TRAVEL

Lošinj: the Island of Vitality

July 23, 2020

IMAGE: Sandro Tariba

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Lošinj is part of Croatia’s Cres-Lošinj island group, but it didn’t always belong to Croatia—for many years it was part of the Venetian Republic, and the harbour of Mali Lošinj was an important shipping hub in the 19th century. The island passed into Austro-Hungarian hands from 1797 until 1918, becoming the preferred holiday resort of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, Franz-Josef, and was given to Italy and then Yugoslavia before finally becoming part of Croatia in 1991. The influence of each of those ruling countries can still be felt.

 

Lošinj wasn’t always this size, either! Originally, Lošinj and its neighbour, Cres, were one island until the channel of Osor was excavated in Roman times to shorten the route to the open sea. A bridge now connects the islands, unifying them once again.

 

In recent times, Lošinj has become known as the ‘Island of Vitality’—and a shining example of eco-tourism. In 2016, Mali Lošinj won an award from the European Tourism Indicator System for Sustainable Development (ETIS), which had monitored more than 130 indicators in all areas of sustainability. The town also participated in the Sustainable Top 100 Awards, coming 2nd in the Best of the Mediterranean category in 2018 3rd in the Best of Europe category in 2019.

 

The Mali Lošinj Sustainable Tourism Development Project had precise goals to be achieved by this year in areas such as protection of space and biodiversity, integration of the local economy and tourism, and protection of cultural identity. There are future plans for an Eco Marina, and the improvement of cycling, walking and hiking trails.

 

Today, the town attracts visitors keen to experience its natural beauty and biodiversity, its health and wellness offerings, its wide range of outdoor activities, and its culture and cuisine—all of which are being carefully and sustainably preserved and developed on this beautiful island.

 

Why not join them?

 

 

IMAGE: Antonio Pavela

Arriving in Mali Lošinj

 

Lošinj Airport is 6 km from the town of Mali Lošinj, with summertime connections to Venice, Zagreb, and Lugano, while Rijeka Airport (rather confusingly, not near Rijeka on the mainland but on the island of Krk) has far more connections, with flights to Zagreb, Cologne, London, Stockholm, Bucharest, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Tel Aviv, Košice, Riga, Moscow, Munster, Innsbruck and Gothenburg. If you fly to Trieste airport, you can also get a shuttle bus to Pula, from where a ferry visits the islands of Unje and Susak before delivering you to Mali Lošinj.

 

However, it’s far more eco-friendly to travel to a nearby port via public transport and take a ferry across. Croatia is connected with Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, Germany, France, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries by international bus route, and Arriva run buses to nearby ports, and even run buses to Mali Lošinj itself from Zagreb and Rijeka. How do these buses get over the water? Simple. They use the ferry, travelling from Brestova on the mainland to Porozina on Cres, then onwards to Lošinj via the bridge.

 

 

IMAGE: Sandro Tariba

You can also travel by train to Pula or Rijeka. From Rijeka, there’s a daily, high-speed catamaran service, while from Pula, there’s a catamaran once a week off-season, rising to five times a week in high season. Other options are the car ferry from Zadar, the ferry from Vabiska on the Island of Krk to Merag on the Island of Cres, or ferries from Cesenatico or Pessaro in Italy.

 

Many of the resort hotels are just out of town near the stunning bays of Sunčana Uvala ('Sunny Bay') and Čikat Bay, where late 19th century villas and luxury hotels sit alongside modern hotels in tranquil pine forests. In season, an hourly shuttle bus runs between the town centre and this hotel district, but the resorts are only a 10 to 20 minute walk from the town centre.

 

Here, you'll find Lošinj Hotel & Villas' beautiful collection of hotels, villas and apartments, many of which hold the Green Certification from the Association of Employers in Croatian Hospitality (UPUHH), awarded at basic, advanced or superior level. This certification is your guarantee that you’re choosing sustainable accommodation.

