Kieran Walsh

A beach on the Adriatic Sea.

Croatia is not so well known for tourism in Ireland. Dubrovnik is well known and some of the more popular islands, as well as Istria.

We learned from Croatians some new places to visit after being to the capital Zagreb in late 2019 for the Christmas market.

Flight frequency in September is less than peak summer with just two flights a week. Croatian Airlines had suitable outbound flights on Sunday am direct and not via London, direct to Zagreb. Another option for the islands is to Zadar, also serviced by Croatian and Ryanair.

Not doing a package a car hire option can halve the travel time, compared to public transport. We used a Car Trawler website and got Enterprise cars, who have offices also in Waterford.

Arriving in the afternoon after a near three-hour flight, the car rental proved smooth apart from the need to take photos of scratches from previous renters as all other cars were out.

The airport is near the motorway and ring road so we headed towards Rijeka with tolled motorway and went to Crikvenica as doing the island all in one day would mean driving in the darkness.

Crikvenica is an old fishing port but now tourism hub with many visitors from Germany, Austria and Czech region.

We found a smart hotel for just 60 euro near beach, found nearby parking and got a 3-course dinner with drinks for just 15 euro, beer after for less than 3 euro, so value is great. Found a nice little museum to read about the old wooden boats that people used and are now making again.

Next day we were on the road to Krk island and its long bridge to get ferry for Losinj. This was a busy ferry port with many cars waiting and allowed time for a snack and coffee.

Cost of ferry from Valbiska is about 20 euro with car plus a 25-minute journey to Merag in north part of Losinj.

Leaving the ferry the roads proved testing, climbing up hills with hairpin bends.

The one hour to Mali Losinj, the main port, was scenic and even spectacular. Many people we met come here repeatedly and is not dominated by package tours. Germans were main visitors with Austrians, Slovenians and Hungarians and some Italians.

The tourist office recommended a dolphin tour the day after. The young people running this operation had great English and told us that they had beaten the 2019 figures pre-Covid this year since opening up in late June early July.

The EU Digital Covid cert has seen confidence return, said a couple from nearby Istria we met who worked in tourism.

Traditional open air Balkan cooking in Cunski near Losinj.

We were lucky to see ten dolphins in this 2.5 hour trip off Pag island, or as they say the party island for the youth.  The young families on board were delighted to see dolphins popping up and down in a 30-minute period near a fishing trawler.

The boat operators took pics of dolphins and are part of a foundation that try and identify the dolphins, even naming them.

We told them about fungi in Kerry and might name a Croatian “Fungie” 2021.  They like to leave them in the wild, not adopt or feed them. The max is 30 minutes viewing and then they are left in peace.

We did another boat trip that evening on a schooner or 100-year-old cargo boat converted to sail, but there was no wind to see the Losinj sunset, which was incredible.

Old schooner on sunset cruise from Mali Losinj.

The tour guide on boat told us about the harbour history that dates back to the Roman times. The Venetians were here too, then the Austro Hungarian empire. Much grain was imported and huge warehouses plus a shipyard still trading and repairing. Lot of pleasure craft in the marina with vibrant markets too.

We visited the next day a museum dedicated to a Greek Olympian statue discovered by a Belgian diver and restored caringly.  The Romans stole many great objects of art from Greece and this was headed for a Roman villa but the ship sunk and the statute stood unknown for centuries and is now on display and worth viewing.

Not much of a pub culture in Losinj but more cafes and restaurants.

Our hotel had some live music outdoors after dinner till 11pm, all cafes closed in town at midnight.  The hotel had 3 course meals for less than 20 euro in a buffet setting.

Other places to see are the historic village of Osor, again some great street sculpture in this harbour town, good place to eat.

Back in Losinj, the harbour area has much shopping and souvenir options. More tranquil than Mali is nearby Veli Losinj.

Nice cycle path from Losinj to Cikat along the coast and through a forest, lots of bicycles for hire, less than ten euro for half day. Do not ask for bike as they think you want a motorbike which we refused.

Lots of people hire electronic bikes to go up nearby hills. You can boat for sightseeing too and is a must in the afternoon to see the sunset.

Beaches can be a little rocky so local shops sell plastic swimming shoes, as there are few sandy beaches.

Lots of coral jewellery for sale and artisan products

This is an idyllic beautiful place not well known in Ireland. Getting there is not easy, but there is a catamaran ferry from Zadar half day journey in summer.

Prices are reasonable but higher in high peak summer, but May-June September are best months to visit. Less hot but still sunny.

Fishing is main activity and tourism, as well as the portal activities.

Nice old town area also in both Veli and Mali Losinj.  This island of Losinj could be akin to a paradise island in Europe and a top pick in our view for a must-see holiday in a quiet setting without having to travel to Asia or Caribbean and still be in EU.