September 25, 2023
Istria and the Kvarner Gulf: Croatia’s secret seashores and mini Venices
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(CNN) — Head to Croatia’s northern Adriatic coast to find among the nation’s most charming areas. Whereas Dubrovnik and different elements of southern Dalmatia get the lion’s share of consideration, the Istrian peninsula and the neighboring islands and coastal ports of the Kvarner Gulf reveal different sides of Croatia’s wealthy tradition and historical past.

The truth is, there’s nearly an excessive amount of historical past to soak up — historical Greeks and Romans, Venetians, Austro-Hungarians and Italians have all left their mark on the area’s structure, the language and the meals.

Ah, sure, the meals. Truffles, olive oil and deliciously juicy oysters and mussels in Istria, fabulously fats langoustines within the Kvarner Gulf, gorgeously flavored lamb from Cres — and so they all go superbly with Istrian malvazija whites and teran reds, and a crisp white žlahtina from Krk.

Once you’re not exploring historical Roman ruins, Venetian villages and Habsburg cities, you are basking on the tons of of seashores that run alongside Istria’s lengthy shoreline to the neighboring Opatija Riviera and the shores of the Kvarner Gulf. Then hop on a ferry to roam the islands of the gulf — Krk, Cres, Lošinj and Rab — every accessible from the opposite, however all demanding a lingering look.


Medieval Motovun clings to the hillside rising above vineyards.

Medieval Motovun clings to the hillside rising above vineyards.

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Work your manner alongside the heart-shaped coast of the Istrian peninsula and you will marvel in the event you strayed throughout the Italian border by mistake. At numerous factors in its lengthy historical past, Istria was a part of the Roman, Venetian and Habsburg empires — in addition to Italy itself till after the Second World Warfare — and you may see and style this legacy in every single place.

Pula has a glorious Roman amphitheater.

Pula has an excellent Roman amphitheater.

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In Pula on the peninsula’s southern tip, you may see one of many world’s best-preserved Roman amphitheaters, an atmospheric setting for live shows and the Pula Movie Competition. Alongside the western coast is the impossibly stunning port of Rovinj — or Rovigno, as it is also identified on this bilingual city. Its Venetian-style townhouses squeeze into slender alleyways and tiny squares within the medieval outdated city the place, in some unspecified time in the future, you may end up on the cobbled steps of Grisia, considered one of its prettiest lanes. Taking one of many boats that repeatedly hop throughout to the small island of Sveta Katarina reveals the perfect view of town.

The Parenzana trail runs along an old railway line.

The Parenzana path runs alongside an outdated railway line.

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Head inland and also you enter Istria’s world of hilltop medieval villages, rolling vineyards and truffle forests. Clinging to the hillside rising above vineyards is medieval Motovun, one of the crucial engaging bases from which to discover the world. From right here it is a quick drive to Grožnjan, scene of summertime outside live shows and a spot to browse the artists’ studios which have opened up over the a long time. Probably the most interesting methods to discover inland Istria is by mountaineering or biking the Parenzana Path, which follows the winding route of a disused railway line for about 80 miles.


Opatija is lined with Belle Epoque buildings, like Villa Angiolina.

Opatija is lined with Belle Epoque buildings, like Villa Angiolina.

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When the Habsburgs found the delicate local weather of Opatija within the nineteenth century, they turned what had been a small fishing village on the Kvarner Gulf coast into the cradle of Croatian tourism.

Pastel-colored Belle Époque townhouses quickly sprang up, a lot of which at the moment are Opatija’s grand resorts. Park Angiolina close to the seafront is an efficient introduction to this elegant city: a peaceful place of neat gardens, it is also dwelling to the 1844 Villa Angiolina, which now homes the Croatian Museum of Tourism.

There is a small however fascinating assortment of outdated pictures, classic beachwear, posters, postcards and souvenirs going again greater than 150 years. Look out for the park’s Wall of Fame displaying large work of earlier guests together with Albert Einstein, James Joyce, Isadora Duncan, Gustav Mahler, Robert De Niro and the Lumière brothers.

Probably the most pleasurable methods to discover the city — and different elements of the Opatija Riviera — is to observe the Lungomare. This seafront promenade winds alongside the coast for practically 5 miles from the fishing village of Volosko north of Opatija to the city of Lovran on the foot of the Učka Nature Park.


