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Sv. Grgur & Goli Otok - a detour to the dark side of Croatian history

Sv. Grgur & Goli Otok - a detour to the dark side of Croatian history

How shame became beauty ...

History cannot always be portrayed in a good light and when one mentions “Goli Otok” the Croatians are reluctant to think of the shame from the not too distant past.

The recent history of Croatia has retained a bitter aftertaste in regards to the two islands in the northern Adriatic. Depressing and shocking, are the impressions you get when you visit these islands or when you listen to the stories told by the historians.

Sveti Grgur (“Saint Gregory”) and Goli Otok (“Bare Island”) are located in the Kvarner Bay between the better-known large islands of Rab and Krk.

In 1949 prison camps were established here. The islands were uninhabited and bare. Escape was assessed impossible, which was one of the most important factors. The women's prison was built on Sveti Grgur, while the male prisoners were housed on Goli Otok.

Political prisoners of socialist Yugoslavia were imprisoned here until the early 1980s. They were seen as opponents of the former president Tito, who had a conflict with Stalin in 1948. Every prisoner was suspected of cooperating with the Soviet Union as a communist - and was punished with isolation and forced labor.


The camps Sveti Grgur and Goli Otok counted over 16,000 prisoners and - what is particularly depressing - over 400 people did not leave these islands alive.

The people experienced cruel humiliation, abuse, psychological and physical violence here. The reports from former inmates are difficult to digest.

It was not until 1986 that the two prison camps were closed and left to nature and thus its fate. The atrocities were kept silent for a long time and disturbing details were kept secret. But over time, things came to light that were hard to imagine.

Today only old bunkers, an old shipyard, neglected buildings and dilapidated infrastructure bear witness to the events of that time. Despite many plans to make the islands a memorial site with museums, hotels and restaurants, the islands only offer one restaurant each and the ruins of the past so far. The severity of the events can hardly be masked and it is almost impossible to leave the islands indifferently after a visit.


But nature has done its work. Today, Sveti Grgur is one of the greenest islands in Croatia and in the interior of the island there is a dense Mediterranean forest of holm oaks. From the highest point on the island Standarac, you have a fabulous view of the surrounding area. The only permanent residents of the island - fallow deer, snakes and lizards - who appreciate the warm climate and unspoiled nature, you will discover every few meters.

The rocky coastline of the islands testifies to the forces of nature. High, steep cliffs protrude imposingly from the sea. But the south side with the small pebble beaches is perfect for refreshing yourself, while swimming in the crystal clear sea and enjoying the sun. Dive or snorkel and discover the underwater world. With a bit of luck you will also come across a dolphin or two here.


Looking at the beauty of nature today, it is hard to imagine that such terrible things once happened here.

If you have booked one of our villas with pool in the Kvarner region, the islands of Krk or Rab, we recommend a trip to Sveti Grgur and Goli Otok.

In the summer months, numerous tourist boat trips to the islands are offered and an expert guided tour should not be missed, if you want to learn more about Croatia’s history.

Daniela Vuleta

+385 1 222 70 50