Sea kayaking in Croatia takes us to island Lastovo. It is Croatia’s most southern inhabited island pitched in the very middle of the Adriatic sea – remote, wild and surrounded by kilometers of sea on either side. The kind of place leaves mind-sculpting impressions on a paddler. If caves, cliffs, historic town and submarine tunnels were not enough, there were a number of other unexpected surprises. See and read the story about the circumnavigation of island Lastovo and some of its surrounding islands.
Island Lastovo is the kind of place where word island really comes to its full meaning. It is located 100km from the nearest point on Italian coastline and 50km if you draw a straight line perpendicular to mainland Croatia. In reality, the real distance from Lastovo to the nearest meaningful harbor in Croatia (Split) is 96km. So, it is 100k of space on both sides really.
Island Lastovo – sea kayak circumnavigation
Lastovo is Nature Park that consists of 46 islands protecting what is above but also what is under the sea. The main island is just 9.8km long and 5.5. km wide. Circumnavigating its shortest route is just short of 30k. If you want to explore all of it’s surrounding islands, then circumnavigation is slightly above 90km paddle. On this trip we have sea kayaked 57km and hiked 20k.
Lastovo is an island that doesn’t have the superlative features like the biggest blue cave, the highest peak, the highest cliffs or the oldest church. As such it does not attract any famous travel influencers, outdoor athletes for there are no records to be broken here. Instead, it attracts curious people looking to dust off the hidden gems and celebrate stunning unassuming nature. The kind of sea kayakers that understand that real adventures are not in one special person or in one special place. They are wherever someone is trying to find it.
A retired Navy admiral, an IT professional, a DJ, an entrepreneur, a 70year old, an anthropologist, a foodie and the list of roles we left behind on mainland just goes on. Here on the island we were all sharing a love for sea kayaking and discovering the island’s secrets. As you may guess, there was enough conversation material in the group to feed a month worth of sea kayaking time, let alone a week.
Launching from our first campground – Kamp Zaglav in Ubli on Lastovo. The smell of pine trees. Sun rays strong enough to remind us to apply a healthy dose of sunscreen. Birds singing happily and off we go.
Sea kayaking Croatia’s pristine waters
First snapshot from the kayak cockpit. Lastovo’s rolling hills rising up from the crystal clear blue sea.
Our circumnavigation starts. The first leg of the sea kayaking route is past rugged rocky shore with steep coast. The high hills dwarf our kayaks. A quote from Arne Naess comes first to mind: ‘The smaller we feel compared to it (the mountain), the more we will participate in its greatness.’
Something that came as a nice surprise during the entire trip was the number of little islets, stone stacks and features ideal for rock hopping.
Turn another corner and here is another cove. A short scramble up the rocks and we are reminded of how turquoise the water can be. Views of the seabed from a kayak resembling those of a snorkeling trip.
Sea kayaking route takes us past Struga lighthouse, built in 1839.
Lighthouse is pitched on top of a cliff overlooking the big open sea. Its light is standing 100m above the water line.
Down under the lighthouse, downwind session awaits with Maestral wind radiating waves around the Struga headland.
One thing you that is expected on this island is that sea is very unpredictable. To remind you, the island is literally piercing out of the middle of the Adriatic. Neptune is to be respected here. Weather changes rapidly, tidal flow is felt more than elsewhere (still far from the Atlantic open water conditions) and a mild Jugo wind easily catches momentum as it blows past hundreds of kilometers of the open sea towards the south. On the image above in the far right you have and an indication of wave size during our ‘forced’ breakpoint.
One thing that we really didn’t expect is the stunning night sky. Kayaks remind us how small dots in nature we all are. But the sheer volume of stars that twinkle above our heads on this night in Lastovo is a whole new level. Lack of light pollution is something that a few people on Lastovo mentioned in conversations as one of it’s big advantages (I think there are plenty more). Either way, absolutely stunning night vistas.
Touring along rugged coastline continues. Rain clouds were replaced by the Simpsonian cumulus clouds– an indication of hours of perfect weather ahead.
