The rocky seabed around Lošinj means there’s no sand to cloud the water, and you can see straight down for a long way. Thanks to this seabed, the currents and conservation, the water around the island is among the cleanest in the Adriatic, which is why this area is a magnet for dolphins – you may see the beautiful creatures chasing the ferry boat that brings you to this island. The clean water is also an attraction for spearfishers, who hold regular tournaments here, as well as ordinary vacationers, who enjoy a dip in clearer water. Back on shore, the attractions of Lošinj include beautiful nature as well as resort settlements full of good bars and restaurants.
Cres and Lošinj used to be one island until the ancient Liburni tribe dug a canal at Osor. The healthy effects of its sea breezes, clean water and 2,600 hours of annual sunshine, earned Lošinj an official designation as a health resort in 1892. Habsburg royalty followed and now tourism is the island’s main industry.
Activity centres around two towns with misleading labels. Mali Lošinj, ‘Small Lošinj’, is the bigger town, about 4km (2.5 miles) from quaint little Veli Lošinj, ‘Great Lošinj’.
Mali Lošinj, the largest island town in the Adriatic with a population of 7,000, is set around a long wide harbour, lined with Habsburg-era façades. Strolling from one end of the harbour to the other takes 20 minutes, a nice waterside lined with great restaurants and bars. Trg Republike Hrvatske is the big square. Pop into the Art Collections (Vladimira Gortana 35, 051 231 173; open summer 10am-1pm, 7-10pm daily; winter 10am-noon, 7-9pm daily) for modern Croatian and 17th- and 18th-century Italian works.
There are good beaches near Mali Lošinj, including the popular rocky and pebbly stretches in wooded Čikat, just on the other side of a hill from the harbour.
Neighbouring Veli Lošinj is centred around a small harbour surrounded by steep hills. On one rise right on the harbour is boxy pink Church of St Anthony, which contains seven Baroque altars and works by Italian masters. The sinners hang out down below, in a bustling clutch of good bars and restaurants. On another hill above the harbour is a crenulated Venetian tower, built as a fortification in 1455 and used for exhibitions. Walk along a ridge above the beach for the other harbour, tiny Rovensko: three restaurants and a pebbly beach.