Have you ever dreamed of a perfect getaway? Everyone drifts away once in a while, dreaming of a peaceful oasis in the heart of green landscapes and blue depths.
Southern Croatia treasures a place so fairytale-like it will blow your mind. Its rare beauty stuns everyone lucky enough to find themselves on the grounds of this magnificent island. Island of Mljet, settled in the Dubrovnik Archipelago, was recognized as a unique eco-system and an island of rich heritage worth preserving over 50 years ago. One third of the island, more specifically the entire western part, was turned into National park in 1960, while its eastern part is a Reserve of Natural Rarities.
The green island
The first thing to notice is rich green vegetation abundant in Aleppo pine, stone pine and pine oak of which Mljet earns its “green island” reputation. Green slopes stretch over the hills down to the bluest sea. Flora covers most of the Park cultivating numerous endemic, and countless other plants characteristic for the Mediterranean.
The fact that the animal kingdom of this 5400 hectares large Park has not been fully explored speaks loudly of the abundance and the diversity of the islands flora and fauna.
The legend of Odysseus
The western shore of the island is a home to one of the most precious localities of Croatian Adriatic – the Odysseus cave.
The legend says that while traveling Odysseus ran into a fatal rock named Ogiran in the vicinity of Mljet shore. Ogiran was known to be “moody” as its visibility depended on the sea level. His ship was shipwrecked so he swam to the cave to find shelter. At the time the ruler of the island, nymph Calypso mesmerized him and the beauty of her and the island kept him trapped for 7 years. No wonder Odysseus was powerless to the stunning allure of the island and the cave.
In the hot summer days, around noon, sunlight spills over the walls of the cave creating an irresistible spectrum of colors.
Islet of St. Mary
One of the island’s most prominent features and an important geological and oceanographic phenomenon of the National Park are the two salt lakes. St. Mary’s tiny islet settled in the middle of Veliko Jezero (The Big Lake) and is the overall symbol of the National Park. A Benedictine monastery was built on the island in the 11th century. The monastery had quite a turbulent history, changing its owners and purpose. Two decades ago it was used as a hotel and is currently under reconstruction and renovation, but can be visited.
It might surprise you that the history of Pomena Bay dates from ancient times, when it was used as a side port for boats heading to Korcula. It was turned into a village when the fisherman of the island started building small warehouses to store their fishing tools and nets.
Up the hill, above the bay there is a belvedere Montokuc. Montokuc is magical. The view from there is just out of this world. As far as the eye can see, there is endless blue sea, green scenery and numerous tiny islands.
Another village worth mentioning inside the park is Polace. Polace ropes with archeological monuments such as Roman remains and ancient churches. National Park Mljet slightly changes its appearance throughout the year but its beauty remains infinite and is attractive to visit any time.
Traveling to Mljet
You can reach Mljet with catamaran line from Dubrovnik and ferry line from Split.
National park is open for visitors in all four seasons. During winter months advance notice is required. Park offers various guided tours. Biking tours are really popular at the moment as you get to see everything within few hours with the assistance of experts. Putting on your sneakers, hopping on a bike packed with camera and some refreshing beverage promises a fairytale adventure.
We are sure any visitor would be as powerless as Odysseus when visiting National park Mljet. Dipping your toes into the sandy shallows of Blace Beach and turning around with nothing else to see but epic nature is simply amazing. If you plan on visiting Croatia, make sure to curve your route over the Mljet National Park.
It will certainly be one of the best decisions you make on your vacation.
Author: Nikolina Dukic
Photo Credit: (1) Yacht Rent, Flickr; (2) National Park Mljet