 

Green-certified hotels within the LH&V portfolio include Family Hotel Vespera in Sunčana Uvala, which holds the advanced level Green Certificate. This hotel is fully equipped for an ideal family holiday, with animation programs for all age groups, and a full range of fun-filled offers including the Aqua Fun complex, outdoor pools and diverse sports facilities. It’s within easy reach of a pebbled beach and flat surfaces for sunbathing.

 

Hotel Aurora, nestled above Veli Žal beach in Sunčana Uvala, also holds an advanced level award. This hotel has indoor and outdoor seawater pools, plus a unique Wellness Center, the Aura Botanical Spa Garden. There are also congress facilities, making the hotel a top choice not just for leisure but for corporate and business travel too.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Ivan Brčić

Five-star Hotel Bellevue, situated at Čikat Bay and surrounded by ancient pine forest, holds the superior level award. At the end of the 19th-century, Čikat was recognised as a ‘healing location’ due to its specific microclimate, making it especially popular among the Viennese aristocracy. Today, this tradition continues with the Bellevue Spa Clinic and Spa Garden offering an array of innovative wellness programs based around the ‘slow-ageing’ concept and beauty treatments using world-famous cosmetic brands, including a bespoke selection of massages and fitness workouts. It’s the ideal choice for relaxation and rejuvenation—and there’s a White Flag beach at the front of the hotel too.

 

These hotels all use fresh, local, seasonal, eco-certified and authentic ingredients in their restaurants, such as homemade olive oil, sheep cheese, lamb, boškarin meat, fish and shellfish.

 

They’re not your only sustainable choices, though. Just 4 miles outside Mali Lošinj, in a secluded area surrounded by pines and olives trees, are Eco Apartments Zabodarski, which use solar power. The beach is less than 400 metres away and the owner has a small organic farm next door, producing jams and juices.

 

Camping and glamping are also available at several sites on Lošinj. Camping Čikat holds numerous awards for excellence and innovation, and it’s certified to ISO 14001 for environmental management. It has a White Flag beach, bikes available to rent and several eateries offering local delicacies.

 

 

IMAGE: Hrvoje Serdar

Explore Lošinj’s natural beauty and wildlife

 

Visiting Lošinj without taking the time to appreciate its wildlife, biodiversity and stunning natural landscapes might be an actual crime. No trip to Lošinj is complete without a dolphin-spotting trip and a visit to the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre. The island’s Blue World Institute is a research, conservation and education centre that focuses on the marine environment and in 2014, the Natura 2000 Cres-Lošinj zoological site was established to conserve local endangered species including the island’s 200+ bottlenose dolphins, the loggerhead sea turtle, the Mediterranean endemic seagrass (Posidonia oceanica), coral biocenoses, and nesting sites of the common European Shag. Experts from the Institute teach you about the fascinating lives of bottlenose dolphins and take you to the places where they can often be spotted. There’s also an annual Dolphin Day, both fun and educational, and a modern, interactive Marine Museum will soon be completed.

 

The best way to enjoy the natural beauty of Lošinj is by walking, cycling or hiking. The Promenades and Footpaths brochure, available from the tourist office, has maps of 250 km of trails covering all Lošinj and a small part of Cres, with accurate walking times. Televrin, at 588m high, is the highest peak of the 10 km long Osorščica mountain ridge and provides spectacular views of the coast and forests. It can be reached by several walking trails and by a challenging cycling trail that starts at the Preko mosta campsite in the village of Osor. There is also a scenic coastal path from Mali Lošinj to Čikat, passing through Čikat Forest Park, but be warned it is narrow in some places, with a steep drop to the sea!

 

You should also pay homage to the island’s legendary biodiversity and botanical fame by visiting the hillside Lošinj Garden of Fine Scents, a nursery of the island’s medicinal herbs. Here, qualified guides will tell you all about the island’s plants and their medicinal properties. There are charmingly wonky chairs and tables dotted about, the views and smells are amazing, and there are homemade dishes and produce to be bought or enjoyed.

