Croatia doesn’t start and end in Dubrovnik. There’s much more to this country than its famous walled city.
The classy resort of Opatija (the ‘j’ is silent) on the stylish Kvarner Riviera is one of those rare places that offers something for everyone.
It is to the north of Croatia at the foot of the imposing Mount Ucka and its rocky coast is bordered by a shady promenade, the Lungomare, which extends for 12km and connects the picturesque resorts of Volosko, Icici, Ika and Lovran (look out for the cherry festival).
Take time out to walk it (you can always get a bus back or vice-versa) and if the mood takes you stop off at one of the secluded pebbled or rocky coves – beaches are shingle, not sand – pop into one of the many bars or pick up a walking map and check out what these places have to offer.
The Lungomare takes you close to some of Opatija’s landmarks – the ‘Girl with the Seagull’ sculpture which stands out to sea and the 14 century Benedictine Abbey from which the town derives its name (Opatija means Abbey in Croatian). You pass through Angiolina Park which is home to over 150 different plant species from all over the world and one of them, the Japanese Camelia has become the symbol of Opatija.
If shopping is your thing, fear not, all age groups are catered for.
Opatija’s mild climate and stunning setting has made it a favourite holiday destination for Austrians, Germans and Italians over the years and it’s now beginning to make its mark with the Brits. At the moment it’s relatively inexpensive – you get eight kuna to the pound – but Croatia is due to join the European Union in 2013 and with the introduction of the euro we all know what could happen then!
Another big plus is that crime is almost non-existent – as is litter and graffiti.
Walking is a favourite pastime and there are plenty of opportunities around the area, not least an organised hike with Hotel Miramar’s fitness coach and guide Milan from the Poklon Pass to the top of the Ucka mountain. It was a three-and-a-half hour round trip. Decent walking shoes or boots are a must and the walking poles supplied by Milan proved a bonus.
The summit is around 1,400 metres above sea level and it’s well worth the effort as you get amazing panoramic views of Istria, the Alps and Italy.
You might also be lucky enough to spot a vulture in flight – there’s a sanctuary for them on the nearby island of Cres.
Another way to see the coastline is, of course, by boat, in our case courtesy of the Tornado Blue, a 113-year-old fishing boat that has been renovated for the exclusive use of Hotel Miramar guests.
There are a number of excursions but we decided on a trip to Rijeka, Croatia largest port and the gateway to the islands - Krk is connected to the mainland by a road but others such as Cres are only accessible by boat.
Liliana, the captain’s daughter who is also a deputy director at the Miramar, told us the history of Rijeka and also gave us a guided tour of the markets.
And we finished off as we’d started the trip with cherry grappa!