What would it feel like to go to a place where the sea is so crystal clean, that you can see the seabed even when the sea is about fifty meters deep... A place where the tradition is so cherished, that written pledges of respect for island customs were once requested of foreigners, and where people are so full of temperament, and so closely attached to the earth and the sea... A place where it was forbidden to plant walnuts, so witches would not come to the island, and where there are no poisonous snakes... Can such a place really exist? Yes indeed, and its name is – Lastovo. If you come here, this island will remain forever engraved in your memory, as the place that even the Greek god Zeus considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of the world.
If you are looking for a truly endless view of the surroundings, you’ll find it on the island of Lastovo. The view from the sightseeing point of Hum, 417 meters above sea level, is just like that – an endless vision of blue. On the other side, there are hills, deep sea coves, fertile fields, and slightly lower peaks of Mali Hum (415 meters) and Pleševo brdo (400 meters).
The sea entrance to the cove of Skrivena luka is guarded by the cape of Struga. A lighthouse of the same name was built here back in 1839 – providing yet another endless blue view, ninety meters above sea level, on the very verge of a steep cliff. It is a genuine surprise for our human eyes, so used to seeing a beginning and an end of everything.
As a matter of fact, the island and the archipelago of Lastovo represent the end of the search for a perfect destination for many visitors. This area has already become the ultimate destination of many a demanding traveler, with all the beauty that the Earth can provide, and that human mind can imagine. There are few islands in the Adriatic with more sunshine than Lastovo, with its long and dry summers, and mild, snow-free winters; in addition, due to its position in the open sea, the island does not suffer from sudden weather changes.
Nature park Lastovo islands is a true paradise oasis of the Mediterranean. A visit to an island beach easily turns into a unique experience and lasting memory of discovery of pristine space. Skrivena luka is one such beach, located on the southern side of the island of Lastovo.
The Archipelago consists of the western islets and the island of Sušac, together with islet groups of Donji škoji (Lastovnjaci) and Gornji škoji (Vrhovnjaci) – in total, 44 islands, islets and sea rocks.
The Nature Park was named after the biggest island of the archipelago, Lastovo, which is also the southernmost inhabited island in Croatia.
Until the most recent ice age, approximately thirteen thousand years ago, Lastovo used to be connected with the mainland, until the Adriatic as we know it today expanded due to ice melt. Today, the island is fully separated by the sea, sitting on the shallow Palagruža Sill that extends from the peninsula of Pelješac to Monte Gargano. On both sides of the Sill, sea depths are considerably bigger – especially in the south, where sea bottom dives to 1,350 meters.
The Nature Park Lastovo islands is astounding in its nature. Blue sea is sprinkled with green islands, separated from the sea by inaccessible rocky coastline. The landscape of the Lastovo islands, exciting and vivid, and yet calming at the same time, allows visitors to engage in endless discovery of numerous channels, coves and sea rocks. Yachtsmen will find the area particularly attractive. There are two groups of islands and islets on the eastern side of the island of Lastovo – Lastovnjaci a bit closer to the island, and Vrhovnjaci a bit further away.
The island of Lastovo and islands surrounding it began gradually emerging from the sea bed about 150 million years ago. For millions of years, skeletons and shells of sea organisms were sedimenting on the bottom of the sea, until the islands eventually dived out of the sea. This explains the dolomite and limestone character of the soil of Lastovo, as well as numerous caves, pits and fields. Not all the surfaces have the same structure, however: the island also has its stone giants, its sea rocks and cliffs, the most imposing of which is the one in Skrivena luka.
The coast is not particularly hospitable, and it is mostly inaccessible. Therefore, the best option to explore the coastline is to hop on board a vessel, as this part of the Adriatic is a favorite spot for yachtsmen. A typical image of the island is one of white sails of sailboats scattered across the deep blue of the sea, with the sun above them – this being one of the sunniest places in the Adriatic in terms of hours of sunshine per year. The coves of Vejo lago and Malo lago are an exception in terms of accessibility when it comes to local waters.
The dynamic relief of the inner part of the island stands in direct contrast to the coastline, which is not particularly indented. Numerous caves can be found on the island, a consequence of sea and rainwater seeping through permeable soil. Potable water is a precious commodity on the islands, and the locals obtain it by desalinating this brackish water.
Lastovo is a hilly island, with around fifty fertile fields. Unlike the fields on other karst islands, the fields of the island of Lastovo are rich in sand and marl brought by the wind. Only about thirty percent of the fields are cultivated, however. The island population is relatively old, which is why most of the available fields are not cultivated these days. Numerous pools of water can be found in these fields, with as many as twelve species of dragonflies, the quickest fliers in the world of insects.
The island population is small and relatively old, which is why there are simply too few inhabitants capable of cultivating the fertile fields. Young people rarely decide to stay and live on the island.
The loneliness and distance of Lastovo did a lot of good to the island. In biological terms, it is one of the best-preserved areas of the Mediterranean. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) declared the island an area of special importance for biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean. Two plant species extraordinarily resistant to the impact of the sea – holm oak (Quercus ilex) and Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) – dominate the thick island forests.
The abundance of sunlight and night moisture on Lastovo enable life for over 800 plant species, including twenty endemic ones. There are also fifty endangered plant species, and twenty strikingly beautiful orchid species.
The westernmost island of the Nature Park Lastovo islands is Sušac, a botanical jewel of the Adriatic with over 250 recorded species. It is a habitat of plant species common in the Aegean Sea and the Italian South, and the northernmost point where these two groups of species meet. In the summertime, Sušac is marked by deciduous thicket formations, such as those of the rare plant tree spurge (Euphorbia dendroides), which flowers and blossoms towards the beginning of autumn, gives fruit in the winter, only to shed its leaves towards the end of spring.