 

 

IMAGE: Ivan Brčić

Island Living Through the Ages

 

Churches, Renaissance buildings and ancient ruins can all be found on Lošinj, as well as more modern cultural attractions. The Church of St Martin is the oldest building in Mali Lošinj and was built largely between 1450 and 1490, although some rebuilding has taken place since. You can also visit the Museum of Lošinj in the Fritzi Palace to learn about the town’s history and admire contemporary art in the attached gallery. There’s also the Museum of Apoxyomenos, which focuses on the sculpture of Apoxsyomenos, a Greek athlete, which dates back to 2nd or 1st century B.C. and was retrieved from the waters of Lošinj in 1999. A replica can be seen in the Lošinj Historical Underwater Park, only open to experienced divers or those accompanied by one! This attraction has underwater exhibits related to Lošinj history, including anchors from the 4th and 5th centuries and Venetian cannons.

 

For history that’s a little more recent, visit the Sailing Interpretation Centre and learn more about the area’s maritime history while exploring the Nerezinac Lugger, a sailboat restored to resemble the local 19th-century lugger ships. September visitors to the island can enjoy the month-long Lošinj Sails Around the World festival, which celebrates Lošinj’s maritime golden age in the mid-19th century and includes displays of shipbuilding and net-making skills.

The town of Osor, with its remains of ancient walls and forts and impressive archaeological collection, is well worth a visit too. Within its gardens and parks, you’ll find the ruins of ancient villas and monasteries, contemporary art displays, and a host of cultural events in the summer.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Ivan Brčić

Pamper Your Palate

 

With the Adriatic Sea on the doorstep and a plethora of locally-grown herbs and other plants to use, it’s not surprising that fish, seafood and wild herbs feature heavily on the menu in Lošinj! Alongside whitefish and oily fish, lamb is also a popular principal ingredient and there’s plenty of homemade pasta, risotto, salads, octopus and squid dishes. Olive oil is used liberally and the local shrimp is considered the best in the world by some critics.

 

Try Croatian specialities like buzara (seafood cooked in a mixture of olive oil, wine, garlic, fresh herbs and (sometimes) breadcrumbs and Lošinj dishes such as cod in Lošinj onion spring sauce, devil fish in olive sauce, mixed fish brodetto with fragrant polenta, and cow shark in sauce with fried sage. Several restaurants specialise in ‘Apoxyomenos antique cuisine’, serving dishes that contain only ingredients that would have been used in ancient Greece, such as traditional grains, olives, dates, figs, nuts, honey, seafood and wine. You’ll find many of them offer gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options alongside island and Croatian dishes such as aromatic Lošinj gnocchi, omelettes made from Lošinj asparagus and island maneštra (a Croatian version of minestrone).

 

Every May, the Lošinj Culinary Festival attracts numerous local restaurants showcasing local specialities through tastings, competitions and gastronomic walks, so it’s not to be missed!

 

 

IMAGE: Sandro Tariba

Have a Day in Town—or Visit the Neighbours

 

It’s easy to go green in Mali Lošinj, with plenty of places to rent a bike and everywhere within walking distances. If you want to venture further, the bus station is near the ferry port and daily buses run from Veli Lošinj to Punta Križa on island Cres, stopping at most of the small villages on Lošinj on the way. Buses from Mali Lošinj to the mainland also call at other island towns.

 

If you’ve seen the sights and want to spend the day shopping, there are numerous shops selling authentic, local products, including Lošinj natural cosmetics and air fresheners made with the island’s medicinal plants, and a range of traditional foods and drinks. Foodies should visit Gastro Croatia, which sells extra virgin olive oil and marmalades from Cres, sage, forest, chestnut and acacia honey varieties from Mali Lošinj itself, wine from Susak, island pates and sausages, and locally-made natural cosmetics.

 

For souvenirs and natural products, visit Čarobnjak for authentic jewellery, ceramics and art, or Gourmet Boutique for olive and lavender wood souvenirs, plus delicious liqueurs made from lemon, pine needles, sage and myrtle grown on Lošinj. Radović Atelier displays and sells award-winning photos and also offers courses in underwater photography.

