Opatija Riviera

Many would say that the Opatija Riviera initiated Croatian tourism as a whole. Ever since the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian upper class saw this coastal town as a top quality resort 120 years ago, the string of settlements on the Kvarner Bay has never really looked back. At its center is Opatija, a belle-époque seaside resort clinging to the slopes of Mount Učka. To the north is the fishing village of Volosko, a picturesque huddle of houses gathered round a dainty port, while to the south lies Lovran, with its appealing mixture of medieval alleyways and art-nouveau holiday villas. As all three are situated within a mere 20-30 minute drive from Rijeka, getting around is a piece of cake.

Initially Opatija was a winter resort, catering for landlocked central Europeans in need of Mediterranean warmth and maritime air. Nowadays it is very much an all-season destination, offering neatly manicured parks, stylish cafes crammed with delicious mouth-watering sweets, traditional souvenir boutiques and Croatia’s densest concentration of top-class restaurants.

They say that location is the key – and it is evident that the key to Opatija’s success is its position at the foot of Mount Učka, which protects Opatija from the North and West with the intruding cold air, whilst the islands of Krk, Cres and Lošinj protect Opatija from the East and South as they deviate the winds that come in from the open sea.

Over the years Opatija has been labelled as the perfect getaway, a place to relax and seek leisure through its natural surroundings and tourist attractions. These days this gorgeous coastal village is undergoing something of a boom in spa and wellness tourism, with almost every hotel in the 4-to-5 star bracket now offering indoor pools, saunas, steam-baths, massage rooms, and a full range of state-of-the-art beauty treatments. With major European centers such as Munich, Vienna and Milan located within a 500 kilometer radius, Opatija is one of the most accessible year-round health-and-lifestyle resorts in Europe.

The business sector hasn’t been forgotten as there are a multiple facilities to cater for congress tourism: the Grand Hotel Adriatic’s 600-seat auditorium has been hosting top international meetings for several decades while the Hotel Kvarner’s Kristalna dvorana (crystal room) is a near-legendary venue for high-level receptions and showbiz events. The Ambasador, Grand Hotel 4 Opatijska Cvijeta and other local hotels are also endowed with amenities to accommodate business meetings and seminars of all numbers and sizes. Everything to suit the customers' needs.

Volosko is the oldest of the settlements along the Opatija Riviera and it still retains its sleepy fishing-village charm, with a cluster of stone houses scrambling up the hillside above a sheltered little port. Volosko’s strong fishing tradition may help to explain why it boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in the country. A fistful of high-class eateries are clustered around the Mandrač, the sheltered inner harbour which provides moorings for small boats.

Pronounced as (itch-i-chi), this coastal town which is part of the Opatija Rivijera has a true connection to the sea and mainland. For one it has been awarded the ‘Blue Flag’ for over a decade, it also has one of the best harbours in Croatia with 283 berths and on the opposite end, Ičići is a wonder for hiking enthusiasts as there are numerous marked trails leading up to Mount Učka. Action packed sports camps are available with top quality restaurants and cafes to help wind down.

Sitting in a tiny little pocket six kilometers south of Opatija is Lovran, the most picturesque of the Riviera’s resorts, with a historic centre of medieval stone houses grouped around the fourteenth century Church of St George, and a surrounding girdle of Italianate nineteenth century villas – many of which have been renovated and now serve as guesthouses or boutique hotels. A short walk south of Lovran is the lovely cove of Medveja, the site of a crescent pebbly beach.

There’s no better way to see the entire Opatija Riviera then from Kastav, a hilltop town northwest of Rijeka. The view from the battlements of this fortified town is simply breathtaking, with Mount Učka to the right, the islands of the Kvarner Bay to the left and the coastal settlements of Volosko and Opatija in the middle distance.

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