Dugi Otok, Croatia.
Sharing the Adriatic coast with the likes of Slovenia, Hungary and Montenegro, Croatia marks Europe's centre point. With a small population of just 3.9 million spread across its 48 inhabited islets, the country has fast become the ideal holiday destination for those seeking a quiet getaway and a fix of sun, sea and good grub.
Head to the pocket-sized Dugi Otok - meaning "long island". Blessed with craggy cliffs, low-slung villas and rust-coloured roofs, this place is home to some of Europe's best beaches, promising gin-clear waters and baby-blue skies. While it's almost impossible to peel yourself away from the seafront, trust us, it's well worth doing so to discover the isle's many handsome old towns, of which Sali, Luka and Savar are our favourites.
Yet to be taken over by edgy creatives (though it surely won't be long before the digital nomads move in), there's a contagious charm to Dugi Otok's shabby-chic beachside shacks and old-school restaurants. The perfect day? A morning hike along one of its many trails, a lunchtime spent bobbing in the waves and an evening feasting like a true Croat.
Strašna Peć - an atmospheric cave system found on the outskirts of Savar village. Remaining something of a mystery, the caves were accidentally stumbled upon following the discovery of a flint artefact dating back to the Stone Age. You'll arrive at a grand entrance, before climbing a winding staircase, passing a collection of unusual rock formations. Then, out of nowhere, 360-degree vistas across Kornati and the Adriatic will appear. Alternatively, and for organised walking tours and water-based activities, visit the southern tip of the island, where Telašćica Nature Park is a must for wildlife lovers.
Where to stay?
Villa Nai 3.3. Built into a hillside overlooking Kornati National Park, this eco-conscious hideaway comprises eight rooms, two tasty restaurants, a spa and an infinity pool. Dreamed up by the Morović family, the design-driven, one-storey space was brought to life by the incredibly talented Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, with natural local stone being utilised to embody the location's rural terrain. Each room showcases sweeping views across tangled olive groves, Aleppo pines and the sparkling sea - we can hardly think of a better place to wake up each morning. At in-house restaurants Grotta 11,000 and 3.3, whizz-kid head chef Denis Galić presents fresh, seasonal dishes including crumbly pastries, platters of fresh seafood and homemade sorbets: prepare to indulge like never before.
Where to go for dinner?
Garoful, the island's first restaurant, which opened in 1974, was reborn in 2021, in its original outpost in Sali's old town, just a stone's throw from the sea. Sticking to its classic Mediterranean roots, menu highlights include pumpkin tagliatelle, expertly cooked steaks and a sensational lamb burger. Whispering Angel fans will delight at the extensive wine menu, with a chilled glass - or bottle - of rosé best enjoyed overlooking the sun-drenched harbour.
Villa Nai 3.3 | Photos by Tom Dubravec
And for a drink…
Have you even been to Croatia if you haven't sat at a bar stool sipping on an extra-large piña colada? Proving that size isn't everything, tiny beach bar Sol - all weather-worn blue shutters and rustic stone exterior - is beloved for its well-crafted cocktails and long drinks. Pull up a chair under the leafy pergola and settle in for the evening.
Who to take with you
That friend who pretends the River Thames is the Caribbean. They'll delight in the azure waters and golden sands of Dugi Otok's breathtaking Sakarun Beach.
When to go
Croatia is home to more than 1,000 islands, with Dugi Otok being one of the few that remains almost completely untrodden by tourists. Plan your visit in August, to enjoy empty beaches even in peak sunshine season.
Essentials to pack
Flip-flops that we can wear to dinner? Yes, please. Make Chloé's Lou recycled crochet rubber flip-flops your holiday staple.
How to get there
Take a direct flight from London Heathrow to Croatia's Zadar Airport, from where Dugi Otok is just a two-hour ferry ride away.