A hilly green island
As is the case with many Adriatic islands, Mljet features steep, inaccessible parts of the coast in which many interesting historical stories and legends were born. One of the legends associated with the island of Mljet tells the story of Greek hero Odyssey who was returning to his home on a Greek island and was shipwrecked after a huge storm. Of course, this event, captured in the famous Homer's epic poem, might not be based on true historical events but it does not matter all that much – even without it, Mljet is a special island, entirely suitable to be the home of an epic hero. Outstanding nature, crystal clear sea, lakes, islands and a rich cultural heritage make Mljet a unique pearl of the Adriatic coast.
Mljet is the southernmost large Croatian island. It is situated in direct proximity of the town of Dubrovnik, the island of Korčula, Elafiti islands and is only separated from the peninsula of Pelješac by the Mljet Channel. The highest mountaintop is the 514-meter-high Veliki grad and there are a dozen other peaks higher than 300 meters. There are many larger karst valleys and fields across the island and some hundred smaller ones. The island offers ideal possibilities for mountaineering and a mountain trail stretches across the entire island.
Although Mljet is karstic, like all our islands, its rich and diverse Mediterranean vegetation earned it the title of “the greenest Croatian island”. The Mediterranean climate with dry summers and mild winters, and approximately 2500 sunshine hours a year, offers ideal conditions for vegetation.
The most attractive part of the island is definitely the north-western part, which was protected as a national park in 1960. The reasons for turning it into a national park were its exceptional historical heritage with many traces of the Illyrian tribe, Roman Empire and Dubrovnik Republic eras. Another reason were its unique lakes, abundant vegetation and a unique panoramic appearance of indented coasts, cliffs, rocks and numerous islands, as well as a rich evergreen vegetation of the surrounding hills, erecting steeply above the sea surface and hiding numerous karst fields and ancient settlements. Two unique sea bays were once freshwater lakes, until the beginning of the Christian era when they were connected with a narrow strait. Although these bays are deep and filled with sea, they appear to be more like lakes and local population knows these therefore as lakes. In the midst of the Great Lake there is a picturesque little island, St Mary, with a church and a monastery that were set up at that location in the 12th century by the Benedictines from Monte Gargano in Italy. The lakes are particularly well seen from the hills towering above, the most beautiful view being from the peaks Montokuca and Gradine. Well-blazed walking and mountain trails lead to these.
There are interesting sites outside the borders of the national park – in the mid southern part of the Mljet coast there is the Cave of Odyssey– a karst cave whose ceiling collapsed and it looks more like a pit or a large well. Its bottom is filled with seawater as the cave is connected to the sea by a natural tunnel. The access to this cave begins at Babino Polje. The upper part of Babino Polje is the starting point of the mountain trail leading to the highest island peak, Veliki grad, which can be reached in an hour and a half of walk.
As a home to many exciting legends and being an island of a thrilling nature, Mljet fully deserves to be called the pearl of the Adriatic coast. It is difficult to distinguish the exact border between the reality and the myth and discovering all that this island has in store is an exciting voyage on which this border does not really matter all that much.