Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park; escape the crowds of Dubrovnik
If you are in Dubrovnik for more than a couple of days, you MUSTN’T miss the opportunity to visit Mljet National Park on Mljet Island!
Mljet (pronounced mee-yet) is Croatia’s greenest island with over 84% of the island covered by forest. It’s still intact and doesn’t see many visitors, making it the perfect escape from the crowds in Dubrovnik.
It is considered to be among the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea and it is an easy day trip from Dubrovnik.
Mljet is known for its wine, olives, and goat’s cheese, all thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate. Wild untouched nature, the island’s mysticism, olive groves, and vineyards are the best way to describe this magical island. The pine forests of Mljet are among the most preserved forests of that type in the whole Mediterranean and they are truly magnificent.
Mljet National Park covers the entire northwest side of the island. It’s famous for its two lakes, Small Lake and Large Lake, that are fed by the Adriatic Sea by a narrow canal. Large Lake features a small island of St. Mary with a Benedictine Monastery on it.
If you plan to visit Mljet Island, this guide will give you all the necessary information to plan your day trip from Dubrovnik.
Where is Mljet Island?
Mljet Island is located in the southeastern part of the Adriatic Sea, around 45 km (28) miles from Dubrovnik.
Mljet National Park Tickets (2020):
- Adults – low season 70 Kuna; high season 125 Kuna
- Children (7-18 years), students and retirees – low season 50 Kuna; high season 70 kuna
- Children (0-7 years) – free
*High season: June 1 – September 30 | low season: January 1 – May 5, October 1 – December 12
You can buy park entry tickets on kiosks in Pomena and Polače.
NOTE: Boat to the St. Mary Island is included in the park entry ticket.
How to get to Mljet Island
Getting there by yourself by ferry
Since Mljet is an island, the only possible way to get there is by boat (duh). There are 3 ferry ports on the island: Pomena, Polače, and Sobra from where you can get a ferry to and from Dubrovnik, Split, Lastovo, Hvar, Korčula and Pelješac peninsula.
There is only one ferry vehicle port situated in Sobra. The other ports, Polače and Pomena are where the catamarans run.
Your best option is to take the catamaran from Dubrovnik to Polače or Pomena as they are closest to the National Park. Avoid arriving at Sobra unless you’re desperate!
Catamarans (Foot-passengers only):
- Check the timetable for all ferry schedules/timetables.
- Dubrovnik – Pomena (Mljet) (Price: high season 100 Kn, low season 100 Kn, duration: 1:20h )
- Pomena (Mljet) – Dubrovnik (Price: high season 100 Kn, low season 100 Kn, duration: 1:20h)
- Dubrovnik – Polače (Mljet) (Price: high season 70 Kn, low season – doesn’t run, duration: 1:45h)
- Polače (Mljet) – Dubrovnik (Price: high season 70 Kn, low season – doesn’t run, duration: 1:45h)
- Dubrovnik – Sobra (Mljet) (Price: high season 100 Kn, low season 55 Kn, duration: 1:15h)
- Sobra (Mljet) – Dubrovnik (Price: high season 100 Kn, low season 55 Kn, duration: 1:15h)
*High season: June 1 – Sept. 30 | low season: Jan. 1 – May 5, Oct. 1 – Dec. 12
Where does the ferry leave from?
You can take the ferry from the main port in Gruž, located 3 km (1.8 miles) from Pile Gate in Old Town.
Getting around the island
Buses on Mljet will take you around the island. There’s a bus line number 18 which goes from Pomena to Sobra (through Goveđari, Pristanište, Polače, Ropa, and Babino Polje). Or you can rent a bike.
Once you arrive on the island, the best thing to do is to visit St. Mary Island. There are 2 places from where you can take the boat to St. Mary: Pristanište and Small Bridge.
Getting to the national park from different ports:
From Polače: You can pick up a bike, catch a shuttle, or walk about 40 minutes to the national park.
From Pomena: It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the Small Lake and another 10 minutes to the Small Bridge.
From Sobra: If you come on a car ferry into Sobra, it takes about a 1:25 hours by bus on twisty roads to reach Polače or Pomena.
Renting a private boat
This is the most expensive option, but if you’re interested in a customizable private cruise, check out this link.
A day-trip to Mljet from Dubrovnik organized by travel agencies
If you don’t want to think about which port to choose and which ferry to take, and you prefer someone else to plan everything for you, your best option is an organized day-trip to Mljet from Dubrovnik.
This day-trip includes a pick-up and drop off from your place of accommodation, local tour guide, and an entry ticket to the National Park.
Spending the night on the island
Most of the accommodations on Mljet are private, located either in Pomena or Polače. There is only one hotel on the island – Hotel Odisej (3*), located in Pomena.
St. Mary Island – Mljet Monastery
Island in a Lake on an Island
A must-see in Mljet National Park! St Mary Island is a pretty little islet situated on the Large Lake. An island within an island, how awesome is that??
