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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!