Off the Croatian coast six kilometres from Šibenik lies Obonjan (pronounced Oh-bon-yan), a small island covered in olive and pine trees that has largely been uninhabited – until now. In 1972 it was taken over by Croatia’s scout movement who built an amphitheatre and a few other buildings, but it has been untouched and deserted (except for one man and his dog) since 2006.
Ten years later and Obonjan has been turned into one of Europe’s best summer destinations. Co-founded by the creators of Croatia’s Hideout and Unknown festivals, Obonjan hosts a ten-week-long programme of live music, wellbeing, talks and workshops.
This is a concept that goes beyond the traditional ‘festival’. Visitors can stay on the island for as long as they like – whether it’s a few days, a couple of weeks or the whole six – in bell tents or premium forest lodges complete with en-suite bathrooms, all the mod-cons (including Wi-Fi) and outdoor terraces with unobstructed views across the Adriatic.
The first festival in 2016 saw live music through the day and night from the likes of Floating Points and spoken word extraordinaire Kate Tempest, and sets from Craig Charles and Mr Scruff, amongst others. There were also talks from the likes of music producer Dave Okumu of The Invisible, Matthew Herbert and Gilles Peterson, and co-director of design at the RSA, Sophie Thomas, while Nick Doody and Glenn Wool provided the comedy – amongst others.
This year, expect music and sets from Norman Jay MBE, Horse Meat Disco and Joe Goddard, photography workshops, a live art mural from London illustrator Hattie Stewart and talks from – and expeditions with – the Wild Swimming Brothers.
When the music gets a little too much, there are a whole host of free yoga classes and massage treatments available on the island, as well as daily guided meditation sessions – or escape for the day to sail around the neighbouring islands, visit Krka National Park or soak up city life in Šibenik. Not that there’s much reason to leave; Onbonjan is an unspoilt jewel of Croatia, and the selection of bars and cafés on the island mean you’ll have everything at your disposal.
Obonjan will run from June 23 – 03 September 2017. For more information, visit its website.
Words by Angharad Jones. Images courtesy of Obonjan