George Bernard Shaw summed up the ethereal charm of the Kornati Islands best when he first sighted them: “On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands, out of tears, stars and breath.” This lofty praise is well deserved as there is nowhere else in Europe quite like this string of stark white islands strung out like a necklace in calm, balmy waters. For centuries locals dismissed the Kornati Islands as an arid, infertile wasteland, but to today’s tourists and yachtsmen they are as near to paradise on earth as many can imagine. Local legend has it that when God threw the white hulks of rock into the sea, intending to sculpt them into fertile land, he was so taken with their beauty that he chose to leave them as they were.
The Kornatis form the largest archipelago in the Adriatic, with a total of 147 islands, many of them completely uninhabited and others abandoned outside the summer. The archipelago stretches 35km (22 miles) south to the island of Žirje, which helps to form the natural barrier against the open sea that makes the region so enjoyable for yachting and boating. As there are no sources of fresh water anywhere on the islands, populating the area has always been difficult.
Roughly speaking the islands fall into four strings running north to south towards Žirje, with two closest to the coast known as Gornji Kornat. The two outer strings make up the Kornati National Park, comprising more than 100 islands in total, three-quarters of which are no more than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in size. The park’s main island, Kornat, which is around 25km (15 miles) long and 2.5km (1.5 miles) wide, is the largest uninhabited island in the Adriatic.
Attempts have been made to promote Kornati as an ecotourism destination, where man has done little to change or damage the environment. This is somewhat ironic, as man has already wrought havoc on the environment by burning down the indigenous oak trees for firewood, while sheep introduced by local farmers have destroyed much of the original vegetation. Only tough grass and wild herbs such as sage survive amidst the crumbling old stone dykes that used to pen the sheep.
Thankfully the very barrenness of the area and the logistical difficulties of setting up large-scale tourism have stopped real development, and the establishment of the national park in 1980 has also helped to keep the developers at bay. Although in summer there are plenty of yachts and pleasure boats, the sheer size of this wonderful archipelago means that things seldom feel too crowded.
The best time for sailing the Kornatis are the months of May or June, when a pleasant breeze is present; July and August can be a little too calm unless you use a motor.
This truly is a piece of God’s paradise and I encourage you to visit. You can contact Royal Croatian Tours who will assist you with any travel plans you may have.