July and August are considered as a high tourist season in Croatia. It is that part of the year when the days are long and sunny, the temperatures high, the sea ideal for bathing- but it is also the time of summer crowds, and if you're in a search of a relaxing summer getaway, there is one tip regarding Croatia- go to the islands!
Croatian coast has over a 1000 islands, and although not all of them are inhabited, there is still a long list to choose from.
This year we visited Cres, one of the closest islands to Istrian peninsula (only a 20 minutes ferry ride from Brestova port on the mainland to Porozine port on the island).
It is also, along with the island of Krk, the largest Croatian island (66 km long) with numerous wonderful beaches- so if you plan to visit more than one, I would highly recommend you to go with a car!
The island is known for its desolated pebble beaches with crystal clear water, many of them reachable only by foot, which will make you share it with only a few more people (a thing unimaginable on the mainland in the summer months)!
Thanks to our lovely camping spot near Osor shadowed by dense pine tree crowns with a smell of the sea and salt in the air, we spent a lot of our time laying in our hammocks and reading books. Despite that, we got to see and taste some of the island’s highlights:
- The beach of St Ivan below the dreamy stone village of Lubenice, which is probably the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. An hour walk down hill (and approx. the same uphill) is by all means worth it. (Do not be tempted to take this walk in flip-flops!). At the end of the road there is a long, clean, white pebbled beach with perfectly transparent sea which calls for a swim, a dip, a dive, or just a simple admiration.
- The beach in Martinscica is a smaller-scale version of St Ivan, with a 20 minute walk downhill and a pallet of blue colors in this little lagoon.
- The beach in Belej is known for its (very refreshing!) cold springs, and two semi-coves which you can reach by water and then relax laying in the shallows while in the shade of steeps rocks!
- The island of Cres is known as the last Croatian habitat of the endangered species- a griffon vulture. You will most probably be lucky enough to spot them and admire their elegant flight in the heights. (We spotted them while driving on one of the narrow island’s roads, and simply had to stop to enjoy the view!)
- The city of Cres is a romantic port with lively seafront known for scampi dishes- fished out of the fresh waters between the island and the Istrian peninsula, large, sweet and highly recommendable! Followed by Tripadvisor reviews, we went to the family owned restaurant Melin for the best scampi around- and enjoyed every bit! They prepare it in a tasteful, traditional way, have a nice terrace, and a laid-back, cozy atmosphere- what more can one ask for?
- The city of Osor- a lovely tiny town on the border with the island of Losinj. It is simple, genuine, and perfect for a mild summer evening walk. The cathedral of Osor has a peculiar trefoil façade, and is one of the most beautiful examples of renaissance architecture in Croatia. If you are a classical music enthusiast, there is a well-known festival held here in July and August.
- Lamb is an island’s specialty, and if you like a good piece of meat prepared in a wood fired oven, go for it in the restaurant called Bukaleta in the island’s countryside. They also serve delicious traditional sweets with jam and pine nuts, which we enjoyed even more than the main dish!
A friend of mine told me that the village of Beli is something worth seeing (we didn’t have the time from all the resting in the camp and on the beach), so I felt that it had to be mentioned.
Just to be clear-there is more of Cres, it's just that we weren't able to explore it all during our short stay, so it's up to you to make this list longer :)
Better photos of Cres, over here.