The picturesque island of Cres in the Kvarner Bay is one of Croatia's most popular holiday destinations with its unspoilt rocky coves, inviting pebble beaches and charming Mediterranean fishing villages.
Together with the neighbouring island of Krk, Cres in the Kvarner Bay near Istria is the largest island in the Adriatic. The mild climate and sheltered bays were already appreciated by the first settlers in the Neolithic Age, and the Croats came to Cres in the early 7th century. But the Venetians, Habsburgs and even the French also left historical traces on the idyllic island.
Today, the island of Cres is a paradise for active holidaymakers and those seeking relaxation, thanks to unspoilt bays with crystal-clear sea, picturesque villages and lush forests.
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PICTURES: Island of Cres
What is the best way to get to Cres?
Three roads lead to Cres. For those arriving by car, there are two ferries, one from Brestova in Istria to Porozina in the north of Cres, near Beli, and one from Valbiska on the island of Krk to Merag, near Cres Town.
Pedestrians also have the option of using the Rijeka catamaran, which anchors three times a week in Cres Town, Martinščica and Mali Lošinj on the neighbouring island of Lošinj.
On the approximately 250km long coast of Cres, snow-white pebble beaches alternate on the south and west coasts with natural rocky banks on the north and east coasts. Due to the lack of sandy beaches, the turquoise blue water around Cres is crystal clear. A wide variety of sea creatures find sufficient hiding places in the rocky substrate, creating a Mediterranean paradise for divers and snorkellers.
It is difficult to name the most beautiful beaches on Cres; each individual bay has its own merits. Definitely worth seeing are the small beach below Lubenice, which has already been voted among the most beautiful in the world, the rocky banks of Valun with the clearest sea water in Croatia, and the kilometre-long pebble beach of Martinščica, all of which are among our 10 most beautiful beaches in Croatia.
Sights of Cres
Those coming from the north are immediately greeted by Gorice, the highest mountain on Cres at 648m. It lies directly at the turnoff to Beli, an idyllic Mediterranean village that once served as a refuge from the Tartars for the Hungarian King Bela IV.
The capital of Cres is home to 3000 people, about 90% of the island's population. With its historic old town, idyllic pebble beaches, modern hotels and cosy tavernas, this pretty little town is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Kvarner Bay. The marina of Cres Town has been awarded the Blue Flag and is a sight in itself with its impressive yachts.
Valun is located in the same bay as Cres Town and is clearly one of the most worth seeing places on the island. The community of 80 people is the ideal holiday destination for travellers who are looking for peace and relaxation on holiday. The rocky and pebbly beaches of car-free Valun have the clearest water in Croatia, and the wooded hills surrounding the tranquil village invite you to go hiking and cycling.
Lubenice is often called the most enchanting place on Cres. On its steep cliff, the tiny settlement attracts visitors not with historic buildings or bathing beaches, but with fairytale idylls as if from the last century and a spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea.
Lake Vrana (Vransko Jezero)
Lake Vrana on Cres is a natural phenomenon in itself. With a depth of 74 metres, its water surface is above and its deepest point below sea level. The "Crow Lake" supplies the entire island with drinking water and for this reason may unfortunately only be viewed from a distance. Hikes to Lake Vrana start best in Martinščica, Lubenice or Valun.
By the way: Lake Vrana is also known as the largest lake in Croatia. However, this is a different lake, located in central Dalmatia between Zadar and Šibenik on the Croatian mainland.
The Blue Grotto of Cres is located in the bay of Zanja and impresses with its magnificent play of colours conjured up by the sunlight on the turquoise-blue water. The crystal clear sea reveals the Croatian underwater world in all its glory to divers and snorkellers. The Blue Grotto can be reached by boat or on hikes from Martinščica or Lubenice.
Martinščica, the second largest place on Cres after Cres Town, attracts tourists primarily with its beautiful, kilometre-long pebble beach for a relaxing beach holiday. Its calm waters and shallow bottom are ideal for families with small children, and its excellent water quality is regularly awarded the Blue Flag. The magnificent beach is on the list of our 10 most beautiful beaches in Croatia.
The museum town of Osor is the cultural centre of Cres. In ancient times, the connection between Cres and Lošinj was an important seaport where travellers from all over the world met. Historical buildings, museums, a gallery and numerous sculptures characterise the townscape and remind us of the splendour of yesteryear in the now tranquil settlement.
Bridge to Lošinj
The islands of Cres and Lošinj were once a common landmass. The Kavada Canal near Osor was created around 2000 years ago by the Romans, whose main means of transport in ancient times was the ship. Today, an approximately 10m long bridge leads from Cres to Lošinj, which is opened twice a day, at 9 am and 5 pm, to allow ships to pass.