As islands go Mlijet Island in Croatia is steeped both in myth and history. Legend has it that Odysseus, hero of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, spent seven years on Mlijet as a love slave to the sea nymph Calypso. That wouldn’t have been a bad gig, really, but when you visit Mlijet you soon realise that another great reason for staying there is because of the sheer beauty of the place.
Mlijet is located in Southern Dalmatia, and is the southern-most island of Croatia. The island is reasonably close to the historic town of Dubrovnik and much of its area has been declared a national park.
Indeed, the island does have a permanent reminder of Homer’s hero’s long stay. Called Odysseus’s Cave, the actual cave is located at the bottom of a deep sinkhole near the town of Babino Polje. There are two ways to enter the cave from the land. One is via a steep path, and the other is to jump into the water. If you take the leap there is a 30 metre-long tunnel to the cave which is used as a harbour by the local fishermen. When the seas are calm it is possible to swim through the tunnel, but it would be foolhardy to attempt the swim during rough seas as the waves pound against the rocks with great ferocity.
In the east end of the island is the village of Sobra and the beaches of Saplunara where there is accommodation.
The national park on the western side of the island has some truly interesting landscapes. Within the park are two salt lakes where the water is usually crystal clear. One of these lakes contains an island on which is a disused monastery.
The main port in the north is called Polace, which is closest to the national park, and it is here that ferries connect the island with both Sobra and Dubrovnik. There is also a car ferry which connects Sobra with Prapratno on the Pelješac peninsula.
Mlijet is popular with those who like to dive or snorkel because of the clarity of the water, with visibility being remarkably good. Although the island can get busy during peak season, it is still possible to find a relatively quiet location to escape the crowds.
Because it is so close to Dubrovnik there are plenty of tour operators who organise tours to the island, some of which are basic, consisting of transport only, and other that are fully inclusive which do include organised activities.