The endemic species Sušac mustard (Brassica cazzae) grows in cracks of rocks near the sea.
The abundance and diversity of bird species constitute yet another extraordinary value of the Park. Given its geographical position, the Lastovo islands natue park is an important resting and feeding place for birds during their annual migrations across the Adriatic Sea to the Italian Peninsula and further on to Africa. So far, 145 bird species have been recorded in the territory of the entire archipelago. They include birds of prey, such as the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). As much as 70 percent of the Croatian population of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) is nesting on islets of the eastern part of the Park, and the entire archipelago with its islands and islets is the nesting place of Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), which the inhabitants of Zaklopatica on the island of Lastovo know very well, listening to the Mediterranean shearwater’s characteristic night calls.
The subterranean layers of the island of Lastovo are full of brackish water, as a result of tectonic shifts that resulted in cracks and channels, which were eventually filled up by the geological history we have already mentioned. The best-known cave of Lastovo is Rača, with traces of life and human presence since ancient history. It is a geomorphological monument of nature, and a rich archaeological site. In total 70 meters long, the cave is impressive due to the richness of its cave structures, extraordinary shapes of its pillars, and other geological “jewelry”. The cave of Medjedina is also significant – not so long ago, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) used to live in it, the so-called “sea man” as people frequently refer to it. It is the most endangered and rarest seal species. Nowadays, it is a rare occurrence to see the Mediterranean monk seal in the waters of the Park; however, even these few precious encounters bring hope that the “sea man” would eventually return back to its ancient home. The caves of Lastovo are home to at least 16 bat species.
There is only one snake species on the Lastovo Islands Nature Park , and it is not poisonous, which means that you need not worry as you use any of the walking and cycling trails, over 200 kilometers long in total at the level of the Lastovo island nature park.
Seventy percent of the Park’s surface consists of the sea. The submarine world is known for the beauty of various corals. Particularly beautiful are the colonies of gold coral (Gerardia savaglia), red coral (Corallium rubrum), and the endemic star coral (Madracis pharensis).
The sea of Lastovo is home to approximately 150 fish species, and the fishermen are particularly happy when they catch the precious lobster. The submarine world of the Park is also rich in sponges, molluscs, moss animals, echinoderms, crustaceans and many other species, making the links of the submarine chain of life very strong.
Even though it is quite far from the mainland, the open sea island of Lastovo hides many small churches, votive chapels and other interesting buildings in its green vegetation. Turbulent historical times also had an impact on the island of Lastovo, regardless of the distance. In 1252, the islanders voluntarily accepted the rule of the Dubrovnik Republic, and in return they got written guarantees and a pledge that they would have the autonomy to make local decisions and that all the customs of the islanders would be respected. As a result, on January 10, 1310, the Statute of Lastovo was reached at a public meeting on the island.
This way of life resulted in many surviving tales of the past, and intangible heritage that is still alive today, reflecting the intense history of the island. Lastovo Carnival is one such legacy, as one of the most valuable customs in Croatia. The carnival tradition is connected with the Moorish siege of the island of Korčula in 1483. The Moors sent one of their emissaries to the island of Lastovo, with the task to ensure surrender of the islanders. However, the inhabitants of Lastovo detained the emissary. Angered, the Moors attacked Lastovo. A terrible storm then struck the Moorish fleet and destroyed it. The islanders put the prisoner on a donkey and put him to ridicule by taking him around the island. In the evening, they prepared a long rope and used it to lower the poor guy from a hill called Pokladareva grža, or the Carnival Hill. Since these ancient times, the people of Lastovo have been jealously preserving and enriching the tradition of the Lastovo Carnival, transmitting it through oral tradition from one generation to the next. And so the Carnival lives on until the present day, held every year with its rich costumes and masks, the island coming out of its winter sleep. There is no custom anywhere in the world similar to the Lastovo Carnival.
The distance and isolation of the island have deeply enriched the legends of Lastovo. Almost every inhabitant could tell you a legend, in order to explain, for example, why nobody planted walnut trees on the island. The reason was a deeply held belief that witches would meet under the walnut tree, and the islanders were very eager not to have witches as neighbors. There are also legends about the beauty of the island. The Greek god Zeus once sent an emissary to find the most beautiful island in the world, so that quarrels on Mount Olympus would finally stop as to whether this title belongs to the island of Lastovo, Mljet or Korčula. The emissary looked and looked at these islands, but could not decide which is more beautiful than the other. The gods finally decided to punish the emissary for his indecisiveness, by turning him into stone – and that stone is the small island of Glavat.
The so-called fumari, chimneys of the island of Lastovo, also represent a special story of the island, and its genuine attraction. They are so diverse, that the visitors invariably end up being curious – how come, they ask, that every single chimney is different from the other. There simply are no two chimneys on the island that would be identical. One theory is that the islanders built these chimneys in such a diverse manner in order to point out the differences between households and families on the island, primarily in terms of wealth. As a result, every new chimney would end up being bigger than its “predecessor”, and adorned with more elaborate ornaments. Competition among islanders was relentless, it seems, as to who would have the most intriguing chimney; one of the ornaments used, for example, were animal horns that can still be found on some chimneys, due to the belief that they serve as protection against spells. It is believed that the oldest chimney on the island is the one on the Renaissance house of the Antica-Biz family. These unusual, unique chimneys create a unique scenery of the island, too hard for any tourist video or photo camera to resist.