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Croatia's most scenic islands explored

The long Adriatic coastline of Croatia is a floating jigsaw puzzle of mainland and islands, in varying sizes and degrees of calm. It's probably not until you reach your holiday destination that you'll be aware of the beauty and number of Croatia's islands.

Of course, being surrounded by the blue Adriatic Sea, means the islands have some stunning beaches, many edged by lush forests. Plus lots of the isles are traffic free, with a couple so close to the mainland you don't even need to get on a boat to get there.

A natural resource

If you're staying in Porec, a trip to Saint Nicholas island should be on your holiday checklist. You may well be overwhelmed by this island's natural and manmade features.

On the one hand there are sandy beaches and a lush, cool forest, but conversely it's home to a summer jazz festival and boasts a 15th-century lighthouse – one of the oldest in Croatia. A trip by boat to this tiny, traffic-free island will help you get away from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life.

Offshore means islands

The island of Hvar manages to combine a party vibe with some fantastic scenery. Just off the coast of the Makarska Riviera, this island is the place to visit if you're looking for a picturesque old town and plenty of attractions to boot. With its 13th-century walls and gothic architecture, brimming with cafes and bars, Hvar Town certainly has curb appeal.

The rest of the island is typified by stunning beaches and lavender fields – Hvar retains its rustic charms despite increasing popularity with visitors. Six minutes away from Hvar Town lies the abandoned village of Malo Grablje, where you can wander around before having lunch at the village's one and only inhabited building - which just happens to be a restaurant.

Close to the mainland

The island of Saint Katarina is just a 15-minute walk and ferry ride away from Rovinj, but despite its proximity to the mainland, this charming destination is light-years away from contemporary life. Mainly covered by pine forests, Saint Katarina is also home to a vineyard, olive groves and some stunning local flowers. Whether you choose to spend the day here to swim and sunbathe or would prefer to just wander about taking in the island's natural splendours, you're certainly in for a treat.

Drawbridge entry

There aren't many Croatian islands that you can access across a drawbridge, but Ciovo is one, and it's just a five-minute drive away from Dubrovnik. The island is located directly opposite the town of Trogir, and as it's so close to the mainland, a drawbridge is by far the easiest and most fun way to reach it.

Expect to see some charming ancient and inhabited villages scattered around this beautiful destination, as well as some architecturally interesting churches. Vegetation includes both coniferous and deciduous forests, as well as olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees. The combination of stunning architecture and lush vegetation helps to enhance Ciovo's charms.

Mysterious and beautiful

Once you've discovered Solta, off the coast of Split, you might never want to leave. This is an immaculate jewel of an island, measuring five kilometres by 20. It delights with its medieval stone houses, with the tiny village of Gornje Selo being heavenly to explore.

Whether you spend time in Solta's port or wander inland, you'll soon notice an absence of many people. Time stands still here – and for that reason Solta is definitely worth a visit.

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