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Croatia’s Northern Islands

Croatia is renowned for its beautiful islands, with over 1,200, including 49 that are permanently inhabited. Unless you have unlimited time, it’s virtually impossible to explore them all on one trip. If you’d like to experience islands that are still relatively undiscovered, without the hordes of tourists that arrive at popular spots like Hvar, especially in the summer, consider visiting some of the northern isles. While each one offers something unique of its own, unspoiled beaches with opportunities for swimming and a variety of water sports, stunning national parks, and historic hamlets all await. From Rab and Krk to lesser-known Susak, there’s sure to be at least one of Croatia’s northern islands that’s ideal for your upcoming Croatia vacation.


Rab churches

Popular for its many beaches, including the aptly named 1.25-mile-long Paradise Beach (officially Rajska) with calm, shallow turquoise water, Rab Island is a great place to spend the day sunbathing, swimming, sea kayaking, jet skiing, and more. The forest on the Kalifront Peninsula is ideal for a stroll with scenic trails winding through a botanical reserve that’s home to over 500-year-old trees, including large olm oaks. Delve into culture and history in the town of Rab, with its historic quarter especially enchanting surrounded by ancient walls. Within the walls is a maze of cobbled streets hosting Renaissance mansions, and over two dozen Romanesque-style churches, including St. Mary’s with a bell tower rising more than 85 feet providing a picturesque view. 


View of Krk Town
Baska Beach, Krk

Tucked between the Istrian Peninsula and Dalmatia in the Kvarner Gulf, Krk is the Adriatic’s most populous island and one of the largest, covering 157 miles. As such, you’ll find plenty of things to do here, including exploring Biserujka Cave, complete with stalagmites and stalactites. Concerts are occasionally held here too. The best beaches can be found along the south coast, including the main beach in Baska, Veli Plaza, which stretches for over 1.5 miles and offers surfboards and pedalos for rent. Krk Town is ideal for sightseeing, home to landmarks like St. Mary’s Cathedral which dates to the 12th century. The Church of Sveti Kvirin, built around the same time, features Roman mosaics pointing to a 1st-century bathing complex.


Mali Losinj
Cikat Forest Park

Also located in the Kvarner Gulf, Losinj is known as the “Island of Vitality.” Long a favorite for wellness retreats, it offers stunning natural beauty, abundant sunshine, salty sea air, and lots of fragrant flora, from pine forests and eucalyptus trees to lavender, among countless other wild herbs. At the Losinj Aromatic Garden, you can smell, touch, and even taste the plants as you learn about their uses and enjoy the beautiful views that stretch to Velebit Mountain. Walk through the forest at Cikat Forest Park and enjoy uncrowded beaches ideal for sunbathing and swimming, while boat tours or simply walking along the Dolphin Way promenade on Mali Losinj brings the chance to spot the 250 bottlenose dolphins that inhabit the area.


Village of Valun on Cres Island
Aerial view of Cres

Cres rivals Krk in terms of size and while it may not be as well-known, it’s one of Croatia’s most spectacular and least developed. Its history dates to the Palaeolithic era, with the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and first independent Croatians all leaving their mark, something that can be seen in everything from early 16th-century Arsan Palace to the Venetian Cres Tower, built around the same time. But this is primarily a place to immerse yourself in natural beauty; there are enticing beaches ideal for swimming, caves, and lush forests, along with ancient hilltop towns. It’s also the last Croatian habitat of the endangered griffon with nine-foot-long wings, incredible to see flying against the backdrop of a colorful sunset.

Brijuni Islands

Open zoo in Brijuni National Park

A group of 14 small islands, including two main islands and a dozen islets, the Brijuni archipelago lies off the Istrian peninsula. Named a national park in 1983, they’re scarcely inhabited and boast a rich blend of natural, historical, and cultural heritage with a human presence from prehistoric times. There are many historical traces to discover, from the Neolithic settlement to Illyrian ruins and monuments dating from the Byzantine era and the Middle Ages. You can even see dinosaur footprints, with the ancient creatures roaming here more than 100 million years ago. While the surrounding sea is ideal for snorkeling and diving, visitors can also explore an archaeological site, an archaeological museum, a luxurious Roman villa, frescoes, and a Byzantine castrum.


View of Silba Island
Silba island with yachts

A picturesque island where time slows the moment you’re greeted by the sounds of the waves lapping against its shores, along with the sweet scent of the salty sea air and the pines, Silba is a car-free paradise. Its charms lie in its authenticity and simplicity, free from the noise of motor vehicles. It’s especially enjoyable to wander with peaceful cobbled streets lined with stone homes adorned with flowers. There are cozy cafes and family-run restaurants serving traditional Croatian dishes with fresh, locally sourced seafood and other ingredients, while serene evenings are often filled with the sounds of local musicians playing along the waterfront. While it’s a great place to relax, there are plenty of outdoor activities too, from swimming to hiking.


Pag Town
Pag Island

Much of Pag Island is barren, although it’s unique and craggy with a lunar-like landscape, especially on the side exposed to Velebit Mountain. Here, sheep outnumber the people 4:1 while Pag’s famous cheese, Paški sir, is one of the most acclaimed culinary exports in Croatia. It’s especially ideal when paired with the island’s tasty wine – Pag is also renowned for its long tradition of winemaking. Like many of Croatia’s islands, it offers magnificent beaches edged by a cobalt-blue sea, along with a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventure, mouthwatering cuisine, and surprisingly buzzing nightlife. Yet it’s also authentic. In the medieval streets of Pag Town, you’ll often see the local women stitching lace in their doorways.


View of Unije Island
Unije Town

One of the Adriatic’s most unique islands, Unije lies just west of Losinj in Kvarner Bay, with only around 50 homes in its main settlement, also called Unje, and a population of under 100. It’s entirely car-free making it popular among those who want to get away from it all. It’s also ideal for escaping the heat with gentle breezes that help to cool things off even on the hottest days of summer. Enjoy a mix of relaxation and exploring whether on foot or two wheels. Visitors will find a few sights like the remains of a Roman villa, the 15th-century Church of St. Andrew, and the 19th-century Vnetak Lighthouse which offers outstanding views of the sea and main village.


Susak Town
Susak Island

Susak may be a tiny island at just under two square miles with a population of less than 200, but it’s well worth visiting. Unique in that it’s made up almost entirely of golden sands, you won’t find any roads but rather trails that crisscross the island, providing a tranquil setting for escaping the hustle and bustle without the roar of motor vehicle engines. Herbs grow wild, including oregano, which is how its name came about, with Susk derived from the Greek word for the popular cooking spice. There’s plenty of scenic beauty to immerse yourself in, including idyllic coves with hidden beaches. The locals make it even more interesting as they speak a unique island dialect and even wear traditional costumes.



Premuda is an irresistible island for explorers, nature lovers, and photographers as one of the best-kept secrets in the Adriatic. It’s renowned among divers with an underwater cave system called the Cathedral for its enchanting beauty, while the crystal-clear waters beckon snorkelers to explore the rich array of marine life, including lobsters, octopus, and the occasional curious grouper. There are many secluded beaches and beautiful coves for relaxing while immersed in the gorgeous scenery. Plus, the island is a living museum, with many historical landmarks and sites that reveal its storied past, including ancient churches and old fortifications. When hunger pangs hit you’ll find everything from casual seaside taverns to upscale restaurants with panoramic views, with menus featuring lots of fresh seafood.

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