RACHEL JONES finds out why the lovely islands of Croatia’s Kvarner region form a very special holiday destination.
‘Kate and William would have been very happy here,’ I thought as I sat on a coastal wall at Rab, dangling my feet in the clear as crystal Croatian waters.
The royal couple were invited to this Adriatic island after British newspapers declared it a possible honeymoon destination.
As we know, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plumped for the Seychelles, but I suspect charming Rab would have made for a happy honeymoon.
After all it has royal credentials. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson stopped off at the Croatian island before his abdication. They swam naked here, perhaps kicking off the Croatian coast’s naturism industry (don’t worry it isn’t compulsory or at every beach).
Rab residents are still very proud of the event and ‘Royal Corner’ at the Hotel Imperial (where they stayed) is a one-room museum of pictures and articles related to the visit.
On the approach to Rab from the Croatian mainland, Kate and Wills might have thought they were heading for the moon. But the striking sparse limestone landscape, battered by sea winds, shelters the island’s green and pleasant side, including the town of Rab.
This small peninsula town boasts four bell towers that seem strategically placed to provide stunning photographs. Pristine Rab is characterised by winding passageways, old town walls, secluded coves and elegant Gothic and Renaissance buildings.
There’s plenty to discover – or you could take photos of your feet in the water. This is a must for those wanting to demonstrate the clearness of the Croatian sea.
The clean, azure waters aren’t the only draw. Dinner is delightful, especially for seafood fans. The fresh catches make for some memorable meals.
Rab is one of many islands in Croatia’s Kvarner region. The chain also includes the large island of Cres and at its tip, much smaller Losinj – linked to Cres by bridge.
Losinj is a centre for wellness breaks and noted for its public gardens. It is also the home of the Blue World Institute, which protects the area’s bottlenose dolphins.
Probably the easiest way to reach this region is by flying to Rijeka. The airport serves the mainland port of Rijeka but is actually on the island of Krk, connected to the mainland by road bridge.
Krk town has plenty to attract history enthusiasts or anyone who wants to chill out in an attractive resort. The island was the base for the powerful medieval dukes the Frankopans and is historically important.
Anyone who loves food and wine should head for Vrbnik. Croatian wines are adding an impressive flavour to the world market. A smooth white, Zlahtina, produced in Vrbnik at the winery Nada, works beautifully with seafood and a lovely view of the mainland from the winery’s restaurant terrace.
One of the chief Kvarner tourist centres is Opatija, an elegant mainland resort with grand hotels and waterfront villas. It’s hard to leave the region but Croatian capital Zagreb is accessible by motorway and worth a visit. Head to the St Mark’s Church, with its bright chequered roof and the attractive square that houses the Croatian Parliament.
Enjoy the quirkiness of the Museum of Broken Relationships, where the abandoned leave reminders and stories of romances past. This is a stone’s throw away from the administrative square where wedding parties pose for pictures.
It seems Croatia has something for everyone.
Croatia Airlines offers flights from London Heathrow to Rijeka from £154.60 return, including taxes. London to Zagreb is £110 return, including taxes. Call 020 8563 0022 or visit croatiaairlines.com
Rachel Jones stayed at: Hotel Koralj, Krk, valamar.com/romantic-hotel-croatia-koralj
Hotel Astoria, Opatija, hotel-astoria.hr/en/home
Imperial Hotel, Rab (imperial.hr)
Hotel Palace, Zagreb (palace.hr)
A good place en route from the coast to Zagreb is Fuzine. This is in the region of mountain and forest and the atmosphere is alpine while keeping its Croatian flavour. Visit the fascinating Vrelo cave and swim in the lakes.
Croatian National Tourist Office: 020 8563 7979 (croatia.hr)