The Most Beautiful Islands of Dalmatia

Šime Unić
The Most Beautiful Islands of Dalmatia

It no easy task to decide on the most beautiful islands in Dalmatia since there are over 1200 of them. Over the millennia, land-forming processes have made the Dalmatian coast into one of the most indented coastlines in the world. So, the numerous islands, peninsulas, and bays make up 74% of the eastern Adriatic shore. 

When the African plate dove under the Eurasian tectonic plate approximately 30 million years ago, it formed the Dinaric Alps, and part of the plates remained under what we now call the Adriatic Sea. 

Several million years after this occurrence, during the Ice Age, the sea level was about 100 meters below its present level. Almost the entire northern part of the Adriatic was dry and the islands connected to the mainland. Back then, the islands were a part of the mountain range called the Dinarides, which is today clear on any geographic map if you compare the layout of this range and the islands which parallel it going from northwest to southeast. 

With the end of the Ice Age and when the sea level rose, these mountains morphed into the islands whose beauty we now get to enjoy. It was difficult, but we managed to narrow our selection down to our five favorite islands.

Dugi otok (Long Island)

This island has a very fitting name given that it’s the largest island (45 km long!) of all the islands in the northern Dalmatian region. Those craving a few challenges can visit the southeastern part of the island which is rugged and lined with cliffs and where you can also walk about the enchanting Telašćica Nature Park. On the opposite side of the island, you can relax on the sandy beaches of which Sakarun is the most popular.

You can go about the island by car or bicycle and enjoy the many views, good food, take part in the local festivities, to trekking, play a round of paintball in the Saljsko polje olive grove and visit over fifteen archaeological sites.

Long island

Alongside all this, you can visit several cultural sites such as the romantic chapel of St Nicholas and the famous 42-meter-tall Veli Rat lighthouse which is the highest lighthouse of the Adriatic. We highly recommend climbing to its top (the fee is really modest) because the view is fantastic! An interesting fact: part of the lighthouse is for rent. But if this type of accommodation isn’t what you prefer, you can easily find some other properties for rent or even a few properties up for sale on Dugi Otok.

Telašćica Nature Park

The is surely one of the main attractions of “Long Island”. This nature park covers 70.5 km2, including the surrounding sea and its 13 islets. But the diversity of this island doesn’t stop there. Over 400 plant species now call this park home (some of them rare and endemic), in addition to 250 types of aquatic plants and 300 animal species.

Some of the most fascinating among them are the world-renown red coral and the unusual meat-eating sponge. And we can’t forget to mention the salt lake Mir which is a huge tourist attraction thanks to its medicinal mud and is also the place to find endemic species of eel. Overlooking all this, on a 200-meter-tall cliff, numerous birds are perched, including the Gray and Eleonora's Falcon.

Beneath these cliffs sits the Telašćica bay which is praised as one of the largest, most beautiful, and safest natural ports of the Adriatic.

Within this nature park, you’ll also find many other attractions; several archaeological sites, organized tours, water sports, bicycling routes, cruises, and an array of culinary experiences.

There are also some business opportunities here since, in the middle of Telašćica, there is currently an office space for sale, namely a former restaurant. Its position can’t be any better than it already is – right next to the promenade, beside the pier.

Sakarun Beach

If you go to the north-west end of “Long Island”, you’ll find the Sakarun sandy beach which almost seems the diametrical opposite of the cliffs of Telašćica. Here, the temperature of the sea is always perfect for swimming since the beach is located in a deep bay. Due to its warmth, natural beauty, and crystal-clear sea, it attracts many visitors.

But don’t worry – there’s enough room for everyone! The bay stretches along 800 m of sandy terrain, and the shallow sea is great for even the little ones to splash in carefree. You can get away from the sun's harsh rays in the shade of the pine trees, rent a parasol and deck chair or freshen up in one of the cafes or restaurants along the beach.

Sakarun beach - Dugi otok

Golubinka Cave – a Natural Wonder

The mysterious Golubinka cave is located on the southwest part of the island. It's well-known for the richness of its fauna; it’s home to 50 types of sea sponges and about 3000 bats! Apart from these animal species, you’ll be able to bathe in the enchanting tricks the sun’s rays play on the sea surface when they pass through the cave's gapes and cracks.

Pag Island

Pag has a reputation of being the most indented island of the Adriatic and, compared to Dugi rat, it’s characterized by poor plant coverage (the island is 86% bare!). The result is a glittering, rocky landscape. You can get to the island from the north, that is by boat from the Prizma harbor, or from the south via the Pag Bridge which is, obviously, connected to the mainland.

If its coast and landscape weren't the way they are, Pag wouldn’t be able to pride itself on these two splendors.

pag island

Saint Vid – a View That Will Take Your Breath Away

At 348 m elevation, Saint Vid is the highest peak of Pag. It’s worth climbing up to it just for the view; before yourself, you’ll see spread out the entire island, the entire Pag Bay with its saltworks, and the nearby islands of Rab, Lošinj, Silba, Olib, and Maun. At the top, you’ll find a small church dedicated to St Vid dating back to the 14th century.

The road to the top can be as easy or as difficult as you set it up to be; you can take the marked hiking trail from Dubrava or Kolan, but if you want to take it easy, you can take your car up to the top from the direction of Šimun. 

The Most Beautiful Beaches

Perhaps precisely because of its bare terrain, Pag is filled with numerous wonderful beaches, some rocky, some sandy, and some a mix of the two. Most of the beaches on Pag are perfect for family outings and are child-friendly.

Ručica beach is a combination of sand and pebbles. The easy entrance into the sea makes it a great choice for families with small children.

