Think You’ve Seen Croatia? Think Again

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Take the route less travelled and explore some 
of Eastern Europe’s lesser-known Adriatic jewels. By Rob McFarland.

Given the attention lavished on celebrity hotspots Hvar 
and Vis, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the only islands worth visiting in Croatia. In fact, the country has more than 
1000 scattered along its 1800 kilometres of coastline, including 
an archipelago in the Kvarner Bay region of the northern Adriatic. The obvious appeal of these lesser-known gems is that they 
attract fewer visitors and therefore offer a more authentic experience. One of the best ways to explore them is via an island-hopping bike trip with an operator such as UTracks 
or Butterfield & Robinson. Despite their proximity to one another, the islands all have intriguingly 
different personalities and attractions. Here are five of the best.

Lošinj

Thanks to its temperate climate and abundance of therapeutic herbs, Lošinj became a wellness retreat favoured by wealthy royals in the 19th century. It’s a legacy that has left its coastline peppered with imposing summer villas, some of which have been turned into upmarket resorts. With more than 250 kilometres of trails, it’s ideally suited for exploring by bicycle. 
A ride between its two pastel-hued fishing villages, Veli Lošinj and Mali Lošinj, passes idyllic coves.

Cres

This large and sparsely populated island has a rugged coastline 
of soaring cliffs, secluded coves and historic hilltop towns. Its northern half is covered with 
dense forest and is a good place 
to spot the island’s rare and endangered griffon vulture. The main settlements are Cres Town, which has an attractive café-lined fishing harbour, and the elevated medieval fort town of Lubenice.

The Croatian Mediterranean Islands You've Never Heard Of

Krk

Krk doesn’t have the picture-postcard appeal of some of its more attractive neighbours but it’s a popular starting point because of the toll bridge that links the island to the mainland. It has 
a scattering of good beaches 
(the one at Baška is the best) and historic churches. The impressive Krk Cathedral, parts of which 
date to the fifth century, is in Krk Town and the Church of St Lucy, just outside Baška, is where scholars discovered the 12th-century Baška tablet. It’s thought to be the oldest known document containing the name Croatia in 
the Croatian language.

Rab

This 22-kilometre-long island features pine-fringed beaches in the south and windswept karst cliffs in the north. The Lopar peninsula has the best beaches, while the town of Rab is a delightful maze of ancient stone streets dominated by four elegant belltowers. Be sure to sample Rabska torta, a citrusy almond cake first made as a gift for the pope in 1177; the original recipe 
remains a closely guarded secret.

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Pag

Because of the bura, a bitterly 
cold north-easterly wind that comes whistling off the mainland, Pag’s interior is hauntingly barren. 
It’s hard to believe that anything could grow here but at the vast Olive Gardens of Lun there are about 80,000 olive trees, some more than 1000 years old. The island is also famous for paški sir, 
a crumbly, salty cheese made 
from sheep’s milk. 

SEE ALSO: 29 Idyllic Greek Islands You’ve Never Heard Of

 

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