When island hopping in Croatia you typically hear of Havar, Bac and Vis which are part of the Dalmatian Islands. While these are all worth experiencing don’t be quick to overlook Croatia’s northern islands, as so many other travelers do when visiting. Northern Croatia is less touristic but just as beautiful as the south! Croatia’s ferry system connects all the popular Croatian islands and it is easy to use, affordable, and pretty comfortable as well. After visiting both the north and the south we highly recommend adding Croatia’s northern islands to your island-hopping itinerary.
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Understanding The Croatia Ferry & Catamaran
Croatia Ferry: When talking about a ferry on the Croatian islands it is referred to as a car ferry. If you are traveling through Croatia with a car this will be your only option to get from island to island. However, you can also buy a walk on passenger ticket if you don’t have a car. For traveling without a car the ferry is often cheaper than a Catamaran, but doesn’t run as often and takes longer.
Croatia Catamaran: A Catamaran is specifically for passengers, meaning no cars. This is important to note because if you get the two confused you will be in for a much longer trip through Croatia’s northern islands! As it’s faster and slightly more expensive than the ferry, the catamarans typically have more sailing days and is the way to travel throughout the islands with no car.
Why is The Difference Important?
We walked into a ticket office and asked to buy a ticket for the “ferry” that was leaving the next day. We were quite alarmed when we were told that there wouldn’t be a ferry for several days.
Quickly the confusion settled when they realized we were talking about the catamaran and not the ferry. Most of the time you actually buy the tickets at separate places. This means if you’re looking to buy a Catamaran, but are asking where to get Ferry tickets you’ll end up at the wrong place!
Croatia’s Northern Islands Route and Schedule
Well now for the most essential question. How do you get to the Croatian islands? Leaving from Zadar, we recommend taking a catamaran past all the islands you want to visit and working your way back.
In high season the Catamaran runs between the islands every other day, while in the shoulder season it’s every three to four. Also, the Croatia ferry system (where passengers can also walk on) runs on opposite days. So between the two you should be able to travel easily through the islands with just a little planning.
Croatia Ferry Weather Warning
Unfortunately, if the weather is bad the ferries and catamarans will stop running. On the island of Mali Losinj we went to buy our tickets for the next morning, and the women selling them said it wouldn’t be possible. There was a storm coming, and it wouldn’t be until the morning when they’d decide if the boat would run.
As you can see, this is one the possible hurdles of traveling in the shoulder season as we did. With no set plans and nothing booked in advance it didn’t matter for us because it would only mean spending more time on Mali Losinj. However, if we had hotels booked or even a flight out this could have been seriously bad. Just something to be aware of when traveling through the Croatian Islands!
Croatia’s Northern Islands
This route is based on the catamaran service that we used running from Zadar to Pula. There are other islands to visit though, and you can use this guide as a recommendation for islands that we know are easily accessible on one catamaran line.
Most travelers will likely use this for completing a round trip journey to Zadar. Nevertheless, we highly recommend continuing north from Pula and into Slovenia. We explored Piran, Lake Bled, and Ljubljana easily using the bus system, and fell in love with the country.
Cost: Traveling one way on this catamaran system runs about $30 USD. So if you travel round trip and stop in the islands plan for around $60 USD in ferries. As mentioned before, Croatia’s ferry system is slightly cheaper but the journey is also longer. These prices reflect what we paid on our trip, but it can change so double check for yourself.
Start in Mainland Zadar Croatia
As the gateway to the northern Croatian islands your journey probably starts in the port city of Zadar. Full of life and culture, this popular Croatian city is more than just a way to get to the islands.
Make sure to plan at least a night or two before or after the islands to see all that Zadar has to offer. Get lost in the romantic streets of the old town, swim from the steps of the Sea Organ, hike the bell tower, and taste all the food specialties of Croatia.
1. Silba Croatia
This island is quickly gaining popularity for its relaxed lifestyle and simple charm. As an island of pedestrians you wont find any cars, and even bikes are rare.
This small island which spans just 15 square kilometers is a must visit for anyone looking to relax and truly live the simple island life. So what’s the best part about Silba? Of course the beaches, coves, and clear glass water that surround the island!
2. Ilovik Croatia
If you circled the island of Ilovik it wouldn’t take very long because its just under 10 miles around. Due to it’s distance from the mainland, this spot is for any travelers looking to get away from the more touristic Croatia.
Less than 100 residents reside on Ilovik year round to give you an idea of how truly small it is. Stock up at the one market or dine at the small handful of island restaurants if you’re looking for some interaction. Otherwise, spend your days exploring the small coves and getting lost in the Mediterranean nature!
3. Losinj Croatia
Arriving into the main town of Mali Losinj you’ll quickly realize that this island is different from the others. Bright buildings paint the small hillside that make up the town, and restaurants line the water promenade.
The dark green trees that fill the island give off a more tropical feel than others, and the countless beaches allow you to find complete seclusion no matter the time of year. With more life and resources, this island in northern Croatia is great for a short or extended visit.
4. Susak Croatia
If you’re looking for a small romantic island to spend lazy days soaking in the sun and relaxing in the water, then Susak is for you. The smell of oregano fills the air as it can be found growing freely all over the island. As soon as you step off the Croatia ferry you will feel the world slow down, and island life set in.
5. Unije Croatia
The complete island escape can be found on Unije. When pulling up in the Croatia Ferry only a few people disembark the large boat and wander into the small cluster of buildings that make up the town. If you want to feel as if you are literally one of the only tourists on the islands and completely disconnect, then Unjie is the perfect place to spend a few days in Croatia.
Back to Mainland Pula Croatia
Pula isn’t another one of Croatia’s Northern Islands, but instead a large port city. It’s only a two hour bus ride from the Slovenian town of Piran, making it the perfect jump off point to the islands if you are traveling from Slovenia. Pula is home to one of the oldest Roman amphitheaters, and features much more history and architecture for you to take in.
Ready to take off? We hope this guide gives you an idea of Croatia’s northern islands and getting around using the Croatia ferry system. If you have any favorite islands in the north please let us know! Also, leave any questions or comments you have about island hopping Croatia at the bottom of this post.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Croatia Travel Planning
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. You can book a blue cave 5 islands tour from Split, go sea kayaking in Dubrovnik, or take a day trip to the famous Krka National Park.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Croatia, you can even take your car on the ferries so you have wheels for the different islands!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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