Mljet National Park, Croatia

The highlight of my trip to Croatia was visiting Mljet (pronounced Mee-yet) National Park, located on a stunningly beautiful island in the Adriatic off the Dalmatian Coast. The ancient Greek poet Homer mentions this island in the Odyssey, and according to legend Odysseus was marooned here for 7 years. The locals smile and say, “But of course, why would he want to leave?” Indeed.

view approaching Mljet
This is the view as we approach the island after a 2-hour boat ride from Dubrovnik. I was SO excited to finally see it after planning the trip for several months!

map of Mljet
Here’s a map for perspective. The photos that follow are from the region shown in the upper right: the lakes and the island within the island. The lakes are called Malo Jezero (Small Lake) and Veliko Jezero (Great Lake).

sign for Mljet National Park
Almost there!

Gateway to Mljet National Park

Benedictine monastery on Mljet
We were transported by van to another dock on the shore of the larger lake within the island. From there we took a second boat to St. Mary, an island within an island, to see the Benedictine monastery that dates back to the 12th century.

Benedictine monastery on Mljet

dock on St. Mary Island, Mljet
The monks had a great thing going!

Benedictine monastery on Mljet

view from the Benedictine monastery on Mljet
It looks like something from a fairy tale…

Benedictine monastery on Mljet
There were few people there on the day we visited, and it was very quiet except for the cicadas. I could imagine the monks silently walking through the gardens. The chapel is still open, and part of the monastery is now a restaurant.

Benedictine monastery on Mljet
Archeologists are in the process of excavating the grounds. (Side note: I would love to join an archeological dig some day!)

I enjoyed the monastery and the delightful lunch we ate outside on the shore, but I was also eager for it to end so that we could proceed to the smaller of the two lakes. A hiking path winds all the way around it, and it is stunning. Did I mention that the lakes are saltwater? I took the next photos at Malo Jezero, the smaller lake.

Malo Jezero in Mljet National Park, Croatia

Malo Jezero in Mljet National Park, Croatia
We had a couple of hours to spend at the lake before we had to return to our boat. I could have spent much longer here! There were only about 30 people in the entire park on the day we visited, so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Incredible.

Malo Jezero in Mljet National Park, Croatia

Malo Jezero in Mljet National Park, Croatia
Look at how clear the water is!

Malo Jezero in Mljet National Park, Croatia

lizard on Mljet
I don’t know what kind of lizard this is, but he was iridescent in the sun and was definitely not camera-shy.

Mljet buildings
As we headed back to the dock, we saw houses outside the National Park boundaries where people live as they have for centuries. Our guide said that although some try to live on the island year-round, the winter gale-force winds and lack of employment force many to move to Dubrovnik and other mainland cities.

seagull

leaving Mljet
When it was time to board the boat for the trip back to Dubrovnik, it felt like we were stepping into a time machine and traveling back to the modern day. Mljet is such a special place. I heard that Time Magazine named it one of the world’s 10 most beautiful islands. Go see it if you have the chance!

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27 comments

    • So true, Lynne! I only got a little taste of the interior, and I would like to return and explore more. In the back of my mind I’m thinking about a trip to Plitvice Lakes and a tour of inland Croatia down to Montenegro…so many countries, so little time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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      • Soooo many – Mine was a driving trip north to south through the interior of the Balkan Peninsula – Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia – language was a bit of problem – used lots of hand signs, like playing charades ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Oh, that sounds like an amazing trip. Yes, I can see how hand signals might be necessary! That reminds me of when we were in southern Italy and needed matches for our gas stove. We stopped in a little corner store, and the clerk didn’t understand our feeble attempts to ask for matches in broken Italian (we threw in English and German for good measure, but that didn’t help). I finally pretended to strike a match and light an imaginary cigarette…that worked! We all laughed.

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  1. Ruth! What a gorgeous place! Thank you for opening up a new vista of Croatia I never knew before! How interesting the salt lakes and I could just imagine your delightful lunch in such a beautiful setting. Excellent trip I am sure! Hugs, Sharon

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  2. It looks like a really beautiful island, Ruth.

    And I hear you about wanting to join an Archeological dig one day, that’s also something I want to do, just imagine unearthing bits and pieces of history!

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  3. The Adriatic coast of Croatia is a beautiful part of the world and the monks so often seemed to acquire the best real estate ๐Ÿ™‚

    Are the lakes linked to the sea? They must have some interesting flora and fauna if they’re inland salt water lagoons.

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    • Hi Finn,
      Apparently the lakes were freshwater, but the monks dug a channel from the larger lake to the sea, and now they’re saltwater.

      I know you’re a bird enthusiast like me, so you’ll also find this story interesting. I didn’t hear many birds on the island, and then I realized I wasn’t seeing many either. I thought that was strange, and so I asked our guide about it. At the turn of the century the island was overrun with venomous snakes, and so they introduced the mongoose to the island. You can guess what happened next.

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  4. Pingback: Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast | weird & cool stuff seen while out & about

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