Kvarner Bay Islands, Croatia

Kvarner Gulf or Kvarner Bay is situated in the Croatian waters of the Northern Adriatic sea, in between the Istrian peninsular and the northern part of coastal Croatia. The principal islands are Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Rab and Pag as well as several other smaller islands, islets and large rocks.  The bay has extremely deep water enabling the mainland port of Rijeka to accommodate capesize ships in its harbour.  These are beautiful islands each with its own distinct personality and rich history.

This trip, I flew to Rijeka airport (which is actually on Krk island) and visited Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Ilovik and the little monastery island of Košljun.  I had hoped to visit more islands than I did but it’s not as easy to get from island to island as you might think – particularly without a car.  Connections between the islands are not as good as I had hoped and it is sometimes not possible to get from one island to the one next door without returning to the mainland to make the connection. Crossing points can be in isolated spots and, although connected by public transport, the timetables aren’t always very user-friendly if you are trying to move around in a hurry.

The official language here is Croatian, a Slavic language written in the latin alphabet, but most menus and signs in tourist places are written in English, German and Italian as well as Croatian and most people in tourists areas speak at least one foreign language very well. Over 85% of Croatians are Catholics and church is very popular here.  Churches are open, well looked after and well-attended.  Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union on 1st July 2013 but has retained its own currency, the Kuna which is divided into 100 lipa.  At time of writing there are about 8.5 kuna to the pound, 7.6 to the euro.

I was surprised (and glad) to find that many people, especially the older generation, speak very good Italian here.  Having read something about the complicated and eventful history of this area (much too complicated to go into here), I saw that some of the islands and part of this part of the Croatian coast were under Venetian rule for several centuries in the middles ages but more recently had been under Italian rule in the early 20th century when many Italians had settled in this area.  Lots of the islands and their towns have two names – a Croatian one and an Italian one.  The food and lifestyle is very similar to that found in Italy.  Younger people tended to speak English or German rather than Italian though.

I loved these islands. They are all beautiful, each one with a unique character, landscape and feel to it.  I found the people friendly and helpful; the food, wine and coffee delicious; the sunsets (and the thunderstorms) spectacular and the sea crystal clear and wonderful to swim in.  Keeping fit and taking the sea air and exercise are actively promoted here and there were lots of well-maintained coastal paths and walks, particularly in Lošinj. I mostly used airbnb for accommodation – more popular with the locals as they deduct less commission than booking.com!

NEXT ISLAND: The first island of my Kvarner Bay trip is to Krk Island.

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