water lakes rather, with a smaller island engulfed right in the middle. The island is perfect for adventure-seeking travelers and those that love the outdoors.
Second Stop: Mjlet (Sobra) To Korcula
The island of Korcula I like to think as highly underrated as it has less tourists than Dubrovnik and Hvar. The old town reminds me of a tall fortress or castle surrounded by vast blue water and small islands. I imagine ships with canons sailing in to battle in medieval times. Very few places take you to another world and even fewer another time - this is one of them.
After all, the famous Marco Polo is from here! The town breeds a desire to explore. The fishbone-shaped old town has many restaurants, "rooftop" bars - and by rooftop I mean on the top of an actual turret, and cute shops.
Third Stop: Korcula To Hvar (Stari Grad)
Hvar is simply magical. There is an electric energy that draws you in and makes you feel like you are in an exciting foreign place yet comfortable and at ease. From the crazy nightlife, to the insane views, to the beautiful beaches - Hvar has it all.
I suggest avoiding the busiest times (like the second half of July) to avoid the Yacht Week and Ultra crowds. The rest of summer is lively enough without a bunch of kids trashing the streets.
Fourth Stop: Hvar To Vis
The quaint island of Vis is known for its long stretches of vineyards in wineries. The tiny island is comprised of two main towns on opposite sides of the island: Old Vis and Komiza - you will want to see both! Luckily it is only a 20 minute, insanely gorgeous scooter ride from one side to the other. Other options are to transport by boat or taxi. These cute coastal towns may be your destinations - but the journey across the island is truly the best part and where you want to be.
Along the way, you will cross over mountain tops with endless views of the sea and through bright green vineyards that stretch for miles. Stop in a tiny private winery for some local wine and farm to table cuisine.
It amazed me by how much was grown on the island and eaten locally. Not only that, it was some of the best wine I have ever had. For Vis, your best bet is to rent a scooter and just let it take you where it may. The island is so small it is hard to get lost.
Final Stop: Vis To Split
From Vis, take a ferry to the port city of Split. This is a huge hub for traveling within Croatia and internationally as one of Croatia's largest airports is here. If you're still not ready to leave the country by the end of your island tour, Split is the perfect place to get to the famous Plitvice Lakes from via bus as well.
As far as tourism in Split, this city is not my favorite. I personally do not love when cruise ships come in and flood a city with tourists. I have found a correlation with big cruise hubs and less friendly locals. Split is the only city in Croatia where I found the people to be kind of rude. For me, Split is pass-through city rather than a destination.
Alternate destination you ask? Why yes...Trogir!
Alternate Final Stop: Trogir
Trogir is a smaller harbor within Split County that is actually closer to the Split airport. Lined with the narrowest of cobblestone streets on the marina, I would choose this little town over Split any day. If you want to escape the mass crowds then go into Trogir instead of Split for your final destination. It makes for a great Yacht-watching coffee spot and has some of the best restaurants in Croatia.