Island Life

After spending two weeks making my way down the coast of Croatia, I’ve completely fallen for this country. Couple that with a closer examination of my emergency passport, where I noticed it has less pages than I originally thought, and I decided to extend my time in the country.

With around 11,000 islands in Croatia, it was glaringly obvious it was time to go island hopping. That has been the very loose plan, but given the last minute-ness of it all and the fact that we are rapidly approaching peak season has meant my ideas and plans have shifted a couple times along the way.

I’ve been trying to keep my options open regarding when and where to visit on the islands. From Dubrovnik I only booked the first island ferry and accommodation.

Mljet Island

(pronounced mE-et)

This location really excited me. It’s a smaller island that has a National Park that covers a large portion of the island. The apartment I booked was in the small town of Polače which has about 80 permanent residents, and was inside the park!

The first day I took full advantage of the quiet and solitude that the tiny town provided, and mostly stayed on my balcony working and enjoying the gorgeous harbor views. The sun shone bright but temperatures are still fairly low, sitting around 25º (77ºF), perfect for lounging.

My second full day was spent deep in the national park. Because the town is set inside the park, it took less than five minutes from my door to be deep in the woods.

There are two beautiful salt water lakes in the park that are fed by the Adriatic via a very narrow canal. Being protected from the sea at large and the multiple tides per day, create a unique oceanic location. The waters are extremely clear and blue.

Within the larger lake, Malo Jezero, there is an island that has a Benedictine monastery that dates to 1177. The park, and the island at large, contain many ruins that date as far back as the Late Antiquity period, but there is evidence that the island was inhabited as far back as the Illyarians in 5th century BCE.

After a wonderful hike around the lakes, I challenged myself and undertook the arduous climb to the highest peak on the island, Montokuc. Before I set off, I wondered aloud how hard it could be since its really not that high up (only 235 meters). Given that I’d already been hiking for about four hours and didn’t have all that much water with me, I should have known better.

In any case, I did reach the top, and it was well worth it, the views were stunning!

For a closer look at the loose route I took for the day, you can check out this really cool interactive guide map from the Croatian parks service,

Korčula Island

(pronounced Kor-choo-la)

My next island location was Korčula and the town of Lumbarda. A bit larger at around 1200 residents, it’s a destination for many Croatians on holiday.

Through a bit of pre-planning, my friend Leah was on the island at the same time, was staying in the town of Korčula and met me at the ferry port. Before I headed to Lumbarda to check in, we went for a cocktail at one of the most unique and impressive bars I’ve ever seen.

It’s on top of a 15th century watch tower in old town, and requires climbing up some intense stairs and through a tiny brick hole, but you’re rewarded with one of the most amazing views from a bar you’ll ever find. Top that off with a great selection of perfectly executed cocktails (I imbibed a Pink Negroni) and you’ve got a winner in my book.

The next afternoon, Leah, and a couple others from her hostel, came over to Lumbarda and we ambled to Popić winery to taste a unique wine. Grk is a crisp, dry white wine whose grape varietal is only found on this island. It is also unique in that it only has female flowers and requires another grape with males, usually Plavac, be grown next to it in order to pollinate. We finished our day with a walk to the eastern most point on the island to watch the waves crash against the rocky shore.

I spent the remaining days on the island taking it slow, getting some work done, enjoying plenty of cafe, balcony and beach time, even sneaking in an amazing 5k run through the vineyards and along the sea.

Brač Island

(pronounced Bra-ch, like branch without the n)

My original idea had me going to the island of Hvar, but I wasn’t find accommodation that matched my needs. Maybe that’s because its now June and peak season has kicked into gear. I have definitely noticed an uptick in both open restaurants AND especially in prices.

So instead of opted for the town of Bol on the island of Brač. The third largest island in Croatia, Brač looks and feels like one giant rock, with the few towns on the island scattered around its perimeter wherever flat-ish terrain is found.

I had heard from several others that Bol was much less touristy than Hvar, so I’ve been a bit shocked at how touristy it actually is. Perhaps I am thankful as Hvar might be even a bit more. The town has the feel of a resort town, which in and of itself, isn’t an issue but when prices rise to meet that vibe its a bit disappointing. But that’s ok, as I booked a full apartment here and planned on cooking in the full kitchen anyways!

No trip here is complete with a visit to one of the most famous beaches in the entire Adriatic, Zlatni Rat or the Golden Horn. As mentioned previously, I’m slowly becoming a beach person and this one is definitely a favorite. Plenty of room for everyone, smaller pebbles than most beaches in Croatia and a gentle slope into some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen.

After a couple of mellow beach days, I needed something a bit more aggressive to challenge myself a little, so I woke up early one morning with the ambitious idea to climb the tallest peak in the whole of the Adriatic area, Viduva Gora.

This was quite possibly the most difficult hike I can remember ever doing, ranking right up there with the sunrise volcano hike a few years ago in Bali. It’s “only” 780m tall but boy does it pack a punch! At times I felt like I was climbing straight up a cliff face.

The hike took me just over 90 minutes to reach the summit, which in retrospect, might have been a tad aggressive on my part. I did make a few stops along the way to admire the views and swill down some water, but for the most part I was trudging up the mountain.

I was at least smart enough to start out in the early morning when the temperature was a manageable 25º (77ºF) at 7am. By the time I returned to my apartment at 11am it was already pushing 30.

The views from the peak were absolutely stunning and so worth the effort to reach them. It was a bit hazy but I could still see as far as Korčula Island, where I had been just last week. I was told on a clear day you can actually see Italy!

A day later and my legs and feet are still cursing me, as I write this. Today’s agenda includes laundry, some more beach time and preparations for tomorrow’s departure to my next chosen adventure.

I’m honestly extremely sad to see my time in Croatia come to an end. This country has surprised me in so many ways. It has felt like home from the moment I landed in Zagreb over a month ago. Its people are humble, friendly, generous and genuine, and its landscape is so diverse and dramatically beautiful in ways my brain still can’t comprehend. While I do technically still have two months left on my visa here, I feel like I’ve seen and done so much, and am ready for what’s next.