Although more expensive than other Croatian islands due to the scarcity of hotel facilities, the exclusive Mljet, whose name in Greek means ‘honey’ and derives from the bees in its forests, deserves more attention.
A large chunk of the island is enclosed in a National Park that is the main tourist attraction. With an extension of 5400 hectares and a marine area 500 metres from the coast, the park is a small natural paradise to explore on foot, by bike or by boat.
Illustrious visitors from the past are also said to have found peace on the welcoming land of Mljet, such as the legendary Ulysses, a voluntary prisoner of the goddess Calypso for seven years, and St Paul, who was shipwrecked in the year 61 AD and stayed on the island to preach the gospel for three months.
There are a total of 18 villages and settlements on the island of Mljet. Of these, only Polače, Pomena, Goveđari, Soline, Babine Kuće, Njivice, Velika Loza, Tatinica and Pristanište are located within the national park.
The administrative centre of the island is Babino Polje.
Almost all tourists come to the island with one purpose in mind: to visit the enchanting Mljet National Park . Established in the 1960s, it represents the first institutionalised effort to protect the original ecosystem in the Adriatic.
The stars of the park are the two salt lakes located on the western end of the island, Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero (smaller lake and larger lake): they are connected by a natural channel, while Lake Veliko Jezero is also connected to the sea via the Soline Channel.
The two lakes were formed 10,000 years ago and were originally freshwater. They certainly represent a very important geological and oceanographic phenomenon, but tourists are impressed more by their beauty than by their uniqueness.
Many tourists choose to visit the Mljet National Park on an organised tour departing from Dubrovnik, Split or the neighbouring islands of Korcula or Hvar.
If you come to the island on your own, you can join one of the official park tours. Standard tours usually last two hours, but you can request a guide for half a day or a full day; you can also choose between walking and cycling tours and VIP tours.
You can also visit the park independently, and this is certainly the most fascinating way because you can go at your own pace and stop whenever you want.
The Mljet National Park can be explored on foot along marked trails, but it is equally beautiful to explore it by bicycle and mountain bike along the cycle paths. Another way to appreciate the beauty of the landscape within the park is to hire a canoe.
From the highest peaks you can enjoy a wonderful view of the entire park and the Adriatic Sea.
It is possible to swim in both the smaller and the larger lake: the lake waters are exceptionally clear, but if you prefer to swim in the sea, you can reach a beach by taking a path from the park along the rocky coast and then descending.
In the centre of Lake Veliko Jezero is the picturesque and very romantic St. Mary’s Island, on which stands a Benedictine monastery built between 1177 and 1198, now disused.
The monastery complex includes the Church of St Mary, a series of small chapels and the area where the monks once lived.
The church dates back to the 12th century, like the rest of the monastery, but was modified several times over the centuries: the original core is still clearly Romanesque, but Baroque and Renaissance touches are evident.
The islet can be reached by boat from Mali Most or Pristanište, included in the park entrance fee.
Polače is the oldest urban settlement on the island, founded in the time of the Illyrians and Greeks. Numerous more recent ruins from Roman times can still be seen, including an imposing 5th century palace, the ruins of an ancient fortification and an early Christian church.
The town is located in a sheltered bay and is one of the largest tourist resorts on the island, with most of the rooms for rent concentrated here.
From the harbour of Polače one can see the islets of Tajnik, Ovrata, Kobrava and Moračnik.
The small village of Pomena, named after the palm tree, lies on a bay along the north-western coast of Mljet, protected by four islets.
Because of its proximity to the lakes in the national park and the presence of the only hotel on the island, Pomena has become the most important tourist resort on the island, which has provided the impetus for the construction of new houses.
Here you will find sports grounds, diving and sailing schools, bike, canoe and surfboard hire.
Sobra is a small bay on the western side of the island of Mljet and is also the main port, where ferries from Dubrovnik and Prapratno arrive daily. The village is well connected by a bus line.
Although there are fewer than 100 residents in the village, you can easily find some accommodation here: there are also a couple of restaurants.
Mljet is an island not overrun by mass tourism, however there are several options for sleeping, almost all of them private flats, which locals rent out to tourists during the summer months. The island is traversed along its entire length by road 120, and it is along it that practically all the villages are located. Note that there are no very large towns or villages: the island has only 1000 inhabitants in total.
Starting from the west, one comes across Pomena, Govedari and Polace, all three of which are part of the Mljet National Park. Sleeping here guarantees absolute tranquillity, as these are three small villages with only a few dozen inhabitants and essential services. Continuing eastwards once you have left the national park, there are the villages of Ropa, Blato and Babino Polje. Here, too, it is tranquillity that prevails, also because they are all far from the sea, and the housing solutions are exclusively flats.
The next stop is Sobra, another tiny settlement, this time on the north coast, from where ferries to Prapratno on the Peljesac peninsula arrive and depart.
Then there are the villages of Prožura, Prožurska Luka and Okuklje, all looking northwards, and finally we come to Saplunara, the easternmost village on Mljet, in a truly enviable position on the edge of a wind-protected bay facing south. Saplunara also has a beautiful sandy beach with sunbeds and umbrellas for hire, making it an ideal choice for families with children.
The island of Mljet can be reached by catamaran from Dubrovnik or a ferry from Prapatno on the Peljesac peninsula. The island’s main port is Sobra, a village located on the north side.
The island ofMljet is one of the southernmost islands in Croatia, in the region of Dalmatia. It lies about 5 kilometres from the Peljesac peninsula, the closest point in mainland Croatia. The eastern tip of Mljet overlooks the Elafiti archipelago, a series of small islands that reach as far as the coast of Dubrovnik, the country's southernmost city.
Mljet is elongated in an east-west direction, around 40 kilometres long and only three kilometres wide. The western tip is entirely protected, forming the Mljet National Park, and is the closest point as the crow flies to Italy: Vieste, in the province of Foggia, is about 135 kilometres away. However, the island is located at the same latitude as the northern Adriatic coast ofAbruzzo, more or less at the height of Giulianova.