island hopping croatia
Starting Point: Venice or Pula
Finish: Dubrovnik Length: 6 to 9 Days
Featured Islands: Mali Losinj - Cres- Kornati – Vis – Hvar – Brac – Kočula – Mljet – Sipan – Lopud
• Not every ferry link runs every day, or indeed throughout the year. In fact, there are a number of travel legs that only operate in high season (from the beginning of June until the end of September), or even only in July and in August. Also, just because a ferry link operates for instance on Monday at 11.00, it does not mean that the same link leaves at that time the next day. Therefore, upon arrival at a particular ferry port, it might be best to check on your subsequent departure time. • Many ferry links are operated by catamarans, so this tour can only really be conducted without any vehicles. But this will save you a considerable amount of money. Most ferry links will not set you back more than 5€ per journey. • It is not necessary to book foot passenger tickets in advance. These can simply be purchased at the ferry terminal. • I have listed those ‘bottlenecks’ where ferry services are limited and might only operate once a week (for instance from Vis to Hvar). These restrictions of course will shape your itinerary, but there are plenty of daily ferry services on other parts of the journey, which would allow you to spend more than one day in one place, and rest your weary bones on an Adriatic beach. The entire trip can be made in 8 days, but you could certainly extend your stay to 3 or even more weeks. Where feasible, I have listed ‘side excursions’ to other islands. • The main ferry operator is the former state-owned monopolist Jadrolinija (www.jadrolinija.hr). Upon joining the European Union in 2013, Croatia had to liberalise its transport system, and there are now a number of smaller operators, who are keen to grab a slice of the market, most notably Kapetan Luka (www.krilo.hr), Catamaran Line (www.catamaran-line.hr), as well as G&V Line (www.gv-line.hr). • On most ferries, on-board catering is limited to a café service, so do not expect three-course meals, fine cutlery, and linen tablecloths. But prices are reasonable and sipping a coffee or beer on deck and watch the wonderful scenery unfold is one of the true pleasures of this tour. • • There is currently no ferry link between Croatia’s fifth biggest city Zadar, and its second most populous, Split. A ferry operator called Envira planned to offer a service starting in 2019, yet, so far, this has not happened, so you might want to check at www.croatiaferries.com for an update. Hence, for now, travelling between Zadar and Split is done by overland bus. Handily, the bus terminal in Zadar is located just a short work from the ferry terminal. Bus services are frequent, cost around 6€ and take approximately three hours. At the other end in Split, the ferry departures are right opposite the bus terminal. • When planning your journey, you also have to factor in the ‘bottleneck’ between Vis and Hvar Town. This link only runs once a week (on Tuesdays at the bright and early time of 7.00 am). Should you miss that link, you have to travel the two hours back to Split (3-4 times a day throughout the year), before journeying onwards to Hvar Town (of course, it this is too much hassle, you might just have to skip Vis altogether). • A number of islands do not feature on this itinerary (my apologies to the tourist offices on Brač and Krk, or the national park administration of the Kornati islands). This does not mean that they are not worth a visit (far from it). I just did not manage to fit them in. • Travelling up and down the coast becomes more challenging between November and March. The weather during these months can hardly be described as stormy (it is the Mediterranean after all), but certain ferry connections at this time of year have shut down for the season. As such, travelling onwards from Hvar to Dubrovnik is not possible. But a trip from Pula to Zadar and then from Split to Vis, Hvar and Korčula is still very much doable during that time. And you have the added advantage of practically being the only tourist on board. • I have chosen Venice and Dubrovnik as the start and end points of this journey because of ample flight and other transport links. But Zadar and Pula (with Ryanair links), as well as Split (with a train connection to Zagreb and a sizeable international airport) are just as feasible. Should you need to get back to your point of departure, regional bus services should do the trick. But journey times can take a little longer (for instance, it can take up to 10 hours to get from Split to Venice), so you might need to plan some additional overnight stops. For bus connections, try www.thetrainline.com.
