Croatia is home to over 1,200 islands, and two weeks into my travels through the country I had seen exactly zero of them. Before you judge me, allow me to brag on Croatia’s behalf. This country has so much more to offer than just its beaches (and its relevance as a key Game of Thrones filming location, for that matter). Sure, Croatia is probably better known for its sunny coast and azure waters than the Roman ruins and quirky museums that I spent my time exploring. But at this point, I still felt like I’d developed a fairly well-rounded perspective of the country.
Apparently not. When I arrived at my hostel in Dubrovnik, I was given a 30-second pitch for all the different excursions the hostel could sign me up for. Among these options was a boat tour of the nearby Elaphiti Islands. “If you don’t visit the islands while in Croatia,” the hostel worker told me, “it’s like you never came to Croatia at all. Trust me, you’ll regret it.” I’m a sucker for strategic advertising, and an even bigger sucker for the invocation of future FOMO. So I dutifully forked over my kuna without question, and prepared to set sail the next day.
My college roommate was in town, so together we woke up (with great difficulty) at the early hour of 7am to get ready for our island hopping adventure. After we’d picked up our resquite chocolate-croissant-and-coffee combo, we headed over the port to embark. For some reason, I’d been under the very misguided impression that our chariot for the day would look something like the big, fancy white boats I’d seen floating around the day before. Instead, we were beckoned into a charmingly dinky, deceivingly small blue boat that I am sure was doing its very best not to crumble under the weight of the 50 tourists bumbling on its deck. It was a tight squeeze, but somehow we all made it on.
We crowded into one of the boat’s back seats, where an eclectic crew of fellow island hoppers joined us. Among them, a Scottish couple in their 70s, who insisted on reminding us that they were just partners and not married, thank you very much. Throughout the trip, they kept us entertained with quick banter and acerbic commentary that their thick Scottish accents only augmented. On the other side of the table sat two nurses based in the UAE; one from Canada, the other from the U.S. In a true testament to pan-North American solidarity (if such a thing does exist?), we spent much of the day together debating the merits/drawbacks of Speedo swimwear and the ideal conditions for effective tanning—in addition to, you know, real topics.
If you don’t make it to the islands, you’re missing out.
Our little blue boat chugged across the Adriatic Sea, brining us to three different islands. First up was Šipan, the largest of the islands, where we checked out Roman ruins and roamed through botanical gardens. Afterwards, we headed to Koločep, an island lined with lush vegetation and tons of olive groves and tree-filled orchards. On Koločep, we sampled luxurious olive oil like true cultured connoisseurs. Our last stop was Lopud, which is known for its stunning sandy beaches. It’s Lopud that I have to thank for the deepest tan I’ve ever developed, and believe me when I say that my gratitude cannot be more sincere. I mean, how embarrassing would it be to leave Croatia without a tan? How on earth would people know I’d spent my summer on the Adriatic? (I jest, I jest).
By the time our diligent little waterborne vehicle brought us back to Dubrovnik’s port, I felt much hungrier, much tanner, and much more appreciative of the Croatian islands. If the three Elaphiti Islands I visited are any indication, then the hostel worker was totally right: if you don’t make it to the islands, you’re missing out. Of course, now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’m insatiable. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, just know it’s because I’m working on getting to the other 1,197 islands.
Lydia packed two pairs of shoes for her travels in Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. She is counting on her well-worn, well-loved sneakers to carry her through coastal markets along the Adriatic, majestic ruins of ancient cities, and Balkan national parks. She also packed a pair of festive sandals, intended for long walks on the beach and questionable hostel showers alike. She considers this an exercise in versatility. When she isn’t carefully curating the most austere of packing lists, Lydia enjoys crafting incredibly niche Spotify playlists and reminding people that she is from California.