Visit Croatian Alcatraz: Political prison on the uninhabited island Goli Otok

Trips & adventures

An inescapable barren island once served as a prison; today it is a reminder.

Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” 

There are many places and moments in history and everybody in the world would like to forget happened. One such place is Goli otok island, Croatia. 

The island is located in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, has an area of 4.5 square kilometres, and is one of Croatia’s 1300 islands.

Because of the island’s position on the map and exposure to fierce bura winds, its surface has no vegetation. If you speak Croatian, the island’s name instantly explains a lot about it — Goli otok means “Barren Island” in Croatian. Because of these circumstances, the island has never been permanently inhabited. 

What it’s notorious for, is that it was once one of the most infamous prisons in Europe, dubbed Alcatraz because no one could escape it. 

The great split

After the 2nd World War, in 1948, the president of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito and the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin had a falling out because of their opposing views of the Communist Party. This conflict is known as the Tito–Stalin Split, or Yugoslav–Soviet Split, and it resulted in Yugoslavia’s exclusion from the Communist Information Bureau, Informbiro.

The Goli otok prison camp (logor) was established in 1949 to hold and reform all those who supported Stalin’s philosophies and opposed The Communist Party of Yugoslavia.  

It is estimated that in all the years the camp had held about 32 000 prisoners, with at least 400 who didn’t survive the island and labour conditions. 

The camp was closed in 1956 to become a prison, then a teenage reform school, until it was finally closed for all activity in 1988. Today, it serves as a sombre history reminder for all those who visit it and explore walls built by the hands of those they imprisoned. 

If you’re interested in visiting Goli otok prison in Croatia, you can easily plan this field from Šimuni. While you’re at it, take a look at other cities and islands you can visit during your holiday and book your exploratory holiday of Croatia!