And what could people do on small islands? Build a monastery, of course. The main attraction on the island is the picturesque 12th century Benedictine Monastery, one of the most important monuments of Romanesque culture in Croatia, and among the oldest church complexes in the Adriatic.
FUN FACT: There is an unusual cemetery on this island. Because the soil is so hard, in history they buried people standing up instead of laying down and they reused the holes. Hence hundreds of bodies were buried on a very small surface.
This is a lovely place to wander around and if you wish you can also go for a swim or snorkel.
There is also a local restaurant where you can relax with an overpriced drink while enjoying your pleasant day.
1 hour is more than enough to explore St. Mary Island.
What to do in Mljet National Park?
The two main attractions of Mljet National Park are the two lakes, Small Lake and Large Lake. You can stroll along the lakeshore shaded by pine trees, rent a bicycle to explore the park, rent a kayak, and paddle the along the lakes. Or simply swim in the crystal clear sea and catch some rays listening to cicadas.
Most popular activities in Mljet Island:
Renting bicycles and cruising around the lakes is highly recommended!
Cycling around the lakes under the shade of pine trees will clear your head and soothe your mind. Enjoy the view of the turquoise lakes while a summer breeze blows through your hair.
You can rent a bike immediately off the pier at Polače, but I DON’T recommend it. The journey to the national park is an uphill journey with a constant flow of traffic.
What I do recommend is renting a cycle inside the National Park, that’s what most of the people who decide to cycle do. Cycling around here is easy and pleasurable, with quiet, traffic-free lanes dedicated just to the cyclist and pedestrians.
Bicycles can be rented at several places inside the National Park, with wooden cottages along the main road, so you won’t miss it. The best place to rent is situated next to the Small Bridge.
The full circle around the Large Lake is about 9 km. There are plenty of swimming spots so you can stop along the lane for a short swim and rest.
Small Lake and Large Lake are not just interesting phenomena but are also great for kayaking. Paddling around the untouched nature of the lakes is a unique experience.
Those are saltwater lakes fed by the sea, but because they are enclosed you are sheltered from any big waves, which makes kayaking here a great fun for every age and every level of fitness.
There are several locations in the Park where you can rent sea kayaks/canoes. The most popular place to rent is at the selling point near Mali Most (Small Bridge).
If you are staying on Mljet Island for a longer period, check with your host where is the nearest place to rent a kayak. It may be close to your accommodation.
The kayaks are available for one hour to six hours.
Kayaking to St Mary Island
The sea is always calm what makes visiting St Mary Island by kayak easy. This route is very popular and many people are paddling to and from the islet.
You’ll need about 30 minutes to paddle from Mali Most or Pristanište to the islet. The important thing is to take your sunscreen, water, and hat as sunray reflections from the water are very strong. On the St Mary Island, you can have a coffee or refreshment. On your way back you can stop in any place you like to have a swim or just a quick dip if you feel like.
There are many hiking trails all over the island. There is also a 43 km long hiking trail that is split into 4 shorter routes:
Walking Route 1: Pomena to Goveđari (It takes approx 5 hours of walking.)
Walking Route 2: Govedjari to Blato (It takes approx 7 hours of hilly walking.)
Walking Route 3: Blato – Rogovici – Babino Polje (It takes approx 6 hours to complete this, mostly flat route.)
Walking Route 4: Babino Polje – Veliki grad – Sobra (It takes approx 6 hours to complete this walk.)
The trail features great views over the island and neighboring sea channels as well as over Pelješac peninsula and Lastovo Island. All routes are marked with distinguished signs and there are 20 control points on the way. You can get the entire trail map on the island.
Mljet is rich in underwater life that can be seen in the numerous dive sites on Mljet’s southern shore.
One of the most interesting diving spots on Mljet is the Odysseus Cave. The marine life here is exquisite. If you’re lucky, you will notice barracuda, garfish, tuna, octopus, or lobster.
Another interesting location is Goli Rat Cove, where you will find remains of an antic ship and amphoras which it used to carry. Those amphoras indicate that Mljet is situated on an important maritime route of ancient Greek galleys and sailing in the Adriatic.
Diving Center DC Aquatica Pomena:
Odysseus Cave is a geomorphology phenomenon, located on the southern coast of the Mljet Island, near the village of Babino Polje.
It is a hole that looks like a pit, connected with the open sea by a small tunnel so the bottom is filled with water.
Odyssey’s Cave can be entered from the sea swimming or by a small boat because the entrance is about 4-5 meters wide. Access to land is possible via very steep improvised stairs.
In the summer months, around noon, you can witness an impressive play of light created by the sun’s reflection in the side openings of the cave. It makes natural phenomena and amazing photos. In the cave itself light never comes.
