Mljet island national park of Croatia is the first national park of the Adriatic.
The park occupies the northwestern part of the island, 5,375 hectares of protected shoreline and the nearby sea area.
This area was pronounced National Park in November 1960. The sea part was adjoined to the park in 1997.
Mljet received its National Park status for its unique cultural and historical heritage, which dates back to the Illyrian period, the Roman empire, and the times of the Republic of Dubrovnik city.
But this proclamation was also due to its “salty-fresh” lakes, the flora, the unique jagged view of the shore, the reefs, the cliffs, the numerous small islands and the varied evergreen flora of the nearby mountains, which steeply rise over the deer blue of the sea and block the view of the numerous stony fields and ancient settlements made of stone.
The system of saline lakes of Mljet is a unique geological and oceanological karst phenomenon, which is important not only on the scope of Croatia, but on the scope of the world.
The Veliko and the Malo lakes have for decades attracted explorers of nature and scientists, as well as tourists and lovers of virgin nature with their beauty and their unsolved secrets. From the side of the open sea, the sea penetrates inside the island through a barely visible canal (Soline canal), and creates the Veliko lake, and then, through another canal, the Malo lake. And although it is sea water that creates the lakes, they look like real lakes, and for this reason the locals called them so.
Mljet national park is also unique because 90% of its area is covered with woods, for which reason Mljet is also called the “green island”. The woods with Aleppo pines near Mljet lakes are considered the best-preserved and the most beautiful ones of their type in the Mediterranean.
In the middle of the Large lake, there is found another natural, cultural, historical, and touristic landmark – a picturesque island of St Mary with a church and a Benedictine monastery dated the 12th century. The island, due to its highly aesthetic look and great spiritual and cultural power is a sort of symbol of the island and of the national park. The locals still call the island of Melita after the hotel and the restaurant which until recently were located in the building of the monastery.
The waters of Mljet are a favoured habitat of the Mediterranean monk seal. The famous French oceanographer Jaques Ives Cousteau, when he was diving in the sea area of Mljet, declared that the waters there are among the cleanest in the world.
Mljet national park
The isle of Mljet, covered in unique flora, is one of the most beautiful islands of the Adriatic sea. It is located between Dubrovnik and the island of Korcula. A third of its area in the west (31 sq.km.) has been declared national park due to the unique features of this place.
For many tourists, Mljet is one of the islands lost in the vasts of the sea. Indeed, it is no so easy to get to this island. But it is no excuse for not going there. The scenery of this island, which are mentioned in the stories of Odysseus’ exploits, in the parables of St Paul and the Benedictine monks deserve being seen.
Mljet is a prolonged island, its average width is 3 km, and its length is 37 km. Mljet national park is located in the northwestern part of the island and occupies the area of 5.375 hectares. On November 11, 1960, this territory was declared national park, and it was the first attempt to protect a untouched ecosystem around the Adriatic.
On Mljet, there are two unique sea lakes, which are a geological phenomenon of the world scale. Initially, about 10,000 years ago, these lakes were fresh, and that continued until the beginning of the Christian era. Amid the Large lake there is an island with an ancient Benedictine monastery and a church. The structures are dated the 12th century. This island has become a sort of symbol of the park. The phenomenon of the system of lakes has made Mljet world-famous. The Large lake occupies the area of 146 hectares, and its depth is up to 46 metres. The Small lake has the area of 24 hectares, and is up to 29 metres deep.
The verdant flora of the island, particularly on the territory of the national park, has become the reason why Mljet is called “the green island”. Today, there are five types of forests on the island. Apart from the forests, the seaside sand dunes, the steep and tall cliffs and the sea ridges are of interest. A particular feature of the island — the absence of venomous snakes — is the consequence of the “work” of the Indian common mongoose. There are five kinds of snakes and six kinds of lizards on the island. They are the favoured food for the largest daytime predator of Mljet — snake-catcher eagle.
The Illyrian tribes left traces of their habitation of the island — stone structures, burial sites. In the times of the Roman empire, the island was mentioned in several documents. The most valuable evidence of that time is the ruins of a Roman palace dated the 1st century, a basilica, and the fortification structures in Polaci. In the middle of the 12th century, Benedictine monks built their monastery and a church on the island in the middle of the Large lake. In 1345, the monks signed a treaty, according to which the population of Mljet was relieved of work at the estates, but was instead forced to pay monetary fees. At that moment, the monastery became a cultural, religious and political centre. Thus it continued to be for several centuries.
It was only in the 19th century when the Benedictine monks permitted the settlement of the territory of the present-day national parl. It was then that the interesting settlement of Govedari appeared; the name tells us about the trade of its first occupants (“govedo” means “cow”). The Benedictine order ceased to occupy the area only in the times of Napoleon.
The fire of 1917 destroyed a large part of the old forests, and much time will be required for them to be fully restored. At present, the population of the island is involved in agriculture, mainly the growing of grapes and olives.
One of the landmarks of the isle of Mljet is Babino Polje cave.
According to legend, it was one of the cliffs of the island, where the shipwrecked Odysseus found himself and where he was able to find shelter in a cave. Here, on the island of nymph Calypso, he was charmed by the beauty of the sorceress, and of her island, as well as with that of the blue sky and the sea, the sun, the fields, and the woods. At present, the Odysseus hotel accommodates tourists coming to the settlement of Pomena.
The largest coral ridge reef in the Mediterranean is located at the entrance to the Veliko lake in a place of strong currents.
The news and the figures of Mljet park
In October 2013, Croatia’s Mljet national park, located on the isle of the same name, saw its 100,000th tourist. Thus, the record number of visits, set in 2004, was broken. In 2004, 99,662 tourists had visited the territory of the Mljet park. In 2012, 97148 people visited the island.
The isle of Mljet is part of the Southern Dalmatian region of Croatia. It is the larges of the southern isles of the Adriatic sea. The area of the isle of Mljet is 100 sq.km. Just over 1,100 people live on the island. The national park on the island was formed in 1960. Mljet national park includes the western part of the island, Veliko Lake, Malo Lake, Soline Bay and the sea belt 500 m wide.
Diving on island Mljet
Around the isle of Mljet, relatively many ships sank in different years and centuries. The secrets and the riches of the underwater world of ships attract professional divers. Beginning divers can receive traumas because the old ships under water are brittle and are half-destroyed.
Apart from diving, people actively windsurf on the isle of Mljet. They also row in canoes, walk and cycle.
Hotels, hostels & apartments on island Mljet
Get to national nature park Mljet
Get to Mljet island by ferry
The boats are mainly destined for the ports of Polac and Sobr Mljet. The settlements of Polace and Pomena are connected with the lakes by pedestrian paths.
Get to Mljet by plane
The nearest international airport to Mljet island is Dubrovnik city airport.
Park Mljet on map of Croatia
On this web used photos from www.likecroatia.com