Once an exclusive 19th-century health resort, Lošinj (pronounced Lo-sheen-ya) now invites the commoners to pamper themselves the way Austro-Hungarian royals once did. Back then, Lošinj was the winter residence of Archduke Charles Stephen of the Hapsburgs, along with his family and retinue of nobles.
They came seeking warm respite from their realms in winter, cures to various ailments and maladies, and because it was simply fashionable. Luckily for modern travelers, they left a legacy of elegant hotels and villas - which are being brought up to modern four- and five-star quality under the care of Lošinj Hotels and Resorts.
View from the Vitality Hotel Punta. — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
This 29-square-mile island has what any wise doctor might order: sweet and salty sea air, piney aromas of lavender and rosemary, crystal-clear waters, and languid sails around Cikat Bay through the Lošinj archipelago – Cres, Ilovik, Susak and Unije.
Facing Čikat Bay are the Alhambra, Villa Augusta, Bellevue and the Villa Hortensia — Photo courtesy of Loinj Hotels and Resorts
The Lošinj Hotels and Resorts' designated “health zone” is available at three of the island's palatial hotels: the Bellevue, the Wellness Hotel Aurora & Laurus SlowSpa and the Vitality Hotel Punta.
Each has fully certified outpatient health care, but each with its unique specialty.
The Bellevue, which was recently awarded the Global Wellness Travel Award by SpaFinder Wellness, features treatments like the LCM (Light, Color Movement). Aromatherapists prepare potions from local essential oils at the Aurora, while the Punta takes an active approach to vitality with circus Pilates that will turn your world upside down.
The Vitality Hotel Punta takes an active approach to wellness — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
Doctor Anamarija Margan Sulč, part of the management team at the Marine Medical Center at the Bellevue, says the sea salt air is permeated with 1,100 indigenous herbs. More than 200 have healing properties that ease lung and skin disorders and may have cured those wheezing royals.
The “luxury zone” includes The Alhambra & Villa Augusta, the Bellevue and Hortensia, which faces Cikat Bay. Two more - Hotel Helios and Villa Diana - will be completed by 2017. A resort and golf course on Cres, Lošinj's nearest island neighbor, are also in the works.
Lošinj Hotels and Resorts also owns six restaurants perched on knolls and hills to showcase sunsets and moon risings. Mediterranean-accented cuisine features local fare: sheep that roam the grassy knolls and fish that literally jump out of the bays. Malavasia wines pair nicely with the fresh ingredients.
Thinly sliced octopus with a Mediterranean accent — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
Hikers will want to walk the stunning 15-mile trail from Lošinj along the Cikat and Suncana Bays to Veli Lošinj and back to Mali Lošinj. En route, stop for a guided dolphin encounter at the Dolphin Center at Mali Lošinj.
St. Antun Opat Pustinjak Church in Veli Loinj — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
Take in the local culture during your visit. See the picturesque Rovenska Harbor, the 15th-century Our Lady of the Angels church, and the cathedral bell tower in Osor are all worth seeing.
Swing by the fishing village of Martinscica (St. Marten) on the island of Cres to visit the Kučić family at the Oil House that has been producing essential oils since 1903.
If you're visiting in summer, be prepared for music: the town hosts frequent casual musical evenings, as well as more official events nearby - the Lošinj Jazz Festival, the Guitar Fest, and the Crescendo Fest.
Essential oils cultivated at Kučić's Oil House since 1903 — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
Discerning folks have been savoring Lošinj for millennia. Long before the Austro-Hungarian royals arrived, the ancient Greeks enjoyed Lošinj. See a reproduction of the famous bronze statue of Apoxyomenos, which was discovered here, at the Tower Museum.
Pro tip: Lošinj is not easy to get to. Plans to extend the airport runway to accommodate Airbuses are in the works, estimated to be completed by 2017. In the meantime, visitors arrive at Croatian airports in Krk, Pula, or Zagreb, and take a ferry to Lošinj. Or, can treat themselves royally by booking King Air Charters, from any of 11 area airports.