 

If you can tear yourself away, the neighbouring car-free islands of Susak, Ilovik and Unije deserve your attention too. Susak has sandy beaches and a unique culture, as its islanders speak their own dialect (nearly incomprehensible to other Croats) and often wear colourful, traditional dress on feast days and at family celebrations. Ilovik is a hilly island with secluded swimming coves and an abundance of flowers, while larger Unije’s only settlement is a picturesque fishing village of gabled stone houses.

 

To enjoy these neighbouring islands, you can either:

 

  • Book excursions in Mali Lošinj

  • Take the passenger-only ferry that loops from Mali Lošinj to Unije and Susak twice daily

  • Visit Unije via the daily morning catamaran that goes from Mali Lošinj to Rijeka

  • Take the boat from Mrtvaška (end of the island Lošinj) to Ilovik, with departures several times a day.



 

IMAGE: Hrvoje Serdar

The Bests Beaches and Outdoor Activities

 

The temperate climate, clear waters and stunning landscape lend themselves to outdoor activities here and Lošinj is the European Island of Sport for 2020.

 

If hiking is too tame, the island’s Osorščica ridge mountains offers 30 climbing routes from difficulty level 4 to 8—and an artificial climbing wall in Veli Lošinj. And with a coastline of 112,7 km, Lošinj has plenty of bays and coves for swimming and multiple water sports on offer, include sailing, windsurfing and diving, with a large shallow cove ideal for diving beginners and a wreck dating from 1917 for more experienced divers to explore There’s also kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and even SUP yoga for those with good balance!

 

The pine-ringed, remote and sheltered bay of Krivica is worth the 30-minute walk down from the nearest parking area, but for a full-facility, family-friendly beach, choose Čikat Bay, a sandy beach offering beach volleyball, a water polo pool, hire of SUPs, kayak and jet-skis and beach massage. There are numerous other beaches near Mali Lošinj, such as Bojčić beach with its outdoor gym, and many more around the island, including the beautiful Uvala Engleza which is only accessible by boat, Veli Žal is a gently-sloping beach especially suitable for children. It has showers, changing rooms, sunbeds, umbrellas, toilets, boat rentals, lifeguards, plenty of available shade and even a nearby bowling alley! Both Sunčana Uvala and Srebrna Uvala (near the Čikat campsite) are White Flag beaches.

 

For more water-based fun, head to the Aquapark Čikat, with its seawater pools, slides, ramps and fountains and hydromassage facilities. But if water sports aren’t your thing, you’ll find tennis courts at Čikat near the hotel Bellevue and at Sunčana Uvala near hotel Aurora.

IMAGE: Sandro Tariba

Feel Restored on the Island of Vitality

 

While there’s plenty to do in Mali Lošinj and the wider area, primarily promotes itself as the ‘Island of Vitality’, promising that visitors will have “their life energy and well-being restored.” That’s an easy promise to make here, as it’s been a hub for health tourism for over 125 years, thanks to an air quality so pure that it’s been proven to improve lung health. That’s partly due to the island’s endless forests of Aleppo pines; its very own ‘green lungs’.

 

Amongst the many health, beauty and wellness treatments offered on the island are pulmonary rehabilitation treatments, yoga and Pilates classes, body scrubs, exfoliation treatments, Croatian kinesiology and thalassotherapy. You can also walk the 3 km forest footpath between Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj, with its educational panels that instruct you on the importance of proper posture, movement and breathing. The walk is around 10,000 steps—handily the daily number of steps recommended by the World Health Organisation standards. It’s no wonder this place does you good!

 

The island’s 1,200 therapeutic and aromatic botanicals, used in the island’s aromatherapy treatment and medicines, not only scent the air delightfully but help to deter mosquitoes—which is definitely good for your health! And with over 200 days of sunshine and clean waters too, it’s not hard to see why this is an island that can really make you feel good!

 

So make the trip. Admire the scenery. Soak up the sun (safely) and enjoy the feel-good treatments. Experience the tastes and scents of the island, and let its therapeutic atmosphere make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated!

 

 

 

Plan your next well-deserved getaway on the Island of Vitality by visiting the official Mali Lošinj Tourist Board website:

 

 

 

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