Pula is a fantastic place to organise an island hopping trip from. The airport is here, the main bus and ferry hub too. This is a great choice for island hop in the area especially if you also intend to visit Venice (just over 3 hours by ferry from Pula), that has excellent connections from its airport to all European destinations and beyond. Pula is also just down the road from Trieste, another convenient transport hub in the area that can be used to further your travels.
Here are some ideas on how to visit several islands in the North Adriatic’s Kvarner archipelago and island-hop with and without a car:
Itineraries With Car:
Map of Roads, Car and Foot Passenger Ferries:
If you have a car, first things first –
- Drive from Pula to Fažana, park your car there and take a small ferry boat to Brijuni islands.
Visit Brijuni is a must if you are in the area. It is Croatian National Park and shouldn’t be missed. A day trip there is enough to visit most of the important sights there. For more details see the National Parks website here. Another Park in fair vicinity is Plitvice Lakes, also on driving distance from Pula (see detailed info here)
- After Brijuni next step is to visit Cres-Lošinj archipelago: Drive along the coast of Istria to Brestova bay (about 60 km – 1-hour drive) and from there take a ferry to Porozina on Cres island (20 minutes ferry ride, with 7 to 12 crossings daily – schedules and prices). If you drive further down the island (about 58 km > 1-hour drive) in Osor you will reach a small bridge that connects the Island with another one – Lošinj. These two islands where one in the past, therefore, the Osor channel between them is very narrow, dug by locals in the past for easier navigation around the archipelago. Twice a day (9 am and 5 pm) the drawbridge gets opened to let waiting vessels pass through. Try to be there when it opens as it is always interesting to watch (see video here). GPS bridge location is here: 44.692846, 14.392505
- Once on Lošinj island, drive along the island to Mali Lošinj (about 22 km – 20 minutes drive) to see this lovely small seaside town. There is another drawbridge there, on Privalka, connecting Mali and Veli Lošinj. This one also opens twice a day (9 am and 6 pm). Both places get busy in summers and sometimes people wait for about an hour for all vessels to pass thru so keep in mind if you are tight with time to cross before the bridge opens.
- From Lošinj, you have to drive back as there are no car ferries going from there, just foot passenger ones. Drive back to Cres and take the car ferry from Merag (about 46 km – 40 minutes drive) to Valbiska on Krk island. It is 25 minutes ferry journey, crossing the channel 10 to 14 times a day depending on the season (schedule and prices). Krk is connected with the mainland by bridge too so from there you can either get over that bridge back to the mainland and drive towards Rijeka (to get back) or Zadar (to get further) or you can choose to hop to another island – Rab.
- To get to Rab island, take a car ferry from Valbiska to Lopar. This car ferry journey lasts about 1 and half hour and goes only 4 to 5 times a day so make sure you check schedules carefully to adjust your journey (check here). From Rab, you have two choices: For shorter island hopping trip, take a ferry to the mainland from Mišnjak (small bay/islet just 26 km from Lopar) to Stinica (very frequent 15 minutes ferry crossing, see details here) and drive back north towards Rijeka and/or Pula. If you intend to carry on with longer island hopping trip, drive South from Stinica to Prizna (about 20 km) and from there get a ferry to Žigljen on Pag island (also very frequent 15 minutes ferry crossing). Once on Pag, you are already very close to Zadar, so
- Drive along Pag, across the bridge and visit Zadar too.
With this itinerary you visited: 5 islands, you took 5 ferries and crossed 3 bridges! How long will this island hopping trip last it depends on you. I know some people who did it in just one day. I made this journey on multiple occasions and gave myself at least 3 days to hop around overnighting in Mali Losinj, Rab and Zadar. Follow your journey with the above map, feel free to take it with you and use it for your personal reference.
Itineraries Without Car (Foot passengers only)
If you are foot passenger you can use the same itinerary as above, just make sure to check exactly the bus routes and timings for each leg of the trip. Alternatively, you can completely ignore car ferries and focus on foot passenger ferries only. On the above map, I draw just one ferry route – the one that goes from Pula via Unije, Susak, Mali Losinj, Ilovik and Silba to Zadar.
There are some other ferry routes in the area (see all of them on croatiaferries.com site, map section) but I decided not to draw them as they are not directly connected with Pula.
However, ferry routes from Rijeka to Losinj and Rab as well as routes from Zadar can also be included in the itinerary.
To get yourself more familiar with the area, have a look at the map below where you can choose various starting and ending points to see different journey options and directions.
Directions Map of Island Hopping from Pula:
The above map is a route planner that is not completely accurate as it mixes up car ferries a foot passenger ferry so it is not completely clear. That’s why I draw a map at the top of this article, where you can see much better what is available for each mode of transport. It shows which ferries are taking cars and foot passengers, and which are for foot passengers only.