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©Ivo Pervan courtesy CNTB
The Kornati Islands archipelago in northern Dalmatia near Sibenik and Zadar includes 147 uninhabited islands and islets with a land area of only 70 sq km. The maze of unspoiled islands scattered over 220 sq km in the Adriatic is a sailor's paradise and is one of Croatia's most stunning national parks. The islands were visited by George Bernard Shaw who wrote "On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath". There are now a few more materials involved.
On the southwestern side, the coasts of the Kornati Islands are marked by steep cliffs or "crowns" that make the coastline unique and dramatic.
The main island is Kornat which has holm oaks on the northeastern side and some cultivation of olives, figs, grapevines and citruses. There are remains of Illyrian settlements and Roman ruins on Toreta Hill. At the foot of the hill are the remains of an early Christian church. Remains of medieval fortifications can also be found on the islet of Panitula. On Piskera there is a 16th-century church.
There are no hotels on the Kornati Islands and very little accommodation with the most basic services. A good bet is to stay on Murter island, just outside the national park where it's easy to arrange a tour.
There are some dining options on Kornat island. I recommend Konoba Opat for its excellent fish and seafood plucked directly from the surrounding sea and expertly cooked.
On some hills of the Kornati islands traces have been found of settlements and fortifications from the Neolithic period. It appears that Libernians inhabited the islands during the Iron Age as well as the Romans much later. During WWII, Tito's Partisans constructed a workshop to repair boats. The Kornati Islands were once owned by Zadar but in the 16th century Venice took possession and subleased the islands to Zadar families. Now they are divided between private owners in Murter and Dugi Otok. The lack of regular ferry transport has discouraged human habitation but those who own land on the islands graze sheep there and cultivate the land.
The islands are predominantly rocky and abound with karstic phenomena such as cavities, caves, gullies and crevices. Water collects in the karst cavities which provides the only source of water on the islands. Vegetation is scarce. There are no natural sources of water on the Kornati and the rainfall patterns are highly unfavorable to vegetation. The steep cliffs are home to various bird species such as peregrine falcons, common swifts and shags.
Yachters can find shelter in a number of protected coves but the main marina is on Piskera with 120 berths. There are no ferries between the Kornati islands and the mainland. If you don't have your own boat, you'll have to book an excursion on arrival in Zadar or Split. Even better is to book in advance. See day cruises around the Kornati Islands from Split, Zadar and Pakostane.
The Kornati National Park office (tel 022-434 662) is in Murter at Butina 2. They sell tickets to the National Park and have more information about arranging visits to the Kornati Islands.
UNESCO tentative World Heritage Site--why the Kornati Islands should be included
Last updated February 28, 2017
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