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Mystical Mljet, Croatia: Introduction

Crystal clear lakes on a Mediterranean ethereal green isle, in turn surrounded by a brilliant, deep blue sea may sound like something out of a fairy tale. Yet this is the reality on forest-shrouded Mljet, an island just two to two and a half hours hours (including the ferry ride) from the famous Croatian city of Dubrovnik. The main tourist trail and Game of Thrones hype is left behind as soon as you step off the boat at the port of Sobra. Instead, the enchanting landscape fills your eyes and the peaceful, quiet air soothes your soul. You immediately realise that it is both a destination to explore for its scenery, as well as to enjoy a true rest away from hustle and bustle.

(All photos by Novak Elčić, who travelled to Mljet with Dino Zelenika in May 2018. Contact Novak here: https://www.facebook.com/novakelcicphotography/)

 

Driving around Mljet, there is serene, unspoilt beauty in every direction. Its villages, with their typically Dalmatian red roofs and white walls, are authentic and timeless. True tourist traps are hard to come by on Mljet. Unlike in and around Dubrovnik, most beaches are quiet, even in the high tourist season of July and August. At Saplunara, on the eastern part of the island, there are even golden sandy beaches; a true rarity in Croatia, where they are normally gravel. Across Mljet it is possible to find spots with just a handful of other people, or even all to yourself!

Above: One of the sandy beaches at Saplunara

The westernmost part of the island is the only locality that gets lively with tourists (mainly only in the high season). However, there are good reasons to brave the potential crowds here. This area is home to the two lakes of Mljet-called the Great Lake and Small Lake-and the entire area is protected as a National Park. In an almost surreal scene, on the middle of the Great Lake is a small island on which sits the 12th century Benedictine monastery of St. Mary. You may swim in both lakes; they are now saline, as a result of the monks excavating a passage to connect them with the Adriatic Sea in the Middle Ages. The water is warmer, yet just as beautifully pure as the surrounding Adriatic.

 

 

 

The monastery itself can be visited by using one of the regular (and free) ferries. After admiring the glistening lake and forest-clad hills circling all around, you will be transported back in time to the Middle Ages and beyond. Particularly impressive are the original medieval features of the monastery church, and the 16th century architecture and fortifications of the living quarters. Fortifications were necessary, for until the 19th century the island was plagued by piracy. Behind the monastery are ancient Illyrian and Roman ruins, proving that Mljet has been inhabited for thousands of years.

Above: Great Lake of Mljet

 

If walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits are your passion, you are also in the right place. Across the island are countless walking and cycling trails through enchanting forests and along stunning viewpoints. Along the way you can also admire Mljet’s ancient villages, such as Babino Polje. Many still have medieval street plans, and some even retain their piracy watchtowers.  Because pirates harassed this region for so long, all settlements were built inland until the 19th century. Therefore, much of the history lies away from the coast.

All in all, Mljet is the perfect place for families, individual travellers and adventure seekers alike. Prices are also much lower compared to Dubrovnik, with many good deals to be had for both food and accommodation. The only potential downside is that there are no true nightclubs on the island, and partygoers might be a tad disappointed. Yet there is no shortage of beach bars and good food and drink, and coming to the island may turn into a good decision in retrospect even for them.

Stay tuned for another instalment on Mljet, where we will explore its landscapes, history and myths.We have barely scratched the surface of what this amazing island has to offer!

(All photos by Novak Elčić, who travelled to Mljet with Dino Zelenika in May 2018. Contact Novak here: https://www.facebook.com/novakelcicphotography/)

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Always included

– Airport transfers
– No single room occupancy charge
– High quality accomodation
– Breakfast and most meals
– Airconditioned minibus transport
– Guides, tours, admission fees
– Vegetarian meals options