The Kornati Islands National Park between Sibenik and Zadar is a spectacular archipelago that includes 109 mostly uninhabited islands, islets, reefs and craggy rocks scattered like jewels over an area of 224 square kilometres. 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 but the stark almost lunar magic of the islands is still bewitching. It's a sailor's paradise.
Entrance to the National Park
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 largest island (32 sq km) is Kornat and the main settlement on the island is Vrulje. Although uninhabited there are a few dozen houses available for rental and a couple of restaurants open in summer. Other than that the sleepy island is cultivated for olives, figs, grapes and citruses.
Don't miss the 6th-century Tureta fort high on Tureta hill, built during the Byzantine era.
Things to Do in the Kornati Islands
Swimming & Snorkelling
The sparkling clear water offers extraordinary visibility. The protected bay on Levrnaka island is the most popular swim spot and there's a konoba for refreshments.
As the protected national park area includes the waters around the islands, the diving is excellent, especially around Rasip. The cliffs that plunge into the sea create a seascape of caves, tunnels and walls that host an incredible variety of sponges, crustacians and colorful small and medium-sized fish. It's essential to dive with an organised group that has obtained the necessary diving permits.
Most of the island terrain is privately-owned which makes it inadvisable to stray from paths and trails. There are two educational trails on Trtusa and Panitula islands that trace the history of human habitation and explain the region's unique history and geology in a series of marked panels. A more demanding hike takes you to the top of Metlina (237m) on the island of Kornat. The views over the entire archipelago make it all worthwhile. Also try Opat peak on Kornat island, Litnji vrj on the island of Vela Smokvica and Otocevac on Piskera island.
There are no hotels on the Kornati Islands but there is a smattering of apartments and homes to rent, mostly in Vrulje on Kornat island. Luxury-lovers abstain! Water is at a premium and services are basic. But it is the best place in Croatia to relax and get away from it all. You can even stay in a lighthouse!
Lighthouse Tajer on Sestrica island BOOK NOW
Another option is to stay in nearby Murter and hire boats to the Kornati islands.
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.
Geology and Ecology
The national park is part of an archipelago that includes some 140 islands within 300 sq km. 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.
Getting to the Kornati Islands
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 coming with your own boat, tickets to the national park can be purchased online here. If you don't have your own boat, you can book an excursion from in Zadar which is the closest major town to the national park. There are a number of travel agencies in Murter which will also take you on a Kornati island tour.
Tourist Information for the Kornati Islands
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.
Video of the Kornati Islands
UNESCO tentative World Heritage Site--why the Kornati Islands should be included
Last updated April 7, 2022