SummerIsHere Representative offices UK & Ireland Mljet National Park – along the paths of St Paul, Odysseus and Cousteau  
Mljet National Park – along the paths of St Paul, Odysseus and Cousteau
On of the larger south Dalmatian islands Mljet is a seemingly not well-indented island, located near Pelješac, Dubrovnik and Korčula. It is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, dry summers and mild, humid winters with approx. 2,500 hours of sun per year.

The Mljet National Park covers its north-western area, spreading over 5,375 hectares of protected land and surrounding sea. It was proclaimed a national park in November of 1960, and the sea area was included in 1997, representing the very first institutionalised attempt of protecting an original eco-system in the entire Adriatic.

The area has received a national park status on account of its exceptional cultural and historical heritage, dating back to the times of the Illyrian tribes, Roman Empire and the Dubrovnik republic, but mostly on account of its «sea-freshwater» lakes, rich vegetation and unique panoramic appearance of indented coasts, cliffs and numerous tiny islands as well as the rich vegetation of the surrounding hills rising steeply above the sea, hiding numerous karst fields and ancient towns in stone.

The outer coast turned towards the south sea is steep and filled with caved in caves, while the side turned to the continent and winter storms is lower and much more accessible. On this side, numerous endemic Dalmatian plant species can be found, the most beautiful and prominent being the protected Croatian Centaury.

In the mild Mediterranean karst landscape, crossed with a thick net of picturesque walking paths, two extremely interesting natural specificities are hidden. One phenomenon are typical karst underground formations – semi-caves, caves and pits, and the other four periodically brackish lakes, specific for Mljet, with bottoms at sea-level, in which the freshwater is in contact with sea-water.

Also fascinating is the system of sea-water lakes, a unique geological and oceanographic karst phenomenon, significant not only in domestic, but in international terms. The Veliko jezero ('Great lake') is 145 hectares large and 46 metres deep and the Malo jezero ('Small lake') is 24 hectares large and 29 metres deep. With their beauty and numerous still to be discovered secrets, these lakes have been attracting natural scientists and other interested visitors, mostly those seeking untouched nature, for decades.

From the open-sea side of the island, the sea eats into the island through a barely visible narrow, forming the Veliko and then the Malo lake. Though they are formed by sea-water, they seem as if they are fresh-water lakes, which is why the local population has termed them as such.

In the middle of the great lake there is another natural, cultural, historical and tourist specialty – the picturesque island Sveta Marija (St Mary) with a former church and Benedictine monastery dating from the 12th century. The tiny island has on account of its exceptional beauty and strong spiritual and cultural dimension become a symbol of sorts of the island of Mljet and the Mljet National Park. It is better known among the local population under the name Melita, after the eponymous hotel and restaurant which was until recently located in the ancient monastery building.

There are interesting attractions outside the national park as well – in the central southern part of the island's coast there is the geomorphological phenomenon Jama, a karst hole whose ceiling has detached itself, making it look like wide well. There is sea-water at its bottom since it is connected to the open sea by a natural tunnel. Next to the sides of the tunnel, several fishing boats are parked, owned by inhabitants of the nearby town Babino polje, the biggest town on Mljet. Because of the low vault, the boats can be taken to sea only when the weather permits it, and the same goes for tourist sightseeing. Interestingly, it is precisely here that Odysseus, after being shipwrecked, spent seven years with sadness and nostalgia after home and his Penelope, while the beautiful nymph Calypso, daughter of the god of the sea Poseidon, was lovingly staring at him with even more sadness.

The island of Mljet is also characterized by beautiful, rich, indigenous forests, which until recently covered large areas of the Mediterranean, but are very rare today. The rich vegetation of the island, especially those parts that have been proclaimed a national park, are the reasons why Mljet is known as the green island, ever since the Roman times. The fact that Mljet today boasts five different types of forests can mostly be attributed to the Benedictine monks who, as the feudal lords of the island over several centuries, have taken great care of it. Until the end of the 18th century they prohibited the western parts of the island to be inhabited, and this is precisely the part of the island which today has become a national park.
The remnants of the Mediterranean jungle, authentic Holm oak forests exist only in fragments today, and are best preserved as a stump forest in the Velika dolina region.

In other areas, this forest has been replaced by macchia, wild olives, carob, pine trees, rocks and expansive fast-growing Aleppo pine forests, which have become dominant on the island. Apart from the forests, biologically significant are other habitats as well: littoral sand dunes, steep and high coastal cliffs and cliffs in the interior of the island as well as the vegetation of the coastal reefs.

The waters of Mljet, known until today in oceanography, used to be a favourite habitat of the Mediterranean monk seal. Around 40 years ago, the famous French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau stated, after scuba-diving in the sea surrounding the island, that these waters are among the cleanest in the world.

The Mljet National Park can be reached by boat from Dubrovnik and via numerous boat connections from Korčula, Hvar and Split. Most of the boats dock in the port Pomena. The towns Polače and Pomena are connected with the lakes via hiking trails. Visitors can enjoy their pleasant stay by swimming, sunbathing or hiking around the lakes and to the top of Montokuc which offers, if the weather permits it, a beautiful view of the entire national park, Pelješac and the open sea all the way to Korčula.

Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board

Mljet Municipality

Mljet National Park

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