Four quiet Croatian escapes
By Laura Gelder – August 2020 – 2 minute read
With relatively few cases of COVID-19, Croatia is currently on the FCO's 'safe' list. Here are four destinations which avoid the crowds and offer ample natural space for a socially distanced holiday.
Famous explorer Marco Polo is said to have been born in lovely Korčula, an island 20 miles long and no more than five miles wide on average.
The ancient Greeks called the island Black Korčula for its dense forests and it’s still green with woods as well as olive groves and vineyards, but the main attraction is Korčula Town. The medieval walled town is often compared to Dubrovnik, though much less crowded, thanks to its narrow streets of terracotta-roofed houses and palm-lined harbour front.
St Anthony's Hill is two kilometres from town, where a path lined with cypress trees leads to a 102-step stairway and eventually a chapel with spectacular views of the island. Korčula has lots of beautiful beaches - both pebble and sand - like Pupnatska Luka which is a crescent of stone backed by trees and cacti.
The Elafiti islands
This archipelego can be reached from Dubrovnik by ferry in as little as 30 minutes yet it's famously slow-paced and under-populated, making it the perfect escape from the over-touristed city.
Car-free Lopud has a seafront promenade of restaurants, boutiques and ice cream outlets and Šunj Bay is a prized sandy beach.
Sipan Island is a great place to rent a bike and explore the interior of olive and fig trees, vineyards and citrus groves. Sipan is famous for its wine and has lots of historical attractions and beaches.
Closest to Dubrovnik is Kolocep, with just two settlements – each with a beach – and no cars but plenty of paths connecting the villages with the coast and a verdant interior.
Just 23 miles from Dubrovnik, this wild and densely forested island remains unspoilt because two thirds of its 62 square miles belongs to the national park.
Though obviously surrounded by the Adriatic, Mljet is most well known for its two salt water lakes - Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, at the north end of the island. On the tiny island of St Mary's, in the middle of Veliko Jezero, there is an old Benedictine monastery. Kayaking and cycling are popular in and around the lakes and Mljet is well known for its white and red wine, olives and goat's cheese.
Other attractions include Polače village where there are the ruins of an ancient Roman palace; Odysseus Cave, where swimmers can enjoy turquoise water and see where the Greek hero was allegedly ship-wrecked and met a beautiful nymph called Calypso. Another popular swimming spot is the horse shoe-shaped Saplunara Beach.
Famous for its resident colony of rare griffon vultures at Beli, Cres sits in the Gulf of Kvarner and is one of Croatia’s largest islands but sparsely populated. Instead it's smothered with thick primeval forest and boasts a dramatic coastline of craggy cliffs, hidden coves and ancient hilltop towns.
Cres Town has a picturesque harbour where restaurants offer views of the fishing boats and its car-free streets are lined with pastel buildings. Four-thousand-year-old Lubenice is a crumbling but atmospheric town which hosts classical music performances outside in the summer. Also steeped in history is the former trading port of Osor which looks across a narrow channel to neighbouring island Lošinj.
Tramuntana in northern Cres is a protected natural area of forest, ancient caves (one complete with prehistoric bear skeletons) and abandoned villages criss-crossed by hiking trails. The Red hiking trail is populated with 20 sculptures created by a local artist.