Nature really comes to the fore in Kvarner. The main islands of Krk, Lošinj and Rab have long been developed for tourism, but around them the hilly terrain, the Bura wind, and havens for dolphins contrast with easier, consumer pleasures. Cres, in particular, is relatively untouched. Away from the celebrated DJ scene at Zrće, Pag also feels bare and isolated.
Pag doesn't officially belong to Kvarner as this long, arid island is divided administratively between the mainland and Zadar, but it is closely connected with the other islands in the Kvarner Gulf. Easy transport links constitute one of the area's boons and both Krk and Pag have bridges to continental Croatia and most ferry hops in this part of the Adriatic are short and frequent. On the mainland, the two main towns are chalk and cheese. For much of its past, the gritty port of Rijeka didn't belong to Croatia at all, but was Habsburg for centuries, then Italian. Next door, elegant Opatija had its glory days in the late 19th century. Further on, Lovran offers quality seafront dining.
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Rab travel guide
Verdant in the south-west, rocky in the north and east and rocking in the middle, Rab has a lot to offer. It’s known as both the greenest and busiest island in the Kvarner string. Families like the safely shallow, sandy beach in the northern peninsula of Lopar, while nature lovers and naturists hike to the wilder beaches there. Rab town, near the centre of the island, is a bustling tourist destination, with an interesting mix of busy bars and a historic Old Town. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Pag travel guide
Pag is thin and 64 kilometres (40 miles) long, made up of two parallel mountain ranges. Settlements are mainly sleepy fishing villages, with two towns of any size, Novalja and Pag town. Novalja is a resort town that’s become party central. Zrće beach, a short bus ride away, is the biggest club hub in Croatia. By contrast, the administrative and commercial centre of Pag town exudes cultural heritage. Narrow, fortified medieval streets weave beneath a 15th-century Gothic cathedral and the sun beats hard off the white stone pavement as local ladies painstakingly stitch Pag lace in doorways. The flavours on the Pag dinner table are influenced by its arid, saline environment. Inhabited by more sheep than humans, Pag has lamb that is flavoured with the aromatic herbs that browsing sheep consume – as is the trademark Pag cheese. Fish tastes different too, a result of the particularly salty waters. What with the local žutica dry white wine and the stiff digestif of travarica herb brandy, the Pag culinary experience is especially attractive to foodies. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Rijeka travel guide
Croatia’s third-largest city with a population of 150,000, Rijeka has a busy port that handles ten million tonnes of cargo and a quarter of a million passengers, many heading to nearby resorts. It’s a nice place for a week’s city break, during which you can enjoy Rijeka’s fascinating history, great restaurants and kicking year-round nightlife. This is not a tourist-oriented city, which is part of its charm: in Rijeka you will be dining, drinking and dancing with locals. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Cres travel guide
One of the largest but least developed of Croatia’s islands, the relatively untouched gem of Cres contains 400 square kilometres (155 square miles) of rugged wilderness, an estimated 80 breeding pairs of the rare griffon vultures and only 3,000 full-time human residents. There are a couple of resort settlements, but not much else in the way of luxury vacations. For more sophistication, take a room in ancient Cres town; for wilderness, get a campsite in the hills. Either way, you can expect a simpler and quieter time than at many of Kvarner’s other resorts. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Krk travel guide
As you cross the high-altitude bridge connecting the Rijeka motorway to Krk island, the sea looks huge, but the tall rocky cliffs that swallow the road ahead are even more imposing. By the time you reach Croatia’s largest and most populous island, the mainland feels miles away. A widely varied group of attractive resort towns awaits. Heavily touristed Krk town has bustling bars, naff souvenir stands and fancy gift shops, arranged in and around ancient buildings. Near Krk island’s southern tip is another busy resort, Baška, with a famous Blue Flag sandy beach: at nearly two kilometres, it’s one of the longest of its kind on the coast. Malinska, with perhaps the island’s best concentration of good restaurants, is less hectic, though it does boast a destination late-night club. Vrbnik is a quieter place to go for gastronomic delights. Omišalj, one of the towns closest to the mainland bridge, is the home of Rijeka’s airport. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Opatija travel guide
One of Croatia’s first modern-style seaside resorts, Opatija was attracting royalty and the well-to-do more than a century ago. They stayed in grand villas and sought to invigorate their health by strolling the Lungomare, a stunning seaside walkway that offers some of Croatia’s best vistas. The vistas, villas and Lungomare remain, as do the many imposing fin-de-siècle hotels that enhance Opatija’s distinctive Habsburg-era look. This sophisticated destination also boasts a competitive restaurant scene that’s made it an important gastronomic hub in Croatia – and a great place to eat out. Opatija is fancier and pricier than many other Croatian resorts, but if you want a luxurious holiday you can find it here. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.
Lošinj travel guide
Cres and Lošinj used to be one island until the ancient Liburni tribe dug a canal at Osor. The healthy effects of its sea breezes, clean water and 2,600 hours of annual sunshine earned Lošinj an official designation as a health resort in 1892. Habsburg royalty followed and now tourism is the island’s main industry. Activity centres around two towns with misleading labels. Mali Lošinj, ‘Small Lošinj’, is the bigger settlement, about four kilometres from quaint little Veli Lošinj, ‘Great Lošinj’. Mali Lošinj, the largest island town in the Adriatic, with a population of 7,000, is set around a long, wide harbour, lined with Habsburg-era facades. Strolling from one end of the harbour to the other takes 20 minutes – it’s a nice waterside lined with great restaurants and bars. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.