October 9, 2018 – Croatia has more islands (some 1,244 in all) than some people have had hot dinners, and some of them are truly unique and spectacular. Meet six of the most unusual on the Adriatic.
Life in Dalmatia before tourism was extremely tough. Food was scarce, the land unforgiving, and people had to work hard to cultivate the land to feed themselves. The rocky terrain did little to help, but locals persisted, clearing the land of rocks so they could grow food, and building stone walls to protect their precious crops from the elements. Dry stone walling is an ancient art which has been proposed for UNESCO heritage, and there are surely no better examples than on the tiny island of Baljenac in the Sibenik archipelago.
Just 0.14 km2 in size, Baljenac has an astonishing 23.35 km of dry stone walls on the island, painstakingly constructed in the 19th century to allow for the cultivation of grapes and olives. It has become known as the Fingerprint Island for its distinctive look from the air – could it be more than a coincidence that a Dalmatian was the first to discover the power of fingerprinting in solving crimes back in 1892, as Hvar-born Ivan Vucetic solved a murder in Argentina with evidence of a bloody print?
Take a tour of Baljenac in the video below, and spare a moment to appreciate the amount of work needed to construct those walls on an island with no settlements.
Looking for a romantic symbol of love? Look no further. A pristine, heart-shaped island in the middle of the azure waters of the Adriatic – could there be a more perfect image to promote a destination. And when you have an innovative tour agency in the region to make dreams come true, the sky is the limit. Back in 2009, boutique agency Secret Dalmatia had a request to organise a luxury picnic on Galesnjak, where the client wanted to propose to his love… on the Heart-Shaped Island! All turned out well, and you can read the whole story here.
The island has undergone a cosmetic change since the photo above was taken, as one of the owners cleared the land in two straight lines a few years ago, in order to plant olives. It remains an exceptionally beautiful image from the air – take a tour in the video below. Galjesnik grew in popularity back in 2009 (the time of the marriage proposal) after it was discovered on Google Earth.
What to do if you have a tiny islet and you are competing for attention with 1,243 other islands? Building a stunning triangular stone fortress on top to protect the neighbouring city from attackers, and you will be rewarded with inclusion not only in articles like this, but also upgraded to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sibenik is the only place in Croatia with not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after the Fortress of St Nicholas joined the stone Cathedral of St James on the list in 2017. Construction by the Venetians back in the 16th century, St Nicholas has played an essential role in protecting Sibenik over the centuries since.
4. Gaz, Brijuni
They say that humans adapt to their environment, but perhaps the same is true too of islands. What to do, for example, if you are surrounded by abundant fresh fish for millennia? Perhaps start to change your shape to resemble those swimming around you? There is perhaps a more plausible explanation for the shape of the tiny fish-shaped island of Gaz in Brijuni, but like the Fingerprint Island above, a wonderful symbol of Croatia for branding purposes.
(Photo Romulic and Stojcic)
5. St Mary on Mljet
Having 1,244 islands is one thing, but what about an island within an island, with a 12th-century Benedictine monastery taking up a quarter of the island? Such is the case on the island of Mljet, which needs no introduction for its beauty. Half of Mljet has been given over to a national park, and both St. Paul and Odysseus were shipwrecked here. Head inland to find the island with the island surrounded by a divine saltwater lake called Veliko Jezero (Big Lake). The small island of St Mary is a popular tourist attraction and one of the symbols of Mljet.
(Romulic and Stojcic)
All of the above islands are beautiful from the air, and their shape or location within another island are the biggest factors in their uniqueness.
And then there is the island of Pag, which is surely one of the most unusual islands in the world. Located in a part of the Adriatic where the famous bura wind blows strongest (indeed Pag Bridge, which connects the island with the mainland) is considered the prime spot to observe the full force of the bura in full flow,
Parts of it resemble the surface of the moon, as the wind has stripped the island back to its bare bones over the centuries.
Pag even has its own unexplained UFO landing site, the Pag Triangle (see video above).
But if you thought Pag was just a barren wasteland, think again. It is famous for its salt, world-class cheese and the best lamb in all Croatia, as well as the country’s premier part spot at Zrce. And then take a trip to the western tip of the island, just a short drive from the barren moonscape, to witness one of the true wonders of Croatia – the ancient olive grove of Lun, with more than 1,000 islands which are over 1,000 years old.
Croatia, the land of more than a thousand islands – which one is your favouite?