Beautiful islands near Dubrovnik

Your guide to exploring Dubrovnik's nearby islands

Croatia's long Adriatic coastline is blessed with over 1000 islands, nearly 50 of which are inhabited and make an excellent day trip or holiday destination. Whilst European holiday-makers of the last century have tended to flock to Italy or the Med for their island getaway, these enchanting islands remained largely unexplored by international tourists.

  1. Sipan
  2. Mjlet
  3. Lastovo
  4. Hvar
  5. Korcula
  6. Lokrum

But now the world is waking up to the beauty of the Croatian islands, something that the locals have known about for centuries. Characterised by forest-covered hills, crystal-clear waters, long summers, traditional villages, tiny populations and unspoilt natural landscapes, if you're planning a holiday to Croatia mainland or arriving in Dubrovnik, check out our round-up of the best six islands can you visit from Dubrovnik.

1. Sipan

The largest of the six Elafiti Islands, Sipan is just 80 minutes by catamaran from Dubrovnik. Less than 500 people call Sipan home, so if you visit outside of the peak season, it's easy to feel like you have the place to yourself. The two main villages are located on either end of the island - east and west - and connected by a 5km trail that you can either hike or cycle, and rarely encounter a car. Don't expect all-night parties, clubs and raves, Sipan is a quiet island. It's perfect for families looking for a quiet getaway.

Best island for: natural beaches and authentic villages.

Where to stay: the small capital of Sipanksa Luka or sleepy Sudarad.

2. Mjlet

Frequently dubbed as an 'island paradise', much of Mjlet is covered by a thickly-forested national park. Characterised by rolling hills and abundantly covered with pine and oak, beneath the trees lie two, deep blue saltwater lakes. Mjlet is one of the most verdant islands in Southern Europe. In keeping with its reputation for tranquility, accommodation on the island is in pleasingly short supply (there is only one hotel), which is why many visitors just come for the day. However, those lucky enough to secure a bed for a few nights will find it hard to leave this truly enchanting island. You can get to Mljet from Dubrovnik in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Ideal for: nature lovers, hikers and wild swimmers.

Must-try activities: kayaking on Malo Jezero lake and swimming in Odysseus Cave.

3. Lastovo

The whole island of Lastovo is a protected natural park. It is one of the most remote and undeveloped islands in the whole Adriatic. Light pollution on Lastovo is incredibly low, making it one of the best places in Southern Europe to view the night sky. Just like Mjlet, accommodation options are purposefully restricted, so visitors need to book well in advance. Rugged and mountainous, Lastovo is better suited to those looking for challenging hikes rather than a week sunbathing on a sandy beach. That being said there are a handful of natural pebble beaches that are perfect for swimming from. As a stopping point for migratory birds, it's a great place to spot rare species.

Top island activities: birdwatching, scuba diving, hiking and sailing.

How to get there: the daily catamaran service from Split (3 hours).

4. Hvar

The most glamourous of all the Croatian islands and arguably the Jewel of the Adriatic Crown, Hvar has long had a reputation for playing party host to the rich and famous. The Greeks founded the ancient town of Stari Grad, but today the island is popular with the international yachting crowd. The waterfront features a number of high-end bars, restaurants and boutique shops, but beyond this lies a fertile natural landscape that is well worth exploring. Ferries travel from Dubrovnik to Hvar in just over 3 hours.

Best island for: luxury holidays and yachting enthusiasts.

Hvar's historical highlights: Hvar Cathedral, Hvar Fort and Tvrdalj Castle.

5. Korcula

Dubrovnik's 'mini-me', the island of Korcula boasts a perfectly preserved medieval old town that occupies a small peninsula. You can easily spend a few pleasant afternoons exploring this 13th-century fortress, with its charming orange roofs and bell-towers, but don't leave Korcula without catching a traditional moreska (sword dance) display. Rumoured to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, it's been ruled by the Greeks and the Venetians who both left their mark. Today the island is well-known for its world-class wine production, home as it is to the best vineyards in Croatia which produce award-winning Plavac Mali red and Posip white. A ferry from Dubrovnik to Korcula takes just under two hours.

Popular activities: touring the vineyards by bike, snorkelling and renting a boat for island hopping.

Must try: the island's award-winning Plavac Mali red and Posip white wine.

6. Lokrum

Perfect for a day trip, the ferry from Dubrovnik to Lokrum takes just 15 minutes. Despite its proximity to the mainland, there's only a smattering of buildings on Lokrum Island, including the ruins of a 11th-century Benedictine Monastery, which has now been partially reclaimed by nature. Be sure to fit in a walk around the meticulous Botanical Gardens of the Maximilian Palace, complete with its own flock of peacocks. If it feels like the perfect place to take shelter from the world, you'd be in good company, Richard the Lionheart sought solace here on his way back from the Crusades.

Good to know: many of the beaches are for naturalists, so check first.

When to go: in Spring and Autumn when there are fewer day-trippers.

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