Spot Habsburg-era palaces on Rijeka's Korso.

Spot Habsburg-era palaces on Rijeka’s Korso.

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Croatia’s largest port is rather more than only a jumping-off level for ferries to the islands of the Kvarner Gulf. This cosmopolitan metropolis — 2020’s European Capital of Tradition — is value a lingering look. The Korzo is Rijeka’s fundamental pedestrianized thoroughfare that is the guts of town, wandering previous Habsburg-era townhouses and welcoming café terraces. Then quirky PEEK&POKE Pc Museum affords a nostalgic have a look at classic computer systems and different tech.

To go a lot additional again in time, climb the 528 steps (or take the bus) to Trsat Citadel, a Thirteenth-century fortress on a bluff overlooking Rijeka, for wonderful views of town and the islands of the Kvarner Gulf. Trsat can also be a spot of pilgrimage — it is dwelling to the Church of Our Woman of Trsat and its neighboring park, with the Stations of the Cross alongside its footpaths and viewpoints.


Krk is an ideal beach destination.

Krk is a perfect seashore vacation spot.

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Tied with neighboring Cres for the most important island in Croatia, and residential to Rijeka Airport, Krk is connected to the mainland by way of an extended bridge. Many guests make a beeline for the full of life seashore resort of Baška, in a sheltered spot on Krk’s southern finish — however there are lots of extra seashores alongside the closely indented coast. The village of Vrbnik is the place to attempt Krk’s indigenous white žlahtina wine.

Krk City, the island’s largest settlement, reveals the area’s advanced historical past inside its outdated city, with its medieval fortress, Roman masonry, and Venetian homes on slender cobblestoned alleyways. Look out for mountaineering trails that lead you to secluded pebbly seashores.


Cres Town is another mini Venice.

Cres City is one other mini Venice.

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The lengthy, skinny island of Cres snakes alongside Krk’s west coast. It is a comparatively unspoiled a part of the Adriatic the place sheep roam scrubby pastureland and produce a few of Croatia’s tastiest lamb. You may discover solely a handful of villages, together with the tiny Venetian-style Cres City and the significantly smaller Osor, which dates again to Roman occasions, and whose lanes are stuffed with public artwork.

It is an agreeably sleepy place, with quiet pebbly coves, an inland freshwater lake and the surprising sight of a rescue middle for griffon vultures within the northern village of Beli. Once you’re not stress-free on the seashores at Valun or Lubenice, you may discover greater than 60 miles of mountaineering trails that mix the wilderness of the hinterland with the shimmering great thing about the coast.


Unspoilt Lošinj is the perfect retreat.

Unspoilt Lošinj is the proper retreat.

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Connected to the southwestern aspect of Cres by a swing bridge, Lošinj dangles into the furthest reaches of the Kvarner Gulf. Whereas it might probably take a little bit of effort to get there, it is infinitely value it.

Smothered in wild herbs, Lošinj is soothingly aromatic, which you may uncover as you stroll or cycle alongside the pine-shaded paths that body elements of the island.

Its two fundamental villages, Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj, present their Venetian legacy; the truth is, Veli Lošinj’s brightly coloured homes resemble these on the Venetian island of Burano. In Mali Lošinj’s Museum of Apoxyomenos, you may get a style of historical historical past once you stare upon a bronze statue of a Greek athlete that had been mendacity undiscovered within the Adriatic for greater than 2,000 years.

Again within the nineteenth centry, the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz-Joseph noticed Lošinj’s potential as a spot to unwind fully in that gorgeously scented air. One in all his favourite spots was the misshapen Čikat Bay, whose clear waters fringed by Aleppo pines are as alluring as ever.


Royalty of a distinct type put the island of Rab on the map. In 1936, Britain’s short-reigning King Edward VIII and his then-lover Wallis Simpson stripped off and jumped bare into the waters off the Frkanj peninsula, sparking a convention of naturism that has by no means left. Someway this small island manages to pack in at the very least two dozen sandy seashores — fairly a feat in a rustic that is dominated by pebbly and rocky coves. Go mountaineering within the Lopar peninsula and also you come throughout a number of of the loveliest.

It wasn’t simply the clear waters of Rab that enchanted the royal guests. The beautiful and superbly preserved medieval structure of Rab City, which incorporates 4 Romanesque campaniles, is simply as engaging.