By Alex Cote
Alex Cote, aka The Mindful Mermaid, goes and checks out the beautiful and tranquil southern Croatian island of Lastovo.
There are very few things that will get me out of bed at 4 in the morning. Taking a ferry to a remote Croatian island surrounded by crystal-clear waters is one of them. Being the mermaid I am, I figured it was time to explore more of the Adriatic Sea. So when my friends asked me to venture to an island I’d never heard of before, I didn’t think twice.
As the furthest inhabited Croatian island, Lastovo doesn’t crave attention like some of its Dalmatian counterparts. The picturesque landscape of bright blue horizons and engulfing pines speak for themselves, attracting travelers looking to escape the crowds and tourist traps.
If you’re looking for an authentic island experience with truly untouched nature, look no further than Lastovo.
Here’s my experience, followed by my recommendations:
Ferries at Dawn
We booked the last available apartment for Lastovo the night before we left. There were only a handful of accommodation options, mainly apartments and villas. I immediately noticed that there were no corporate hotel chains on the island— an indication of the type of vacation atmosphere.
I packed minimally with only beach essentials, made sure my GoPro was fully charged, and set my alarm for 3:45 a.m. My boyfriend (Domeniko), two other friends of ours (Marko and Renata) and I were on the road by dawn.
The couple we traveled with decided that they wanted to bring their car to the island, which required us to take a ferry that also carries cars. This ferry went out of Peljesac, an hour and a half North from Dubrovnik. I was in a complete daze of sleep deprivation, but the beautiful sun rising over the mountains woke me up. With this view, perhaps I could become an early-bird.
The ferries are about the size of a cruise ship, with multiple floors and spacious inside seating areas. As soon as we stepped inside the second ferry, Domeniko shook his head and started laughing. He said that the interior design was true to Croatia’s communist roots. Looking around at the cold white walls accented by red cushion chairs and classic light-fixtures, I couldn’t help but feel I was taking a boat ride back to former Yugoslavia as well. Little did I know, the island I was traveling to was actually a former Yugoslavian army base.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
The combination of espresso and wanderlust kicked in, and I suddenly felt a jolt of energy seeing Lastovo on the horizon. I raced to the top of the ferry to watch as we neared closer to the island’s shores. I truly felt like I was dreaming as I took in the serene view before me.
In-land Lastovo is just as pretty as the coast, and the entire island is one of Croatia’s Nature Parks. We drove through the countryside and surrounding village to our apartment. The landscape was painted with evergreen and palm trees. 70 percent of Lastovo is covered in forest. I was intrigued by the accents of colorful houses along the way. My first impression was that the island was not necessarily groomed to perfection for tourists, which was refreshing coming from Dubrovnik.
Our apartment ended up being practically in the middle of nowhere on the complete opposite side of the island from the main part of the town. That evening we walked to the beach to swim and watch the sunset, and I’ve never seen clearer water in my life. At first I was nervous after seeing quite a few sea urchins. However, Croatians say that sea urchins are an indication of clean water, and are harmless if you watch where you step.
Thunderstorms and yachts
We woke up to a tapping on our window; the rain joined our vacation Saturday morning and stayed until the evening. We ended up staying inside, playing guitar and drinking, since our power went out and we didn’t have anywhere else to go. Although it was not what I had in mind for a weekend getaway, it was somewhat nice to unplug and have a simple day listening to the rain.
Later in the evening we met with our now four friends, two more joined us that afternoon, to walk around the port area. This area is booming with yachts who docked for the night or weekend. Judging by the variety of flags, Lastovo attracts travelers from all over the world. Even Bill Gates docked his yacht here in 2009 for a quiet night of ocean views and fresh seafood. No one gave him any trouble, because they didn’t realize who he was. Tells you a bit about the people here, doesn’t it?
We ended the day with a chill evening in our apartment drinking wine, which came to an abrupt end. It was not even 11:30 p.m by the time we heard a knock on the door. The host of our apartment was suddenly yelling at us (in Croatian) that we were too loud and she was scared we were going to break her wine glasses. I was shocked since we were practically whispering and all sitting calmly. I suddenly felt like I was a teenage being scolded for underage drinking. I got the feeling that perhaps some of the villagers are used to complete peace and quiet.
Down to the Old Town
We had a ferry to catch at 11:00 a.m the next morning, so we woke up early to do a bit of exploring around the center of the island. The Old Town is more or less a village in a valley, with narrow cobblestone streets and a steep incline. There were many abandoned buildings towards the top of the town and the restaurants and cafes were mainly towards the bottom.
Chimneys (fumars) atop stone houses are a distinguishing feature of Lastovo’s Old Town. Throughout the 17th and 18th century it was tradition for each house to have its own Chimney, each unique in design.
There’s also a hiking trail you can climb with a view over the town and the entire island. We went halfway up before realizing we wouldn’t make it down by the time our ferry left. At first I was disappointed that we lost a day to the rain. But then I realized that’s perhaps exactly what we needed: a slow weekend away to completely disconnect with the digital world and reconnect with nature. I would love to come back and visit Lastovo again. Chances are, the peaceful and beautiful island will remain the same.
Thinking of visiting Lastovo?
I would 100 percent recommend visiting Lastovo. However, if you’re someone who likes the guided walking tours and enjoy planning your day down to the very hour, this place isn’t for you. Lastovo is for independent travelers that want to relax and take the paths less traveled. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but it’s well worth the effort coordinating a trip.
I would recommend taking a ferry from Dubrovnik to Korcula, then Korcula to Lastovo, and NOT taking your car. Why? Because you can rent scooters or bikes for relatively cheap on the island and the large ferries for cars are expensive and a hassle. Lastovo is actually extremely bike-friendly, and next time I go back I will be joining the groups of other bikers instead. Most importantly, biking is better for the environment and allows you to experience the untouched nature!
Where to stay and eat:
Rent a place through booking.com, since I don’t think anyone on Lastovo uses AirBnb.com. Stay somewhere near the Old Town, no more than 3 or 4 km away. I would also recommend bringing food with you to the island, as some of the restaurants and markets can be a bit expensive. However, you should at least spend one night out to eat.
There are a ton of mom-and-pop restaurants in Lastovo with local fish, meat and produce. I would recommend Porto Rosso (make reservations ahead of time), or checking out some of these places.
What to see:
Lastovo truly offers endless nature, so get out and explore the quiet beaches, hiking trails, and endless postcard views. Bike or take a scooter to see the different parts of the island. Obviously make sure you explore the main Old Town, and stop at a few of the coffee shops!
(photos: The Mindful Mermaid)