Welcome to our ultimate Croatia island hopping itinerary, 1 week of jumping from sun-kissed isle to sun-kissed isle in the long, thin backbone of the Balkan Peninsula. We’ve aimed to create a trip that will take in both high-profile and more off-the-beaten-track corners of the country, along with everything from pebble coves to soaring mountains to charming Croatian towns and villages.
It’s got plenty of bucket-list locations, including the party-mad summer resort island of Hvar and the nature reserves of lovely Mljet. However, we’ve also dropped in other spots you might not have heard of, whether that’s the lunar-esque world of hidden Pag or the wildflower-covered island of Kaprij.
You can do our Croatia island hopping itinerary 1 week in either direction. We’ve laid it out going north to south below, but we’d recommend flipping it for springtime trips, to give the destinations in the Bay of Kvarner (the northernmost part of the plan) some extra time to warm up. We’ve also assumed you have access to your own yacht for this one. Although it’s doable on public ferries, that will take longer and involve multiple changeovers at mainland ports along the way.
Day 1 – Krk to Pag
Our Croatia island hopping itinerary 1 week begins on the island of Krk. It’s easy to get to, as it’s one of the few islands that have a direct road link to the Croatian mainland. You’re looking at a 2.5-hour transfer down from the airport in Zagreb, and less than an hour if you’re coming over from the port town in Rijeka. Easy.
Take some time to enjoy Krk itself. A huge place, it’s a real mosaic of different landscapes and habitats. We especially love the eastern shoreline, which is sun-scorched stone from head to toe. That hosts the lovely little village of Vrbnik, which soars with its Italianate church on a 50-meter-high limestone crag.
The best beaches on Krk are probably in the south. They include Zala Stara Baska (a narrow sliver of pebbles with ultra-clear Adriatic waters) and Draga Beach (home to high coast hills and hardly another visitor most months of the year), although you can sail the rugged shoreline to find inlets and beaches that no one else knows about.
The route to Pag will take you right through the heart of the Kvarner Gulf and the northern Croatian islands. The most obvious place to make a pitstop will be Rab. It’s a lovely option with a quaint capital that has red-tiled roofs and a quad of intriguing medieval churches. Alternatively, push straight on to Pag itself, which greets sailors with the olive groves of the northerly Lun Peninsula.
Day 2 – Pag to Kaprije
Pag might just be the most stunning Croatian island that you’ve never heard of. It’s not really like its compadres at all. Yes, there are dashes of olive groves in the north, and some lush green meadows clutching the coast lagoons. However, for the most part, Pag is decidedly rocky and rugged, with landscapes that would fit right in on some desolate rock in some long-lost corner of the outer solar system.
There’s certainly no desolation when it comes to things to do on Pag, mind you. Not a chance. Moor up the yacht and you could find yourself navigating shadowy passageways in an ancient Roman aqueduct in the town of Novalja. You could be bird spotting after long-legged herons in the marshlands of Veliko Blato. You could be roaring over the inland hills on an ATV to see the gravel hills of the Pag Triangle.
At night, there’s one place that gets super-lively on Pag: Zrce Beach. An unexpected hit of Ibiza-level hedonism, this one’s got mega clubs like Aquarius Zrce and Kalypso, which have enough clout to bring in some seriously big-name DJs. The main party season is between June and August, but there are also usually events on in May and September.
If you choose to party then we’d recommend leaving the evening’s sail to Kaprije the next day. That way, you can enjoy the shindig and let the salty Adriatic air cure your hangover while you cruise towards the low-key escape off the coast of Zadar.
Day 3 – Kaprije to Split
Waking in Kaprije or sailing in on the morning of Day 3 of our Croatia island hopping itinerary 1 week should signal a noticeable slowing of the pace of your trip. This laid-back member of the Sibenik Island Archipelago was named for its backcountry blooms of wild capers, although most of those have now been replaced by olive farms and vineyards (we’re certainly not complaining about that though, eh?).
The place is super quiet. Notice how there’s no din of petrol engines. That’s because autos aren’t even allowed on Kaprije. It’s a car-free island and all the better for it! The main thing to do is to hike the winding walking paths that now web through the grape vines on the hills. They can take you to some lovely beaches – our favorite has to be the pint-sized cove of Mala Nozdra on the south shore, a snorkeling mecca that we had to ourselves for a few hours one summer!
After a long lunch enjoying the local cheeses and olive oil in the main town, hop back on the boat and set a direction going south-southwest. Your aim? The city of Split. It’s one of the most iconic towns in the country, offering history and nightlife in equal measure. You’ll probably arrive quite late, so be sure to moor up and get stuck into the bars ASAP.
