A sanctuary for nature lovers, and a haven for those searching for peace. Silba is a summer dream.
An island without cars. Where pedestrians rule the land. Meet Silba.
This hidden gem in northern Dalmatia covers only 15 square kilometers, but don’t let its small size fool you. Silba is known as a car-free ‘Pedestrian Island,’ adorned with stunning beaches and coves. It is also one of the most densely wooded islands in Croatia and welcomes some 2570 hours of sunshine annually.
Easy to reach from Zadar and Mali Lošinj, just two miles west of the island of Olib, and with the smaller islands of Skarda, Ist, and Molat nearby, Silba has become a popular port for boaters. And because cars are not an accessory here, it’s the ideal island to stretch your sea legs.
Silba is named after the Latin word ‘silva’ (or forest) but hides much more than its carpeted landscape. It is hailed as the Gateway to Dalmatia, where the Kvarnerić and Dalmatian archipelagos divide. But it is also applauded as an island that lives at its own pace, with God-given nature and endless history, which makes it unique even next to its neighboring islands.
While Silba has seen many rulers, it experienced its greatest prosperity during the Venetian Republic. Since Silba is on the navigable route along the Adriatic, its residents boarded ships as sailors and later captains. They ultimately owned a merchant fleet and became rich.
This is seen in local homes and courts, luxuriously built and surrounded by high walls, which is not typical island architecture. The island also boasts many churches, six of which have been preserved today.
Silba later developed between the ports of Mul and Žalić, which sit about 700 meters apart. Until World War II, a small town functioned there with all the necessary amenities, from shops to an inn, a butcher, a hairdresser, and a market.
The post-war departure of residents devastated Silba until it was discovered by tourists and sailors, as well as Europeans who started to build holiday homes there. Today, Silba thrives off fishing and mainly yachting tourism, while around one hundred houses have been converted for tourists. A handful of restaurants and taverns are swarmed in summer, made for locals and tourists lucky enough to experience this enchanting place.
Silba may be small, but two ports make it easy to welcome boaters. Žalić sits on the west coast and Mul on the east. Žalić is protected by a 130-meter-long breakwater, which is safe from bura winds, but not the best shelter when maestral hits. On the other hand, Mul is protected from all winds except tramontana. While this laid-back island is still not as famous as its counterparts, it does get busy in the summer months, meaning it's wise to secure your berth early. There are also a handful of anchorages for boaters, with Luka Silba, Luka Sv. Ante, and Papranica being among the most popular.
Where to eat
Silba may not have as extensive of a culinary offer as competing islands, but that adds to its charm. The most popular on the island is Vila Velebita, a family-run institution founded in 1991. This restaurant is run by Svetimir Lovrovic, who took over the business in their family home. Today, the restaurant is run by Svetimir and his wife, who is often seen in the kitchen serving Dalmatian classics like black risotto and the Adriatic catch of the day.
Konoba Alavija is another go-to on the island for traditional dishes with a modern twist. Located next to the beach for the ultimate chilled vibe, guests can choose to hang out downstairs and order drinks or head upstairs to dine on the balcony. Octopus, scampi, and seafood specialties are kings here, too.
Silba’s small size makes it easy to travel around the island, and those looking to dip in the Adriatic are in the right place. Hiking paths lead visitors around the island to sand and pebble beaches, like the main city beach Šotorišće. Located on the island's south side, Šotorišće’s sandy bottom is just part of its appeal. If you’re in the town of Silba, you’ll also want to head to Ugljanica beach, and if you want to strip down to your birthday suit? Well, Mavrova is perfect for you. The sandy-bottomed Pernastica is one of Silba’s most beautiful coves, while Vele Stene (or Large Rocks) is a shallow dream. And if you’re into rock forms? Don’t miss Nozdre, a bay with two small sand dunes. There are also several pebble banks with flat rocks on the shore for sunbathers!
What to do?
Apart from swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing, which visitors to Silba can enjoy best, there are a few highlights you won’t want to miss during your time on this island.
Like exploring Silba town! While this small fishing village is really just that, Silba town is the island's center and, well, the island’s only real settlement. You’ll find cafes and restaurants, some churches, and local boats lining its coastline. But the most impressive to see in Silba town is certainly Toreto.
This 13-meter tower in the middle of town offers more than just 360-degree panoramic views of the Adriatic. It is packed with a history and love lesson for visitors, too. This octagonal tower was built in the 19th century by a wealthy captain Petar Marinić. Legend has it that in 1872, Petar made this lookout for his beloved to wait for him once he returned from sea. After years of waiting, she lost hope and married someone else. Petar finally returned much later and met a young girl who reminded him of his young love. It turned out that she was the daughter of the woman he had left on the island many years ago! Petar and the young girl married, living happily ever after, and the tower remains a symbol of their love. Today, visitors can climb the tower by the carved stone stairs, which wrap around its exterior.
Art buffs can enjoy the work of one of Croatia’s most famous sculptors at the Marija Ujević-Galetović Gallery, located in the heart of Silba, near the church of St. Mary. This gallery offers a complete overview of the sculptor's works, who has Silba roots and was also a member of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences. The outdoor gallery features different stages of the artist’s work and is also a go-to location for summer events!
And should you like diving? Silba has much to see underwater, too, especially in Pocukmarak Bay, where you can find the remains of ancient Roman sarcophagi just below the sea surface!
This small but mighty island may not pack a punch with the tourist offers of other islands, but that fact alone adds to its appeal. An island where magic is found in the footsteps of those lucky enough to wander around it, where the wheels of modern times have no place. A car-free retreat, a sanctuary for nature lovers, and a haven for those searching for peace. Silba is a summer dream.
Now, all that’s left to do is book a yacht, relax and enjoy. Contact us and let’s talk about creating your perfect sailing holiday!