Mljet National Park
Sometimes in life you visit places that totally astound you. Mljet National Park of Croatia, located in the South Dalmatian cluster of islands near Dubrovnik and shrouded in legends, is certainly one of the special spots on Earth, whose charm cannot leave any visitor indifferent.
Despite the fact that Mljet is the most remote island in Croatia, it is easily accessible. One can get there by a ferry from Split, Korcula Island and Peljesac Peninsula . The boat trip usually takes not more than two hours. There are also catamarans, but they are more expensive.
The settlers of this island have always exhibited utter respect toward the beauty which surrounded them, and this is the primary reason why Mljet was declared a National Park in 1960. Today, the park's territory covers the western part of the island (about 31 km2) and centers around two saltwater lakes, Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero. In fact, these marine reservoirs are deep bays linked to the open sea with a small channel. Since the inflow of the sea water is insignificant, the ecosystem of the lakes is unique and the water temperatures of the lakes are normally 4 degrees higher than in the sea. Being the most densely wooded island of all Croatian islands, Mljet National Park is embraced by evergreen umbrellas of Holm Oak, Flowering Ash, Aleppo pines and Carob trees. The island is still inhabited and its population constitutes about 1100 people.
The myth has it that Odysseus, on his way back to Ithaca after ten years of Troyan war, got stuck on some island and was kept there by nymph Calypso, Poseidon's daughter. If the historians, who are trying to figure out what island could it be, visited Mljet, they wouldn't have to look further. For now, the historians unanimously agree that the Illyrians used to inhabit the island. Then the Romans came... In 35 BC the island was attacked by the fleet of Caesar Octavian. The Emperor wanted to punish the inhabitants of the island from practicing piracy. He ordered to kill all the population except the fittest, who were enslaved, and the island was settled by the Roman colonists. The agriculture was so important to them that a shrine to Liber, a god of wine growing and agriculture, was set up on the island. In the 8th c., when the Croats started to inhabit the Adriatic coast, Mljet was given to the people of Neretva Valley. They used to live there side by side with Romans, as testified by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th c. In 1151 the island became the property of Benedictine monks, who founded a monastery and the church of St Mary on the islet of the Veliko Jezero. There is a number of other small churches on Mljet that also worth seeing, for instance, the Church of the Holy Trinity in Prozure.
Mljet National Park gladly shows its secret places and hideaways to all those who like walking, hiking, and bike riding. Swimming in the crystal clear lakes of this fairy-tale island, bordered by centuries-old pine forest, breathing in the fresh air is the experience which you will never be able to forget. One can also rent a canoe or kayak to get to the hidden beaches and sea caves. If you see that one day in this place is not enough but camping is not something you enjoy, you can stay at the Hotel Odisej, which can be found in the center of the park. Accommodation can also be found in private houses.
Mljet National Park is a perfect place for all those who want to escape from crowds and noise. don't even hesitate to explore this jewel of the Adriatic!