Lošinj notebook

The Croatian island of Lošinj is the northernmost area of Europe where lemons grow. That tidbit tells you quite a bit about what to expect from this northern Adriatic island in the Kvarner Gulf. The island’s 33km long, but for all intents and purposes, considerably longer given its close relationship with it’s northern sister Cres, at a whopping 66km long and 405 square km the largest Croatian island. The two are joined at the village of Osor by a laughably small bridge that traverses its eponymous bay. (It’s laughable because I laughed out loud. I guess I was simply expecting something not so small.)

Looking for an Adriatic island trip in early May –my first– the Cres- Lošinj archipelago was a great choice, but primarily one of practicality (along with a few nice reviews). Besides Krk to the east, it’s the closest to Ljubljana and easily accessible via Rijeka or just beyond Opatija.

Ferry:
Brestova-Porozina, 15 KUN (2 EUR/2.90 USD)/person, 96 (13.15 EUR/18.39 USD) for a car. About a 30 minute ride. Service is more or less hourly, besides the longer midday/lunch break. Here’s last year’s (2008) high season schedule, which will probably be quite similar this year.  If you’re on a tight schedule, note that in 2008 the last boat back left at midnight.

Roads:
From Porozina it’s a fabulous drive with plenty of great views towards both coasts, and you’ll drive through evergreen and some hardwood forests. Give yourself a little time to adjust to the narrow roads, and take care on the turns. Most bus drivers I came across took them very fast, particularly uphill. There are lots of cyclists too.

There’s plenty of road construction –some major– at the moment, with the aim presumably to have work completed before high season hits. I got the impression that that really won’t happen.

It took about an hour-and-a-half to reach the town of Cres, and another hour before we parked the car for the next three days in Mali Lošinj. Unless you’re just doing so to get your bearings, there is no need to drive into town (no free parking). There’s ample free parking available just a short walk from the port; at least a few hotels do offer closer parking but with a fee.

From the ferry dock at Brestova it’s about 70 km to Mali Lošinj, the county seat and main port, a very pleasant and relatively quiet (at least in early May) harbor town with a west facing port. The harbor’s nicely-maintained promenade, or riva,  is lined with an ample number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and gift shops, along with a few hotels (I got a decent deal for the portside Apoksiomen) and a couple galleries.

While virtually anything can be done on the cheap with a little resourcefulness, if you’re looking for something low budget overall, you won’t find it here (or from what I hear, anywhere on the Dalmatian coast anymore). I dined at several restaurants, and enjoyed the fresh seafood, the local olive oils and wines. Few entrees came in at under 15 EUR, most were more.

I saw a pair of nice campgrounds nearby as well, which is where I will stay when I return.

Plenty of boats head out in the morning for day trips to the various nearby islands, most costing 100 KUN/13.70 EUR/19 USD per person. Most leave at 10am for pre-determined destination, but most captains welcome itinerary changes. I went to Susak, about an hour away, which came highly recommended.

If graffiti is your thing, save that creative energy for a small and abandoned Yugoslav navy installation just beyond the western edge of the port. Plenty of dilapidated buildings to serve as your canvas. There a small curving tunnel you can roam through afterwards. (There’s a brief blind spot in the center but fear not, you can make it without a flashlight.)

Overall, terrific. It’s said to be very busy in the summer months, so best times to visit are spring and fall. Definitely bring some sun block.

About a dozen pics on my flickr stream.

Mali Lošinj 09, originally uploaded by pirano.