Day 4 – Split to Brac
This morning is all about exploring the old heart of Split. The entire thing is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you know? It was once the great palace complex of the Roman emperor Diocletian (hence the name of the district: Diocletian’s Palace). Covering about 50% of the center of the town, it’s been altered and added to a lot over the past 2,000 years, but you can still see the outline of the old imperial apartments and the gorgeous peristyle entranceways.
Either before or after you delve into the center to get that fix of history, it’s also worth venturing to the outskirts of Split. The city has some lovely beaches up its sleeve, especially around Park Suma Marjan to the west. Don’t miss Kasjuni Beach if you’re craving a dip. It’s the liveliest of the lot, offering a chance to people watch while the locals play hacky sack in the shore waters.
The afternoon’s sail will whisk you further south again, out to one of the undisputed jewels of central Dalmatia: Brac. This island is a beach lover’s dream, but, as you’ll probably be getting in towards evening time, let’s leave the sands until tomorrow. For now, stick to the town of Supetar on the north coast, where you can see the sunset from the Church of the Annunciation and enjoy some fantastic seafood taverns.
Day 5 – Brac to Hvar
No Croatia island hopping itinerary, 1 week or 10, could possibly miss what’s arguably the finest beach in the whole country. That’s what kick starts Day 5. It’s known as the Golden Horn (or Zlatni rat in the local lingo) and boy is it a stunner! Expect a long, pointed finger curling a little into a blue-green Adriatic Sea, with a tuft of scented pine forest on top and blazing white pebbles below.
We could spend weeks on end there, but you’ve only got a morning, because the next pitstop is famous in another way. Yep, Hvar Island awaits. Chic, stylish, doused in champagne and dotted with elegant hotels, it’s like Ibiza meets Bodrum with a hefty sprinkling of Croatian charm on top. The sail isn’t far – you can see Hvar perfectly from the south side of Brac on a clear day.
When you arrive, moor up as close to Hvar Town as you can (sadly, many of the best spots are usually occupied by millionaire yachts!). Make for the marina to start the drinking session. It’s a buzzy, vibrant quarter, with wine bars and cocktail joints that spill onto the old flagstones. Later on, there are a few places that really stand out from the crowd for proper parties: Hula Hula, Kiva Bar, and Carpe Diem.
Day 6 – Hvar to Korcula
Korcula is the next island over from Hvar going southwards. It’s also a fine place to chillax after hitting the dancefloors and rakija in Hvar itself. At least, it would be were it not for the excellent wine. The native posip grape variety is hailed for creating some of the best crisp and uber-dry whites in the country, so be sure to add a taste of those to your to-do list.
You’re likely to notice just how green this one feels from the outset. It’s true – Korcula is clad from end to end in patchy pine woodland. Sometimes, the forests cascade all the way down to the shoreline and the result is a pretty special beach. The few on the island that are sure to make the jaw drop are Vela Przina in the east, little Bacva Beach, and the mountain-shrouded inlet of Pupnatska Luka.
Later on, sail or drive back to Korcula Town. It’s the main hub of the island, set dramatically over a headland that pokes out into the waters on the north-west coast. Aside from charming Croatian taverns (check out Skver for Dalmatian pastas and homey Balkan meat and fish dishes), it’s got cobbled streets that converge on intriguing historic sites like the House of Marco Polo (rumored to be the onetime home of the revered explorer himself!).
Day 7 – Korcula to Mljet
Mljet is one of the greenest and lushest of all the Adriatic islands. It’s also the terminus of our Croatia island hopping itinerary 1 week, letting you finish off with a blast of real Balkan nature. Yep, a whopping two thirds of the place is given over to woodland, while the western haunch of the island is a designated national park. We hope you packed your hiking boots, folks!
Forget the beaches, on Mljet it’s all about exploring inland. The piece de resistance is the duo of saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero (the big and the small lakes). They unfold amid the protected pine groves to offer deserted forest paths, which open now and then to offer glimpses of the lovely Benedictine Monastery that caps off St Mary’s Island in the middle of it all.
Pomena is the prettiest place to stay. It’s actually within the national park on Mljet but offers a clutch of highly rated boutique hotels and konoba (Croatian tavernas). Oh, and once you’re done here, there are plenty of options if you’d like to turn your Croatia island hopping itinerary 1 week into something longer, not least of all a hop to Dubrovnik, the medieval city of Game of Thrones fame!