Picture gazing out over the sparkling waters of the Adriatic Sea, breathing in pure, salt-infused air and the fragrance of majestic pine trees silhouetted against an azure sky. Then imagine the thousands of species of herbs and flowers that cover the hillsides and captivate the senses with the tantalizing scents of myrtle, lavender, laurel, lemon, orange, rosemary, eucalyptus, and oleander.
This is the island of Lošinj, Croatia, known as the Island of Vitality.
Lošinj isn’t the easiest place to get to, which makes it even more attractive to travellers looking for less congested areas where there is scant traffic and little need for long lineups. Here, you can sit at the water’s edge taking in the golden sunset and have the most delectable fresh food and local wines without having to wait for a prime table—all the tables have a perfect view. You can stroll leisurely through charming villages that have been lost in time and feel like you belong.
The island, which is part of an archipelago, can be reached by ferry or by private plane operated by King Air from Venice, Italy. We boarded the six-passenger Beechcraft C90B at the Venice airport for the 45-minute flight. On arrival we were whisked to the luxurious Hotel Bellevue in Mali Lošinj. One of the most stunning features of the completely revamped Bellevue is its atrium lobby, with its Italian rose marble columns and floor-to-ceiling wall of spiral ammonite prehistoric fossilized shells.
The Cres-Lošinj archipelago includes five islands and over 250 kilometres of walking paths with spectacular views of the deep royal blue water this area of the Adriatic Sea is renowned for. The scent of herbs, many native to the area, pervades the air. The essential oils made from these herbs by the tedious labour of dedicated families that have passed the process down for generations is a major tourist attraction.
We visited the island of Cres and the picturesque fishing village of Martinscica (St. Marten) for a stop at the Oil House. Since 1903, the Ku?i? family has been producing essential oils, mainly used for holistic healing elixirs, and aromatherapy, but they also sell other items they make including soaps, candles, and jams along with essential oils in their fragrant on-site shop. Julino and Rena operate the family’s small press production for local distribution while Julino sculpts from downed trees on his property in his free time.
Back in Mali Lošinj, we visited the Garden of Fine Scents, another producer of essential oils. We walked through the garden while the owner, Sandra Nicolich, pointed out each herb she processes. Again, mostly for local consumption but she also sells items in her gift shop.
Herb use is not limited to small entrepreneurial producers, however. At the Vitality Hotel Punta—beautifully situated overlooking the Adriatic—health and wellness programs that include essential oil use as well as active exercise are offered. At the Aurora Wellness Hotel & Laurus SlowSpa we met with Anamarija Pažin Morovi?, aromatherapist and founder of the spa. Anamarija demonstrated how locally grown essential oils are used to infuse products for the spa and generously gave us the results of the demonstration to take home as mementos.
A short walk to the charming town of Veli Lošinj provided an opportunity to visit the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation. We met with Andrea Bori?, the enthusiastic manager of the education centre, who spoke glowingly about the local pod of dolphins as if they were part of her family. Each member has now been named and the desire to provide a safe environment for not only this pod, but for all marine mammals, is the focus of the centre.
The most memorable experience for me was the perfectly beautiful day we took a ride on the sailboat “Alhambra” to the island of Susak. Susak is the only all-sand island in the archipelago and even the vegetation is different from the other islands, which is something of a geological mystery. The sea here is warm, clean, and inviting, and you can practically walk to the horizon in knee-deep water.
Standing in the placid water with tiny fish swimming around my legs was magical, and I could almost hear the siren call of old enticing me to come closer. Warm breezes planted silent kisses on my exposed skin and a church bell in the distance chimed the hour. The church is at the top of the island in the Old Town accessible by a climb through narrow, winding lanes flanked by homes oozing the aroma of freshly baked bread and the approaching noon-day meal. Overwhelmed by the tempting smells, we stopped at a bakery for meat and veggie pies and passed them around so all could share the local delicacies.
Lošinj is a dream destination, an “Island of Vitality” in every sense of the word.
Barbara Angelakis is a seasoned international traveller and award-winning writer based in the New York City area. To read more of her articles and adventures, visit LuxuryWeb Magazine at www.luxuryweb.com
Mali Lošinj Tourist Board: www.tz-malilosinj.hr
Lošinj Hotels & Villas: www.lošinj-hotels.com
King Air: www.airportmalilosinj.hr
Blue World Institute: www.blue-world.org