Leg 1: Northern Part: Venice – Rovinj – Mali Losinj – ZadarThis link is only suitable for travel during July and August, as there is no onward journey from Rovinj outside of these months. You also have to keep in mind that the ferry from Rovinj to Mali Losinj only operates on Fridays. You therefore ought to leave Venice on a Thursday at the latest in order to arrive in Zadar on a Saturday. This would allow you to proceed with the second leg of the journey from Split to Dubrovnik. On Sunday, you could take a bus from Zadar to Split, in time to catch the Monday ferry to Vis (which would then allow you to take the once-a-week Tuesday ferry from Vis to Hvar). • Any day of the week but Thursday the latest: Venice to Rovinj, just under 3 hours 17.00: Ferry Operator Adriatic (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or 17.15: Ferry Operator Venezia (every day)• Fri: Rovinj to Mali Losinj, 2 hours10.40 am. Ferry Operator: Trieste Lines• Sat: Mali Losinj to Zadar, just under 3 hours 10.30 am. Ferry Operator Catamaran Line 16.30. Ferry Operator Jadrolinija• Sun: Bus to Split
Leg 1: Northern Part: Venice – Pula – Mali Losinj – Zadar.There is a very regular service on this route throughout these four months. Between Venice and Pula, we have 5 services a week in June (2 times on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). In July and August the frequency increases to 7 times per week (2 times on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In September it is down to four times a week (2 times on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Between Pula and Mali Losinj, a 3 ½ hour crossing by Catamaran is offered twice a week in June and September (on Wednesdays and Saturdays). July and August give you 6 options (two on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). Between Mali Losinj and Zadar, you can take a quick Catamaran (just under 3 hours. Ferry Operator Catamaran Line). In June and September the ferry leaves on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In July and August, it is every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is also a much slower (just under 7 hours) regular ferry operated by Jadrolinija. In June and September, the service operates on Mondays and Fridays. In July and August it operates every day. Once again, if you are planning on tackling Leg 2 from Split to Dubrovnik, you have to leave Split on a Monday, so make sure to arrive in Zadar on a Saturday at the latest to allow for the ‘overland’ bus transfer between Zadar and Split. Hence, maybe the following would work:
From Mali Losinj: The charming Venetian town of Cres (on the island bearing the same name) is only a relatively short hop from Mali Losinj. There is a year-round service departing at 6.00 am (Sundays adds a merciful departure at 10.00 am or at 12.00 in July and August). The trip takes 2 hours and is offered by Jadrolinija. You can return to Mali Losinj on the same day (15.55 in low season; 17.25 on Sundays. 18.30 between June and August).
From Zadar: Before continuing your journey to Split, you could do worse than spending some time in the Kornati islands (a maritime national park). Several tour operators, all located near the ferry terminal are offering daily excursions. For a proper Robinson Crusoe experience, you can also book a week-long stay on your own private island. Check out www.touristagency-lori.hr/en
On Hvar: Hvar was voted as the No.1 island in Europe by readers of Condé Nast in 2019, so expect some crowds. Hvar Town is undoubtedly beautiful, and stunningly so, but you might want to check out the more low-key towns of Stari Grad, Jelsa and above all Vrboska. Public buses can take you to these places, with the bus station in Hvar Town located just next to the cathedral Sveti Stjepana. From Jelsa, there is also a daily ferry to Bol on the nearby island of Brač. Unfortunately, the ferry departs at 6.00 am (7.00 am on Saturdays), but the schedulers at Jadrolinjia showed mercy and are offering a Sunday service which leaves Jelsa at 13.00 and returns at 17.10. This should be enough time to walk through Bol and on to nearby Slatni Rat; the brochure-famous, heart-shaped beach. But don’t expect too much: you will not be alone, and it only looks sandy in glossy magazines. All of these services operate year-round, so are a wonderful option to extend your trip when travelling during the off-season. You can also travel onward from Bol to Split (on the same boat that took you to the island from Jelsa, so you need an overnight stay), in case you do not wish to return to the island of Hvar.
From Dubrovnik: As mentioned before, Dubrovnik can get stiflingly crowded, so you might be well served to stay in nearby Cavtat, at the foot of Dubrovnik airport (whilst taking a dip in the sea, the planes will be coming in over your head). From Cavtat you can take a regular ferry service (at least 4 times a day, up to 14 times in high season; ferry operator Adriana). The trip just takes 30 minutes. And if you still do not have enough, from Dubrovnik you can explore the car-free island of Lopud; a short 1-hour hop (around 3 – 4 daily ferries year-round; ferry operator Jadrolinija), where for once you can enjoy truly sandy beaches.