Visit the Croatian islands

Croatia has been an up-and-coming, and relatively affordable, holiday destination for some years now, and as such, some areas are becoming more and more popular with tourists.

Croatian islands and coast

Pic: AFP/Getty

Visit the glorious coastline and the many islands and it's easy to see why holidaymakers are beginning to flock to this beautiful country.

Sitting beside the clear waters of the Adriatic, Croatia's coastline is home to many gorgeous beaches. Many are stones or pebbles, but there are sandy beaches, and the bays and reefs hidden amidst the islands offer peace and quiet if you prefer to get away from the hotel crowds.

The island of Rab offers both sandy and rocky beaches, backed by rich Mediterranean vegetation, the most popular of which is 'Paradise Beach', which stretches along 1.5km of sparkling blue waters close to the tourist town of Lopar. An excellent choice for families.

On Hvar, meanwhile, you can either hang out in chic bars close to the azure sea, or take a water taxi to one of the many offshore islets that provide an idyll for those seeking a quieter day on the beach. And a visit to Brac, the largest of the Dalmatian islands, is a must, if only to spend an afternoon on the wonderful beach at Bol.

One of the cultural jewels of the islands is Korcula. The old town is medieval, with narrow stone lanes, each leading to the clear waters around the island. It is also home to a 15th century cathedral and museum where you can find artefacts from the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations.

During the Middle Ages, the Venetian Empire saw the beauty and natural harbours formed by the islands, and as a result, the beautiful architecture can still be seen not just at Korcula, but at Rab, Hvar and Cres.

Neither Croatia nor its islands are renowned as party destinations, but that's not to say they are devoid of nightlife. At the upmarket end of the scale, Hvar is definitely the place to see and be seen, as it has become popular with designer party crowd, and is home to boutiques, fabulous restaurants and cocktail bars.

For a more relaxed party vibe, head to Pag, the destination for summer beach parties and festivals. Here you'll find Zrce beach, which often plays host to all-day events like the Hideout festival, at which top international DJs partied the night away.

Rab also has a reputation for nightlife, attracting young people with its beach parties and live music.

Croatia is home to many National Parks, and perhaps the most famous among island hoppers is Mljet, Croatia's greenest island. It's an unspoilt island covered with dense Mediterranean forest within which you'll find two salt lakes. Furthermore, the water around Mljet is teeming with fish and marine life, and as such it regularly attracts divers.

Further north in the Kvarner region, Mali Losinj, an archipelago of more than 30 small isles, is also heavily forested, and there are many great places to hike and view Croatian wildlife, not least at Cikat park. Visit Veli Losinj for a guided tour at the Aromatic Island Garden and become acquainted with the gorgeous flora and fauna.

Meanwhile on Vis you'll find spectacular secluded bays, and can wander through the island's palm, pine, olive, fig and mulberry trees, or keep your eyes open for loggerhead turtles and bottlenose dolphins at beautiful Stiniva Cove.

All in all there are more than 1,200 islands off the coast of Croatia, and a little island-hopping is a great way to experience the varied landscapes and vibes on offer, though you may want to base yourself on one of the bigger, more populous islands such as Cres, Rab, Brac, Hvar or Korcula. There are, of course, luxury hotels available, but for a more affordable holiday where you'll experience the wonderful hospitality of the Croatian people, consider renting a room or apartment.

Have you visited the Croatian islands? Which would you recommend and why? Leave your comments below...