At a glance
Legend has it that the Kvarner islands of Cres and Lošinj were created when Medea, enchantress of Greek mythology, killed her brother and flung his remains into the sea. Two of his limbs became these islands.
Grisly a start as that may sound, the islands – and their more easterly counterparts, Krk and Rab – have a mythical aura. Rare Griffon Vultures soar above the cliffs, dolphins crest the crystalline seas, symbol-inscribed stones lie heavily in the hillsides, and the inhabitants use crossbows, sing a capella and play archaic instruments. You half expect a centaur to come cantering out of the woods.
Despite their close proximity to one another, the four isles are diverse in their aesthetics and attractions. Cres and Lošinj are, in fact, one big island, split by a narrow channel, but while Lošinj is bursting with lush greenery, 19th century villas and cafe-lined promenades, its northern neighbour Cres is rugged and feral, a land of adventures and activities. Krk, the largest of the group, refuses to be pigeon-holed, boasting admirable eco credentials but also a lively nightlife scene; while Rab is perhaps most celebrated for its forest-fringed beaches, its chic bars and boutiques, and bell tower-studded main town laid along a peninsula like a four-masted ship’s prow. Pick one to explore from tip to toe, or island-hop between the quartet (not to mention their scattering of attendant islets) to enjoy the full variety of this enchanted archipelago.
Pronunciation guide: Cres is pronounced “tsres”; Lošinj is roughly “losheen”, though the soft “j” on the end means it should finish with a kind of “nyuh” sound. Krk is a tricky one, as the “r” in it is actually the vowel (yes, in Croatian, “r” can be a vowel or a consonant, like “y” in English). Try saying it like the Scottish word “kirk” but with the shortest “i” you can manage and the longest rolled “r”. Rab is like the beginning of “Rabbit”, so no complications there.