THE BLOG
09/11/2014 05:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The World's Most Adorable Island

By Ken Jennings, CNTraveler.com

2014-09-11-540a116181424d9d655be14a_heartshapedgalesnjakislandcroatia.jpg Photo: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

Just like the coat of the region's namesake dog, the coast of Dalmatia is spotted -- with countless tiny islands. Most are uninhabited, but one little isle in the Zadar Archipelago recently become a hot destination for honeymooners and other lovestruck couples, thanks to a fortunate geographic accident. The so-called "Lover's Island" isn't the heart of Europe, but it's certainly Europe's most heart-shaped getaway.

See "Lover's Island" on a map

• Off the Croatian coast, in a narrow channel between the island of Pasman and the mainland, sits the isle of Galesnjak. Galesnjak is only 32 acres or so in area; you could walk across it in less than ten minutes. And you wouldn't have much reason to dawdle on your walk. Apart from some low shrubs, a few ancient Illyrian burial mounds and the foundation of one little Roman ruin, the island is completely featureless.

• But in 2009, Google Earth tourists began to spread the word that Galesnjak, which is pretty boring from land or sea, is much more remarkable from the air. As Napoleon's cartographer had noticed way back in 1806, when he first mapped Galesnjak, the island's outline forms an almost perfect heart. Its startlingly clear Valentine shape began to draw lovestruck visitors, who would rent boats to snuggle on the island's pebble beaches and take a dip in the cool Adriatic.

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• Galesnjak is privately owned by locals, one Vlado Juresko and his family. Sensing a marketing opportunity here, the Jureskos quickly renamed their obscure isle Otok za Zaljubljene, the "Island of Love." To reporters, they extolled its virtues as a romantic getaway -- even though there are no amenities whatsoever there -- and razed a few large strips of scrub across the island in order to plant olive orchards that could host weddings someday.

• If the Croatian coast is a little far for your destination wedding, you could always consider Petra Island, a somewhat heart-shaped spot in Lake Mahopac, just an hour north of Manhattan. The island, complete with a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, went up for sale in 2012. Rumors spread last year that Angelina Jolie had bought the romantically shaped island for Brad Pitt's 50th birthday, but in fact, the island is still on the market. So there's still time to make an offer if you have your heart set on a 10-acre valentine -- and $20 million or so to pay for it.

Explore the world's oddities every week with Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.

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