Another surprise on the trip is a house pitched in a very unlikely piece of coastline. Sea kayakers are least picky of all seafarers when it comes to choosing a landing spot, but even we found no suitably comfortable exit points in this terrain. Then here we find some of the most intriguing human dwellings. A ‘garage’ for the boat, a small house and plot of land for farming. Minimalism in practice. We humbly used it as a rest space.
Features, shadows, and rocks turn more abstract.
Sea kayaking into history
Paddling break with a touch of history. Our route takes us to Lučica – idyllic fishing harbor with the classical 18th-century layout. Built more as a collection of simple storage huts for fishing gear, they have turned to cozy little houses.
Next day we start our hiking exploration of the island. A steep road leads above Lučica harbor with clouds unloading the rain just miles south of us.
The hike goes past Lastovo’s old town, pitched high up on hills surrounding a fertile plateau still used for small scale farming today. Location was influenced by frequent pirate attacks of the island. Former coastal town moved up to the valley. It was easier to defend and closer to the Rennaisance source of income: agriculture.
A couple of hours later, we find ourselves on Hum – the highest peak of the island, 450m above the sea. From there we trace our paddling route and soak in the views of islands Sušac and Vis in the distance.
Lastovo valleys, churches and hilltops
The route back takes us past numerous hills and valleys. Here came another surprise. As islands all along the coastline have the declining population, you would expect the valleys to be abandoned. On the contrary, many fields are still in use today: from the growing vine to vegetables and sheep pastures.
We bumped into a Slovenian walking a dog in the field. I assumed he was a fellow traveler. However, in a casual chit chat, he commented on how he hates the weather now. ‘There is so much work to be one in the field and we can’t do anything because of the rain.’ Hm. Add to this a waitress from Rijeka, a taxi driver from Montenegro and one can’t escape the impression that this island is very much alive and kicking. Much more than some more popular islands or ones closer to the mainland along the entire coastline. Some people move to Ireland, Germany, Canada or USA. Others choose Lastovo as their destination. A refreshing and inspiring trend. I hope it continues.
After hours of walking, we spot another church. This brings us to number 46.
There are 46 valleys on the main island, 46 islands and islets Lasotvo archipelago and 46 churches dotted around the landscape. This one is merely a ruin but a symbol of vibrant culture during the Rennaisance period.
The hike leads back to Lastovo town. Seen from afar with this momentary game of light and shadow, it looks like a mystical town hidden behind 46 hills and valleys. Sounds like the start of a fairy tale line.
We added another few kilometers to one of the caves on the island – Rača cave. Archeological site and home to several types of bats.
After a day like this, dinner is well earned. Delicious fish and unique Lastovian influences to traditional Dalmatian recipes. Luc (a local species similar to Palamida/Atlantic Bonito), capers and rice in the ‘brudet’.
‘I don’t care it’s May. It is Adriatic. I will go for a swim before breakfast.’ Why not? It wasn’t that cold really.
Paddling continues with some natural caves and rock features to play around.
Kayaking submarine caves on Lastovo
As you may guess, the island’s position so close to Italy has made Lastovo a strategic military stronghold during the Cold War/Yugoslav period. That means a lot of military infrastructure and several sets of submarine caves. We barely scratched the surface with a few submarine caves.
I found them to be much shorter than in other parts of the coastline like ones in Zadar and Šibenik archipelagos.
The northern side of the island offers more picnic friendly beaches nicely tucked away from the open sea, suitable for all weather conditions.
More features and rock hopping options.
Beach clean up on the sea kayaking trip
One of the beaches we visited was absolutely covered in plastic. The layer of small plastic bits was so thick that you could move your hand through the layer without even touching the pebblestones buried underneath.
We took all the trash we could (one fully loaded bag per kayak) and paddled on to our finish point of the trip.
An excellent paddling week. Tons of features, stunning coastline, inspiring and friendly islanders, great weather and brilliant company. It’s what adventures are made of. We will be back here soon.
Complement this piece with a story and video about the winter paddling trip in Croatia, circumnavigation of island Lošinj or a video about summer paddling trip in our main base on island Molat.
If you like what you’re reading, sign up for my quarterly newsletter here.
Have a great day.