Sure I’d heard of Korcula and Hvar, even Brac sounded somewhat vaguely familiar. But when a colleague suggested I should visit the Croatian island of Mljet, I shrugged and had to admit I’d never heard of it…
“One third of the island consists of National Park, there’s ample opportunity for hiking & enjoying the outdoors and above all it’s quiet and away from the crowds”, said Ken.
That was all the convincing I needed! So on a sunny Thursday morning, around 10am, we found ourselves boarding the Kapetan Luka catamaran from Korcula to Pomena, the biggest settlement on the island.
There are only 2 main settlements within the National Park: Pomena and Polace. We stayed in the latter, a 5km from where the catamaran dropped us off. It was the end of tourist season and Polace looked pretty desolate: it’s the kind of place that heaves with people in July and August, but goes back to its sleepy self for the rest of the year…
Do take a look at the Roman palace ruins near the entrance of the village. They date back to the 5th century!
And Polace is a good base to explore Mljet. Turns out there’s a lot packed in these 100km²
1. Explore the lakes
The jewels of Mljet National Park are Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero aka Big Lake and Small Lake and the best way to discover them is by walking or cycling along the shores. Clearly signposted paths are bordered by pine trees and full of flittering colourful butterflies. If you’re in need of a break, it’s just a matter of getting down to the shore and dip your toes in the calm, balmy waters. A small bridge connects Veliko Jezero with Malo Jezero. It’s a perfect spot for a swim if the current isn’t too strong. If you’d rather be on the water than in it, you can rent kayaks nearby.
2. Take a boat to Sveta Marija
St Mary’s island is a tiny little islet in Veliko Jezero that boasts a Benedictine monastery and a church. It’s so tiny that it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to walk around it! Take a peek into the church, stop at the little votive chapels or walk slightly inland to see (and smell!) the stalls where the animals used to be held. There are plenty of swimming opportunities and a big café, which could easily have you linger on for the rest of the afternoon!
The boat to Sveta Marija leaves from Pristaniste.
If you stay in Polace, it’s a 25-30 minute walk or you can take the hourly minibus (included in the price) that leaves next to the Roman palace. It takes roughly 20 minutes time walking from Pomena.
3. Visit Odysseus’ cave
I came across the legend of Ulysses (or Odysseus as he is also called) on my previous travels to the Greek island of Ithaca. It turns out the man ventured out into the Croatian waters too! Fair enough I guess, if he was away for over 10 years!
The southern coast of Mljet is home to an egg-shaped cave said to be the place where Ulysses was shipwrecked and remained trapped because of nymph Calypso who ruled the island.
We walked from the main road near Babino Polje on a well-signposted track for about 20 minutes to get to the overlook point. Allegedly you can scramble further down from there and go for a swim in the cave, but it did look quite precarious, so we stayed on higher ground. Still, well worth a stop!
4. Take a road trip around the island
You’ll probably spend most of you time around the lakes, but it’s definitely worth venturing further. The best option is to rent a car or scooter. Although the island is rather small, it does take quite a bit of time to get somewhere because of the bendy and often hilly roads. We enjoyed passing a few lakes, the previously named Ulysses’ cave and checking out some of Mljet’s nicest beaches. Sutmiholjska is a soft pebble beach on the southern coast, tucked into a lovely wee cove.
If it’s sand you’re after, then make your way to the east of the island to Saplunara. Or even better: Blace beach, where pine forest borders the clear blue-green waters.
Veliki Grad is the highest mountain of Mljet, sitting at an altitude of 514 meters. I’d loved to climb it, but we were running out of time, so we settled for a hike up to the observer’s hut to the peak of Montokuc, within the National Park. It’s a lovely and not too strenuous walk through the forest. The views at the top over the lakes and the Peljesac peninsula on mainland Croatia are absolutely stunning!
On the way back we took a small detour to the hamlet of Govedari, to the north of Veliko Jezero. It’s a traditional village with just under 200 inhabitants, a place where locals live throughout the year, which is different from Pomena and Polace, that mainly thrive on tourism.
How to get to Mljet
If you are a foot passenger, you can take the daily catamaran Kapetan Luka (April-October) from Split, Hvar, Brac, Korcula and Dubrovnik. This will take you to Pomena.
Additionally The catamaran Nona Ana sails once a day from Dubrovnik and will leave you in Polace.
The only way to get there by car is to take the daily car ferry to Sobra, in the eastern part of Mljet.
It leaves from Prapatno, on the Peljesac peninsula
How to get around
If you are staying in either Pomena or Polace, the best way to get around the lakes and discover the National Park is by walking or cycling. Well-signposted paths will take you up viewpoints, past hamlets and around the shores of the lakes. For the less mobile, a minibus will take you from the Roman ruins of Polace to Pristaniste, on the northern shores of Veliko Jezero.
To get to St Mary’s islet, you need to take the boat from Pristaniste. The price is included in the entrance price for the National Park.
If you want to venture out further, you can rent a car or scooter. I’d personally recommend a car. Although the island isn’t that big, it does take time to get somewhere, because of the bendy and hilly roads. You can rent bicycles, cars or scooters in either Pomena or Polace.
We rented a car from Mini Brum in Polace. (lovely name for a rental company, don’t you think?)
It cost +/- 50 euro for a full day. The cars are pretty old, but since there’s only one company on the whole island, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of choice…
Entrance to the National Park
You will find official entrance booths in Pomena, Polace and Pristaniste. While you can probably just ignore them and walk on, there is the more than the occasional spot check to see whether you bought a ticket or not throughout the park.
Between June and September, tickets are 125 kuna per person (price 2018). The price is the same for one day or several days, so make sure you let them know how long you are staying to avoid paying several times! The price includes the minibus from Polace to Pristaniste and the boat to the islet of St Mary.
Further information can be found on http://np-mljet.hr/en/visit-us/price-list/
Have you been to Mljet? Any other Croatian islands you would recommend?