It is named after the legend of Odysseus who was allegedly shipwrecked near the cave and remained trapped for 7 years because of the nymph Calypso, who ruled the island. According to legend, after his shipwreck on the island of Ogygia, Odysseus is held prisoner there for seven years. Beautiful Calypso fell for Odysseus and wanted to make him her immortal husband. But Odysseus didn’t accept her offer – he was dreaming about going back to his Ithaca and Penelope, his wife. Calypso refuses to help him get home, offering him everything from sex to immortality to persuade him to forget Penelope and his family. Odysseus’ longing for Penelope grew so strong that he could bear it no more. He told the goddess Athena of his misery. Athena, being the protector of Odysseus, asked Zeus to demand the release of the hero.
Local people believe that Mljet is ancient Ogygia because Homer in the Odyssey states that the olive trees and vineyards are just next to the shipwreck, like on Mljet. However, this legend is often attributed to Malta.
Probably due to the disinterest of the local population, but also because through history Malta got confused with Mljet.
There is no such thing as a man who waits for his wife for 7 years, so no wonder this is just a legend!
Best beaches on Mljet Island
Mljet Island has plenty of beaches located within the bays along the island’s coastline, along with the beaches on the shores of Small and Large Lake.
If you prefer the solitude to the busy vibe of cities, and your idea of the perfect bays and beaches are those far from noise and crowd – then that’s exactly what you will found in Mljet.
Here are the best beaches in Mljet Island:
Beach type: Sandy
This white sandy beach is situated at the southeastern horn of Mljet Island. Thanks to its location away from the National Park, this beach doesn’t see many visitors so it is peaceful and very quiet. The whole area is surrounded by thick pine trees providing shade. The scenery and views are spectacular. Facilities on the beach include a few restaurants, beach bar, beach rental shop, and a small grocery store.
Saplunara is reachable by car or by bus from the main island’s ports – Sobra, Pomena, and Polače.
Blaće Beach (Limuni Bay):
Beach type: Sandy
Just 15 minutes walk from Saplunara (literally around the corner) lays another sandy oasis – Blaće Beach. Hidden in wild Limuni Bay which doesn’t attract many visitors, Blaće is a great place for naturists, nudists, and nature lovers. You can sun and swim nude and there will be nobody around to object.
Shallow water doesn’t allow passing sailors to stop here, making this swimming place quiet for the most of time.
Dense pine trees surround the beach, offering plenty of shade on hot sunny days. The facilities here are non-existent, so it is best to come prepared.
There is no public transport to this beach, it is accessible by foot, Vespa, mountain bike, or boat.
Beach type: Gravel, sand
Situated on the northern coast of Mljet Island, Polače is the largest bay on the island. If you want to explore the area, the most popular attraction here is the famous 5th-century ruins of a Roman palace.
This bay offers some amazing swimming spots, including the central and sandy beach of the town. Polače Beach is surrounded by trees providing shade, and it has gently sloping shores, making it suitable for young children and non-swimmers.
Close to the beach, you will find gastronomic delights located in the port.
There is the possibility to rent boats and canoes, and there is a diving center in the town for those looking to go a bit deeper.
Small Bridge (Mali Most)
Beach type: Water under the bridge
Swimming at Small Bridge is so much fun! Just lay down on the surface of the water and let yourself float from Small Lake to the Large Lake passing under a Small Bridge. As water is constantly circulating between two lakes it forms a current right at the spot where the lakes are connected.
This is not the place to spend all day, rather it’s the place to float a couple of times down the current, have fun, and then move on somewhere else.
Beach type: Sandy
One of the most popular pebbly beaches on Mljet, located in the central part of the island between the villages of Ropa and Babino Polje.
A great beach for families with small children and non-swimmers.
It tends to get crowded in the high season, although it is outside of the National Park, but much closer to it than Saplunara.
If you’re looking for a beach with facilities, look no further as Sutmiholjska has a restaurant, café bar, small shop, and rental agency.
Sutmiholjska is easily accessible by a 2.8 km road from Babino Polje. The distance is walkable if the weather is not too hot. There is no public transport to this beach, but you can take the local Pomena-Sobra bus that stops in Babino Polje and grab a taxi or scooter from there.
Beach type: Concrete plateaus, rocks
The picturesque Bay of Okuklje is portrayed by piers and moored boats. Beautiful little bay on the northern shore of the island, Okuklje is an increasingly popular destination for Mljet tourists in the summer months. The bay is also a popular anchorage spot for sailors as a safe haven in case of bad weather on their way to Dubrovnik. This relaxed quiet village offers several holiday houses and apartments, a few restaurants and cafes. A lot of good swimming spots to enjoy the clear Adriatic sea.
Not recommended for families with small children and non-swimmers as swimming at Okuklje is not very accessible. There are rocky and concrete areas from which stairs lead to the sea. Bring everything you need for a beach day as there are no real facilities on the beach just inside the town.
Small Lake and Large Lake
Beach type: Flat cliffs
Filled with cool, turquoise saltwater, these lakes are the perfect place to refresh your mind, body, and soul.
The best way to enjoy these lakes is to find a hidden spot where you can chill and take a dip. Walk down the lakeshore and choose your private beach hidden under the trees where you can take a dip.
You will notice that every couple and family has their little hidden area on the lakeshore.
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