When people think about traveling in Croatia, it’s invariably Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast leading up to Split that comes to mind. In fact, so many people are unfamiliar with the rest of Croatia; there are instances where tourists have said, “Oh, Croatia's in Dubrovnik, right?”
While Dubrovnik is magical and certainly lives up to its nickname as the “gem” (or pearl) of the Adriatic, many will sadly agree this impressive fort-walled city is becoming very touristy and expensive.
So where do you go if you want to experience the Croatia of yesteryear, or escape the masses of tourists on holiday in the southern part of the country?
Head north and visit the Kvarner region of Croatia. It’s with mixed feelings this article is being penned because this quiet seaside spot of the country is still relatively unknown outside of Europe, making it the perfect hideaway to get a reprieve from the congested tourist trail.
is the Kvarner Gulf of Croatia
Kvarner is sandwiched between the Istrian peninsula to the north and Dalmatia on the south. Bay islands like Krk, Rab, Losinj and Cres are part of the Kvarner region. The city of Rijeka is the administrative seat and the largest port in Croatia.
Just west of Rijeka is the stunning Opatija Riviera (Opatijska rivijera) with the town of Opatija at its center. Its seaside resorts and spectacular views of the Adriatic have earned it the nickname Cote d’Azur of Croatia.
Kvarner is easily accessible from a number of spots in Europe and is easy to navigate once you arrive, making it easy to visit more than one spot. The island of Krk is attached to the mainland via a bridge, while other islands like Rab have regular ferry service. Or explore the region via an intimate cruise. Local
companies like Katarina Line operate small ship cruises throughout Kvarner that give travelers an overview to the “best of” in the region.
One of Croatia’s most visited spots is located within the Kvarner region. The Plitvice Lakes (Plitvicka Jezera) is the best-known Croatian National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The network of 16 lakes is connected by
waterfalls and has become one of the most photographed spots in the country.
Other national parks include Sjevern Velebit and Risnjak. Sjevern Velebit is located within the Velebit mountain range and includes several nature reserves, Rozanski and Hajducki Kuk. Notable elements include karst rock formations and
the Luka Cave (Lukina Jama), one of the deepest in the world. The forested area of Risnjak is just north of Rijeka and the ideal spot to go for some wildlife viewing – brown bears, deer, eagles, and lynx, are a few of the animals spotted within this national park.
Cuisine of Kvarner
Not surprisingly, seafood features heavily in the cuisine of the Kvarner region. Each spot has its own culinary specialties and traditions that can vary widely, making this an excellent gastronomic region to explore.
Two of the most notable elements to come from Kvarner are its scampi and a very special wine -- vrbnička žlahtina.
Kvarner scampi are said to be some of the best in the world. They are easily distinguished by their thin shells and light red color and experts believe their sweet and succulent flavor lies in the fact they living the very shallow sea with ample springs of drinkable water.
Vrbnička žlahtina is considered Kvarner’s specialty wine and is made from indigenous žlahtina grapes found in the vineyards of Krk Island. This white grape is primarily found in the small town of Vrbnik and vintners sell to restaurants and shops all around Kvarner.
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Have you been to Croatia? Let us know in the comments!