Planjka beach (a.k.a. Trinćel) is yet another sandy beach located near Old Novalja. Compared to Ručica, it has a lot more attractions such as a toboggan, trampoline, playgrounds for kids, sea rides, sports activities, restaurants, cafes, and so on. A Blue Flag flutters on this beach as a sign of its clean sea and sand. All of this makes it yet another family favorite.

Because of the clear sea, easy entrance, and a wide range of restaurants to choose from, the Caska sandy beach near Zrće is also a great choice for families that have children. 

caska sandy beachJadra, only a 20-minute walk away from Novalja, is one of the rare pebbled beaches which we wanted to make a note of here. However, this beach is also very popular among a broad range of visitors, including families with kids, because access to the sea is sorted out, and just above the beach you’ll find a sand-covered sunbathing area. Most of the beach is a great choice for families, and one smaller part of the beach is designated as a dog-friendly beach. Another thing to mention is that a part of this beach is also for nudists.

The Plat beach is rocky, but as soon as you step into the sea, you’ll be stepping on soft sand. It's a great choice for gatherings with family and friends, and even if you have a dog with you. Fun is guaranteed if you try out the canoes and pedal boats!

For the final attraction of the island of Pag, we wanted to highlight the pebbled beach Beritnica which is only 12 km away from Novalja. This oasis is a lot more secluded compared to the other beaches. It’s possible to get to it by boat or on foot (it’s a 20-minute walk away from Metajna). For the sportier types, this is a great choice since right above the beach, you’ll find a climbing spot called Stogaj. Also, every February/March, the trail run Life on Mars is held here as well.

Brač - What to Visit?

Brač is the most easily accessible island on this list and the closest to the mainland. And the visit is well worth it. Because of its good connection to the mainland and its numerous boons, Brač is becoming ever more popular so it's becoming rather hard to find a piece of property for sale here. However, you’ll occasionally come across a gem like this piece of real estate on the south side of Brač which has direct access to a pebbled beach and a heavenly view of the nearby islands.

If you're interested in cultural heritage, on Brač, it's worth visiting the defensive walls of an old Illyrian settlement from the 3rd century in Škrip (the oldest town on the island), the Roman fortress Radojković which has now taken on the role of the Museum of the island of Brač, the baroque church of St Mary in Nerežišća, the church of St Peter and Paul, also in Nerežišća out of whose roof you’ll see a tree growing, and so many other sites.

For nature-lovers, there are the quarries near Pučišća from which Brač stone was cut to build the nearby Diocletian's Palace in Split, as well as the White House in Washington, D.C.! The Dragon's Cave used to house a Glagolitic temple in the 15th century, the same priests that, in 1551, established the desert monastery in Blaca. Alongside this, there are plenty more natural wonders to visit. 

Vidova Gora (Mount St Vid)

At 778 m altitude, Vidova Gora is the highest peak of all the islands in the Adriatic Sea.

The scent starts on a paved road which starts at the plateau Kneževravan near Nerežišća. An alternative route is to begin at Bol, but this one is considerably harder, but also much more attractive. On that side of the island, clearly-marked and well-maintained mountaineering trails begin at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and lead through craggy terrain to the very top. 

The steep ascent is worth it when you’re greeted with a view of the open sea, the nearby islands of Hvar, Šolta, and Vis, and on the other side, the mountains of Mosor and Biokovo. Besides this, you’ll also be able to see the remains of an Illyrian hill-fort, an Old Croatian chapel and, as a nice refreshment, a tavern!

Zlatni Rat Beach

This pebbled beach attracts many tourists and was declared one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world! The favorable wind and currents make it a popular destination among yachtsmen. The infamous tip of Zlatni Rat constantly moves with the tides so it looks different every time you visit!

Sakarun Strand


Hvar is also becoming more and more popular with each passing year so people have found themselves practically fighting over an apartment for rent, or perhaps a piece of real estate which they can buy on Hvar.

Why? Besides an extremely rich (night) life, you can also see the Fortica Fortress on Hvar which dates back to the 16th century, as well as the Hvar Cathedral of St Stephen, the Hvar theater, the 15-century Franciscan monastery, a Benedictine monastery from the 17th century, and the Old Town Field (Starogradsko polje) whose history goes way back to ancient Greek times. You can go for a swim on one of the many sandy beaches around Jelsa, treat yourself to a ride through the lavender fields near Gdinj, or go for a boat trip to Paklinski Islands.


Paklinski Islands

This group of around 20 islets is located right in front of the town of Hvar and is a well-known tourist center today. Thanks to the aroma of heath that covers these islands (compared to the smell of lavender which follows you all over Hvar), the many restaurants, bars, and picnic areas, these islands attract many visitors and are brimming with life. They’re well-known for their nudist beaches as well for the many bays which are great for sailing such as Vinogradisca on the island of St Clement.

Paklinski islands


Somewhat calmer compared to the other islands we've mentioned so far, Šolta is a favorite among those looking for a bit of R & R.

Be it that you’re visiting the main port of Rogač, the “deaf” bay in Nečujam (named after its specific acoustics), or the bay in Stomorska, you’ll see clear seas everywhere you go, as well as cute stone houses, and bloats floating about. Šolta is full of charming, hidden gems such as the Maslinica bay and other small coves scattered around the island. If this ambient sounds good to you, you can also look into a piece of real estate on Šolta so you can enjoy it any time you like.

If you want to go on a summer vacation to one of these islands and rent an apartment or house, you won’t go wrong. Many people who visit them end up returning year after year and simply fall in love with their island of choice. Many even go on to buy a piece of property there so they can go whenever they feel like it. If you find yourself in this last category, you can check out the available pieces of real estate on these islands on Terra Dalmatica's official website.

Zlatni rat Strand

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